So, Which One's Katherine Harris?

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The California Democratic Party continues to make a recall enthusiast out of me. The latest? Pre-emptively comparing the whole exercise to—wait for it—Florida 2000.

"What I fear is what happened to us in Florida when many black and Latino voters were denied the right to vote because of mix-ups," said California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres. [?]

"This election may very well be invalidated" because people do not have access to voting booths, Torres said. [?]

The comments by Torres and DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe came after the California branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said earlier in the day it was preparing a lawsuit over similar issues.

Alice Huffman, president of the California State Conference of the NAACP, said she wanted the election delayed until November to give counties more time to prepare and voters more time to educate themselves.

Of course, California is slightly different than Florida. For instance, the entire state is run by Democrats.

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  1. When I see these Dems whining about everything all the time, it makes me wonder just how pathetic … the GOP is. What is so wrong with the Republican Party that the leaders can’t stand up and call out McAuliffe, the NAACP litigators and similar annoyances? Of what is the GOP afraid? Where is the tenacity of people who want to lead? Why not stand up and say “No, this is ridiculous. We’ve had enough.”

  2. This article has the current Torres quote.

    Here’s an earlier quote from Art Torres: “[Proposition] 187 was the last gasp of white America in California.”

  3. Brad S,

    The fact that the faulty equipment, etc etc, happened disproportionately in minority districts makes it a race issue. Please recall – wealthy white Republican areas (sorry about the redundancy) in Florida has largely upgraded their voting equipment, because they could afford to do so. Poorer, more minority districts did not. And the Republican governor and Republican legislature repeatedly refused to earmark funds to upgrade the voting equipment in those areas. Whether this is the case in California, I don’t know. But it is not racist to suggest that areas with faulty equipment are going to have more spoiled ballots (and disenfranchised citizens) than areas with good equipment – nor is it racist to note who is more likely to suffer from these failures.

    Yes, the Florida districts were largely run by Democrats – Democrats who didn’t have the resources they needed to prevent ballots from being spoiled.

  4. joe – these districts apparently ran elections for many decades with old equipment, with no cries of “mix-ups” or “disenfranchisement” or any other such thing. Why did this suddenly become a problem in November of 2000?

  5. Gil, your corporate model also includes the Corp’s board of directors having the power to tell the shareholders to take a hike and they’ll do whatever they want, regardless of the vote. I suspect this feature might appeal to you, too.

  6. Brad,

    Good question.

    1. Because people used to put up with political hijinks that don’t fly anymore. See Tammany Hall, 1960 election, James Michael Curley.

    2. Because the punch card equipment worked better when it wasn’t 30 years old.

    3. Because it was close enough to decide the election this time, and then some. Remember, Buchanan got 30,000 votes in Palm Beach County. If 1.5% of those were intended for Al Gore (when the true number is probably north of 80%), the election was decided by ballot failure. That doesn’t bother you?

  7. I suspect that the cost of upgrading the voting equipment in those districts is a minuscule fraction of total outlays. As with all government spending, its a question of priorities. If the Dems running the districts had accurate vote counts as a high priority, the money would be found.

    Now that inaccurate vote counts may contribute to a Republican getting elected, its a frigging crisis, and they look around until they can find a Republican to hang it on so they can cry racism. Up until the inaccurate voting looked like it might help Republicans, nobody cared. See the pattern here?

    Spare me the sanctimonious concern about poor voters. The real concern isn’t the damn voters, or the equipment would have been replaced before now. The real concern is that, in a close election, all their deferred maintenance may bite them in the ass.

  8. “these districts apparently ran elections for many decades with old equipment, with no cries of “mix-ups” or “disenfranchisement” or any other such thing. Why did this suddenly become a problem in November of 2000?”

    Because they wanted to gin up hysteria to justify manufacturing votes out of invalid ballots – of course.

  9. “Gil, your corporate model also includes the Corp’s board of directors having the power to tell the shareholders to take a hike and they’ll do whatever they want, regardless of the vote. I suspect this feature might appeal to you, too.”

    That’s not exactly correct. While the board can ignore shareholder resolutions, they cannot ignore a proxy fight to take control of the corporation by another corporation or investor.

    The big-govt liberal politicians are already telling the taxpayers to “take a hike” right now – since they’re pandering to their constituent groups by promising them ever increasing handouts of other people’s money.

