Sunday, January 27, 2013

Voter Fraud concerns

January 25, 2013

Last week, we warned you about the Republican Plan (see below) to rig the Electoral College to win the presidential election in 2016.
And now they've already started to move this plan forward in Virginia! This past Tuesday, Virginia SB 723 passed out of the Senate Elections and Campaigns Subcommittee, and got one step closer to becoming reality.
SB 723 would allocate electoral votes by congressional district, and reward two statewide electors to the candidate who wins the most districts statewide. Had this bill been enacted last year, Mitt Romney would have received 9 of Virginia’s 13 electors, despite losing the state’s popular vote!
It's clear that the Republicans have decided that if they can't win over the majority of voters, they’ll just change the rules to rig the results -- and we have to let them know that they can’t away with such an overt power grab.
Thanks for all that you do,
Ben Betz, Online Strategy Manager

From: Ben Betz, People For the American Way
Date: Saturday, January 19, 2013
Re: GOP Moves to Rig the Next Election

every vote counts
Make SURE Every Vote Counts -- Speak Out to Stop the Right's New Scheme to Rig Elections!
sign the petition

Dear Arnulfo,
Imagine that when President Obama won Ohio in 2012, instead of getting all the state’s electoral votes, he only got six of them, while Mitt Romney, who lost, got 12 … that each candidate was awarded electoral votes based on how many congressional districts they won in the state. Now, imagine this didn’t happen just in Ohio, but also in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and other “blue states” that right now happen to have state governments completely controlled by Republicans.
This isn’t just some thought experiment. It’s the latest Republican scheme to rig America’s elections in their favor, and it could work … unless we can create a public backlash against it.
Actions like this petition will help create the necessary backlash that will send these proposals down in flames in states like Pennsylvania, where a bill has already been introduced, and others like Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan, where lawmakers are discussing it.
We’ll use the petition to lobby lawmakers in the states and make sure the media is giving attention to how unpopular this vote rigging scheme is.
If the scheme is enacted, the will of the people would mean nothing in those states. And, nationally, the playing field would be dramatically shifted towards Republican presidential candidates. That’s because one of the results of the Tea Party wave election of 2010 was that right-wing Republicans controlled the redistricting process in these states, and congressional districts there were gerrymandered within an inch of their lives, ensuring more “safe” Republican districts. It’s the same reason that Republicans maintained a healthy majority in the House of Representatives in 2012 despite losing the congressional popular vote nationally to Democrats by 1.4 million votes -- more than a whole percentage point.
In states like Ohio, where Republicans have a super majority in the legislature, they have the power to move this affront to democracy through unilaterally, bulldozing any opposition!
The head of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, supports the scheme, and it’s gaining traction amongst GOP state lawmakers. We need to stop this NOW, before it gets too far!
Another similar idea being floated by Republicans in these states is electoral vote apportionment based on percentage of vote, instead of by congressional district. This could theoretically be a fair system, but only if EVERY state did it. With only blue, Democratic-leaning states splitting their electoral votes and definitively red, Republican states remaining winner-take-all, the national field would still shift dramatically to the Republicans favor -- and AWAY from the will of the people. To put it bluntly: election rigged.
Thank you for helping to save our democracy by protecting the voice of the voter -- the American Way.
-- Ben Betz, Online Strategy Manager

Until 2010, federal law barred companies from using corporate money to endorse and campaign for political candidates — and that included urging employees to support specific politicians.
But the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has freed companies from those restrictions, and now several major companies, including Georgia-Pacific and Cintas, have sent letters or information packets to their employees suggesting — and sometimes explicitly recommending — how they should vote this fall.
In these letters, the executives complain about the costs of overregulation, the health care overhaul and possible tax increases. Some letters warn that if President Obama is re-elected, the company could be harmed, potentially jeopardizing jobs.

