View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Anniversary 

As I was driving out to Albertson's yesterday to pick up Pepto and NyQuil and Earl Grey, I happened to hear the weekend edition of NPR's least capitalism-hostile show, Marketplace. They mentioned this, and I couldn't resist the shock value.

I promise: more election stuff later

And I promise: I won't ever do that to you again.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Election Judge Training 

In the background, on Hugh's show, as I read Kerry Spot for the 14th time last night: a woman's voice, talking about how she'll support our troops in combat. Could have been Marilyn Musgrave. Then, "my opponent, Loretta Sanchez..." Locational disconnect, until I remembered that I was listening to Hugh online, and I was getting campaign ads for Southern California.

The election judge training was simultaneously encouraging and worrisome. Encouraging because so many normal people were there, wanting to take care of the process. Worrisome because some of them were barely paying attention, others were having a hard time following fairly simple processes, and at least one woman should have been carrying a drum and a "Count Every Vote Sign." I was relieved to see my old friend Bill Eigles, who theoretically contributes to this blog on an occasional basis, was there. So there's one more precinct where there won't be any shennanigans.

I have seen "flowcharts" of a sort, showing what the election judge should do in different situations, resolving conflicts in the rules, and reducing the number of decisions to be made. Sadly, the state's election judge handbook includes no such flowchart. This is likely to lead to overtaxed elections officials back at the county clerk's office, giving out incorrect, or incorrectly interpreted information about what to do.

There was also no mention of HAVA-tagged voters, those who registered by mail without providing any ID. The trainer was careful to say that lack of ID on a provisional ballot envelope would not necessarily invalidate that ballot. That's true, if there's enough existing registration info back at the elections office. But if there's not, if someone did need ID, the vote won't be counted. People who could have produced ID, but weren't told it was necessary, will have their ballots invalidated.

Here's the rub. The election commission is trying, desperately, to keep election judges from having to defend anything. It's not the judges' job to decide what provisional ballots will get counted, and which ones won't. But this is leading them to have judges avoid making any judgments at all, or give any advice at all about what ID may be necessary to help a provisional ballot count. It's a recipe for confusion and a gaping hole for a lawsuit. The outcome of that lawsuit may very well be to count all provisional ballots, legitimate or not.

Friday, October 29, 2004

So It Begins 

Republicans have filed a complaint that election workers in largely Democratic Pueblo are permitting electioneering and failing to ask for ID. Pueblo County Clerk Chris Munoz has already been in hot water for simultaneously serving as the treasurer for a local candidate's campaign.

Ms. Munoz asserts that she doesn't believe workers weren't asking for ID, because some of these judges have been around for years. Except that the ID requirement is new, and experienced judges frequently don't assimilate new procedures.

Allowing campaign buttons and clothing inside the polling place is against the law. But not asking for ID is worse. Given the reports of multiple registrations, of people registered in multiple counties, of felons being registered, the ID requirement is one of the few safeguards we have. If election judges are willing to violate their oaths and not enforce the requirement, there's almost nothing standing between organized vote fraud and a stolen election.

Basic Economics 

On this, the 75th Anniversary of the great stock market crash, the Denver Post ran two stories on the event - one from the AP, and one on the local reaction at the time. Both stories repeat the myth that the stock market crash caused the Great Depression. At the end, they get around to mentioning that the Fed raised interest rates, making things worse. Even then, they only get half the story.

The stock market crash was caused by a speculative bubble, but a market decline was inevitable. The economy had already begun to go into recession. The stock market bubble was poised to be popped, but the Great Depression was almost completely a result of mismanagement by the Government. Not only did they raise interest rates, they raised tariffs, and the Fed refused to help ease a liquidity crisis as it had so many times in the past.

Anyone who wants to write about the depression should be required by his editor to read Milton Friedman's Free to Choose, which covers this in depth. The question here isn't what could have been done to ease the Depression - they are many answers to that - it's that the Stock Market Crash didn't cause it in the first place.

Party of Hate 

Yesterday, driving to the Election Judge training, I stopped at 8th and Emerson, east of downtown. On the back of one of the stop signs, someone had spray-painted, "Kill Bush".

One data point isn't much, and not for a moment do I think the Democratic Party had anything to do with this. But I've been driving around, glancing at yard signs and bumper stickers, and even graffiti for month. I have seen protest signs equating the Israeli flag with with swastika, and one - one - Bush sign defaced. (I bet I know who those people are voting for.) I have seen reports of other, but I guess a defaced sign makes a worse statement than a stolen sign.

But not once have I seen anything remotely approaching "Kill Kerry." Nothing, nothing suggesting physical violence against a candidate or his party or even his union thugs.

This is not rational. Peter Beinart notwithstanding, it doesn't even have rational roots. And, it's completely one-sided.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Best Case Scenario 

I have believed for some time that it is important that Israel finish the security fence as quickly as possible. In the Middle East, nothing succeeds like facts on the ground. And while we'd all like to have the chance to say a Shehecheyanu as quickly as possible, Arafat might help Israel most by recovering. After the succession struggle has already started, of course.

Whether or not the circling vultures would let that happen is another story. Certainly those with the greatest interest in seeing him linger would also be those in the worst position to see that it happened.

Our Dinner with Hugh 

Last night, members of the Rocky Mountain Alliance had the great pleasure of dining with Hugh Hewitt, courtesy of the Outback Steakhouses of Aurora and East Aurora. Michael, Richard, Ben, Jim, Guy, Clay, Jonathan, Jared, Bob, and I all had a terrific time.

I can verify what the Northern Alliance guys have been saying - Hugh is very generous, and sincerely concerned with success of the conservative blogosphere as a corrective to the MSM. And, we would like to think, for the RMA in particular. He sounds like the Happy Warrior on the show, because he actually is one.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Arafat Still Not Dead 

So when I got to the Outback Steakhouse in Aurora, to meet with Hugh Hewitt and the rest of the Rocky Mountain Alliance, the first question they asked was whether or not we'd be able to toast the death of Yasser Arafat. No, I said, but I did get to tell the joke about Arafat dying on a Jewish holiday.

Soon. Not yet, but not long.

Of course, Arafat never bothered to groom a successor, and given his Stalinesque tendencies, that's probably just as well for the successors. The problem now is the problem common to all thugocracies: when the head thug dies, the new leader is the
one who settles all family business the fastest. So long as he doesn't go to the meeting in Gaza, on al-Tessio's territory, where he'll be safe.

Everything you hear is rumor," said Gazi Hanania, deputy speaker of the legislature. "President Arafat is sleeping."

Sure, and so is the parrot. When Arafat actually does pass on, die, move along, cease to be, become an ex-Arafat, what passes for Palestinian leadership is going to have to staple his feet to a forklift and parade him around until things settle down.

Right now, everyone's predicting a bloodbath, and I suppose that's the way to bet. There are half a dozen factions who've been sharpening their knives, waiting for this moment, and there's a tremendous first-mover competitive advantage to be had here.

Still, there's some hope this thing could be settled more quickly than we think. Moving quickly, and intelligently, and not too quickly, takes organization, which is one thing that Hamas has in increasingly short supply. Most of it has been sandblasted off of Gaza streets and sidewalks, and what's left has become the Terrorists that Dare Not Speak Their Names. So there's some reason to hope that the non-Islamist irredentist Arabs will take over, rather than the Islamists.

That's the good news. The bad news is that we've seen this film before. Everyone knew Chernenko was a placeholder, especially when the voting booth looked suspiciously like his hospital room. But Andropov was a different story. If all it takes is a tailored suit and some white wine to make some people forget that you've spent you're entire career destabilizing legitimate governments around the world, there should be lots of candidates for the job.

A quick transition to someone who's Not Arafat could stall Israel's plans short of actual victory. Whoever comes out is bound to be an unknown quantity, and the calls for Israel to stop its "provocations" long enough to give the new guy a chance to actually prove his murderous intentions. The Europeans won't believe it, but they'll be speaking to enough people who will, even within Israel.

That wasn't the plan. The plan was for Israel to finish the fence, and tell the Palestinians to come back when they stopped killing each other long enough to come up for air.

Sharon has had defeat snatched from the jaws of victory so many times before. In Sinai. In Beirut. Semi-responsible Palestinians have been calling for Arafat to step aside for a while now. Wouldn't is be ironic if he had finally found a way to elude Sharon one last time?

Gay Marriage 

I have tended to avoid the topic of gay marriage in this space. In the first place, my personal opinions on the matter are pretty much fixed by virtue of my being an Orthodox Jew: marriage simply cannot be anything other than between one man and one woman. And for me, that's about where it ends. I know how I'd vote on a referendum, and how much I'd try to punish Ken Gordon or Andrew "The Tsar" Romanoff if they tried to push is through the General Assembly. But I can't expect that convince many people; Orthodox Jews will be pretty much with me, anyone else indifferent to such argument, if you can even call it that.

More, I doubt the usefulness of such a debate, testimony to the destructive power of Roe v. Wade, and a generation of activist, liberal judges. They went to law school in the 60s, and saw a couple of decades laboring in law firms not as training to understand the law, but as the dues they paid on the way to power. Power, naturally, over you and me. The Massachusetts Supreme Court, or rather, enough members of it to play bridge, can issue a single ruling whose logical conclusion is the equivalent of a dictat from the Sultan. Until we begin to solve that problem, and its solution will take a generation, debating certain social issues seems a little pointless. (David Frum, in his superb book on the 70s, posits that voting has declined because it has mattered less. Judges and bureaucrats do not feel bound to respect even majorities of 80% and 90%.)

There is one argument, though, proposed by Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan, that deserves to be answered: the notion that a small number of people, say, 2-3% of the population, cannot threaten a major institution. There is, in fact, no reason at all why a small group of people can't force us to rethink and question social structures. I can think of two examples, both starting out with noble and necessary goals, both turning into national nightmares.

First, there is no doubt in my mind that a large part of the secularization of social life comes from a desire to more fully integrate religious minorities, especially Jews, into public life. I am old enough to remember being excused from 4th grade music class when December came around, and the class sang Christmas carols. I can remember mouthing the words to "Come, All Ye Faithful" at the Cub Scout Christmas pageant. Neither of these things would be thinkable now. And I'm not that old.

But what started as an attempt to make a non-denominational civic religion, in keeping with the Founders' intention, has morphed into a legal war against religion. The Founders didn't specify the nature of the God in Whom We Trust; but they put it on the coins, just the same. I was not thrilled at Greeley or at Fiddler's Green being asked to pray in the name of a deity in whom I do not believe. But I was uncomfortable not at all when the pastor at Red Rocks made the invocation. Listen to Dennis Prager for a few days, and you'll get the distinction.

The other example is poverty. Frum writes:

In 1980, there were 27 million poor people in America, or about 12.4% of the population, approximately the same proportion as in 1965. The level of poverty in the United States had not changed much over those 15 years, but its character had. Poverty, before 1960 mostly rural and white, became urban and nonwhite. Almost 70% of America's poor lived in metropolitan areas in 1980....This "underclass" - a term originally coined by the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal and popularized in a 1982 by journalist Ken Auletta - tallied perhaps 2.5 million souls nationwide, almost all of them black or Hispanic. Two and a half million people is a small proportion of the total American population. But this relatively miniscule population challenged the country's ideals of equal citizenship and equal human potential more radically than the tens of millions of unemployed in the 1930s had ever done.

The analogies aren't perfect. Each situation is unique. But the notion that a small part of the population can't challenge the way we think about ourselves and our society, even its most important institutions, is clearly untrue. Marriage is a public institution, conferring a publicly recognized status on its members. It confers ancillary rights of inheritance, of surrogate life-and-death choices, of adoption, of finances, of birth, and of family.

At a practical level, I don't see where civil unions, on this basis, are any better a solution that "marriage," since they reproduce all of the above effects without the word. In each of the above cases, we started by making common-sense changes (not requiring Jewish kids to say the Lord's Prayer, for instance), and extended them to the ridiculous (lifetime membership on the welfare rolls). The virtue of civil unions is that if we come up with any further "innovations," we don't need to extend them to the rest of existing marriages, but we can limit them to the civil unions.

But I do see where, before we go throwing the full weight of Law and Society behind another radical social experiment, we might want to think about it a little.

Especially since it's 2-3% of the population.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Light Blogging Today 

Between schoolwork and real work, there's going to be light blogging today. See you tomorrow.

20 Years Later 

During the 1984 campaign, one of Walter Mondale's themes was that it was "time for a change." Ronald Reagan reminded America that, "we are the change," before recounting the Carter/Mondale administration's many failures.

Today, John Kerry looks for Europe to come to the rescue, like the cavalry. President Bush would do well to remind the country that, "we are the cavalry."

Monday, October 25, 2004

The President in Greeley 

I had the pleasure of attending the President’s rally in Greeley this morning, courtesy of the campaign and its generous issuance of press credentials to the RMA. (Richard also took advantage of the offer. He needs a camera. I need a digital camera. Hmmm. Maybe we need an RMA camera fund...) The site was the Island Grove Park, in the Events Center. It’s a smallish venue: about 8000 people, although it was probably the largest venue in Greeley. (The University of Northern Colorado stadium holds only about 7000). Last time I was here was in 2000 for the Greeley Dog show. The configuration is different for a dog-and-pony show.

It's appropriate that the President was speaking in Greeley. The town is named for Horace Greeley, whose rapidly-changing position on the Civil War mirrors that of the President's opponent. He pushed for vigorous prosecution of the war, and then got mixed up in an unauthorized peace mission in 1864. He opposed the President's re-election until September of 1864, after the Atlanta and Petersburg military victories.

A photographer next to me had heard that at the Kerry rally in Pueblo, there were 2000 people outside with 15 minutes to go, and they shut down the metal detectors. So I guess it’s true, the Democrats really are softer on security.

The warm-up music this time was oldies rock rather than country. “Great Balls o’ Fire” and a couple other up-tempo numbers to start, and then – oddly – “We’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’.”

Wayne Allard, every inch the veterinarian, hosted the event. Fourth District Congressman Marilyn Musgrave spoke, as did Pete Coors, who stayed late to sign autographs and have his picture taken. He seemed to love every minute of it, and I think he’s finally realizing that despite all the work, the campaign is to be savored, not resented.

