20
Aug
2005

WHAT HAPPENED LAST FALL?

PAUL KRUGMAN DOES IT AGAIN A CALL TO ACTION -- MOVING FORWARD TO 2006

By Congressman John Conyers August 19, 2005

//www.conyersblog.us/archives/00000211.htm

Today's New York Times has an excellent column by Paul Krugman (see below). The topic: Republican electoral dirty tricks. It is well worth reading the entire piece. It also provides me an opportunity to reflect on the debate that has broken out among progressives about the 2004 election irregularities and how we move forward.

I think I can predict the initial reaction of many of you who have been closely following the Ohio 2004 Presidential election investigations. You will be disappointed that Mr. Krugman stops short of saying the election fraud and irregularities in the 2004 election cost Senator Kerry the White House. While it is no secret what conclusion I have drawn about that question, I do not share this disappointment.

I know that many of my fellow progressives think the official margin of victory for Bush in Ohio, well over 100,000 votes, is too large a margin to be entirely reversed by proof of fraud or malfeasance. For them to believe that to be the case, they need to see some reasonable quantification of the actual voters who were disenfranchised and, in turn, the actual votes that were lost. After all, unlike the Republicans who still think Saddam Hussein possessed WMD when we invaded Iraq and believe we are winning the war, who think that tax cuts for the wealthy will grow the economy and reduce the deficit, who think a grieving mother and an Ambassador's wife are "fair game," and who think that the way to fix Social Security is to destroy it, we progressives are a ³reality based community.²

The problem with answering my fellow progressives' challenge for numbers is that so much of what happened in Ohio centered on unquantifiable events that makes counting the number of disenfranchised voters impossible. How can we determine exactly how many Kerry voters turned around and went home facing hopelessly long lines at the polls? Or how many voters were never registered, and were turned away on election day, because of bizarre and conflicting Ken Blackwell edits about the weight of voter registration forms? Or how many votes were lost because of machine defects or manipulation?

What I can say is what the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff said best in the Conyers report: "We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election, which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters. Cumulatively, these irregularities, which affected hundreds of thousand of votes and voters in Ohio, raise grave doubts regarding whether it can be said the Ohio electors selected on December 13, 2004, were chosen in a manner that conforms to Ohio law, let alone federal requirements and constitutional standards."* Is there an exact number? No. Was it potentially a net loss of more than 100,000 Democratic votes? I think so. I continue to investigate what happened in Ohio and in the rest of the nation in the 2004 election and maybe someday the evidence will be sufficiently irrefutable to convince every fair-minded person of the extent and effect of electoral wrongdoing in 2004.

In the meantime, my fellow progressives and I, agreeing with each other on so many things, could go back and forth arguing with one another -- not about whether the GOP played dirty -- but about whether there was ENOUGH fraud to shift the outcome of the election. I see this happen over and over between progressives, sometimes in a civil tone and sometimes not.^ In doing so, however, we would be losing sight of the fact that we actually disagree about very little. Krugman¹s column brings that home.

"There was at least as much electoral malfeasance in 2004 as there was in 2000, even if it didn't change the outcome. And the next election may be worse." Indeed, I think we all agree that, when it comes to electoral dirty tricks, Republican partisans continue to outdo themselves election after election. The things Ken Blackwell did in Ohio were so blatant and, in many instances, so overt and public, that he made Katherine Harris seem shy and retiring by comparison.

Then, he talks about the near blackout about the 2004 election irregularities by the mainstream media: "But few Americans have heard these facts. Perhaps journalists have felt that it would be divisive to cast doubt on the Bush administration's legitimacy. If so, their tender concern for the nation's feelings has gone for naught: Cindy Sheehan's supporters are camped in Crawford, and America is more bitterly divided than ever." How true. But for the progressive voices on the radio, like the Stephanie Miller or Randi Rhodes newscasts, the Internet, and columnists like Willliam Raspberry, many would have no idea what went wrong in Ohio. I think we all agree that the mainstream media is not getting the truth out. (I recently heard Stephanie Miller say something self-deprecating to the effect that, if I had heard her show, I would not call it a "newscast." When you only hear about important news on shows like hers and Randi's, what else do you call it? That said, I agree that hers is a very unusual newscast.)

And then he gets to the heart of the matter: "We aren't going to rerun the last three elections. But what about the future?"

"Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008. The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies. The Republicans will be strongly tempted to make sure that they win those elections by any means necessary. And everything we've seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation."

Republicans find themselves with plunging poll numbers and an uncertain electoral landscape in 2006. Failure for them in their drive to keep control of the House of Representatives, and one party rule in Washington, means that, if reelected, I will become Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Henry Waxman will become Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, Louise Slaughter will become Chair of the Rules Committee, Charlie Rangel will Chair the Ways and Means Committee, and Nancy Pelosi will be the first woman to be Speaker of the House. That means accountability for this Administration with a stiff dose of the truth.

Make no mistake about it. Desperate times will lead to desperate tactics and partisans supporting Republican candidates will pull out every dirty trick in the book to stop us from bringing checks and balances back to the federal government. What do we do about it?

First, we must be vigilant and we must use every legal means at our disposal to stop the pre and post election manipulations. Second, we must push for legislation at the state and federal level to reform our elections, including providing a voter verified paper ballot.

