Molly Ivins: Don't Count The Republicans Out


by Molly Ivins / October 19, 2006
Go to Original.

Stunning coincidence. The verdict in the long-running trial of Saddam Hussein in Iraq is now due two days before our congressional elections in November. Astounding. How ineffable.

Sometimes you know the Republicans have just lost the rag completely. This week, Dick Cheney said to Rush Limbaugh regarding the Iraqi government, "If you look at the general, overall situation, they're doing remarkably well." The vice president also acknowledged there's some concern because the war wasn't over "instantaneously." We have now been in Iraq just one month shy of the entire time it took us to fight World War II. Seventy Americans dead so far in October. Electricity in Iraq this year hit its lowest levels since the war started.

What infuriates me about this is the lying. WHY can't they level with us? Just on the general, overall situation.

Put me in the depressive Dems camp. We always look good going into the last two weeks, until we get hit with that wall of Republican money (though I do think Ohio is beyond political recall at this point for the R's). Of course, both sides always complain about unfair advertising, but I must admit that almost all political advertising strikes me as ludicrous and I don't notice the D's looking simon-pure. A little shading, a little emphasis here and there -- I'm hard to shock on political ads, but I do get more than miffed when they take the truth and just stand it on its head.

For example, if ever there has been a friend to Social Security it would be Rep. Chet Edwards from Waco, Texas, a D loyal to the FDR, LBJ and government-exists-to-serve-the-people tradition. So what are the R's attacking him on? Not supporting Social Security. All this kind of thing does is render political debate completely meaningless.

The argument now is that D's have a seven-point structural deficit going into any election. I see the problem, I just have no idea what the actual numbers are.

Let's start with the easy end, the Senate. From the book "Off Center" by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, as recently quoted by Eric Alterman in his blog: "The mismatch between popular votes and electoral outcomes is even more striking in the Senate. Combining the last three Senate elections, Democrats have actually won 2.5 million more votes than Republicans. Yet now they hold only 44 seats in that 100-person chamber because Republicans dominate the less populous states that are so heavily overrepresented in the Senate. As journalist Hendrik Hertzberg (of the New Yorker) notes, if you treat each senator as representing half that state's population, then the Senate's 55 Republicans currently represent 131 million people, while the 44 Democrats represent 161 million people."

OK, we all know about the small-state advantage in the Senate. How did the People's House get so far out of fair? Paul Krugman explains: "The key point is that African-Americans, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, are highly concentrated in a few districts. This means that in close elections many Democratic votes are, as political analysts say, wasted -- they simply add to huge majorities in a small number of districts, while the more widely spread Republican vote allows the GOP to win by narrower margins in a larger number of districts."

Book Review: Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? By Steven Freeman & Joel Bleifuss


By Charlie Smith / Oct. 12, 2006

"Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count" By Steven F. Freeman and Joel Bleifuss. (Seven Stories Press, 265 pp, $22.50, softcover.)

Immediately after George W. Bush won the 2004 U.S. election, tales of vote fraud began circulating over the Internet. Much attention focused on touch-screen electronic-voting machines, which don’t require paper ballots, making it impossible to physically verify results. Approximately 29 percent of U.S. voters used these machines in 2004. Another 35 percent used optical- scan systems (like the one used in Vancouver municipal elections), which require paper ballots.

Information Quality Professionals Issue Urgent Alert Regarding United States Elections


MEDIA RELEASE / October 12, 2006
Contact: Seth Johnson, (212) 543-4266

In a recent letter addressed to Congress and chief election officials in every state, a group of information quality professionals has voiced concerns as fundamental changes are being introduced in United States election processes under the provisions of the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

The signers of the letter:

- see United States election processes at grave risk
- express concern about the lack of means to observe the
present impact of changes being introduced in elections
- urge election officials to assess the accuracy of election
outcomes through a count of a random sample of ballots
- call for the use of dependable quality control measures and
the prevention of errors by incorporating reliable quality

Commenting on a July 19, 2006 Congressional hearing on voting technology standards [1], the letter observes that factual assessments of the accuracy of election processes have not been offered, and that voting technology is being introduced in elections throughout the country without adequate means to observe the impact of the change.

The letter stresses that efforts to improve elections must be focused on the election process as a whole and the quality of the information it produces, and that a focus on voting technology certification is not sufficient to assure election integrity.