David A. Siegel, 77, chief executive of Westgate Resorts, a major time-share company, wrote to his 7,000 employees, saying that if Mr. Obama won, the prospect of higher taxes could hurt the company’s future.
“The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job, however, is another four years of the same presidential administration,” Mr. Siegel wrote. “If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current president plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company.”
In an interview, Mr. Siegel said he was not ordering his employees to vote his way. “There’s no way I can pressure anybody,” he said. “I’m not in the voting booth with them.”
Mr. Siegel added: “I really wanted them to know how I felt four more years under President Obama was going to affect them. It would be no different from telling your children: ‘Eat your spinach. It’s good for you.’ ”
Dave Robertson, the president of Koch Industries, sent an information packet and letter this month to more than 30,000 employees of a subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific, a paper and pulp company. The letter attacked government subsidies for “a few favored cronies” as well as “unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses.”
The letter added, “Many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation and other ills.”
The Georgia-Pacific letter, first reported by In These Times, included a flier listing several candidates endorsed by the Koch brothers, the conservative billionaires, beginning with Mitt Romney, as well as opinion articles that the brothers had written.
Travis McKinney, a forklift driver for Georgia-Pacific in Portland, Ore., said the company’s political packet had spurred widespread discussion. “It leaves a bad taste,” Mr. McKinney said. “I won’t even wear my Obama pin to work because of the mailer.”
In a statement, Koch Industries said its mailing contained pieces of information “we believe are important for our employees to know about.” The company said the letter was in no way intimidation: “We make it clear that any decision about which candidates to support belongs solely to our employees.”
Other companies whose top executives have sent out anti-Obama letters include Rite-Hite, a manufacturer of industrial equipment based in Milwaukee, and ASG Software Solutions, based in Naples, Fla.
Many corporate executives say they have stepped up their political activities to counter organized labor’s efforts on behalf of Mr. Obama and other Democrats. Even before Citizens United, unions were allowed to promote candidates to their members. Democrats and Republicans alike acknowledged the effectiveness of labor’s political efforts.
Mr. Romney has himself urged business owners to appeal to their employees. In a conference call in June organized by the National Federation of Independent Business, he said, “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.”

Tuesday’s election saw reports of widespread voting issues ranging from voter machine malfunctions to epic lines to poll-watcher challenges and confusion over voter identification laws that have been weakened or blocked. Florida voters waited up to seven hours to cast their ballots. According to Voting Rights Watch 2012, in Ohio, a number of residents in the predominantly black Cincinnati suburb of Forest Park were forced to cast provisional ballots because records incorrectly showed they had already submitted an absentee ballot. Pennsylvania emerged as a hotbed of election chaos after a viral video showed a voting machine switching an Obama vote in favor of Romney. Pennsylvania also saw widespread confusion over voter identification, with reports poll workers were demanding ID even though a court blocked the state’s voter ID law from taking effect before the election. Voting rights advocates say they suspected an unreported purge of voters in major urban areas of Pennsylvania after reports dozens of voters were told they weren’t registered. According to the Election Protection Coalition, which hosted a hotline for voting issues, there were reports from Virginia of long lines and machines switching votes in favor of Romney. One week after Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey saw its share of problems, with reports of technical malfunctions and poll workers wrongly demanding identification from voters.

Andrew Cohen -

No matter who wins the presidential race, no matter which party controls Congress, can we at least agree as reasonable adults that when it comes to voting itself the election of 2012 is a national disgrace? We ask our sons and daughters, our husbands and wives, to give their lives abroad for noble concepts like "freedom" and "democracy." And yet we are content as a nation, and as a people, to tolerate another cycle of election rules that require our fellow citizens to sacrifice a measure of basic human dignity simply to exercise their right to vote.

For example, what happened this weekend in Florida is simply unacceptable. According to a local election official interviewed by CBS News' Phil Hirschkorn, the last "early voter" in line for Saturday's truncated early voting in Palm Beach County finally got to cast a ballot at 2:30 a.m Sunday morning, which means that voter waited in line for more than seven hours. In Miami, another traditional Democratic stronghold, the wait was said to be nearly as long. On Sunday, voters all over the state were begging judges and county officials for more time to vote.

This is happening not because of a natural disaster or breakdown in machinery. It is happening by partisan design. Alarmed by the strong Democratic turnout in early voting in 2008, Republican lawmakers, including Governor Rick Scott, reduced the number of early voting days from 14 to eight. When the restrictions were challenged in federal court under the Voting Rights Act, a three-judge panel said they would have a discriminatory impact upon minority voters. But only five of the state's 67 counties are covered by the federal civil rights law.

When the remaining restrictions were challenged in federal court, a George W. Bush appointee said there was no proof that the reduced hours would "impermissibly burden" minority voters. How many hours in line must a Florida voter wait before the burden upon her becomes an "impermissible" one? If Florida's election officials, and its Republican lawmakers, and its state and federal judges, all were required to stand in line for seven hours to vote those long lines would go away forever. You know it, I know it, and so do those officials.

How about Ohio, another "battleground" state governed by partisan fiat. Its election rules are administered by a secretary of state, Jon Husted, who just a few years ago was the GOP speaker of the state house. Like their counterparts in Florida, Ohio's Republican lawmakers sought to restrict wildly popular early-voting hours around the state. And again the federal courts blunted the impact of their new rules. So what has Husted done? He's focused his energy this weekend ginning up ways to justify discarding provisional ballots cast by his fellow citizens.