The invocation was a little weird, and a little over-the-top. I can completely understand the religious sensibility that God has a hand in choosing our leaders, and certainly at a Republican event, the pastor would thank Him for sending us the man we’re trying to get re-elected. The pastor also made it clear that while he believed that George Bush was the man to vote for, that whoever was elected would be, in some sense, the leader that God had chosen for us, and that we should follow him. Some could be forgiven, though, for believing that the pastor was calling Bush God’s representative, or something like that, although it looked like he was a little too eager to hear that. I thought he stayed this side of that sort of nuttiness, but it looked like he had to work at it a little.

The intros finished earlier than planned, so we were left with this large, ponderous, “Thus Spake Zarathustra” movie soundtrack kind of music that ran through about 7 ½ times. At first I thought it might be from Apollo 13, but I needed to make it clear that no, I was absolutely not sure that it actually was from Apollo 13. The last thing I needed was to have some rumor I started end up in the paper.

Today’s Surprise Guest was none other than Rudy Giuliani. Talk about a rock star. Although Republicans once again showed their difficulties with rhythm, as an attempt to chant “Rudy” ended up sounding like booing. And this time, Laura Bush was there as the Family Member, though according to the President, she was probably happy she didn’t have to speak.

The President’s speech was almost entirely about the war, and much sharper on that. Very little on terrorism. But it was sharper, more clearly defined than I had heard before. He finally got around to countering Kerry’s Tora Bora lie, and pointed out that Kerry had supported both the campaign and the way it was fought at the time.

He noted that Kerry had said that by invading Iraq, we had created more terrorists. “Senator Kerry has it wrong. You don’t create terrorists by fighting them. You defeat terrorists by fighting them!” When he got to the part about turning Iraq from an adversary into an ally, it sounded to me like he was talking about crushing vermin with the very rock they had been hiding under.

Also went after Kerry’s historical aversion to a robust foreign policy. Kerry opposed aid to the Contras, the Pershings in Europe, and voted against weapons systems that we’re now using to fight terror. “History has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong, and Ronald Reagan was right [I’ll bet that name didn’t get a cheer like today’s in Pueblo –ed.]. When former President Bush,” assembled the coalition to oust Saddam from Kuwait, Senator Kerry voted against it. “History has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong, and that former President Bush [yes, that’s how he referred to his father –ed.] was right. After the first World Trade Center bombing, Senator Kerry called for intelligence cuts so drastic that even his colleague Senator Kennedy couldn’t support them. History has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong (long pause), and, let’s give him his due (laughter), Senator Kennedy was right [delivered with obvious relish to great laughter –ed.].”

He had the crowd laughing with him now, and went for the jugular. “Senator Kerry voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein, and then criticized me for…using force against Saddam Hussein. Hours after saying that it would be ‘irresponsible’ to vote against the troops, he voted against them….History has shown that Senator Kerry was right, and then wrong, and then briefly right again, and then wrong.” (Place erupts.)

He continues to use Dennis Prager’s line about other occupations that the terrorists might have taken up, had we not been so rude as to defend ourselves.

The second half of the speech was mostly held over from the previous stump speech, the one with a domestic issues section. But it was much more powerful, much more meaningful, with the new first half.

I can’t tell you how completely, utterly, like, totally cool it was to have press access, and to get to sit with the rest of the local press. The Greeley Tribune and other local papers from Loveland and Ft. Collins were, of course, wildly over-represented, and they couldn’t possibly have been nicer to me, or to the staff. I heard one woman remark, as we went through security, “no wonder people hate dealing with the press. Some of them really are jerks.” At least I think she said “jerks.”

One reporter from one of the northern Colorado papers made clear the relationship between the mainstream traditional press and the blogs. She asked the name of my blog, and whether it was pro-Bush. When I said, “yes,” she said that she’d have to be careful then about what she said. I reassured her that I wasn’t there to campaign, and she did let me know that she thought Kerry was much more liberal then he pretended to be. Still, she clearly saw, in this post-CBS era, blogs as a sort of meta-media, reporting not only on the event, but also on the media itself.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Mike Littwin of the Rocky. Now I have my political differences with the man. There are times when he writes as though no other interpretation of events were possible. But he remembered the emails about his Red/Blue/Battleground series we had exchanged, and we got to talking about the Old Country. It turns out he graduated from Newport News High School in 1966, 13 years after my father did. He also went to U.Va., graduating in 1970. We avoided talking about politics and writing, and I suspect he was pleased to have a respite.

I will say that while I expect his column comparing the Pueblo and Greeley rallies to be pro-Kerry, I don’t expect it to be a hatchet job. He was the one who talked a fellow reporter down from his conviction that the pastor was playing Pope to the President’s Charlemagne.

This time, I have pictures. Although the lighting was terrible, and I was stuck with the long lens and 100-speed film I had brought from home.

Here's Senator Allard. He's a fine man and a good Senator, but I'd be very careful about booking him as an after-dinner speaker:

Congressman Marilyn Musgrave:

And who's that next to the Representative? Why yes! Those of you with very good eyesight may squint a little and make out former Representative Bob Schaefer:

And The Man, himself:

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Siege Begins 

Notes to neighborhood campaign workers:

1 - We have already voted

2 - I am grouchy when I am woken up

3 - I am extraordinarily grouchy when I am woken up from a Shabbat nap

We had an out-of-town guest over for Shabbat lunch, and when I finally settled down for a nap, the doorbell rang. The dog, who was already a little wound up from being relegated to the basement during lunch, and who had started anticipating his afternoon walk, went ballistic.

Since they rang the doorbell, the electric doorbell, on Shabbat, I was pretty sure it wasn't any of my friends from shul, so I would have been content to let them leave whatever literature they had, and go away. Sage the Dog had other ideas. No! He barked, they must be driven away, so that they shall never return!


Her (and her daughter, given the Great Privilege of Holding the Clipboard): "Hi, I'm looking for Susan Sharf."

Me: "Um, yes, what for?"

Her: "Well, we're with the unaffiliated group"

Me (restraining myself): "And?" (Unspoken: yes, you're unaffiliated like my dog is a chihuahua. Right, Susie's a registered Democrat.)

Me (recovering): "She can't really come to the door right not."

Her: "When would be a good time to come back?"

Me (thinking): "After I have the trap door installed under the Welcome Mat, leading to the dungeon with the alligators and hungry wolves."

Me (for real): "Ah, yes, actually, she's already voted."

Her: "Do you know how she voted?"

Remember, this is in front of a house with a Coors for Senate sign and a Bush/Cheney 04 sign.

Me: "That would be our business."

"How did she vote?" How did she vote? I know this woman was old enough to have a daughter old enough to carry the clipboard. But I'm sure if she thinks way back to the dark ages when she was in grade school, she remembers folding the little piece of paper in class elections, so nobody would see that she didn't vote for her best friend, but instead voted for the cute guy in 4th row. Or she could go down to King Sooper and ask the election judge why the voting booth has curtains.

I have never been asked how I voted, much less how someone else voted.

Later in the evening, after Shabbat ended, Greg Golyansky came by. Mr. Golyansky is running as a Republican against the Permanent Colorado House Minority Tsar Andrew Romanoff. There's something delicious about a Republican Jew running against a man named Romanoff for political office. Of course, he's got no chance in hell of winning in this district, but it was clever to nominate a Former Soviet Unionik here, too.

And now, we have another yard sign.

Welcome Instapundit Readers! 

While you're here, take a look around the vote fraud postings (amongst others). And I won't miss the chance to plug my radio appearance this Thursday on Lea Live here in Colorado. You can listen at 11:00 AM Eastern, 9:00 AM Mountain at KFKA on October 28.

And if any of you is looking for a web programmer, now you know where to find one.

Vote Tenanbaum! Vote Bowles! Vote Both! 

The Charlotte Observer is reporting that up to 60,000 people may have found it too difficult to choose just one Carolina to vote in, so they picked both. While the South Carolina race isn't sewn up, the North Carolina race is considered much closer. Depending on how much time people have during the day, this might lead to voters casting ballots in both states, or one of their choice. (Alarmingly, North Carolina doesn't want to discourage voters by asking them to show ID at the polls, while South Carolina does ask for ID.)

I understand that campaigns need to strategically and tactically allocate resources. I just hadn't realized that voters were one of those resources.

About That Post Endorsement 

While it's got K-Lo all worked up, it looks to me like a ticket-splitting endorsement. The basis of the endorsement is entirely Bush's assertiveness on terrorism, and his willingness to use force without raising his hand and asking for a hall pass in French and German. On every other issue, including his handling of Iraq, taxes, judicial nominations, "reaching out to Democrats," everything, the Post is critical of the President.

My guess is that this is an endorsement more calculated to help Ken Salazar than George W. Bush.

Asymmetric Warfare 

One of the reasons that Democratic whining and fear-mongering about disenfranchisement is so much more effective that Republican worries about vote fraud is that the victim in one case is clear, while both the victim and perpetrator in the other are hard to identify.

In order to commit disenfranchisement, really commit disenfranchisement, some specific individual needs to be refused his ability to vote. That individual can be identified, and held up as a specific victim. More importantly, those "pre-emptive strikes" can be effective, because even if the presumed victim is a class, or hypothetical, any one of us can imagine ourselves as being turned away, and how outraged we would be. Bill Johnson apparently has retained an entire army of attorneys based on just such a fantasy.

The flip-side is much harder for most of us to personalize. In an election with millions of voters, we see the damage from one fraudulent vote as being, in some sense, distributed among the entire voting population. If that fraudulent vote is for Kerry, then sure, some Bush voter has had his vote canceled out, but which one? Surely not all of us, and surely not any one in particular. At the same time, the very nature of vote fraud conceals the perpetrator, since he needs to either invent a non-existant identity, or steal someone else's, in order to commit his crime. The inability to identify either the victim or the criminal is one of the reasons that vote fraud has received so little attention compared to intimidation or disenfranchisement.

This asymmetry extends to other areas of public policy. I can point to specific jobs lost to competition; I can't point to specific jobs created by free trade. It was only when those opposed to minority set-asides and racial quotas were able to produce specfic victims that they were able to start winning a few court decisions. Environmentalists have the hardest time imposing regulation where specific ecnomic victims can be found, but all too often the costs of regulation are distributed across an entire inustry or economic sector.

Fingerprinting and photo-taking are illegal at the polls. Some of the ID required barely qualifies as ID at all. Election judges will need astounding memories to recognize the faces of people foolish enough to try to vote twice in the same precinct. While someone, some individual being turned away, has immediate sympathy and an immediate complaint. The only way to redress this asymmetry in the public mind is to relentlessly push the issue.

Lawsuit? What Lawsuit? 

If ever there were proof that newsrooms could maintain separate editorial policies under a joint operating agreement, this is it. A day after the Post published a hit piece on Secretary of State Donetta Davidson (carefully identifying all the Republicans involved, naturally), the Rocky runs an article full of bi-partisan love.

The Post continues its campaign against Ms. Davidson today, blaming her for inconsistent judge training. (Lawyers for Bush take note: this is little more than preparing the ground for a 14th Amendment Equal Protection lawsuit.) The fact is, federal meddling in what should be a state process, and lawsuits and fear of lawsuits, have combined to take what used to be a straightforward administrative post and turn it into the focus of hothouse political pressure.

I've been critical of Secretary Davidson when appropriate. She had no business providing for same-day registration, and probably should have pushed for a special prosecutor for the existing voter registration fraud cases. But to run an article about how late in the day it is to be figuring out the rules, while barely mentioning a lawsuit that cost the state two weeks of preparation with less than a month to go, is just irresponsible.

Done for the Day 

Tomorrow, I'll be headed up to cover the President's appearance in Greeley, and in the meantime, I'm drowning in schoolwork. So that's it for the day.


Colorado "Pre-Emptive Strikes" 

The Post runs a report about former election judges turned into hectorers poll watchers.

Lucero trained Figel and two other women to be poll monitors Saturday. Volunteers, several bilingual, will be posted outside the polls on Election Day in Colorado precincts heavily populated by Latinos and African-Americans - making sure that each and every voter casts a ballot.

The People for the American Way Foundation has organized Election Protection, a coalition of various civil rights groups and others, to prevent voter disenfranchisement.

"It's just unconscionable that in the US of A that we have to go through this process," Figel said. "We live in a land of liberty, and people are being intimidated. I'm still shaking my head."

So far, the only voter intimidation seems to be by Kerry voters in Florida. When Colorado Secretary of State issued her initial set of rules for balloting, the Post was careful to assert that Colorado had no history of voter fraud. They fail to observe that the state has no history of voter intimidation.

Another nonpartisan voter advocacy group, Fair Vote Colorado, will staff as many precincts as possible with volunteers to field voter questions and solve problems as they arise at the polls.

"Non-partisan?" There they go again. Election Protection is run by People for the American Way. Fair Vote Colorado is a spinoff of the Bighorn Center, whose founder, Rutt Bridges, ran for the Democratic nomination for Senate before Ken Salazar entered the race. These organizations are about as non-partisan as NutraSweet is natural.

In fact, this is little more than the "pre-emptive" strike the Democratic poll worker manual has promised. Given the ethnic demographics of Colorado, an appeal of this sort is likely to show more results in the Hispanic community than among blacks. This is more than the normal scare and intimidation tactics, aimed at simultaneously energizing the base and undermining the law. It is also another instance of using the fear of lawsuits over "disparate impact" to avoid confronting the distortions that a large illegal immigrant population pose.

Hell Freezes Over 

Both Denver papers have now endorsed President Bush for re-election. Of course, the Post's endorsement is mostly damning with faint praise, but it comes down to leadership and decisiveness in the war on terror.

Yet, in the context of Nov. 2, it isn't sensible to assess the state of our union in easily definable ways. Ours is an era in which security matters most, and national security is the preeminent duty of the next president.

On Sept. 11, 2001, this country accepted a great challenge - to inflict justice on terrorists who would attack us and to take every reasonable step to protect our homeland. The task has been pursued with dogged resolution, and we think President Bush is best suited to continue the fight.