The signers of the letter point out that assessing the quality of voting technology is not adequate to understand the impact of technology on the election process, and that automation in itself does not assure accuracy and reliability of an information production process. They warn that efforts to improve usability of technology in the vote capture step that have arisen in response to issues illustrated in Florida during the 2000 general election, should not lead to an assumption that simply adding
automation to the process is sufficient to assure accuracy.

Among the letter's key points:

- A systems approach to assuring the reliability of elections
should address the process as a whole, not the technology
being introduced in itself.

- The election process produces vote counts as an information

- Assessing the quality of vote counts is a means of managing
the complexity of the election process.

- Quality measures of information products reveal the effects
of defects in a process, even if the causes are not yet
known. Specific root causes, even if they relate to
intricate details of technology or code, can be identified
and corrected subsequently.

- A measure of election accuracy also helps assure security
against fraud.

The letter urges its recipients to act quickly to address these

[1] Hearing testimony is available at:

Contact: Seth Johnson
(212) 543-4266
275 Fort Washington Avenue, Suite 3C
New York, NY 10032

Click "read more" and scroll down for the full text of the letter

CA Secretary of State Race a Contest for Electoral Integrity


Original article published by California Progress Report

Debra Bowen: A Powerhouse California Secretary of State Rather Than an Appointed Placeholder

Bowen Will Have to Overcome Money Disadvantage and a Determined Republican Effort to Keep Schwarzenegger Appointed Incumbent McPherson


By Frank D. Russo

There is no question that State Senator Debra Bowen would make one of the greatest Secretary of States that California has seen and would make sure that every vote is counted, accurately and fairly, a concern on the minds of many voters. She has a record of accomplishment she can point to as a California legislator since 1992 and has authored many of the laws that she would be enforcing. She has served as Chair of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment, and Constitutional Amendments Committee and is regarded as an expert in government reform, consumer protection and privacy rights, environmental conservation, and open government.

She just received a ringing endorsement by the San Jose Mercury News
"Bowen better suited to be secretary of state: Legislator's skepticism needed in move to electronic voting."

She is also the only woman on the ballot for any of the California State Offices from Governor through all the down ticket races. And she's a Democrat in a Democratic state.

She faces two major problems: A concerted effort by Republicans to retain this office and a money disadvantage in an important but
relatively low visibility race. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who appointed
McPherson to this position when Kevin Shelley resigned has been helping behind the scenes and McPherson had $1 million in the bank as of the last reporting period ending September 30, 2006, much of it from the usual Republican suspects--insurance companies, the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, energy companies--and some folks who you would expect to be supporting a Democrat but hedged their bets when it looked like McPherson would be the favorite to win. You can bet there will be more last minute money from Republican sources before the election.



These are extraordinary times. We're being pressed to take a stand like never before. The Bush administration's incompetence to govern is equaled by its ruthless determination to gain and maintain power, and it will not go away quietly just because it would lose a fair election.

By Robert C. Koehler / Tribune Media Services / 10/5/06

As the party of torture and war profiteering finally founders on a scandal tawdry and trivial enough to achieve media staying power - a month before the congressional election, no less - I counsel sober restraint on the ironic gloating.

Sure, if the outing of U.S. Rep. Mark Foley's gay chat-room banter with an underage congressional page brings down the Republican Congress, stops war with Iran, saves habeas corpus and wrests our democracy from the crowd that hates it, well, that'd be great, of course. But I don't think we should get complacent.

What we mustn't do is succumb to the illusion that democracy somehow takes care of itself.

I address this column to those of you with doubts, large and small, about the electoral process, and there are a lot of you out there - more than half the electorate, according to a recent Zogby poll. If you start taking your doubts seriously - if you begin staring with unblinking eyes into the can of worms that is our electoral system - you'll feel your priorities begin to shift. There's no non-alarmist way to put this: It's worse than you think.

The Importance of Not Getting Over It


By Joel Bleifuss / October 3, 2006
Go to original.

In June, Seven Stories Press published the book I co-authored with Steven F. Freeman, Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count.

We had spent the previous year and a half examining the exit polls and learning about the problems posed by electronic voting.

I took up this task, devoting evenings and weekends to it, because I thought the subject was vitally important. Yet the months since the book’s publication have been frustrating. No newspaper or magazine, from either the corporate or independent media sectors, has taken the subject seriously enough to review our book.

We Count


September 16, 2006

The trust held by Americans that their vote will be recorded accurately is one of the touchstones of our electoral democracy. Yet, events in several elections, starting in 2000, have laid this trust open to doubt and suspicion. In response to this, our officials say “trust us.”

Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Board of Elections (CCBOE) takes this “trust us” attitude to the extreme. First they put the burden of proof on citizens to “prove” there are problems with Diebold touch-screen machines, instead of acknowledging that, in a true democracy, citizens vote in PRIVATE and have their votes counted in PUBLIC.

The 'Harder To Vote' Act


Wade Henderson / / September 21, 2006
Wade Henderson is the executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

Just two months ago, the nation watched Congress, both House and Senate, overwhelmingly reaffirm a commitment to voting rights when it reauthorized the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law guarantees access to the voting booth for all Americans for the next 25 years.

So it boggles the mind why we are having yet another national discussion about who can and cannot vote in this country.

Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the “Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006” (HR 4844), sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., which would require all voters to obtain and show government-issued photo IDs proving their citizenship before they could vote.

Proponents of this ill-advised legislation say it is necessary to prevent voter misrepresentation—people showing up at the polls pretending to be someone they’re not.

While our electoral system isn’t perfect, the supporters of this bill are inflating voter fraud into a problem that just doesn’t exist. Congress and the states have proven extremely successful at preventing non-citizens from voting and ensuring that voters are who they claim to be.

Far greater problems loom over the electoral system than voter misrepresentation—scarcity of polling places, ill-prepared poll workers, faulty voting machines and lack of language-appropriate voting materials, to name just a few.

Just one week ago, on September 12, for example, countless voters in Montgomery County, Maryland, went to vote in the primary and found their regular polling places shuttered. In other cases, they were confronted with broken voting machines and a lack of paper ballots, with the result that they were turned away, disenfranchised, unable to cast their votes

Far from addressing such structural problems, the House-passed legislation creates another one—one that would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of registered voters.

On the surface, the bill seems reasonable. Many citizens might wonder what’s wrong with showing their government-issued driver’s license when they go to vote. But most states don’t require proof of citizenship to issue a person a driver’s license.

The only document that meets the bill’s requirement for proof of citizenship is a passport. According to the State Department, only 25 percent of Americans over age 18 have a passport. Passports can cost as much as $100.

In order to get a passport, you need your birth certificate. Do you know where your birth certificate is?

Many would probably have to pay for a replacement copy of their birth certificate so they could get a passport. At least another $20.

Let’s face it: HR 4844 is the equivalent of a poll tax since voters would have to pay for a passport to prove their citizenship in order to vote.

So we are left then to wonder why the need for this reckless law that will actually discourage, confuse and discriminate against voters. If passed, this onerous bill would prevent many eligible voters from exercising their right to vote, disproportionately affecting people of color, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, rural and Native American voters, the homeless, low-income people and married women, who studies show to be less likely to carry a photo ID.

Election reform in this country is necessary and a very serious matter, but HR 4844 is simply not the vehicle to address it.

The Senate is due to take up the bill shortly. We expect that, like its 98-0 vote to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, the Senate will give measured consideration of this bill and put an end to attempts to disenfranchise American voters.

Heavy Mistrust of Elections' Honesty: But Where's the Groundswell for Reform?


By Neal Peirce / Washington Post / October 1, 2006

Partisanly chosen state election officials, reports, have become “a new flashpoint for bitter partisan struggling over how balloting is run.”

It’s as if the rancor engendered by the razor-thin 2000 presidential vote in Florida, when Republican Secretary of State (and Bush campaign cochair) Katherine Harris was accused of raw partisan decisions, has never abated. Indeed, it seems to have spawned a new era of deep distrust in American politics.

Polls show Americans’ confidence in the integrity of elections, overseen in 36 states by secretaries of state, has plummeted from pre-2000 levels. In 1996, there were just 108 cases of challenged elections around the U.S.; by 2004, the number had tripled, to 361, according to a survey by election expert Richard Hasen of the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

The Florida 2000 debacle and the “Bush v. Gore” court case decided by a partisanly divided U.S. Supreme Court have unleashed a wave of court suits in close elections -- “election law as political strategy,” Hasen suggests.

Adding to the perils: more than 80 percent of voters will be using electronic voting machines, a third of precincts for the first time, this autumn. The replacement of outdated voting machines with computer-based equipment, pushed along by federal assistance under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, is good news. But suspicions of manipulation run high and there’s been little time for careful ironing out of computer bugs. In Maryland’s September primary, technological glitches played a role in long lines and delayed vote counts.