  10. RC Dean – that’s my point exactly. Presumably, in every election in Florida (or any other state, for that matter), there has always been a margin of error of plus or minus x%. This has never really bothered anyone, until an election was so close that the election could possibly have been decided by this plus or minus x%. Then, it suddenly becomes an outrage, and Democrats fall all over themselves talking about how, “It’s unfair to the voters.” Please. They don’t give a damn about fairness. If they did, the election equipment would have been updated before the election took place. Naturally, however, they do give a damn about winning the election.

  11. Oh, come on. A tabulation error that changes the result of an election is clearly more significant than one that does not – even if the error is the same size. Yes, people began to pay more attention to the problem after it bit them in the ass, rather than before. Is that really such a surprise?

    My point is not that Democrats are selfless saints; it’s that wanting the vote to be done well is a valid concern. If it’s so terrible for Democrats to want the vote count to be accurate, isn’t it worse for Republicans not to care that it is inaccurate?

    What’s also interesting is that one side thinks it will benefit from more accuracy, and the other worries that it will be harmed.

  12. joe – well, then let’s not pretend that this issue is about accuracy. Let’s call a spade a spade. This is about the self-interest of Democrats.

    Let’s recap:

    Benefitting Democrats = good
    Benefitting Republicans = bad
    Accuracy = who cares
    Inaccuracy = who cares

  13. As I understood the controversy, it was more about having to cut the number of polling places by more than 50% due to time and budgetary constraints. The harder it is to vote, the less likely it is that non-affluent people will do so, which is one of the reasons the recall election was timed to happen in October, rather than during a normal election cycle.

    The notion that the Republican Party has always been opposed to the expansion of the franchise is false. After the Civil War, when the G.O.P. was the more liberal of the two parties, it backed the 15th Amendment, and was more likely to support women’s suffrage, while it was the Democratic Party that used whatever scam it could think of, from the bar on “felons” to grandfather clauses to literacy tests and polling taxes, to limit voting rights. It is more accurate to say that conservatives have long believed that the franchise should be limited (or at least, that it should not be made easier for the less affluent and less-educated).

  14. OK, let’s try to sort rhetorical wheat from chaff.

    First, it’s too bad that the law doesn’t allow the election to be held on November 4. Why? Because on November 4 of this year, most counties in California will have at least a few local offices up for election. The plans for those elections have been underway for some time, and it would just make more sense from a practical standpoint to have the elections on that day. (Let me be clear, I’m not suggesting we violate the law and move it to Nov. 4, but rather suggesting that they amend the law for any future recalls so that there’s more flexibility to make the recall coincide with upcoming local elections.)

    Second, racial matters: For whatever the reason might be, a lot of the areas with substandard voting equipment are apparently areas with larger ethnic minority populations. Maybe it’s about wealth. Maybe it’s because their Democratic office-holders are incompetent. Maybe it’s all correlated with the sunspot cycle and a Ouija board. In any case, it happens to be that way.

    Now, maybe the Democrats only point this out because of sincere concerns about racial inequity. Or, maybe they’re just race-baiting to get voters agitated. In any case, a lot of conservatives react with skepticism/criticism when Democrats point it out. Maybe the conservatives would rather focus on the concrete problem (bad equipment) and can’t stand race-baiting (if it is race-baiting). Or maybe conservatives are doing they’re own race-baiting.

    Instead of trying to sort out who’s playing the race card, here’s a radical proposal:

    1) The fact that some people have to vote with inferior equipment suggests that we should upgrade the equipment. We probably won’t be able to do that before Oct. 7, but let’s try to do it before 2004.

    2) The fact that some people are stuck with substandard equipment doesn’t change the fact that this election will have to happen. Not having an election is far worse than having one with bad equipment. We have to make the best of this bad situation in the short-run, and fix it for the long-run.

    3) For those who suggest this recall is a bad idea because of inferior equipment in certain locales, should we also cancel local elections in those places on Nov. 4? Should some people be denied the right to vote for city council until the equipment is fixed? I think not.

    So, basically, let’s leave the racial stuff aside and get on with fixing the equipment as soon as is feasible.

    Finally, I’ve volunteered at the polls on two occasions in Santa Barbara. After the Florida fiasco, and after a friend of mine did it, I decided to do it as a matter of civic duty. Having seen the security and privacy measures in place, I say with confidence that there is little if any fraudulent voting in my area, and certainly no ballot tampering. So much for the every-popular theory that a steady stream of votes is coming up from Mexico. If that were the case we’d see a lot more ballots cast in California.