In making this endorsement, we don't see that American politics need to be so polarized. Just for the record, we consider both Bush and Kerry qualified to be president, and we don't think the world will come to an end if voters turn to the Democrat.

The call for less polarization would carry more weight if it included a recognition that it's been Democrats and their union thugs that have been shooting up Republican offices all over the country. Still, if their thinking represents any significant fraction of Colorado Democrats, we can pretty much write off Colorado as a swing state. It's certainly got to be a little bitter for Kerry, after his reverse-coattail visit to Pueblo yesterday.

Of course, we'll pass over the fact that both papers have also endorsed Ken Salazar.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Election Judge Law 

A couple of readers have been worrying that local election officials might try to stack the ranks of election judges with Democrats. Presumably such individuals would be more likely to break down and let people vote without proper ID, etc. Or they might be more persuded by argument, both subtle and not, from Democratic poll watchers. I don't think this is an issue.

Colorado Law is pretty clear on this point:

1-6-109. Party affiliation of election judges in partisan elections.

(1) For partisan elections in precincts that have an even number of election judges, each major political party is entitled to one-half of the number of election judges.

(2) For partisan elections in precincts that have an odd number of election judges, one major political party is entitled to the extra election judge in one-half of the precincts, as determined by the county clerk and recorder, and the other major political party is entitled to the extra election judge in the other one-half of the precincts, as determined by the county clerk and recorder.

(3) If an odd number of precincts exist, the county clerk and recorder shall determine which major political party is entitled to any extra election judge. The county clerk and recorder shall make this determination either by mutual agreement of both of the major political parties or, if the two major political parties cannot agree, by lot.


1-6-111. Number of election judges.

(1) For partisan elections, the county clerk and recorder shall appoint at least three election judges to serve as polling place judges for each precinct to perform the designated functions, one of whom may be a student election judge appointed pursuant to the provisions of section 1-6-101 (7). In each precinct, notwithstanding any other provision of this article and subject to the availability of election judges who meet the affiliation requirements of section 1-6-109, of the election judges appointed to serve as polling place judges pursuant to the provisions of this subsection (1), there shall be at least one election judge from each major political party who is not a student election judge.

(2) (Deleted by amendment, L. 98, p. 580, § 10, effective April 30, 1998.)

(3) When two election judges who are not of the same political affiliation are present at the polls, voting may proceed. (Emphasis added -ed.)

I suppose a whole host of, say Democrats could be induced to change their party affiliation, to stack the polls with election judges working under false colors, but the number of people required to be "in" on such a conspiracy would be unsupportable. People talk.

Of course, there's also no reason the process couldn't work the other way in some places, with Republican election judges wrongly disenfranchising some voters.

Radio Change 

My appearance on Lea Live has been changed from next Friday to Thursday, October 28. That's ok. For finance guys, October 29 has a bad ring to it, anyway. I'll be on starting at the top of the show, and running for about 40 minutes, it seems. And, as always, Radio Kafka will be streaming.

Preaching to the Converted 

Deacon over at Powerline notes with satisfaction that "The Jewish Press, America's largest Jewish newspaper, has endorsed President Bush." While this is certainly good news, it's really the equivalent of a New York Catholic newspaper endorsing John Kennedy in 1960.

The Jewish Press is the largest paper, but they cater almost exclusively to a New York Orthodox audience. (The latest edition had a Denver birth announcement listed under the "West Coast Bureau.") Orthodox Jews in New York are likely to vote heavily for Bush, anyway. They opposed Hillary in large numbers, remain big Giuliani fans, and through their contacts with Israel, are more aware of the day-to-day effects of Islamic terrorism.

The Press also tends to have very sensationalistic headlines, and is hard to take seriously as a reporter on national and international politics. I have noticed a distinct tendency to give their readership what it wants, shall we say. That this makes it a more ham-handed right-wing version of the New York Times doesn't make it any better.

Those who are more leftish aren't likely to be reading the Press, anyway. Now, if the Forward came out for Bush, that would be progress!

Beware of Poll Watchers 

Having seen election judge intimidation up close in Florida, Secretary of State Davidson is taking steps to make sure we'll be able to do our jobs on November 2. For instance, she made it clear that only one poll watcher per precinct will be allowed, making it much harder to tag-team beleaguered poll workers who have been trying to spell "S-as-in-Sam-H-A-R-F-as-in-Frank" all day.

One of the more interesting decisions yet to be made is about cell phones. Right now, ringers need to be set to vibrate, and cell phones with recorders or cameras won't be allowed in the polls at all, to prevent people from upload picture to the Master Face Database down at party headquarters. There's a chance that cell phones might not be allowed at all.

That would probably be a good idea, although I'm sure Common Cause would file a lawsuit charging that their free speech rights were being violated. (Common Cause has the least to worry about. They barely have a time-delay between thought and speech.) But it would prevent poll watchers from organizing campaign activities from inside the polling place, as has happened in other places.

On the whole, though, this looks like a good set of rules.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

President Bush to Visit Greeley 

President Bush will visit Greeley next Monday. The Greeley Tribune thinks that the 4th District Representative Marilyn Musgrave may be in trouble, but that's generally been a pretty safe seat. The area is solidly Red, and was instrumental in electing Governor Owens in 1998. The Public Opinion Strategies poll had Coors leading on the plains, too, so this looks like GOTV appearance, further designed to help Coors.

Precinct Voting 

With Colorado and Florida state courts upholding rules that disqualify (to varying degrees) ballots cast in the wrong precint, and a federal court in Michigan requiring those ballots to be counted, is it possible that we're headed for another Supreme Court decision on this issue?

UPDATE: Kerry Spot is reporting that a Federal court in Florida has disqualified ballots cast in the wrong precinct, making a Supreme Court resolution more thinkable. One would hope that they would just settle the HAVA question and leave it at that. But Bush v. Gore showed that the Court is distressingly more comfortable now talking in Constitutional terms than statutory ones.

Red Rocks go Red 

A new Denver Post poll confirms that President Bush has moved decisively, but not conclusively ahead here in Colorado as Republicans "come home." (Victor Borge would probably ask where they went? And is that why the newspapers were piling up?) The President is up 49-43, but while the article says "likely voters," the graphic says "registered voters." This confirms and earlier POS poll that had the President up by five.

As it turns out, Vice-President Cheney will be in Grand Junction on Saturday, the same day John Kerry will be in Pueblo. While the Democrats are trying to spin this to mean that the state really is still a toss-up, my guess is that Kerry's visit is designed to help Kerry, while Cheney's visit is designed to help Pete Coors and Walcher in the 3rd. Polls have shown the Salazars running well in the Western Slope, and the Veep probably is making a stopover to lend some coattails.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

I Heff a Plen... 

The French Candidate's Plan for Iran has already been rejected by the mullahs:

On the 18th of September, Iran was called to halt its uranium enrichment activities immediately and permanently in a decision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors. Iran rejected the demand and claimed that its nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment designed to produce a nuclear fuel cycle, are anchored in the international treaties and regulations.(1)

Recently, the three European countries, France, Germany, and the UK, initiated (in the talks between the EU and Iran in the past two years) a new proposal where nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes would be provided to Iran by European countries as part of an incentive package. Iran principally refused the offer. In the next few days, the three foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the UK are expected to arrive in Tehran for talks, in which they will officially submit the offer....

The Iranian foreign minister's spokesperson, Hamid Reza Asefi rejected the offer, stating: "[this is a question of] the preservation of our inalienable right [to pursue Uranium enrichment activities]... the Europeans will have to accept the fact that they cannot force Iran to do [whatever they want]." Iran claims that it is determined to achieve independent nuclear fuel cycle capabilities and that it cannot be swayed from this right.

So the presumed subjects of his plans for Iraq and Iran have already rejected his proposals.

More Voters Than Citizens 

Another good reason for requiring ID at the polls. Apparently, some county clerks have been, er, less than diligent in purging their voter rolls. As a result, some jurisdictions have more registered voters than the 2003 Census estimate of the voting-age population. About 55,000 appear to be registered more than once, many times in multiple counties. Some registered voters have either moved away died.

While the ID requirements makes it harder to vote regularly, there's nothing that keeps someone from voting provisionally as one of these improperly registered voters without ID. The standard for counting a provisional ballot is that the person is registered; they are assumed, after the fact, to be properly registered.

Nobody wants to ask this question, but how many of these new registrants might not actually be citizens?

He's No Curt Schilling 

This morning, while I was walking the dog around scenic Crestmoor Park, I saw a woman jogging, coming towards me, pushing one of the jogging strollers, with a small dog on the other end of a leash. The stroller was empty.

"I think you lost somebody," I said.

"No, the stroller's for him," she said, pointing to the dog. "He just had knee surgery and he can only go around the park."

Knee surgery. The dog was so short, he barely had knees. It was all I could to keep from asking how long he'd be on the DL, how his rehab was going, and whether or not he could go Saturday if we needed him.

Perspective, people, perspective.

I Ran Away From John Kerry, Before I Ran With Him 

John Kerry and Ken Salazar will finally share the same stage, after weeks of taunting from the Coors camp about their never having met. The event looks like a sandwiched-in kind of thing, on the way from Reno to Las Cruces, NM. Pueblo is heavily hispanic, and this looks like an attempt to use Salazar to shore up Kerry, without unduly damaging Salazar. Salazar, obviously, runs far ahead of Kerry among hispanics.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Why I Love Baseball 

Aside from the statistics, that is.

When that count went full, and the game ended as it should have, with the batter swinging, not looking, what a thrill to realize that the series wasn't over yet. Football fans and ex-players like to make fun of tubby baseball players like Cecil Fielder. There's not one concussion-riddled quarterback who's ever shown more raw physical courage than Curt Schilling did tonight. Every step was painful, but it probably just made him look more menacing.

Just when it looked like this postseason was going into the toilet, we've been rescued by three fantastic days of baseball. The Red Saux and Yankees have play three tremendous games, bringing the Red Saux once again to the point of, but likely not past, the brink of history. I've seen great teams "caught in the riptide," as Tom Boswell wrote of the 1979 Orioles. The Yankees have that look.

Over in the National League, the Cardinals are probably giving Tony LaRussa nightmares about his 1983 White Sox. That team won the American League West by 20 games, only to do an el foldo and lose the ALCS 3-1 to eventual World Series Champions Baltimore Orioles.

For my money, the greatest post-season as a whole is still 1986. The Red Sox came from down 3 games to 1 to beat the Angels, including Dave Henderson's Game 5 heroics. The Astros and Mets played a 6-game set, the sixth game going 16 innings, with each team getting runs in both the 14th and the 16th. The 6th game had a 7th-game feel to it, since the unhittable Mike Scott would have gone for Houston in Game 7. While we all remember Game 6 of the World Series, we forget that the Saux started out with a 3-0 lead after one inning of Game 7, and brought the tying run to the plate late in the game, too.

Who says baseball is boring?

More Tracking Polls You Shouldn't Believe 

The Battleground Poll shows some interesting numbers over the course of the last week. The third debate seems not only to have helped Bush on domestic issues, but also to have reassured them on Iraq and terrorism. On most questions, we're back where we were before the debates, although the "vote for" number has yet to catch up.

The Battleground poll is run daily, but released weekly, on Monday, running through the prior Thursday. It's greatest use now is to confirm (or not) the trends that seem to be showing up in other polling data.

Krugman On the Draft 

Paul Krugman has decided to help mainstream the draft scare. Leave aside the fact that nobody wants a draft, that the left-wing Congressmen who introduced the idea voted against it when it was put to a vote, that it was dreamt up as a way of scaring a very pro-Bush 18-30-year-old demographic into voting for Kerry. It took less time to mainstream this argument than it did to mainstream the idea that Israel ordered into action in Iraq.

Krugman claims that since Bush brought on a deficit while denying he would do so, so he will bring on a draft while denying it. Of course, Bush's tax cuts helped prevent a far worse deficit, which was actually caused by the recession alreadu underway. Krugman never even lists the as-yet-present-but-unreported recesssion happening at the time as a reason for the deficit.

The equivalent events in his argument won't be the factors he's laid out, but some pressing need for much broader, much more immediate military action, and a national mobilization. (A draft was necessary during WWI and WWII, after all.)

I'm supposed to take a comparative economic-military analysis from an economist who 1) couldn't see, and 2) doesn't understand the effects of, a recession?

More Stolen Honor Controversy 

The New York Times is reporting that one Kenneth J. Campbell is upset with the editing of Stolen Honor:

The suit, filed yesterday in Philadelphia, involves the film "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," which accuses Mr. Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president, and the antiwar group he joined of making up the accounts of wartime atrocities that Mr. Kerry later talked about in his 1971 Senate testimony. The Sinclair Broadcast Group has asked its 62 television stations to show the movie this week.

The veteran who brought the suit, Kenneth J. Campbell, is shown saying he was not at one of the massacres later discussed, and asking another veteran whether he could produce accounts of the massacre.

A lawyer for Mr. Campbell, a decorated marine who is now a professor at the University of Delaware, said the film was edited to take out footage in which Mr. Campbell made clear that only soldiers who witnessed the atrocities firsthand would be allowed to testify at the hearings, and footage in which he recounted his military superiors ordering him to kill innocent civilians.

"It edits little clips to make it look like they're just making up instances," said the lawyer, David Kairys, who said Mr. Campbell was not connected with the Kerry campaign.

Well, they were just making up instances. VVAW's big "testimony" moment came in Detroit, in the so-called "Winter Soldier" hearings, where Vietnam critic Neil Sheehan shows that many "events" were imaginary, as was much of the "service" tendered by the witnesses. This extends even the VVAW Executive Director Al Hubbard.

It's possible, even likely, that members were unaware of the specific fraud being perpetrated. If the film seems to show Mr. Campbell collaborating in lying, when he in fact assumed that those around him were the real thing, then he might have reason to be upset. It seems like an easy thing to fix.

The NY Times Joins The Note 

Having the New York Times fact-check someone else these days is a little like being lectured to by Tony Soprano about law and order. Still, Davids Rosenbaum and Halbfinger do a nice job calling Kerry to heel about his rather wild accusations over the last couple of weeks concerning the draft, Social Security, and (possibly) the flu vaccine.