So extreme are the levels of distrust and suspicions of outright vote tampering that some observers are suggesting delays and court actions might cause a serious backup in deciding what party will control Congress after next month’s elections.

Framing: What Would Real Election Integrity Mean?


by Evan Frisch, Arianna Siegel / Rockridge Institute / Sept. 28, 2006

The "Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006" (H.R. 4844) passed by the House of Representatives last week challenges us to think about the meaning of the words "election integrity," just as it would challenge citizens who wish to exercise the right to vote. The Act would impose increasing burdens, which by 2010, would require all voters to provide proof of citizenship in order to apply for a state-issued voter ID. Only a birth certificate, a passport, or a certificate of naturalization would be acceptable proof, documents that a great many Americans do not possess. As we examine the hurdles that this legislation would impose, particularly upon Americans who have already faced unfair barriers to voting, let us also set forth a positive vision of what real election integrity would mean. The chasm between this vision and the House bill reveals much about the values that divide progressives from conservatives.

Voting is the central and defining function of our democracy. There have been numerous, well-documented accounts of voting irregularities since the 2000 election, serious enough to cast doubts on the integrity of our voting process. These include faulty tabulation of electronic voting machines, where votes for one candidate were registered to the opponent, or more votes were counted than the number of registered voters in some districts; insufficient numbers of machines, causing long lines with large numbers voters being turned away; breakdowns of machines with insufficient paper alternatives; no verifiable record of votes. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has most recently written on Diebold machines in Rolling Stone Magazine. As a recent New York Times article noted, an increasing number of state and local officials of both parties lack confidence in the integrity of electronic voting machines and are taking steps to limit or reverse the use of these machines in the November elections. The issues these reports raise have not been adequately addressed by Congress. Most calls for reform have been blocked by conservatives and few changes have been implemented. Some of these changes have even exacerbated the problems, such as mandates in the Help America Vote Act for computerization of voter rolls and use of the problematic electronic voting machines across the nation.

Given the flaws in our voting system, what problem does the House bill seek to solve? The bill frames the problem of our electoral system as the Illegal Immigrant Voter Problem, (or, in some cases, the Criminal Voter Problem – double or “dead” voters). In this frame, the Illegal Immigrant Voter is the villain who threatens U.S. elections. This framing of what is wrong with the nation's voting system seems to lead naturally to a solution: impose strict security to block the Illegal Immigrant from voting. As we have discussed previously, the use of the Illegal Frame in the context of immigration stresses criminality as the defining attribute of a class of people.

The repeated use of the Illegal Immigrant frame activates deep frames related to police protection from a criminal threat. In such a law and order frame, progressives who oppose the House bill are characterized as failing to protect the citizenry from criminals. Moreover, progressives may be painted as corrupt, seeking to win the votes of such criminals at the expense of their legitimate constituents.

Progressives recognize that the "Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006" both focuses on a groundless threat and exacerbates real problems. The Illegal Immigrant Voter Problem is clearly without merit because to live in the U.S. without legal status is to be wary of contact with government authorities, not to risk deportation by voluntarily submitting to scrutiny at a polling place. The number of “double” or “dead” voters is also miniscule. As Congressman Xavier Becerra has demonstrated, the House bill would disenfranchise people who are already vulnerable, among them the elderly, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and victims of natural disasters, especially those living in poverty. Given the fact that many people in these groups have a history of favoring progressive candidates and policies, the House bill can also be regarded as a strategic initiative. In arguing for the bill, conservatives can continue to define progressives as failing to protect citizens from a criminal threat. Were the bill enacted, conservatives could benefit further from the suppression of legitimate votes by voters who tend to favor progressives. At the same time, progressive campaigns would be forced to devote their own resources toward ensuring that voters in such communities would obtain the required identification in time to qualify to exercise their rights as citizens.

True election integrity, in contrast with the conservative plan to thwart a phantom threat, would empower all citizens to exercise their right to vote and instill confidence that our government will count all votes accurately. Our current electoral system is a confusing patchwork of widely varying state laws. Election integrity would include creating a unified national voting system where all citizens have the same rights and every state offers equal opportunities to vote. It would return responsibility for the electoral process to the government, taking it out of the hands of private corporations such as Diebold. It would fortify voting machine security, and require a verifiable record of every vote transaction. It would ensure access and accuracy, not impose roadblocks.

A voting system that cannot assure that every vote is accurately counted is fundamentally broken. We must recognize this broken system as a far greater threat to our democracy than the threat of undocumented or “criminal” voters, and make its correction our highest priority.

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