James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Republicans suppressing the vote

With just a few days to go to the 2008 election, it looks like Democrat Barack Obama will get more votes than will John McCain, the floundering, panic-stricken Republican candidate for president.

At least more Americans will try to vote for Obama than will vote for McCain.

The chances of Obama being sworn in as president of the United States may be substantially less than 50-50, however. The Obama vote will have to be overwhelming, a landslide -– no, a tidal wave -– to get the man into the Oval Office as anything but a visitor. If the polls are anywhere near right, that isn't going to happen.

Some congressional seats that would be won by Democrats in fair elections also probably will be taken by Republicans.

If you get your news primarily from corporate outlets, you may be unaware of, or at least know very little about, the second biggest under-reported story of this decade.

(Failure to report ahead of time on the inevitable collapse of the subprime mortgage pyramid probably ranks first.)

Corporate newspapers and broadcast outlets are largely ignoring a massive Republican campaign to suppress Democratic votes and to commit vote fraud on a grand scale -- bigger and considerably more widespread than the efforts of 2000, 2004 and 2006.

The corporate press is, in fact, helping the Republican cause beyond simply pretending that the party's suppression/fraud campaign doesn't exist. The ACORN flap was fake. That organization, engaged in registering mostly minority and low-income voters, flatly is not engaged in fraud. The publishers, editors and producers could not help but know that, since they know what really happened and even said so deep in some stories. But they played it big anyway.

That bit of slight of hand was created by the McCain campaign with the aid of various official and unofficial party organizations to cover the fact that the Republicans have a genuine and much bigger fraud campaign in place.

As I've said here several times over the past four or five years, if you want to know what the Republicans are doing on the dark side, look at what they claim their opponents are doing. It's a standard Rovian trick. Democratic “leaders” are blindsided every time, the corporate media always plays along.

The Democratic Party is, as usual, wandering around with its head......in the sand. The party “leaders” don't like real fights, and apparently won't take this one on.

For the past couple of months, I've been keeping clippings and printouts of news articles, editorials and op-ed essays detailing various pieces of the real vote suppression and fraud campaign. Stories on individual pieces of that campaign pop up here and there, but they almost never are picked up by corporate news agencies outside the immediately affected geographic area, and I don't know of any big news outlet that has put the pieces together to show its auditors or readers the whole picture.

CNN said last week it was going to try, but what it did was mostly just a rehash of the phony ACORN story.

My stack of paper on Republican vote suppression now is more than a foot deep. Might be two feet deep or more if I go through all of the pile next to my desk, but I've uncovered enough to make the point.

Here are some, only a sampling, of the components of what shapes up as a major Republican effort:

* Until mid-September, the Veterans Administration -– politicized like all other government departments under Bush/Cheney -– blocked efforts to register veterans in VA hospitals and residential facilities as voters. VA officials ignored demands from several congressmen that they allow registration efforts in those facilities. In September, Veterans for Common Sense won a lawsuit giving the veterans access to voter registration and to voting Nov. 4.

It is not known, however, whether election officials and non-partisan groups actually have been allowed into all of the VA facilities, or whether they've had to do their work this late in the game. (Information, Veterans for Common Sense and Associated Press.)

* In Wisconsin, the Republican attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, filed suit in September seeking a court order to force the state's Government Accountability Board to cross-check voters who registered after Jan. 1, 2006, against Department of Transportation, criminal and death records. Completing such an examination before Nov. 4 is impossible and “will disenfranchise voters,” said Madison, Wis., City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl.

The suit covers only Dane County, an urban county with a high percentage of academics and students and other young people. It includes the main campus of the University of Wisconsin. The Government Accountability Board opposes the suit, saying the belated registration checks would uncover little or no fraud but would “cause unnecessary hardship and confusion at the polls.”

The board noted that discrepancies between various lists typically come because people often write their names differently on different forms -– using a middle initial on one, but not another, for example –- and do not involve fraud. (Information, the Capital Times, Madison, Wis.)

Almost identical suits have been filed by Republicans in several other urban areas around the country, mostly where the presidency and/or Senate seats are closely contested.

Several studies over several years have concluded that fraud in voting is extremely rare, by the way.

* Similarly, although some details differ, approximately 50,000 voters in Georgia have been “flagged” because computers determined, often inaccurately, that there are mismatches in their personal identification information in various files. About 4,500 of those, most of them native-born Americans, had their citizenship questioned. In many cases, notices carrying deadlines for clarifying the mismatches, proving citizenship and such were mailed too late for individuals to meet those deadlines. (Source, CNN.com, which reported on line that similar voter list purges are taking place across the country, and especially in swing states.)

* A number of reports indicate a high probability that the presidential election in Ohio will be stolen again.

One tactic, which would take a couple of pages to explain thoroughly, may disenfranchise up to 600,000 Ohio voters, mostly in areas which have high percentages of minority and low-income citizens, according to groups such as Advancement Project and Project Vote that advocate for the poor or seek to increase voter registration.