Coors Pulling Ahead 

Two sets of polls show Ken Salazar losing ground badly in the last couple of weeks of the campaign. Public Opinion Strategies, whose polls last month were widely discussed here, now has Coors with a 45-40 lead, where he had trailed 42-52 a month ago. The USA Today Gallup Poll has Coors erasing a 9-point deficit two weeks ago, to pull within a point, 49-48. (As an aside, it also has Amendment 36 collapsing to a mere 39% support, compared to 53% opposed.)

Neither poll would take into account a series of weekend side-by-side comparison interviews and profiles in the local papers. Those are online, but none of them really contains much new information.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

Early Voting 

Election Day is over for me. At least as a voter. I took advantage of Denver's early voting system, traipsing down to the local grocery, King Sooper, to vote this afternoon. If convenience gets any more complicated, I may never vote again.

I live in an area with a large number of ex-Soviet immigrants, and all evidence is that the system was designed to make them feel at home (the absence of a Russian-speaking election official notwithstanding). I asked the woman in front of me, a nice old Jewish immigrant whose house I walk the dog past every day, whether the Russians were getting a 2-for-1 special today. "Three-for-one," she said, just like in Russia. Just so long as they didn't let them count the votes, too.

First, you fill out a little blue form, show your ID, and the nice lady who's been doing this since the Gold Rush writes down your name and sends you to the second line. The fact that you get to the table first is no guarantee that you'll actually finish first. It's kind of a reality-TV show test, who can write their names out legibly the fastest.

The second line takes you to the Election Judges who, laptops at the ready, look up your name to make sure you're registered. That's great if they can read. The Nice Lady from 1859 re-wrote my name since she didn't think my handwriting was legible enough. The Nice Election Judge still thought it said, "SHARP." I've got my Social Security Number, my Driver's License Number, and my birthday on the form, and he stares at it like a side-dish he hadn't ordered, no doubt afraid he was going to have to give me a provisional ballot. I had him try again. Paydirt.

On to the third line. The one where you actually vote. You hand them the little slip with your precinct number on it (really, the ballot configuration) and into the little box you go.

When I arrived, there were lots of people in the third line, a fair number of people in the second line, and no waiting for Little Blue Slips. By the time I left, the Russians had backed up the second line, the Lady from Conestoga was struggling to keep up with the new arrivals, and as a result, there was nobody actually waiting to vote.

There are some very simple operations management principles at play here, mostly having to do with throughput and bottle-necks. By creating bottle-necks at the sign-in point, the geniuses who've let this system evolve (it can't have been designed), virtually guarantee that voting machines will shut down from boredom. There simply aren't enough people manning the check-in stations to keep things moving, and there's no use blaming it on the confused old woman from Minsk who doesn't understand "register." ("I can wote now? I wote? I go wote?")

I can only hope that they've got things a little more ironed out by November 2.

Common Cause v. Davidson 

I've finished reading through Judge Hoffman's opinion, and I'm looking forward to the day when Governor Owens appoints him to a higher post.

Judges are frequently people, too, and often they have a sense of humor. At the end of the the first day's testimony, the State suggested that things be delayed until the next morning. "One of the things to consider, your honor, is that we've got a roomful of political junkies here, and tonight is the Vice-Presidential debate."


"What can I say? Life's full of choices. Let's try to finish."

As a result, judicial opinions are generally not as dry and opaque as people suppose them to be. They are full of references and footnotes, and often it takes a trained legal mind to understand where the judge is coming from, and what he chooses to ignore. But the opinions themselves are often quite readable.

It's Common Cause's bad luck that they got assigned to Judge Hoffman. I had suspected, from the little I was able to dig up that Tuesday evening, that he was a judicial-restraint kind of guy, not given to wild theorizing, and not likely to try to invent rights and impose his own values. Lower court judges are usually restrained by their fear of being overturned on appeal. Still, the Colorado Supreme Court got fairly inventive itself in the redistricting case, which might have emboldened less conservative folks.

Judge Hoffman starts out by framing the case as one of balancing goods - avoiding disenfranchisement vs. avoiding fraud. The Constitution deliberately recognized no specific "right to vote," but the Supreme Court has gotten there, anyhow, through the 14th Amendment. Then this:

But the Court has also recognized that the right to vote, unlike some other individual rights that are exercised in essential opposition to the state, is a right that has meaning only in a highly regulated social context. A vote is not merely one individual’s casual expression of political opinion at any particular time on any particular subject. Votes count, and because they count they must be sought and given in a structured environment that allows the votes of all other proper voters to count....

Maximizing voters’ access to the process is just one part of the compelling interest the state has in regulating the architecture of elections. Preventing voters from voting more than once, preventing otherwise ineligible voters from voting, and preventing other kinds of election fraud, is part and parcel of this same compelling state interest, as the Burdick Court expressly recognized when it included the words “fair and honest” at the very beginning of its litany of state interests in structuring elections. Professor Chemerinsky had it only half right, and perhaps not even that, when, in the aftermath of the controversy of the 2000 election, he wrote “What good is the right to vote if every ballot isn’t counted?” (Erwin Chemerinsky, Fairness at the Ballot Box, 40 TRIAL—APRIL 32 (2004).) A complete description of the state’s interest in regulating elections should have included something like, “What good is the right to vote, even if every ballot is counted, if the votes of duly registered voters are diluted by the votes of people who had no right to vote?”

Yes, that Erwin Chemerinsky. "Smart guy," huh? Well, yes, since only a smart guy would rate highly enough to be quoted at all.

The relevant provisions under HAVA are 302(a), which requires provisional balloting for those who aren't on the voting roles at the precinct, and 302(b), which requires first-time voters to show ID either when registering or when voting for the first time.

The Judge then briefly summarizes the history and reasoning behind the three issues at stake: 1) not allowing provisional balloting for those who've requested an absentee ballot, 2) counting only the Presidential vote for ballots cast in the wrong precinct, and 3) requiring ID to vote. The Plaintiffs are asking to overturn all three rules on the statutory grounds that they conflict with HAVA, and the second and third on the grounds that they're unconstitutional.

The judge also points out that, although the ruling is likely to be "permanent" for purposes of this election, it is in fact calling for a preliminary injuctions, so certain other requirements must be met. You want to know what they are? Read the opinion.

The judge found that the first requirement probably does violate HAVA. Having found that, there's no need to evaluate its Constitutionality. It's enjoined. Why? HAVA 302(a) is intended to preserve the right of people not on the precinct list to vote. Congress didn't specifically exempt those who had requested absentee ballots. Nor did it suggest that states may impose their own sets of restriction. Therefore, they must be allowed to vote provisionally.

The last two do not violate HAVA. Congress invites the states to impose stricter ID requirements.

With regard to precincts, the judge basically agreed with the intervenors that Common Cause was trying to elimiate precinct voting (a jurisdiction written into the Colorado Constitution), and that this was radically at variance with what HAVA was trying to accomplish. In fact, the conference committee specifically deliberated on this issue, and came to the conclusion that it wanted to preserve precinct voting.

The Constitional claims are a little more fun. With regards to the ID requirement:

It is also not just a matter of registration fraud. Several witnesses testified that many county registration lists have not been purged for many years, and therefore likely contain the names of many deceased and otherwise no longer eligible voters. The presence of those ineligible voters’ names also raises the spectre of voter fraud.

It may or may not be true, as Plaintiffs claim, that as an historical matter actual voter fraud has been rare in Colorado. But the state has a legitimate, indeed compelling, interest in doing what it can to make sure that last month’s fraudulent or no-longer-eligible registrant does not become next month’s fraudulent voter. Ms. Davidson and local election officials testified that once a fraudulent regular ballot is cast, and the voter’s identity forever divorced from the ballot, there is no way to remedy the fraud. The fraudulent vote will count. That is, election fraud must be detected before fraudulent regular ballots are cast and fraudulent provisional ballots are counted.

That's the compelling-interest part. Here's the "chilling effect" part:

Nor do I think it likely that Plaintiffs will be able to demonstrate that the identification requirement is discriminatory or will have disparate impacts.... Plaintiffs’ suggestion that the identification requirement will “chill” people without identification may be true (though there was absolutely no credible evidence of that), but then again it may also “chill” fraudulent voters. Whether one kind of chill justifies the other is precisely the kind of public policy choice that must be made by legislators, not by judges legislating under the cover of strict scrutiny.

After all of last year's attention paid to the 9th Circus, I had forgotten that actual judicial restraint lives on.

As for the precinct requirement:

In what must surely qualify as one of the understatements of the year, even Plaintiffs’ own witness, a Denver election official, testified that allowing voters to vote in any precinct they wished “could be problematic.”

...At the moment, if I were to try to design a system that maximizes the chances that fraudulent and ineligible registrants will be able to become fraudulent voters, I’m not sure I could do a better job than what Plaintiffs are asking me to do in this case—allow voters to vote wherever they want without showing any identification.

Judge Hoffman's decision has averted one of the worst-case scenarios, one of people voting without ID in multiple precincts, possibly casting provisional ballots in multiple counties. There are still holes in the system, but not ones addressed by this case.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Symposium Answer 

Why Vote For Bush? (In 250 words or less)

Terrorism is the defining issue of the day. Simply put, the President is serious about pursuing the war offensively, and about pulling the rug out from underneath the terrorists. Kerry is not. Vice President Cheney is serious about aiding in that war. John Edwards is not. President Bush supports Israel against the "international commnunity". Kerry would support the "international community" over Israel.

The "ownership society" is the best, most American adjustment we can make to a changing world. Kerry will get our fingers chopped off trying to turn back the clock. Bush will propose changes to give you more control over your life and its decisions. Kerry will reserve those decisions to the government. Bush may be allowing the government to spend too much. But "fiscal conservativsm" doesn't mean raising taxes to choke off a recovery. And it certainly doesn't mean engaging in class warfare, while making sure you pay a lower rate than the middle class.

Senator Kerry is a late-twentieth-Century, September 10th liberal: he mistrusts both American power and the American people.

President Bush trusts both.

Radio Shot 

It looks as though I'll be representing the Rocky Mountain Alliance in a radio guest shot on Lea Live Radio on Friday, October 29. The subject will be voter registration fraud, and potential ballot fraud. I haven't been told when I'll be on, but the show runs from 9:00-10:00 AM Mountain Time. The show does have live streaming now, as well.

Now, I have to stay on top of the story...

Judge Upholds ID 

Judge Morris Hoffman has thankfully upheld the ID requirement for voters in Colorado. So you can't show up and claim to be your neighbor.

Hoffman overturned the rule that those who had requested an absentee ballot could not vote provisionally, but did require them to sign an affadavit that they had not returned the absentee ballot. Hopefully, this will discourage the casual miscreant. Still, someone could show up and vote provisionally as someone else, a determined liar being a determined liar. Remember, provisional ballots require no ID, as long as they are not first-time voters.

Finally, the judge upheld the Secretary of State's ruling that those who vote outside their home precinct will only have their vote for President counted.

This ruling seemed in line with the way the judge was questioning both counsel and witnesses, although I also thought that the administrative burdens of cross-checking provisional ballots with absentees would prove decisive the other way.

For those of you who are interested, the decision is available here. It's large, 117K.

UPDATE: The Secretary of State's Office has issued a press release celebrating the decision, and encouraging people who have requested absentee ballots to vote that way. They call it a "minor adjustment," although they felt strongly to go to court to prevent it.

Personally, I think this is a beneficial decision, although I'd like to have a chance to read through the opinion before deciding if it's a good one. Scanning it, Hoffman seems to have grounded it in US and Colorado Constitutional history. Despite his assertion as I walked in that "there really is no such thing as legislative history," he in fact quotes Senator Bond about HAVA, and tries to determine what Congress was trying to accomplish, not what he believes to be morally correct.

I did think at the time that the state had had the hardest time making their case on the absentee-provisional conflict, and that they needed to do more to prove that the number of hand-counted ballots would overwhelm the clerks. My guess was that they had slid through, but the judge evidently felt otherwise.

More when I get a chance to read the opinion.

Aggressive Pursuit of Registration Fraud 

I may have been too hasty in my assessment of Secretary of State Donetta Davidson's refusal to seek a special prosecutor for the registration fraud. Both the Post and the Rocky have reports this morning that additional manpower will be brought to bear on the problem. Also Ken Salazar will recuse himself from legal issues regarding the election over the next two weeks, and, one presumes, until the election is settled here in Colorado. Instead questions will be handled by a team of attorneys, one Democrat and one Republican.

This is good news on the retrospective front, and assures that Salazar, who had a clear conflict of interest in interpreting election law, will be out of the process for the duration.

The bad news is that it's not clear that this closes very many of the at-the-polls loopholes that still exist in the process. The worse news is that neither paper seems to know enough about the process to ask those questions, or to be able to present the issue in an informed way to voters.

Still, it looks as though the ground is being prepared to immunize the electorate against Democratic charges of disenfranchisement. David Harsanyi features an interview with an indignant black woman, upset that Democrats' tactics may backfire, discouraging blacks from participating in the process. And Nicol Andrews notes that "Democrats aren't above cheating," provoking a sputtering, vaguely incoherent response from the local Kerry-Edwards campaign.

It's good to see these traditional charges finally being dealt with.

Losing Registrations - It's Not Just for Democrats 

Sure, Ted Kennedy was quick to jump all over unsubstantiated reports of Democratic registrations being lost in Nevada. Here's a case of a Republican registration being lost in El Paso County. No evidence of malice, just evidence that it's a two-way street.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Hey, Blue! 

I've gotten a couple of emails and comments asking about my safety and sanity working the polls under the "supervision" of Fair Vote Colorado, and Mark Grueskin's minions. Don't worry, I've faced worse: I used to umpire high-school baseball. You think these guys are bad. I can see you've never had to face the wrath of deluded parents who think that third strike you just called robbed their budding Babe Ruth II of a glorious major league career.

How ironic, though, that the nickname for umpires is "Blue."

Kerry's "Secret Plans" 

Apparently, John Kerry has this thing about secret plans. He has his own secret plan to end our involvement in Iraq. He claimed in Iowa that Bush has a "secret plan" to reintroduce the draft. He claimed in Wisconsin that Bush has a "secret plan" to have us all drinking soy milk, or something. And now, in Florida, he claims Bush has a "secret plan" to privatize Social Security.