These are just two recent examples. There are more. But they all have a few core things in common. In each instance, elected officials are making it harder for American citizens to vote and to have their votes counted. And in each instance, the partisan restrictions are designed to impact the elderly, and the poor, and students. The Constitution gives power to the states to handle elections. But what we are seeing is one party's systemic abuse of that power to disenfranchise likely voters of another party. Don't believe me? Let's go to the videotape.

In Pennsylvania, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai was caught on tape this summer boasting about his colleagues' success: "... First pro-life legislation -- abortion facility regulations -- in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done." In Ohio, the Republican Party chairman of Franklin County, which includes Columbus, was even more blunt. Doug Preisse said, "I guess I really actually feel we shouldn't contort the voting process to accommodate the urban -- read African-American -- voter turnout machine."

There is no hidden agenda here. The strategy and tactics are as far out in the open as those voters standing in line for hours waiting for their turn to vote. This transparency -- of motive and of evidence -- is also what distinguishes the complaints that Democrats have about Republican tricks on voting from Republican complaints about Democratic tricks on voting. Widespread "in-person" voter fraud or voting by illegal immigrants exists mostly in the minds of conspiracy theorists. Yet proof of voter suppression is visible to all of us with the naked eye. All we have to do is look. There is no political equivalence here -- only more lamentable false equivalence.

Indeed, we are all complicit in a regime which forces our fellow citizens to endure those long lines. We are all to blame for allowing men like Jon Husted to determine which Ohioans will have their ballots counted and which will not. We who have the luxury of voting early by mail or who can pop into a polling station on Election Day, who are accustomed to not standing long for anything -- we do nothing about these voter lines even though they are the most visible proof today that America is still terribly divided by race and by class.

In America in 2012, poor people and elderly people and students should not have to wait seven hours to vote. They should not be restricted in this fashion by elected officials who justify the hardships they impart upon black voters by calling those voters "lazy." By allowing this ugliness to endure, year after year, election after election, we don't just subvert our own democracy. We preclude ourselves from turning to the world and proclaiming that we respect the value of a single vote and the dignity of a single voter. We don't practice what we preach.

And we ought to be talking about things now, before Tuesday, because when it's all over no one will care until the next election cycle, at which point it will likely be too late. Don't want to switch Election Day to a Saturday? Fine. Don't want to make it a national holiday? Fine. But doing nothing after the election of 2012 is not an honorable option. What's happening in these states is conclusive proof that America failed to solve the fundamental problems we all saw play out in Florida during the recount of 2000. That's just not good enough.

I asked election-law specialist Rick Hasen, who wrote the book about all of this, for his view on the eve of another dubious election. He told me: "We need national nonpartisan election administration -- one that would pick rules that would allow all eligible voters, but only eligible voters, a fair chance to cast a ballot which will be accurately counted. It is national urgency but I don't see it happening any time soon. If Florida 2000 was not enough of a wake-up call, it is hard to imagine how much worse things would have to get before they get better."

But let us begin. Congress ought to pass a "Voters' Rights Act," which guarantees a mail-in option and ensures significant early-voting hours for 10 days before a federal election. That would give working people -- you know, the real "middle class" -- four full days over two weekends to cast their ballot. Congress also ought to expand the scope of the Voting Rights Act, the venerable civil-rights statute, to force local election officials everywhere in America (and not just in Southern jurisdictions) to justify restrictions on voting rights.

And the next president, whoever he is, ought to quickly empanel another Commission on Federal Election Reform to investigate these partisan state schemes and recommend ways to achieve meaningful reform. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor should head that commission. And former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald should head up its investigative functions.

But I won't hold my breath. If I'm around in 2016 I bet I'll be complaining about the same injustices. In my lifetime, little has changed in America but the forms of indignity we all seem to tolerate when it comes to another man's right to vote.