    OK, go ahead, feel free to contradict my experienced opinion with ever-popular conspiracy theories about votes from Mexico.

  15. What is accurate to say is that liberals have long favored buying votes by promising their various constituent groups a handout of other peoples money (i.e the top 50% of income earners who pay 96% of the federal income taxes).

  16. “I say with confidence that there is little if any fraudulent voting in my area, and certainly no ballot tampering. So much for the every-popular theory that a steady stream of votes is coming up from Mexico. If that were the case we’d see a lot more ballots cast in California.”

    And just what exactly are the measures in place to ensure that no non-citizen is able to cast a vote?

  17. In order to vote in my county you must do one of two things:

    1) Already be on the roster given to election officers at the precincts. (I’ll get to the procedures for being on that list in a moment.) As identification you are required to sign your name on the roster. The election inspectors don’t have signatures on hand to verify, but in case of fraud allegations the signature on the roster can be compared to the signature on file at the elections office.

    2) If you aren’t on the roster, but insist that you should be, your provisional ballot is placed in an envelope with your identifying information, and the elections office will investigate your claim. If the claim is validated your ballot will then be added to the others.

    How thorough is the elections office in vetting voter registrants? I don’t have all of the details, but I can say this much: I have known people who were called by the elections office and asked to submit additional information/documentation before their registration was affirmed. Based on this it’s clear to me that they investigate every application before simply adding a person to the roster.

    Finally, I have to say this: If the claims are true, and so many people are voting illegally, why is voter turnout so low? Presumably the legal voters are incredibly apathetic. Without excusing fraud, the last line of defense against fraud is high turnout, so that the number of fraudulent voters is overwhelmed by the number of legitimate voters.

    In other words, we need the government to be thorough in vetting voter applications, and we need the citizens to be vigilant and actually vote, so that whoever does slip through the cracks is insignificant compared with the legitimate voters.

  18. And just what exactly are the measures in place to ensure that no non-citizen is able to cast a vote?

    That’s easy: the same measures that ensure that the public will be protected against murderers, rapists, and Enron executives: the law forbids it. If a non-citizen votes, he’s broken the law, and can be prosecuted.

  19. Sorry that the link jumped. I have a new column that should be posted soon, that includes three different links to politicians invoking Florida in the recall debate (Art Torres, Alice Huffman, and Terry McAuliffe). The latter made no attempt to tie it in with polling places; it’s just another attempt by rich Republicans to “steal an election.” I’ve got no problems with anyone trying to improve the voting process, and I’m on record around here for extending the franchise to ex-felons (while decreasing the number of felonies). But I do have a problem with Bustamente talking about this problem could “invalidate” the election — I think that’s an irresponsible, alarmist way to signal your concern about polling access. And I believe the “Florida-style election” talking point is largely a transparent attempt to get out the left-wing vote against the Evil Republicans. Which is, after all, Davis’ main strategy.

  20. “McAuliffe and California Democratic Chairman Party Chairman Art Torres told reporters in a conference call that the consolidation of precincts in some counties could result in some voters not being able to get to their polling places.”

    Is this a legitimate issue, or not? I have no idea. But it’s a bad sign when the response to concerns about rigged elections is “Quit whining” instead of “They should get it right.”

  21. Who is “they”? Election officials or the morons who can’t figure out where to go to vote, or the people who won’t bother to vote but will later claim to have been disenfranchised?

  22. “What I fear is what happened to us in Florida when many black and Latino voters were denied the right to vote because of mix-ups,” said California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres. [?]

    Why were only black and Latino voters subject to “mix-ups”? Did no white or Asian voters get “mixed up”? If not, why not? Are white and Asian voters inherently smarter than black and Latino voters, and ergo less prone to getting “mixed up”? Is it not racist to assume so? Or is there some sort of GOP-sanctioned “mix-up” fairy out there that only mixes up black and Latino voters? Or did some white and Asian voters get “mixed up”, but their “mixed-upness” is not a grave concern due to their race? Isn’t that also a form of racism?

    Someone help me. I’m confused.

  23. ^The problems in Florida occurred disporportionately in areas with high concentration of black and latino voters. Any problem with balloting in bad, but when the problems accrue mainly to a certain party or ethnic group, it’s ever worse.