(He seems to be tailoring his "secret plans" to his audience, which I guess is a good way of boosting his Return on Rhetoric. What I want to know is, why is the draft such a big deal in Iowa?)

Contest Idea: What Bush Secret Plans will Kerry unveil in your state?

Also, the Post is reporting that Kerry is encouraging his supporters to voter early, starting tomorrow. The Post repeats the campaigns line that this is to avoid a repeat of Florida 2000, but I'm not really sure how that would help in reality. More likely, Kerry sees his support cresting, and it trying to lock-in votes before second thoughts set it.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Road Trip 2003 

Why Mary Cheney? 

A number of blogs have been speculating on why Kerry-Edwards brought up Mary Cheney's lesbianism. Some claim that it's attempt to drive a wedge into the Evangelical community, to discredit the Bush-Cheney ticket with them. Others claim that it's an attempt shore up their own base, by reminding them of who really likes gays.

I don't buy either explanation. In the first place, I can't see too many evangelicals deciding that, "hey, Mary Cheney's gay. I think I'll vote Democrat." There are about 14 leaps of login involved in that kind of decision, and the President was nothing if not solid on social issues during that last debate.

As for the flip-side of that coin, the Democrats already have huge percentages of the gay vote that going to vote on that basis. See: the reignited boycott of Coors, and Andrew Sullivan, for starters.

No, I think it was a play for the middle: Republicans are hypocrites. Republicans oppose gay marriage, therefore they hate gays. But Cheney's own daughter is gay! Don't you see? Don't you see how hateful these people are, that they'd even go against the interest of their own family? They're still counting on the idea that Cheney is Darth Vader, that he must oppose gay marriage (even though he's pretty liberal on that subject).

It won't work.

It's argument, if it can be called that, at a symbolic, impressionist level, appealing to people's impressions of Republicans. It was reinforced when Elizabeth Edwards tried to spell it out for people: the Cheneys are ashamed of their daughter, she said.

The Cheneys have responded with dignified fury, which every parent will appreciate. I am always hesitant to demonize potential Presidents. Should they win, they'll have to lead the country. But Kerry really, "isn't a good man."

I have written before that Thomas Dewey lost in 1948 in part because he was an aloof jerk, evidenced by his stiffing a bunch of schoolchildren here in Denver. This was John Kerry's Thomas Dewey moment. We didn't see it in 1948, because there wasn't national television and the polling wasn't as good or as constant. But we see it now.

Welcome Hugh Hewitt Readers! While you're here, check out the posts on vote fraud here in Colorado.

No Special Prosecutor 

Secreatry of State Donetta Davidson will not seek a special prosecutor to look into the voter registration fraud here in Colorado.

State GOP attorney Mike Norton claimed Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar has a conflict of interest in the investigation because he is running for U.S. Senate.

Davidson said there was no evidence of a conflict of interest and that Salazar is actively looked into claims that multiple voter registration forms have been filed under a single voter's name.

She said she saw no reason for Gov. Bill Owens to ask Salazar to step aside.

It looks as though Davidson is terrified that if she had asked for a special prosecutor, the Democrats would have screamed that she was in some way trying to influence the Senate race. Leave aside the obvious self-interest in such a charge. Isn't there at least an appearance of a conflict of interest? I realize that Salazar wouldn't want to make an admission that there might be politics involved in criminal investigations, but this is a pretty special case.

I would also remind readers that Salazar's office failed to file even so much as an amicus brief in defense of the Secretary of State in the Common Cause case.

Mrs. Davidson is the Judge Ito of the Colorado government. Perfectly capable of handling the boat while things are calm, completely thrown off by the perfect storm of a contentious election, massive voter registration, widespread registration fraud, and quickly-changing rules.

She started out trying to plug holes in a system that was open to abuse, and now has gone into full retreat in the face of bullying and scare-mongering by the other party.

A Citizen's Guide to Voter Fraud 

This morning, the two Denver papers have a total of 8 stories, plus at least one opinion column, on the issue of voter fraud. Most of the press coverage, though, is focused on registration fraud. I don't the time to pick apart Susan Greene's hit piece on the Secretary of State, or conspiracy-mongering by Democrats. Or ACORN's apparent inability to learn from its mistakes.

It's time to move from registration fraud to the potential for voter fraud. The AG's office is correct when they say that 40 registrations doesn't give a citizen the voting power of his whole neighborhood. So how do we move from registration fraud to actually upsetting a close election?

A large part of the threat is volume. There are now about three different streams of hand-counted ballots: 1) absentees, 2) provisionals taged under HAVA, where the existence of the registration needs to be checked, and 3) the same-day registrants, where the voter registration information needs to be confirmed.

If Common Cause wins, people who've requested absentee ballots will also be able to cast provisional ballots. So there's yet another form of cross-checking that has to happen.

They're expecting hundreds of thousands of each, at this point, which is going to make proper transcribing and recording difficult, even if we assume that everyone's honest, but tired. The Adams County Clerk admitted as much in an article in the Rocky the other day. (I have no idea what the rules are for poll-watchers at the clerk's office for the counting of provo and absentee ballots.) The possibility of a couple of clerks getting punchy and losing sight of what they're doing is probably greater here than any organized systemic vote-stealing, at least this year. But if we re-institutionalize massive hand-counting, we re-introduce all the pencil-lead-under-the-fingernail stuff that $10 million electronic ATM voting machines are supposed to eliminate.

Bleary-eyed clerks in the Colorado county with the most voters are spending nights and weekends inspecting hundreds of scrawled signatures and splotchy Social Security numbers in an attempt to head off massive voter fraud in Colorado....

The checks are time-consuming and tedious. And the onslaught of voter registration applications and applicants for absentee ballots is straining the office as never before, Miller said. The office is handling 107,000 absentee-ballot requests on top of a jump of 10,000 new voter registrations in less than a month.

"I have never seen anything like this," said [Susan] Miller, [the county's director of elections], a Jefferson County clerk for 15 years.

This is just for registration. Provisional and absentee ballots will be processed under much greater time pressure.

But wait, there's more!

By definition you can show up and vote provisionally without id. Election judges are not always from the precinct they're judging, which means they don't know the people involved. (I'll be an election judge at South High School, where I know no one.) It would be easy to show up and vote as yourself, regularly, and as your neighbor, provisionally. Then when your neighbor shows up, he has to vote provisionally since there's already a record of his having voted. The clerks now have 12 days to figure whose ballot is real. (This is the hypothetical that the judge kept throwing out at the hearing.)

If Common Cause wins, you won't need ID to vote regularly, meaning someone could pull this trick a few times, and there won't even be a paper trail. Your neighbor could still vote provisionally, but even if they decided he really was who he said, the clerk couldn't undo the fraudulent ballot.

Finally, there's the issue of HAVA-tagged voters. You can register by mail without any ID, but if you're a first-time voter, that registration will be "tagged" under HAVA. To vote even provisionally, you'll need ID. But the last four digits of your SSN suffice to remove the tag (and are considered ID by mail). The county clerks have no way of checking those numbers effectively. So it's possible to register and vote for the first time without ever showing ID.

Clerks don't validate any of this information, although they do check to make sure that the address exists in their county. They do check for duplicate information, meaning name/address/birthday combo. But someone could use similar names with different birthdates. The Post Office will almost certainly deliver those registration cards. ("Harsanyi" doesn't have this problem, but when I first moved here, I lived in the same apartment complex, not even the same building, as a Boris Sharf. I got his mail often enough that I went by to make sure he wasn't getting my paychecks. Even now, when I've moved and he's died, I occasionaly get mail for his widow, Sima, who's also moved.)

After the election, all this may be checked, on the way to the statewide computerized list, but then it's too late. The Secretary of State testified that once a ballot is turned into a vote and "cast into the stream," as he put it, there's no way to retrieve it. This is good for privacy, but it makes prosecutions harder.

The fact that some forms of ID are merely name-address identifiers without pictures, like a utility bill, where several names can be listed, probably adds permutations that I don't have time to ferret out. Again, watch the large apartment buildings are probably vulnerable to an attack this way, somehow.

As for absentee ballots, if you are already registered, you can change your registration without any ID, just a signature, by mail. Obviously, you can also change your neighbor's registration by mail, without ID. And the mailing address for the absentee ballot can be a PO Box. Or you could change his residence to a new precinct, or new address. He'll be notified, but there's a good chance he'll throw that out with all the other junk mail, 4 or 5 months out. Or that he won't bother to or be able to make the correction.

I would guess that that's the intent of some of the registrations that have been showing up with offices and PO Boxes. First-time voters can't vote absentee, so it won't work, but then, criminals try to pay for things with $40 bills, too.

Bottom line: we have all sorts of ad-hoc rules for all sorts of contingencies, but no system. A quick meeting with the county clerks isn't going to create a system, just unified rules.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

State of the State 

It's all vote fraud, all the time! The latest news pretty much fits the ongoing patterns.

First, it's someone responsible finally admitting that maybe full speed ahead into dead calm waters at night in winter isn't the best strategy for getting across the Atlantic in one piece:

Adams County Clerk and Recorder Carol Snyder said she processed about 3,300 provisional ballots in the 2002 election.

That wasn't a presidential election, and it was before the massive effort to register voters.

Snyder said she expects to get at least twice as many provisional ballots in November, but she has the same amount of time to process them.

Extra temporary workers have been processing voter registrations, recruiting election judges and preparing for the election since June, Snyder said.

More will be added if it becomes necessary, she said.

"We worked 18 hours a day in 2002. I don't know if I can ask my staff to work 24 hours a day for 12 days," Snyder said.

Overtaxing her staff could lead to errors, Snyder said, and in a close race, every vote can make a difference.

Gee, maybe we ought to be paying attention to that scraping sound on the side ofthe ship, after all.

Then, it's Democrats waving the Bloody Chad. I received an unrequited fundraising email from Al Gore, containing this gem:

We were forced by the limitations of our campaign funding to make a series of tough choices -- including a decision to go for it in Florida and scale back in Ohio. If we had been able to pay for a full TV ad campaign in all of the key battleground states, we might not have lost Ohio by a thin margin. And of course, even though I think we won Florida, well, you know what happened there.

Remember. Every recount showed him losing. There was no statistical evidence that blacks were disenfranchised at a higher rate than whites. The networks - all four of them - were the only one guilty of vote suppression, with their early call with the polls still open in Republican counties out west. But he thinks they won Florida. Must've been the brownshirts.

And it's not like Mike Feeley's bitter or anything, either:

"Donetta has a history of ... incompetence in administering elections. It's plainly obvious that she's not prepared to administer this one," said Democrat Mike Feeley, a former congressional candidate who sued Davidson over her reluctance to count provisional ballots in 2002. "If Colorado becomes Florida this year, you can lay the blame right at the feet of Donetta Davidson."

Naturally, any warning that illegal voting is, well, illegal, got a
nasty response from Democrats
. (How long before they start calling Secretary Davidson the "Red Queen."

"This is the classic move by Republican tacticians: create an environment of fear that discourages voters from showing up on Election Day, for this is the only way they know how to win," said Sue Casey, Kerry-Edwards 2004 Colorado state director.

Casey said the tactic had worked for Republicans in Florida in 2000.

"And now that they see Colorado slipping out of their previously firm grasp, they are bringing this tired tactic to the Centennial State."

These same Democrats had just been handed a golden gift by the Secretary's same-day registration rules. Trying to fix it so that we just look the other way while "vote early, vote often" is resurrected is contemptible.

The rules are confusing, and still up in the air, pending a court case. Final election judge guides haven't been issued, for instance. But Ms. Greene goes over the top here twice. First, the Secretary's office has issued a list of acceptable ID, so counties need not worry about that. Then this:

The "patchwork quilt" of election procedures, as some watchdogs call it, is not only confusing to voters, it may be illegal.

In the 2000 Bush vs. Gore case, the Supreme Court ruled that voting procedures must be consistent within each state. That ruling was echoed two years later when a judge sided with Feeley, who sued Davidson over disparate ways of counting provisional ballots in Colorado's new 7th Congressional District.

Of course, Bush v. Gore itself said that it was not to be used as precedent.

Look, I know this stuff is confusing. Worst case, which is starting to look like most likely case, is that we end up with a wildly permissive set of ad hoc rules, rather than a system. The good news is that if they get settled 3 days before the election, maybe the bad guys won't be able to figure out how to game the system in time.

Election Judge 

Paperwork is in the mail. I'll be an election judge at South High School this November 2.

Dear God, what in the world have I gotten myself into?

An AP Reporter We Can Trust 

The guys at Powerline have done Yeoman work exposing the misdeeds of the Associated Press. I'm glad to report that the fraud case is getting good coverage from the AP's reporter on the story, Jon Sarche. I've met Jon both at the court hearings and at the SecState's press conference yesterday, and he seems like an unbiased, stand-up guy. His reporting seems to hit the key facts, given his word limit, and I can't detect any leanings.

Now, if only we can trust his editors.

Our Favorite Local Columnist on Vote Fraud 

David Harsanyi of the Denver Post comes through with a hard-hitting column this morning, taking the Secretary of State to task for crumbling under pressure and permitting, in evident violation of state law, same-day registration.

Unlike most reporters here, Harsanyi has actually taken the trouble to talk to a county clerk, Robert Balink, of El Paso County, where Colorado Springs is located.

"I know that people want to disrupt the election process," explains Robert Balink, El Paso County clerk and recorder. "They want to throw it to the courts; they want the judges to make decisions to determine the outcome of certain elections."

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

What, No Debate Report? 

For those of you just tuning in, sorry. I was in a Business Strategery class this evening, so I missed the whole thing, although I did follow it on Hugh's live blog. It sounds as though Bush did well on the economic issues, and killed on the social questions. So for the moment, it might be prudent for the Kerry campaign staff to go back to calling him "Senator," rather than "President." Just a thought.

Secretary of State's Press Conference 

I just came from a press conference at the Secretary of State's office where she tried to regain control of the vote fraud story. Unfortunately, it looks as though she only made things worse.