Dear Friend,
With razor thin margins predicted in Ohio, the state's Republican Secretary of State took steps this weekend to modify vote counting procedures in a way that could invalidate thousands of provisional ballots.1
Previously, it was the responsibility of trained election workers to record identification information presented by voters who submit provisional ballots. But now Secretary of State Jon Husted has put that burden on voters to record this information (which can often be confusing to identify) on their provisional ballots — paving the way for a significant number of ballots to be thrown out due to recording errors even though the voter presented a valid ID that was accepted by the pollworker.
Husted, a Republican, has already been working to suppress the vote in his state. Many workers who have trouble getting to the polls during regular business hours on a Tuesday traditionally favor weekend early voting. Husted tried to end weekend early voting in Ohio by reducing the state's five weekends of early voting to zero. In response, the courts ordered him to maintain access to one weekend of early voting — the weekend before the election — open to Ohio voters, though allowing him to cancel the previous four weekends of access. As a result, voters at many early vote locations had to wait outside in the cold, in lines stretching outside the buildings and around city blocks.
And now, as the election in Ohio is reportedly a dead heat, and it's clear the state's 18 electoral votes could very well decide the presidency, Husted is taking additional steps to suppress the votes of Ohio citizens.
Republicans have a long tradition of partisan Secretaries of State like Ohio's Ken Blackwell and Florida's Katherine Harris who cared more about delivering their state's elections to Republicans than ensuring their state's citizens could cast a ballot that counts.
We cannot let Jon Husted join their ranks and use his position as the chief of elections in Ohio to swing his state's electoral votes to Mitt Romney.
Tell Ohio's Secretary of State: Stop the shenanigans and count every vote. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
Thank you for standing up to help stop Republicans from stealing this election.
Becky Bond, Political Director 
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. Andrew Cohen, "Ohio's Provisional Ballot Order: The Biggest Legal Story of the Weekend," The Atlantic, November 4, 2012.

Patrick Moran doesn't have the street smarts to say "Ah, good luck with that", "I gotta go".
Patrick is just an idiot, unable to blow somebody off.

By Joseph Tanfani
October 24, 2012, 7:40 p.m.

WASHINGTON – The son of a Virginia congressman resigned from his father’s campaign Wednesday after an undercover video captured him discussing possible voter fraud.

Patrick Moran, whose father is Democratic Rep. James P. Moran, was secretly recorded in a video posted by conservative activist James O’Keefe.

In the video, Moran, who was working as his father’s campaign field director, talks about using utility bills and other documents to evade Virginia’s new voter ID laws. The person who made the recording – saying he was a worried supporter of President Obama – asked for Moran’s advice in casting votes for 100 Virginia residents who weren’t going to the polls.

“He'll need bills,” Moran said, standing outside an Arlington, Va., sandwich shop, referring to the requirement to present identification. “He'll need something with their name and address on it.”

But at another point, Moran suggests that “all the energy you're putting into this” would be better spent on a legitimate get-out-the-vote effort.

The campaign said it had accepted the younger Moran’s resignation effective immediately. “Patrick is well liked and was a well-respected member of the campaign team,” Moran’s campaign said in a statement. “This incident, however, was clearly an error in judgment.”

In an email to Politico, Patrick Moran said he was humoring the person, whom he considered “unstable and joking.”

The resignation came just a day after Moran and two other Virginia congressmen sent a letter to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. asking for an investigation of a possible “broad conspiracy” in a voter registration operation financed by the Republican National Committee.

The operation, which cost at least $3.5 million in eight swing states, has been linked to suspicious voter forms in Florida, and a supervisor in Virginia was arrested last week for allegedly dumping eight completed registrations.

Associated Press

Virginia's Republican attorney general is expanding a criminal probe of alleged efforts to destroy voter registration applications statewide.

Ken Cuccinelli's office entered the politically charged investigation in the battleground state Wednesday when the Republican-dominated State Board of Elections voted unanimously to authorize the inquiry.

A Pennsylvania man working for a company Republicans hired to conduct voter registration drives faces criminal charges in Rockingham County on allegations that he threw eight completed voter registration forms into the trash. Colin Small of Phoenixville, Pa., faces 13 counts of disclosure of voter registration information, destruction of voter applications, and obstruction of justice.

Neither of the two Republicans on the state elections board hesitated in voting to expand the inquiry after the lone Democratic board member, Kimberly Bowers, questioned whether the incident was an isolated one or part of a broader pattern of voter disenfranchisement.

Polls show President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in a close battle for Virginia's 13 electoral votes and a close potentially decisive U.S. Senate at stake.

Virginia's three Democratic U.S. House members had earlier asked President Barack Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, to launch a federal inquiry into Pinpoint, Small's employer, and another company, Strategic Allied Consulting. The Justice Department is reviewing the request to Holder from Reps. Jim Moran, Bobby Scott and Gerry Connolly.

In late September, the Republican National Committee fired the other company, Strategic Allied Consulting, after suspect forms it collected in Florida were turned over to local prosecutors.


The man who has stoked fear about impostors at the polls.