More immediately, however, we must work harder to take back the House and to do so by a large enough margin so that the malfeasance and fraud makes no difference. I want you to start today (the election is just a little more than 14 months away) because they are. Start organizing in your neighborhood and precinct. Join your local democratic party if you haven't already. Talk to your relatives and friends about how much is at stake in 2006. Support progressive and alternative media that help get our message out by spreading the word about your favorite progressive talk radio hosts and stations, and the blogs you read. Support the candidates of your choice by signing up to be a volunteer for their campaigns, for the DCCC, or by making a financial contribution. Write letters to the editor about the lack of accountability in our government for the bad decisions made by this Congress and this Administration.

In sum, I have a small request: do everything you did for the 2006 election that you did last year in a close Presidential election marred by malfeasance and fraud, and then do more. It is never too soon to start.

..........

*Those irregularities included: "The misallocation of voting machines led to unprecedented long lines that disenfranchised scores, if not hundreds of thousands, of predominantly minority and Democratic voters"..."Mr. Blackwell¹s decision to restrict provisional ballots resulted in the disenfranchisement of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of voters, again predominantly minority and Democratic voters"..."Mr. Blackwell¹s widely reviled decision to reject voter registration applications based on paper weight may have resulted in thousands of new voters not being registered in time for the 2004 election"..."The Ohio Republican Party¹s decision to engage in preelection ³caging² tactics, selectively targeting 35,000 predominantly minority voters for intimidation had a negative impact on voter turnout"..."The Ohio Republican Party¹s decision to utilize thousands of partisan challengers concentrated in minority and Democratic areas likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of legal voters, who were not only intimidated, but became discouraged by the long lines"..."We learned of improper purging and other registration errors by election officials that likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters statewide...The Greater Cleveland Voter Registration Coalition projects that in Cuyahoga County alone over 10,000 Ohio citizens lost their right to vote as a result of official registration errors."..."There were 93,000 spoiled ballots where no vote was cast for president, the vast majority of which have yet to be inspected"...."There were numerous, significant unexplained irregularities in other counties throughout the state, [including] in Mahoning county [where] at least 25 electronic machines transferred an unknown number of Kerry votes to the Bush column" and "in Miami county, voter turnout was an improbable and highly suspect 98.55 percent, and after 100 percent of the precincts were reported, an additional 19,000 extra votes were recorded for President Bush."

On some blogs, my staff advises me that the critique of allegations of irregularities has been so angry and accusatory, and allegations of irregularities so wild and unsubstantiated, that I could be banned for posting this entry -- the topic itself is forbidden.

-----------

WHAT THEY DID LAST FALL By Paul Krugman New York Times August 19, 2005

//www.nytimes.com/2005/08/19/opinion/19krugman.html

By running for the U.S. Senate, Katherine Harris, Florida's former secretary of state, has stirred up some ugly memories. And that's a good thing, because those memories remain relevant. There was at least as much electoral malfeasance in 2004 as there was in 2000, even if it didn't change the outcome. And the next election may be worse.

In his recent book "Steal This Vote" - a very judicious work, despite its title - Andrew Gumbel, a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, provides the best overview I've seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election."

Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris's "felon purge," which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.

But few Americans have heard these facts. Perhaps journalists have felt that it would be divisive to cast doubt on the Bush administration's legitimacy. If so, their tender concern for the nation's feelings has gone for naught: Cindy Sheehan's supporters are camped in Crawford, and America is more bitterly divided than ever.

Meanwhile, the whitewash of what happened in Florida in 2000 showed that election-tampering carries no penalty, and political operatives have acted accordingly. For example, in 2002 the Republican Party in New Hampshire hired a company to jam Democratic and union phone banks on Election Day.

And what about 2004?

Mr. Gumbel throws cold water on those who take the discrepancy between the exit polls and the final result as evidence of a stolen election. (I told you it's a judicious book.) He also seems, on first reading, to play down what happened in Ohio. But the theme of his book is that America has a long, bipartisan history of dirty elections.

He told me that he wasn't brushing off the serious problems in Ohio, but that "this is what American democracy typically looks like, especially in a presidential election in a battleground state that is controlled substantially by one party."

So what does U.S. democracy look like? There have been two Democratic reports on Ohio in 2004, one commissioned by Representative John Conyers Jr., the other by the Democratic National Committee.

The D.N.C. report is very cautious: "The purpose of this investigation," it declares, "was not to challenge or question the results of the election in any way." It says there is no evidence that votes were transferred away from John Kerry - but it does suggest that many potential Kerry votes were suppressed. Although the Conyers report is less cautious, it stops far short of claiming that the wrong candidate got Ohio's electoral votes.

But both reports show that votes were suppressed by long lines at polling places - lines caused by inadequate numbers of voting machines - and that these lines occurred disproportionately in areas likely to vote Democratic. Both reports also point to problems involving voters who were improperly forced to cast provisional votes, many of which were discarded.

The Conyers report goes further, highlighting the blatant partisanship of election officials. In particular, the behavior of Ohio's secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell - who supervised the election while serving as co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio - makes Ms. Harris's actions in 2000 seem mild by comparison.

And then there are the election night stories. Warren County locked down its administration building and barred public observers from the vote-counting, citing an F.B.I. warning of a terrorist threat. But the F.B.I. later denied issuing any such warning. Miami County reported that voter turnout was an improbable 98.55 percent of registered voters. And so on.

We aren't going to rerun the last three elections. But what about the future?

Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008. The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies. The Republicans will be strongly tempted to make sure that they win those elections by any means necessary. And everything we've seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation.


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