Ms. Davidson asserted that she had been "left out of the loop" in the prosecutions and investigations of voter registration fraud, based on suspicious registrations submitted in April. She's now called a meeting of all 64 county DAs for Sunday to discuss the matter. In the meantime, she wasn't able to provide any comprehensive numbers on how many suspicious registrations had been forwarded to DAs or to the AG's office. All of this looks like a panicked attempt to reassure voters of about a problem of undetermined size, being pursued fitfully at best by law enforcement officials.

The AG's representative was Democrat Don Quick, the Deputy Assistant AG, who's running unopposed for Adams County DA this fall. He claimed that the problem was partisan, rather that it was money-driven. He also claimed that since the cases were largely dependent on detailed handwriting analysis, they would take a very long time to finish. When Deborah Sherman of 9News asked about county clerks who claim they were told by the AG's office "not to worry" about registrations they had found, that it was being taken care of, Quick just responded that he couldn't do anything about bad forms that hadn't been forwarded to him.

When I asked him about the fact that some ID at the polls didn't identify the presenter, merely validated an address, he said that I should as the Secretary about that. Which is fine as far as it goes, but fails to address the kind of evidence he's going to need to successfully prosecute vote fraud after the election.

One point that was valid, that many reporters seemingly failed to grasp, was the difference between stopping an invalid registration of vote, and prosecuting that crime. The registration can be stopped, or the ballot disallowed, immediately, preserving the integrity of the election, while the investigation and prosecution of the crime can take much longer.

Here's the 9News report. While Mr. Quick is speaking, note the yarmulke-laden fellow behind him. That's yours truly.

The reporters seemed to focus on two points: the number of bad forms. At the same time, they were entirely focused on the question of registration fraud. Only one reporter, I think from WB2, tried to ask questions about the walk-up registration process which looks like a gaping hole in the system. Several reporters, before the press conference actually started, were openly accusing her of dodging them and of trying to shift blame and attention to the AG's office. I got the impression of a woman caught in a surprise hurricane, desperately looking for a brick building, not from her demeanor, but from her announcements and actions.

Ms. Davidson did have some useful plans for after the election. If voter fraud is found, she'll pursue a grand jury option. She will push for the Secretary of State's office to be given investigative powers. And she'll convene a task force to recommend changes in the law to the General Assembly. All of which does nothing to address the problem of vote fraud in the upcoming election.

The fact is, the reporters are looking at the wrong problem. While it's good to see that they're finally realizing that the threat of vote fraud is real (sorry, Mr. Spencer), as usual, they're looking at the water that's already several miles downstream. Susan Rogers is correct when she distinguishes between voter registration fraud and vote fraud. The former has been proven to have happened. Why are we not worrying about preventing the latter?

"Margin of Litigation" 

That's the term that John Fund uses to describe how many votes Republicans will have to win by in order to avoid court battles over balloting. Certainly given the "bloody shirt" waving over Florida, part of the Democratic strategy is to prepare the ground ahead of those lawsuits by seeding the press and public with the notion that the process is biased against them. Clearly the people can't be trusted, so we must resort to lawyers.

Yesterday, on Fox News, a Democratic operative changed the subject from campaign violence, calling Republican concern over having their offices ransacked mere cover for organized attempts by Republican Secretaries of State to disenfranchise voters and suppress the turnout.

This morning, we read that the same local Democrats who have been complaining that Secretary Davidson's rules were too strict, are now worried that her extending the deadline is a political ploy. One would like them to make up their minds, but when your goal is to sow doubt ahead of time, any straw will do.

Election-Night Reporting 

Beware those red-and-blue maps behind Dan Rather's and Peter Jennings's heads.

The worst part about potential vote fraud, aside from the impossibility of fixing the problem after the fact, is that even fixable fraud may go unfixed.

On Election Night, the networks are going to do their best to satisfy the presumed demand for video-game-like speed and precision in results. They may not call Florida for Kerry before half the polls close, but they will put numbers up on those tote-boards.

Except that absentee, provisional, and in Colorado's case (see below) emergency ballots, will make up a large fraction of the vote. The networks will report results as authoritative that are either open to challenge, or only fractional. That initial reporting will cement a certain status as the "right one", giving the decision-making process a default position in the public's mind.

Those impressions can be very hard to overcome, and may add pressure to elections officials to certify results they have grave doubts about.

You know something? Forget all the frills. I use early voting, but I'd gladly give it up and stand in a school cafeteria for an hour if they also got rid of all but hardship absentee voting, register-by-palm-pilot, provisional voting, and same-day fifteenth chances to get it right. Go back to a system that reinforced civic ritual, minimized the chances for monkeying with the votes, minimized hand-counting, and kept Election Day from turning into Election Month.

This system is going to collapse under its own weight, trying to do too many things for too many people. Until they come up with retina-scan electronic voting machines that automatically configure themselves to your home precinct even though it's in another state, let's keep things simple.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Ringling Brothers Election 

And a three-ring it is.

In the left ring, we have a Denver newspaper finally grasping the nature of the threat. While the Post has more or less ignored the oncoming tidal wave of ballots to be hand-counted, the Rocky discusses it at length this morning. County clerks in Jefferson and Adams counties are, ahem, a little concerned about how many ballots they'll be expected to process after Election Day. At least one Denver Election Commissioner is, and one isn't. This is before the Common Cause lawsuit, which is increase the number of provisional ballots, and shift potential fraud back to regular ballots.

In the right ring, wearing striped uniforms and picking up after the animals at gunpoint, we have the Felons!

Felons will get a special provisional ballot. It probably won't count, which will drive Jim Spencer up the wall, but hell, as long as you're throwing away thousands of years of technological progress, you may as well go all the way.

And in the Center Ring, we have Same-Day Registration!

Colorado is going to adopt, in essence, at-the-polls registration. This is in response to managers of voter registration drives who don't seem to be turning in all their registrants. So, since "fairness" uber alles:

Davidson instructed the clerks - some open-mouthed at the news - that poll judges should have unregistered residents tell them where they registered, during what drive and on what date, then allow them to fill out a provisional ballot.

"In essence, we better hope a lot of people don't lie," said Carol Snyder, the Adams County clerk.

"Wait till the media hears this," said Bob Balink, the El Paso County clerk. "Just by saying you signed up somewhere, someday, you're going to get to vote."

"I guess all I can say, Bob," said Davidson, "is I hope voters are honest."

The number of reasons that this is a bad idea runs into the low four-digits, but I'll mention just three.

First, it completely undercuts all the reasons for opposing the Common Cause lawsuit. It increases the number of manually-counted ballots, increases the complexity of the instructions to the election judges, relies entirely on the honesty of people the election judges have never seen before in their lives.
Second, if the prior system was an invitation to vote fraud, this decision is like loading up the minivan and delivering to people's doorsteps. There are two steps to voter identification: 1) are you who you say you are? and 2) do you live where you say you live? Some ID's will prove both, but most will prove only 1) or 2).

Susan Rogers seemed to think this was merely pushing Emergency Registration, a process already available to existing registered voters who had failed to re-register in a new precinct or county, from the clerk's office to the precinct level, and seemed fairly unconcerned about it. But it's far, far worse than that. This ruling is specifically aimed at new voters.

I suspect that Secretary Davidson was so spooked by the Common Cause lawsuit that she decided to bend over backwards to avoid another lawsuit. Instead, she's opened the doors wide for people to vote under multiple names on their say-so that they tried to register before. Remember that non-citizens are eligible for many government benefits, or at least receive them.

This is a system that is going to collapse under its own weight, if not this year, then soon. It's possible that nobody will have time to figure out all the schemes available to them, and be able to implement them on a mass scale. In a close election, though, a mass scale isn't necessary.

Canton Break-In 

Powerline, in their roundup of anti-Republican campaign violence, mentioned that they weren't able to find any report on the Canton break-in mentioned in Marc Racicot's letter to John Sweeney. Here's the report from the Canton Repository (registration required).

Campaign office burgled Sunday

Tuesday, October 12, 2004 By EDD PRITCHARD Repository staff writer

CANTON - Someone smashed a window Sunday night at the Victory Center for Bush-Cheney offices, then ran after grabbing a purse, a laptop computer carrying case and a portable radio.

Bush-Cheney campaign officials have added the local break-in to a laundry list of criminal activities outside Republican Party offices around the country.

Former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign chairman, mentions the Sunday night break-in at 115 Dewalt Ave. NW in a letter to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. Racicot complains about a series of incidents in recent weeks and asks Sweeney to "put an end to protest activities that have led to injuries, property damage, vandalism and voter intimidation."

Police were called just after 11 p.m. to the offices, which are part of the Stark County Republican Party headquarters.

Christina Wagner, Northeast Ohio field director for the Bush-Cheney campaign, told police that someone smashed a window. A purse, portable radio and compact disc player, and a bag for a laptop computer were taken. The purse contained credit cards and some personal items, and there was a CD in the boombox. The laptop bag was empty.

Wagner was working when the break-in took place. Office lights were on, and she figured that would discourage any possible crime.

"I heard the glass break," Wagner said. "I shut the door to the office I was in, and I called 911." Police arrived quickly, she said, but didn’t find the culprit.

The culprit was in the building for a few minutes, Wagner said. Her purse actually was taken from inside a different bag in the office.

No other break-ins were reported in the downtown area Sunday.

Wagner said that after police gave an all-clear, she reported the break-in to Bush-Cheney national headquarters.

The national campaign is upset by a rash of incidents outside Bush-Cheney offices and local Republican Party headquarters around the country. The local incident actually was mentioned in a story on the Web site for The Seattle Times. It published a story about a break-in at Bush-Cheney offices in Spokane, Wash., discovered Monday morning. Last week, computers were taken from Bush-Cheney offices in Bellevue, Wash.

In his letter to Sweeney, Racicot complained of those incidents, as well as shots fired at Bush-Cheney offices in West Virginia, Florida and Tennessee, windows broken in West Virginia and vandalism at a residence in Wisconsin.

Racicot also complained about union protesters storming offices in Florida and Minnesota during organized protests last Tuesday. Locally, union members protested outside the offices on Dewalt Avenue, but no problems were reported.

Wagner said she doesn’t know if the break-in was politically motivated, or an act committed by a criminal who just happened to select the office. She noted that the window glass is pretty thick. "It’s not like there was an open door."

You can reach Repository writer Edd Pritchard at (330) 580-8484 or e-mail:

Rally Pix 

Reader Cory Skluzak sends along these pictures. He got a spot on stage behind the President.

Here's a mom who doesn't like having her son's lunch money being flip-flopped on:

Here's the crowd. As you can see, the President is drawing at least as well as the Beatles:

and The Man Himself:

Thanks, Cory!

Rally Report 

Sorry for the delay. Who knew that being out of work could be so much work?

This was the second rally for the President that I've been to this year, and while the speeches were mostly the same, there were differences, too. For one thing Red Rocks is gorgeous.

As for the rally itself, Bob Beauprez of the 7th District emceed, and seemed at ease, confident, relaxed, and energetic. Far different from his pictures.

The invocation was beautiful, calling the country to duty, and to kindness and justice. "We are not called to be a theocracy, but we are called to be a light among the nations." It reinforced the notion of America as the latter-day Israelites.

Owens gave the requisite applause & cheer lines to Bush & Coors, then spoke at length about Amendment 36, poking fun at Jorge Klor de Alva, his residence in Brazil, and unwillingness to debate. Laid out the reasons for objecting, not just for the presidential vote, but also because of the national issues at stake. (I was waiting for an "86-36" chant, but apparently Owens isn't a blog devotee.)

Coors made a few jokes: "I've been coming here for a long time. Used to sneak in when I was little." (Nice, considering it's the one major venue in the state they haven't slapped his name on yet.) He pointed out clear differences between Salazar and himself. He spoke with comfort and confidence not evident on Meet the Press, but he should. He's delivering a stump speech he's given 1000 times.

It sounded like a non-sinister, pretty harmless version of the standard script-lines that Orwell talks about in "Politics and the English Language." There was nothing new here, really, and there were some odd pairings of lines: health care and national security; unemployment and terrorism. Given the time constraints, I'm sure if Salazar had the suicidal urge to campaign with Kerry he'd sound pretty much the same.

Cheers: from "Pete, Pete" to "Four More Years," Republicans continue to give evidence of being rhythmically challenged. When the President mentioned the Senate race, they swiched to "they're not booing, they're saying Coors," instead, which requires less cross-venue coordination. Honestly, I've been listening to "Four More Years" since 1984, and if Bush gets re-elected, one of the bonuses will be that I won't have to hear it again until 2012.

Broncos cheerleaders to introduce Shanahan, and they spent 5 minutes surreally shooting t-shirts into the crowd as though it were a game. They probably would have had those little blimps floating around dispensing tickets if it weren't a security threat. A press guy caught one, and looked at it like a leftover from Rocky Flats. Prevented by peer pressue and professional ethics from keeping it, threw it back over his shoulder like a confirmed bachelor who'd caught the bouquet at a wedding. Came to me, but then, I'm just a blogger, looking for a t-shirt to go with his pajamas.

Shanahan introduced Gen. Tommy Franks. He read it like a Shane Diamonds Co. commercial, but that's fine. Tommy Franks, Rock Star. His appearance was something of a surprise, and judging from the crowd response, a welcome one. "I have seen the President close in his eyes when it was not convenient to be President of the United States.... I saw Character, Courage, Consistency... This vote means more to them (servicemen) that at any time in my lifetime." Franks took his time endorsing the President, but he's in it now for real, and he's a serious asset.

The President's speech was substantially the same as his stump speech from before, but with a little updating and a lot more energy. He's almost completely gotten rid of his habit of dropping his head away from the mike to read a quote, which sapped all the momentum from his delivery. His eye contact was virtually constant. When a leather-lunged classmate of mine at DU yelled out from behind him, "We love ya, Dubya," the crowd went wild, and Bush stood there, letting it have its fun.

(As an aside, his daughter Jenna, as well as Karl "the Brain" Rove, Karen Hughes, and Condoleeza Rice were there with him, probably for debate prep. Someone needs to give Jenna applause lessons. She sort of props up one hand on her knee, palm up, and slaps the other palm down like she's stamping out passports or something.)