  24. There’s a simple solution. Simply have door-to-door election pollers. That way, no one has to go anywhere or find any polling location, and no one should get “mixed up”. Just tell everyone to be home a certain time (maybe, say, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM to take a page out of the Sears delivery guy operating manual). Of course, there’s still the possibility that some blacks and Latinos might get mixed up by that. Rats.

  25. ?The problems in Florida occurred disproportionately in areas with high concentration of black and Latino voters.?

    As I remember it would be just as accurate to say the problems in Florida occurred disproportionately in counties run by Democrats. And, as Matt points out, so is California. Is there a connection?

  26. dems not running or managing things properly or effectively? heavens to betsie no!

    its all the fault of those evil repugnicans.. yeah they forced the dem electoral commisions to discriminate against dem voters and scrwew up dem ballots and..

    oh sorry, have to adjust the tin foil, king zorg is paging me

  27. Funny how the possibility of a faulty, inaccurate vote doens’t seem to get anyone around here stirred up, while someone expressing concern about such a possibility elicits racist smirks, irrelevant insults, and tin foil hat jokes.

    Why is a bad thing to want the election to be well executed?

  28. joe – what I found racist was the suggestion by the California Democratic Party Chairman that blacks and Latinos are more likely to get “mixed up” than people of other races. I’m simply playing along with his idea, albeit with a large helping of sarcasm.

  29. I see nothing in the story to suggest that the California chair said any such thing? Source?

  30. “What I fear is what happened to us in Florida when many black and Latino voters were denied the right to vote because of mix-ups,” said California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres. [?]

  31. The problems that led people to get mixed up were more common in minority-heavy counties – old machines that didn’t line the ballots up right, obsolete, unclear ballot designs, bad directions (“vote for one on each page,” even though the candidate list extended to Page 2, resulting in massive overvotes), etc.

    Saying that black and Latino voters are more likely to get unclear ballots is not that same thing as saying that black or latino voters are more likely to get mixed up because of their race.

    You’re twisting his words in order to read in a racist sentiment, so that you can dismiss his concerns without the heavy lifting of disputing his ideas. How was Amherst, anyway?

  32. joe – if that’s what he meant (that he was worried about inaccurate election results due to poor equipment), he should have said it, instead of playing the race card. I actually agree with Democrats on a number of issues, but endless pandering to minority groups is one of the reasons I’ve been permanently driven away from that party. To put it bluntly – the Democratic party has no interest in me, hence I have no interest in the Democratic party.

    As someone else pointed out here, one could also say that the problems in Florida took place disproportionately in counties run by Democrats. So, another way to interpret Torres’ comment is that he is afraid of the incompetence of some members of his own party. He’s not alone.

    Furthermore, California has a sitting Democratic governor. If there really are election accuracy problems in California, then it calls into question the validity of the election of said governor, but that doesn’t seem to bother Torres.

  33. I cannot recall a Republican initiative to ever get more people to vote. Their emphasis has always been on ways to restrict the numbers more even though less than half of eligible voters show up now. The arrogant, elitist sniping at minorities and other poor folks is just another sign of that contempt for the voting process.

  34. Lefty – that’s because we recognize that this statement is a farce: “she wanted the election delayed until November to give counties more time to prepare and voters more time to educate themselves.”

    Yeah, like regular folks are really sitting around debating the legal details of the recall and scrutinizing each candidate beyond the letters D vs R or beyond whatever single pet issue they want stroked. And they need till November to do that.

  35. Why are elections held over the course of one single day at election stations? And why does this day *always* have to be in the middle of the week?

    Holding an election by mail might be one way to improve participation – why not treat all ballots as absentee ballots? Granted, there would be additional costs and concerns:
    Return postage
    Distribution of ballots to homeless or residents not known to the USPS
    Identity checking/fraud protection

    If they ever set up an accepted system of online voting, I’d propose that the ballot be open from day 1 of the campaign to “election day”. No revocations.

    To further mix it up, possibly institute periodic release of audited, firm standings and % of turnout at selected milestones. I’d especially like for this to occur in national primaries, because it would replace Iowa system gaming with a different set of ideology/grassroots system gaming that I think would be more representative of the nation.

  36. If California is currently not ready to allow all voters equal access to voting booths, shouldn’t the election of Gov. Davis be called into question before the recall election that hasn’t even taken place yet?

  37. EMAIL: pamela_woodlake@yahoo.com
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    DATE: 01/09/2004 10:00:58
    Often the test of courage is not to die, but to live.

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