Teresa Sharp is fifty-three years old and has lived in a modest single-family house on Millsdale Street, in a suburb of Cincinnati, for nearly thirty-three years. A lifelong Democrat, she has voted in every Presidential election since she turned eighteen. So she was agitated when an official summons from the Hamilton County Board of Elections arrived in the mail last month. Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, is one of the most populous regions of the most fiercely contested state in the 2012 election. No Republican candidate has ever won the Presidency without carrying Ohio, and recent polls show Barack Obama and Mitt Romney almost even in the state. Every vote may matter, including those cast by the seven members of the Sharp family—Teresa, her husband, four grown children, and an elderly aunt—living in the Millsdale Street house.
The letter, which cited arcane legal statutes and was printed on government letterhead, was dated September 4th. “You are hereby notified that your right to vote has been challenged by a qualified elector,” it said. “The Hamilton County Board of Elections has scheduled a hearing regarding your right to vote on Monday, September 10th, 2012, at 8:30 a.m. . . . You have the right to appear and testify, call witnesses and be represented by counsel.”
“My first thought was, Oh, no!” Sharp, who is African-American, said. “They ain’t messing with us poor black folks! Who is challenging my right to vote?”
The answer to Sharp’s question is that a new watchdog group, the Ohio Voter Integrity Project, which polices voter-registration rolls in search of “electoral irregularities,” raised questions about her eligibility after consulting a government-compiled list of local properties and mistakenly identifying her house as a vacant lot.

The Sharp household had first been identified as suspicious by computer software that had been provided to the Ohio Voter Integrity Project by a national organization called True the Vote. The software, which has been distributed to similar groups around the country, is used to flag certain households, including those with six or more registered voters. This approach inevitably pinpoints many lower-income residents, students, and extended families.

True the Vote, which was founded in 2009 and is based in Houston, describes itself as a nonprofit organization, created “by citizens for citizens,” that aims to protect “the rights of legitimate voters, regardless of their political party.” Although the group has a spontaneous grassroots aura, it was founded by a local Tea Party activist, Catherine Engelbrecht, and from the start it has received guidance from intensely partisan election lawyers and political operatives, who have spent years stoking fear about election fraud. This cohort—which Roll Call has called the “voter fraud brain trust”—has filed lawsuits, released studies, testified before Congress, and written op-ed columns and books. Since 2011, the effort has spurred legislative initiatives in thirty-seven states to require photo identification to vote.

Engelbrecht has received especially valuable counsel from one member of the group: Hans von Spakovsky. A Republican lawyer who served in the Bush Administration, he is now a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank. “Hans is very, very helpful,” Engelbrecht said. “He’s one of the senior advisers on our advisory council.” Von Spakovsky, who frequently appears on Fox News, is the co-author, with the columnist John Fund, of the recent book “Who’s Counting?,” which argues that America is facing an electoral-security crisis. “Election fraud, whether it’s phony voter registrations, illegal absentee ballots, vote-buying, shady recounts, or old-fashioned ballot-box stuffing, can be found in every part of the United States,” they write. The book connects these modern threats with sordid episodes from the American past: crooked inner-city machines, corrupt black bosses in the Deep South. Von Spakovsky and Fund conclude that electoral fraud is a “spreading” danger, and declare that True the Vote serves “an obvious need.”

Mainstream election experts say that Spakovsky has had an improbably large impact. Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine, and the author of a recent book, “The Voting Wars,” says, “Before 2000, there were some rumblings about Democratic voter fraud, but it really wasn’t part of the main discourse. But thanks to von Spakovsky and the flame-fanning of a few others, the myth that Democratic voter fraud is common, and that it helps Democrats win elections, has become part of the Republican orthodoxy.” In December, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, wrote, “Election fraud is a real and persistent threat to our electoral system.” He accused Democrats of “standing up for potential fraud—presumably because ending it would disenfranchise at least two of its core constituencies: the deceased and double-voters.” Hasen believes that Democrats, for their part, have made exaggerated claims about the number of voters who may be disenfranchised by Republican election-security measures. But he regards the conservative alarmists as more successful. “Their job is really done,” Hasen says. “It’s common now to assert that there is a need for voter I.D.s, even without any evidence.”
In Hamilton County alone, the new citizens’ groups have challenged more than a thousand names since March. Some challenges, such as those aiming to disqualify college students who failed to include their dorm-room numbers on their registration forms, were tossed out immediately. But the board accepted nearly two hundred challenges, including those to twenty-six voters registered at a trailer park that no longer existed.

In Ohio, if voters whose eligibility has been challenged come to the polls in November, they may be forced to use a provisional ballot, which will be counted only if officials sanction it—after Election Day. Some experts worry that voters who have been needlessly challenged will feel too intimidated even to show up. “People have other things to do with their lives than respond to inaccurate complaints accusing them of being criminals,” Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said.

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