Some quick notes:

  • He takes Bill Kristol's advice (neocons, please pick up your pagers) and labels Kerry as a liberal on domestic issues, which goes along with the "Run But Can't Hide" refrain.
  • He refers to "minority citizens," not "minorities," which I like.
  • He talks about his energy plan, but builds up to the punch line of energy independence, which chimera gets huge applause.
  • "Make sure the all-volunteer Army remains the all-volunteer Army."
  • "Gathering threat," and resolves to threats seriously "before they fully materialize." Emphasizes out that he never said "imminent."
  • "Afghanistan held elections this weekend and is an ally in the War on Terror." First person to vote was a 19-year-old girl. So he's keeping that current.
  • He also mentioned the Oil-for-Food bribes, the vote against the 1990 Gulf War, and the New York Times interview

On the whole, a lot of fun.

Monday, October 11, 2004

"Where Does 'Press' Go?" 

For the first time in my life, I got to check in at the Press Entrance. A blog reader and partisan inside the campaign was kind enought to secure press credentials for us RMA writers at the President's Red Rocks Rally this afternoon. Now, it wasn't the cushy, buffet-laden extravaganza that Clay and Jared enjoyed, as they hob-nobbed with the big-wigs, but we got 4th-row seats to see the President's speech.

A full report later in the evening.

The Post Discovers Vote Fraud 

Halleluljah! The Denver Post's Susan Greene has finally discovered voter fraud. It turns out that Colorado may have as many as 6000 felons or parolees registered to vote, that several hundred have managed to register this year, and that some single-digit number may actually have voted in the primary. The good news is that certain Denver Election Commissioners may no longer be able to play the Black Knight when it comes to voter fraud in Colorado. ("No, it's only a rumor! I've seen worse! Come back here!") The bad news is that it looks like the Secretary of State's office bears at least partial responsibility for the screw-up.

I've generally been supportive of the Secretary of State's office. They've been gamely backing up a registration system that makes Marv Thronberry look like Lou Gerhig. But this is Bill Buckner territory they're in here. Yes, it's true that the Department of Corrections (a.k.a. Mookie Wilson) hasn't exactly been responsive. It's also true that any county could have requested such a list, if it were interested. It's also true that there's no way of forcing county elections officials to make use of a comprehensive list, were one produced. It's also true that those same elections officials are treating voter registration this year as a data entry problem.

But by not passing on a list of ineligible felons to the counties, the Secretary of State has opened itself up to getting blamed for an easily-preventable error, and giving its critics an opening to discredit all its anti-fraud efforts. In fact, that's exactly Ms. Greene and Mr. Roberts do, finding room for the typical scare quote from Pete Maysmith of Common Cause, but no room at all to ask any county officials why they didn't think about this and request the list. Something called the Colorado Voting Project has been actively signing up new voters in prison, not telling them of the requirement, which would seem to be at least negligent. Don't hold your breath waiting for our Attorney General to investigate.

They also follow the Post's custom of identifying Republicans, but not Democrats. For instance, the Colorado Voting Project, run by Carol "Power to the Incarcerated" Peeples, received $2500 from the Right to Vote Campaign, a "coalition of minority groups."

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Jim Spencer - A Worried Man 

Jim Spencer is a worried man. If only he were as worried about actual criminal activity as he is about election judges not being able to read. I was sitting in the same hearings that Spencer was, listening to the same testimony. Well, actually, I was listening to more of the same testimony. Apparently, Spencer was reading his paper during the parts he disagreed with.

I hope Denver District Judge Morris Hoffman makes provisional ballots available to those who have applied for absentee ballots, a practice Colorado law currently prohibits. I hope the judge lets provisional ballots cast in wrong precincts count in statewide and regional elections, not just for president and vice president, as the secretary of state envisions. I hope Hoffman corrects a Catch-22 in the provisional ballot application for those who arrive at the polls without proper ID.

Therefore, Spencer hopes that Judge Hoffman eliminates both statutory and regulatory backstops for a system that lets people register (provisionally, of course) without any form of verifiable ID. This despite the Judge's clear assertion that the General Assembly has the right to assess the risk of voter fraud, and to enact rules to deal with it, and that his court does not. This despite the fact that the Catch-22 exists mostly in his mind.

Begin with the provisional ballot application form. If you don't bring your driver's license or other form of ID to the polls, you can only cast a provisional ballot. However, the provisional ballot application requires a driver's license or Department of Revenue number and says that if you don't provide it, your application will be thrown out.

That won't happen, Secretary of State Donetta Davidson testified. But it is what the application says.

The testimony made it quite clear that the provisional ballot form is also used to register voters, on other days of the year. Election judges are given a booklet with the rules. If an election judge is told to disregard the ID requirement on the provisional ballot, he should do so. He should tell the voter to do so. Why this is particularly difficult or onerous for any judge or voter capable of filling out the ballot in the first place is difficult to say.

A survey of data from nine Colorado counties by the Bighorn Center for Public Policy suggests rejection rates of provisional ballots soared from their first use in the 2002 general election to the August 2004 primary.

The survey presented at trial was incomplete, inadequate, and never subject to any sort of independent verification. The judge specifically stated that while there were not sufficient questions to bar the report from the record, the gaps in that report would affect the weight he gave to that report. Spencer simply takes the report for granted.

Even if one accepts the report at face value, the mere fact that provisional ballots were rejected cannot, by definition, be cause for alarm. They were rejected, mostly, not for lack of ID, but because of the rule preventing people who have requested an absentee ballot from also voting provisionally. After all, a distressing number of pitches outside the strike zone are called balls, much to the consternation of pitchers everywhere.

On Tuesday, a Boulder County election official testified that she will count only presidential votes on provisional ballots cast by folks who go to the wrong precincts Nov. 2. That's what the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires. Meanwhile, state law forbids anyone from voting in the wrong precinct. At the same time, a state regulation allows all state and local votes to be counted on provisional ballots cast by those sent to the wrong precinct by an election official.

Personally, I think we could get by counting all state-wide votes. Spencer is just factually wrong when he states that local votes count. Different precincts are in different districts, and votes that would not have been available in the home precinct would not have counted. But he ignores both the massive hand-counting expected in this election, and the incentive for people to lazily vote in the wrong precinct created by the knowledge that the really important votes will count, regardless.

These contradictions are no worse than another bureaucratic boondoggle I call "affirmative deception."

HAVA says a person considered ineligible to vote "shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot." The lawsuit showed that some precincts in the August primary refused to provide those provisional ballots. Others passed them out, knowing they were never going to count because of conflicting state law.

If you apply for an absentee ballot in Colorado, did you know that you sacrifice your right to vote at the polls? When you show up at your precinct, you can't vote, even if you have not cast your absentee ballot. Instead, you must travel to your county election commission office and apply for a replacement absentee ballot. That's the only way your vote will count.

Nevertheless, a witness testified that counties sometimes give provisional ballots to absentee ballot applicants, knowing those provisional ballots will automatically be thrown out.

Actually, this is closely related to a process I call, "aggressive self-protection." Election judges are instructed not to issue provisional ballots to those who have requested absentee ballots. They are told, however, that if the person absolutely insists on voting provisionally, to go ahead and give them a ballot if they felt threatened. Several officials testified that there were cases of election judges being concerned for life and limb. Perhaps election judges should be encouraged to actively exercise their right to bear arms on Nov. 2.

Spencer also professes shock, shock! that someone who's requested an absentee ballot, which might not be received until after the election, should't be allowed to cast a regular ballot on Nov. 2. As the Secretary's official put it, when you request and absentee ballot, you have chosen to cast your ballot that way. That's your decision, and you don't get to bollux up the process, creating extra work and extra confusion because you forgot to send it in, or decided that you like the smell of library paste, after all.

In the course of his column, Spencer ignores any reasons presented for protected ballot integrity, giving his complete and absolute credulity to those that overstate the risk of your ballot being rejected. No wonder he's so worries.

No problem, Jim. You won't be worried long.

A Note From Susan Rogers 

Susan Rogers, the Democratic Election Commissioner for Denver, testified for the plaintiffs in the Common Cause v. Davidson hearings last week. I mentioned that I thought her testimony was both wrong on the facts, and not particularly helpful to her side. Apparently, she was directed to my blog by a friend of hers, and I received the following email:

Joshua -

A friend sent me your blog info.

I'm sorry we disagree on these voting rights issues. I believe that any
infringement on one person's civil rights to protect the civil rights of
others should be well thought through and not unfairly impinge on the rights
of a particular segment of society. I would deduce from the content of your
blog that you might agree with me if we were talking about 2nd Amendment

I believe that voter fraud should be prosecuted when it is discovered.
However, in the past, when suspected fraud has been forwarded on to the DAs
and AG's office there is reluctance to prosecute. In the case of fradulent
registrations it is difficult to find the persons responsible. The people
who are being registered by another person are not the persons committing
the fraud. In other cases, we are told there is insufficient evidence.
Thus, all voter fraud in Colorado remains hearsay.

The ID law currently on the books in Colorado does not stop people from
voting by mail without ID. Nor does it prevent someone from voting
provisionally as someone else. The chance that this would be caught is
pretty slim. I think Judge Hoffman's example on that was pretty clear. All
of the information someone needs to personate an elector is public

In any event, I am much more concerned with the process for counting
provisional ballots than with the ID requirement. The whole concept of
provisional ballots is to protect qualified voters from errors made by
elections officials. We are (mostly) human. A voter should not lose their
valuable civil right because a judge makes an error, or because they lose
their ballot and don't discover the problem in time to correct it, or
because they misunderstand the numerous and increasingly arcane rules
surrounding elections.

Just my two cents...

Susan Rogers

And my reply:

Ms. Rogers,

Thank you for taking the time and trouble to write me. While it seemed to
me that I grasped your position at the time of your testimony, your email
does clarify a few points. And yes, I do think we disagree strongly both on
the balance of principles involved here, and the specific rules proposed by
the Secretary of State. And yet, we can disagree civilly.

I don't believe 2nd Amendment right are either relevant or comparable.
Irrelevant because they're not on the table, and not comparable because it's
not a zero-sum situation. If someone is out walking around with a gun, they
*may* commit a crime with it; but their mere possession of said gun in no
way impinges on my right to carry one. Voting, however, if the very
definition of a zero-sum game. In an otherwise tie election, a vote
improperly denied has exactly, *exactly* the same effect as a fraudulently
cast ballot. There can be no presumption on the side of permitting improper
ballots, any more than there can be a presumption towards denying that

If a DA or the AG is reluctant to prosecute fraud, it is almost certainly in
part because of a fear of being called racist. In other words, their
reluctance is partially a result of the same political dynamic being used to
oppose rules meant to prevent both registration and voter fraud. So far
this season, hundreds of registration forms have been sent to DAs and the AG
for investigation. The fact that Ken Salazar is AWOL on the issue can't be
used as an excuse for preventing other branches of the government from doing
their jobs. Inadequate prosecution hardly makes a crime hearsay, any more
than an unsolved murder remains hearsay.

Provisional ballots leave a paper trail that regular ballots do not. Judge
Hoffman's example was geared towards two people trying to cast provisional
ballots under the same name. Those two pieces of paper exist, signatures
can be compared, individuals questioned. The ID requirement forces someone
trying to vote as someone else either to obtain a fake ID, or to do so
provisionally, where evidence of a crime will be left.

Finally, I share your concern about provisional ballot counting. Counties
face the likelihood of tens of thousands of absentee and provisional ballots
this year. This amounts to replacing machine voting with two sets manual
counts on a grand scale. Provisional balloting was meant as a small-scale
replacement to correct for registrar error, or to allow people to vote
without ID if they honestly forgot it. But given the scale of manual
counting, the possibility for fraud, the time involved, and the pressures to
count quickly, requiring provisional ballots to completely mimic regular
ballots amounts to an abuse of the system.

Now, you know what might be fun? I'd be delighted to debate you publicly on
the issue, either on the specific regulations proposed before Judge
Hoffman's decision, or on general principles after the fact. I could get us
a hall at DU, being a student there, and it might give us a chance to air
these differences in a more impartial environment.

In any event, thanks for reading, and thanks for writing,

Joshua Sharf

Live Blog - Colorado Senate Debate 

8:54 - Iraq. Salazar thought he was a threat. Blames the President's presentation, calling it a "mistake," and focusing on "massive" intelligence failures. Russert asks about voting for the resolution now, but Salazar doesn't appear to understand the question. Notes Lugar and McCain.

Coors broadens the question to the war on terror, not just Iraq. Sticks to that when Russert pushes the point. Calls North Korea "North Dakota," but corrects himself.

8:58 - Complains that Washington hasn't acted with urgency. Tries to contrast with Coors.

Are you running away from Kerry?

Good question. Salazar tries to say no, but not very credibly. He doesn't repeat his comment that Bush is trying to prop up Coors.

To Coors: Is Salazar an appeaser? Coors doesn't let Salazar's attack go. Good. Then goes after Salazar for not really having a plan. The info on France and Germany is now coming home to roost. Doesn't repeat "appeaser" comment. Coors has good answers, but doesn't look comfortable.

Salazar steals some time, with some good words, but their indistinctness seems to confirm Coors's comments.

9:02 - Shows Salazar clip accusing Coors of opposing OBL death penalty. Is this fair? Salazar dodges the question, and accuses Coors again of being a rubber stamp. Mentions Lugar and McCain for the 3rd time. Salazar now equates "cop-killers" with OBL?

Coors complains that Salazar is running a dirty campaign. Weak. Coors is opposing death penalty because the Church opposes it, but he can't say that.

9:05 - Shows Coors ad about law enforcement tools. "What tools do they need?" Coors says it - Patriot Act. Good. Russert wants specific tools that would be denied, and Coors refers to Patriot Act as a whole.

Salazar comes out opposed to "roving wiretaps?" And then complains about "clean campaign" and personal attacks.

9:08 - Salazar is trying to link Coors to the environmental smear that Coors was never associated with, and that was quickly discredited. Salazar actually says "they started it." Coors disassociates from ad, and says to move on. Comes across as much more statesmanlike.

9:10 - To Coors: what would you cut? Coors fumbles. Goes back to generalities rather than specific programs and tax cuts.

Salazar calls himself a "deficit hawk," tries to use that interchangeably with "fiscal conservative." Throws in privatizing Social Security. Coors calls him on the actual numbers.

9:14 - Russert to Salazar. Need to do something with SS, Medicare, Defense. Salazar turns it to reimporting drugs. Russert: would you not cut taxes for anyone? Salazar fumbles now, naming penny-ante programs. When pressed, he goes back to

9:15 - Same-sex adoption. Salazar tries to bring up Cheney. And now Salazar now has to backpedal on the issue. Coors is very clear about needing "mother and father." Doesn't waver when confronted on this. Good.

9:17 - Conflict between Coors Beer, and Coors the candidate. Money time, Pete. Coors still doesn't have a great answer on this.

9:19 - Drinking age question. Coors calls it a state issue, and separates the state's right from federal government dictating highway money. Coors's answer is better, and Salazar purses his lips when talking about what Coors would do.

9:21 - Salazar says he'd oppose it, but Coors points out that the Democrats are neutral, and that Salazar's opposition is new. Gets the last word.

Overall impressions: Coors still doesn't have some answers to basic, although niggling questions. Salazar comes across as more polished, but Coors had some very good answers to some very tough questions, and confronted Salazar.

I'd say, slight advantage to Salazar.

Today's Schedule 

I didn't see the Senate debate last night, but I'll be live-blogging the "Meet the Press" Debate this morning between Ken Salazar and Pete Coors.

Back from Holiday 

The last of the Jewish holidays has passed, and with it, the explanation for my absence these last two days. Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah is an add-on to Sukkot (Tabernacles to non-Jews), and celebrate the giving of the Torah. Each year we finish the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings on that day, and start the next one, well, that day.

The holiday schedule has been brutal this year, affecting not only the blogging, but also schoolwork, job hunt, and everything in-between. They are by turns, solemn, joyous, serious, exuberant, and just plain pleasant. For this year, they are over.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Post Gets It Right 

I criticize the Denver Post, and Susan Greene, who's covering the Common Cause lawsuit for them, often enough that when they and she get it right, I think it's only fair to give them credit. Ms. Greene's account in today's paper goes some distance towards balancing accounts, giving more ink to the Secretary of State's position than she has in the past, and fairly characterizing the day's proceedings. The only concern is that in doing so, she's careful to mention the partisan affiliation of all the Republicans, but again fails to mention that everyone on the other side is a Democrat, regardless of the "nonpartisan" label of the organizations.

Ms. Greene is severely handicapped by a lack of space, so while she can mention the rules in dispute, the actual legal standards and issues in play miss the cut. While she mentioned that Judge Hoffman went after both sides, it seemed to me that he was much harder on Common Cause's overreaching than on the Secretary of State's position.
I would also point out that Ms. Greene was helpful to me personally yesterday, making sure to give me her list of the intervenors.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

View From the Trenches 

I'm neither an attorney nor a criminal, so I don't usually spend too much time in court, but I did spend today sitting in Denver District Court watching the sausages get made in Colorado's vote fraud case. Unfortunately, the proceedings were called to a halt at 5:30, with several defense (Secretary of State) witnesses left to be called. They'll be back at it tomorrow morning at 8:30, but I'm not sure I'll be there.

Still, the basic outlines of the case were clear, and we may be able to get some sense of how things will go.

First, Judge Bayless was not the presiding judge. The case had been moved to Courtroom 9, that of Judge Morris Hoffman (to whom we will not refer as "MoHo"). This is a somewhat heartening development. Judge Hoffman appears to be process-oriented rather than utility-oriented. He engaged in a debate over the University of Michigan's Grutter case, taking a focused, reasoned conservative position on the matter. He has also strongly criticized druge courts as counterproductive. However, Judge Hoffman is capable of telling the Secretary of State's office to pound sand, as he did in 1999 when he ordered a recount of signatures for a workman's comp ballot initiative petition.

Judge Hoffman set out his belief in his opening comments that what's at stake here is the conflict between two compelling interests: preventing fraud while letting everyone vote who's properly entitled to do so. John Fund couldn't have put it better. He repeatedly interrupted Martha Tierney, the lawyer for Common Cause during her opening statements to make several points, music to conservative ears. First, that the relative absence of voter fraud in Colorado in the past in no way meant that the General Assembly couldn't assess a current threat, and pass laws to deal with it. There is a compelling interest in preventing vote fraud, not merely punishing it. Secondly, that it wasn't the provenance of his court to determine the realism of that threat. Third, he was clearly skeptical of Tierney's argument that ID has a chilling effect if you can vote provisionally without it, making it clear that he would demand data, not merely anecdotal evidence to be persuaded.

Common Cause is also objecting to the Secretary of State allowing only Presidential votes to be counted when someone votes at the wrong precinct, if they weren't sent there by an election official. The Judge pointed out that precincts are written into the Colorado Constitution, putting Tierney on notice that it would take a lot for him to do anything to weaken the geographic basis of our political system. When the Secretary's attorney made this point, Judge Hoffman objected not at all.

Judge Hoffman also made clear what the state would have to prove. Standard stuff: if the state is going to demonstrate that it has a compelling interest in promulgating these rules, it has to show that the rules actually defend that interest.

In order to set the bar, the judge created the following hypothetical. Suppose I get up early, and my neighbor blogs, er, gets up late. Suppose that I vote as myself, get back in line, and vote for him. Then he gets up, discovers the he's already been voted for, and threatens to burn the place down. I have to present ID to vote as myself. But I don't need to present ID to vote as him: I vote provisionally. Since the election judge sees that he's already voted, he makes him vote provisionally, too. How does the county distinguish between the two provo ballots, and if they can't, what good has the ID requirement done? He kept coming back and coming back to this. Eventually, the state provided a good answer, but it took a little while.

I got the impression that the plaintiffs had spent a good deal of time researching the lack of voter fraud in Colorado, and they kept at it, even when the judge basically said he wasn't buying. I also got the impression that the plaintiffs never quite got to the level of "blowing up" precinct voting, as the Intervenors (see below) put it. The only point on which they might have had a case was the voiding of provisional ballots cast by those who had requested absentee ballots.

A couple of points on the parties involved. First, one of the Denver Election Commissioners, Sandy Adams, found three other voters throughout the state, to also object to the plaintiff's case. The lawyers representing them also represented Bob Beauprez in the 2002 voter mess, and this experience came in handy when they were discussing means of distinguishing competing absentee or provisional ballots. This group, which technically constitutes a third party, but who coordinated closely with the state, is called the "Intervenors."

Ah, but the plaintiffs had an election official of their own: one Susan Rogers, an Election Commissioner for Denver, too. While Martha Tierney complimented her afterwards on a job well done, I thought she was terrible. She had lots of opinions but few facts, couldn't respond when the Intervenors' lawyer pressed her on the expected volume of absentee and provisional ballots.

Finally, the plaintiffs tried to show that the 2003 primaries showed an increase in the percentage of provisional ballots disallowed. That somehow this was unfair. Yes, and a very high percentage of pitches thrown over the batter's head are called balls, too. Naturally, Spencer glommed onto the one race where the number of provos disallowed exceeded the margin of victory. The question itself assumes that there's something inherently wrong with disallowing a provisional ballot.

The state did eventually provide answers to all three plaintiffs' complaints. First, the sheer volume of absentee and provisional ballots will probably overwhelm any pre-existing systems for avoiding double-voting. Secondly, requiring IDs does in fact raise the bar significantly for impersonating someone else - you need to research their address and whatever personal information you can provide, rather than just know their names. My guess is that, in what the judge admits is a near-run thing, the plaintiffs have failed to make their case entirely, while the state has just squeaked through.

My only regret is that I won't be able to be there tomorrow for the finish. I'm sure the reporters from the Post will be disappointed.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Pen, not Paper 

It now seems conclusive that Kerry took a pen, not notes, out of his jacket pocket during the debate last week, which pretty much reduces the whole violation to a technical one.

I still think Kerry's a dishonorable fellow, and there are many, many men and women who agree with me on that point, but taking a pen out during a debate doesn't count towards that score.

Now, if he'd only release his military and medical records, too.

Court Hearing Tomorrow 

Common Cause v. Davidson is scheduled to be heard tomorrow by District Court Chief Judge H. Jeffrey Bayless tomorrow at 9:00 AM. Judge Bayless is best known for his temporary injunction against Colorado's Amendment 2, passed in 1992, denying gays and lesbians protected class status in Colorado. (More recently, he allowed T-Mobile to put up an antenna over the objections of local residents, which should make Lileks happy if he ever visits here.)

This has the potential to be a real circus, except that it looks like Bayless has experience with courtroom disorder, and isn't likely to put up with much c--p:

The real drama unfolded April 26. Immediately after Judge Jeffrey Bayless read the verdict convicting Hagos of first-degree murder, Hagos knocked over the defense table, vaulted over it and attacked prosecutors, punching deputy district attorney Joe Morales in the eye.

After tackling him in front of the jury box, deputies shot Hagos repeatedly with Taser guns, then restrained him on the courtroom floor while Bayless read the rest of the jury's verdict.

Perhaps this evening, I will have a chance to do a little more research on Bayless's record.


Much of the weekend discussion has been about Jacketgate, or videotape of what looks a great deal like Kerry pulling notes out of his jacket pocket when he thought nobody was looking. Notes were prohibited by the debate rules agreed to beforehand. Kerry, as usual, isn't explaining, and the tape is a little blurry. Still, it does look like a white something is in his hand, and it does look as though he's unfolding something at the lectern.

There are those who are argue that it barely matters, since the notes don't appear extensive enough to have materially affected the debate. I disagree.

Let's assume for the moment that Kerry did cheat. (If he didn't cheat, there's no story, and the whole incident really is nothing.) Let's further assume that whatever he had written down was trivial, something to jog his memory, or to make him feel more comfortable.

This seems to be perfectly in keeping with what we know to be true about Kerry's character: that he's a dishonorable man. Dishonorable men behave dishonorably even when the stakes are low and the actions not material. Dishonorable men cheat at penny-ante poker. Americans, to put it bluntly, can't stand men who cheat at penny-ante poker. Because cheating for cheating's sake says immeasurably more about a man's mettle than cheating when it might actually make a difference.

Kerry lies. He lied about his fellow servicemen when he came home. He lied repeatedly about his service and where it took place. He met with the enemy while in the Naval Reserves. He has never retracted any of this. He uses any criticism of himself to bludgeon his opponents as bashing the service of all Vietnam vets, while denigrating vets who criticize him as liars. He seemingly lies to his own diary, allows it to become to basis of biographies and films, and then refuses to release the text. He acts guilty, while denying us the chance to clear his name. In a million petty ways, Kerry shows himself to be a small man with small character.

The Bush campaign isn't going to say word one about this, and they shouldn't. If you're widely perceived to have lost a debate, regardless of the effect on the polls, you're better off not whining about a 3"x5" piece of paper. Especially when you're the President.

And we, the blogosphere, would be better off not making too much of it, either. The story has been out there for over a day, with the Kerry campaign producing neither the offending object nor a credible explanation. That seems to me to have the Clintonistas' fingerprints all over it, designed as a petty enough distraction to drive us bonkers. We can't let ourselves lose sight of the policy failings, which are many, to go chasing another character flaw.

Still, when you're not campaigning. When you're at home, alone, in your pajamas, just thinking about the type of man you want occupying the Oval Office. Does that man cheat at the weekly poker game?

No, I didn't think so.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Supporting the Backstop 

Colorado has, as this point, extremely liberal voter registration laws, permitting voters to register with only a signature to validate their name, address, and birthdate. The Secretary of State's office is attempting to reduce the likelhood of fraud in this fall's elections by requiring one of a number of forms of identification at the polls, even for so-called provisional balloting.

Common Cause of Colorado has filed suit to prevent the Secretary's rules from going into effect. The proposed changes were open to public comment at a meeting on Thursday, as well. It sounds as though that meeting was open season on Secretary Davidson, with a number of liberal pressure-groups turning out in force to protest the rules.

Fair Vote Colorado was particularly upset about the proposal to prevent those who have requested absentee ballots from voting provisionally, if they claim to have lost or not received their absentee ballots. (While the group claims to be non-partisan, Mark Cavanaugh, quoted at some length in the Rocky, is a budget analyst for the liberal Bighorn Center, seeking to eviscerate Colorado's TABOR.) Since the voter in question can receive a replacement absentee ballot, it's entirely unclear where their objection lies. The over-the-top rhetoric implying that hundreds, nay thousands, of Coloradoans will be denied their vote seems to be completely baseless.

(At the same time, Fair Vote Colorado is griping about an error in the new voter registration form which seems to call for more identification than necessary. The Secretary of State is advising county clerks of the correction, but Fair Vote is using it as a means to put Secretary Davidson's office on the defensive.)

Now, the Secretary is receiving support from both the Rocky and the Governor. The Rocky's editorial on the subject concludes:

We've long regarded provisional ballots with some suspicion. Our view is that they should be issued only to those who can make a case that the state has failed to properly register and track them.

They shouldn't be issued to those who have lost their absentee ballot, not returned it in time, or failed to re-register after moving to a new place.

It's not that hard to qualify to vote. If you're too stupid or careless to follow the few rules, you deserve to forfeit your ballot.

Which seems about right.

At the same time, the Governor's office has filed an amicus brief defending Mrs. Davidson's rule proposals.

"By inserting himself in this lawsuit, it appears that Bill Owens is merely throwing his political weight around," said Mark Eddy, spokesman for Fair Vote Colorado, a nonpartisan voter watchdog group.


"The notion of having to show a picture ID when you vote - which is no more than you have to do to cash a check at a local bank - doesn't seem to be an excessive burden," said Owens' deputy, Sean Duffy.


Activists, in turn, questioned why Owens felt the need to weigh in on the case, given that Colorado's executive branch already is represented in court by Davidson and her lawyer.

Perhaps Owens wrote the brief because his Democratic Attorney General is AWOL on the issue. The last time the executive was represented by Davidson and her lawyer, it was to defend itself against a lawsuit filed by that Attorney General, now running for Senate, over redistricting. Salazar seems to be developing a bad habit of using his office to benefit his party, either by commission or omission.

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