This tactic comes directly from the Republican Party and was passed by the Republican-dominated State Legislature in 2005. (Oddly, it sunsets – ceases to exist – on Jan. 1 of next year.) It requires county boards to send non-forwardable notices to voters 60 days before an election, and effectively disenfranchises anyone whose notice is returned.

People do not have to be notified that their voter registrations are in question. A board can overturn the disenfranchisement, but not until after the election, of course, since people won't know they've been cut from the rolls until they try to vote.

An Advancement Project spokeswoman pointed out that a single piece of mail may be returned for many reasons, including errors in the data base from which it is sent, mailing label misprints, failure to include an apartment number and a host of other errors on the mailing end.

Several other people have noted that members of the military called to active duty often are among those who lose their vote under the system.

This suppression technique, called “caging” is being used this year by Republicans in several swing states. (Information, Advancement Project, Project Vote, TruthOut.)

Also note that, in defiance of a court order, 56 of Ohio's 88 counties destroyed election materials from the 2004 election that would have shown what happened (how the election was stolen) that year.

One thing that is known is that more than 300,000 registered voters in Ohio, all but a tiny handful in heavily Democratic districts, were purged from the rolls in 2004 by Republican-controlled election boards. After the 2004 election, another 170,000 voters were purged in another county that recently had tipped toward Democrats. (Bush “won” the 2004 election in Ohio by 119,000 votes.)

There also were at least partially successful attempts to prevent absentee balloting by residents of heavily Democratic areas, other attempts to cancel voter registrations, big questions about use of electronic voting machines and numerous incidents of potential voters being given false information and falsely threatened with legal action if they voted. (Several sources, including, notably, The Smirking Chimp Web site,)

* In Michigan, where the Republicans are using several tactics to block votes by Democrats, a favorite method is to use a list of home foreclosures in predominately black neighborhoods to challenge voters at the polls.

A foreclosure notice does not mean that someone has moved as yet. But the voters will be challenged, and some will be chased off; others will be unable or afraid to fight the challengers through official means to regain their vote. (Sources, Marketwatch.com and Michigan Messenger.)

Intimidation is, in fact, a major reason such tactics work.

* In Mississippi, which has a hotly contested Senate race going, Gov. Haley Barbour, with the help of the state's secretary of state, put the senate race at the very bottom of the ballot, although state election law requires that federal elections must be at the top of the ballot. Under that law, Senate candidates should be right below the candidates for president.

The two state officials claimed they could put the Senate contest at the bottom, where they hope it will be overlooked by some voters, because it is a special election. The seat was vacated by Trent Lott (you remember that sweetheart) and the man who is now the Republican candidate was appointed to fill it temporarily by Gov. Barbour. (Sources, Clarion Ledger, New York Times)

* On Air America Radio, and in much more detail in Rolling Stone, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Mike Papantonio reported that Republicans are using 30 (yes 30) distinct scams around the country, particularly in swing states, to disenfranchise Democratic voters.

A favorite involves those name-match techniques. If you signed your voter registration card as P.K. Whoknows, but signed your drivers license application Pepe K. Whoknows, Republican poll watchers, who have the lists, will challenge your right to vote, and in some places will be able to have you removed from voting rolls. Think of all of the various official documents you've signed; it's a very good bet they don't all match.

Such techniques, again, are being applied almost exclusively to districts with high percentages of likely Democratic voters. They're being used in New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, Montana and several other states, notably newly competitive states in the South. (Sources, Air America, Rolling Stone, TruthOut.)

* In Florida, a wide variety of reports show, every possible vote suppression technique seems to be in play again. And, though I haven't seen anything specific on this, the use of cops to chase potential black and low-income Hispanic voters from the polls seems as likely now as it did in 2000, when there were many reliable reports of such activity, including several by major corporate news organizations.

Florida's Republican-controlled legislature deliberately limited the early-voting hours to just a few within the working day, weekdays. The law also severely limited the number of early-voting sites. The obvious goal, according to Floridians, was to inhibit voting by elderly residents, the disabled and working poor who dare not stay away from their jobs to vote and who are likely to vote Democratic.

This week, after the tactic received coverage on television and in some newspapers outside of Florida, the state's governor issued an executive order expanding the early voting hours. There's no way to know how many voters were discouraged by their first attempts and learn of the new hours, or won't trust that they can vote, however.

The ballot in Florida's Palm Beach County has such a peculiar layout that many voters in past elections have complained of mistakenly voting for the wrong candidates. There is a similar problem in North Carolina. (Source, New York Times.)

* In North Carolina, black citizens at an early voting site were loudly heckled by a group of McCain supporters. (Source, Democracy Now.)

* In some venues, voting officials have deliberately given college students false information, leading them to believe they are not eligible to vote. (TruthOut.)

* In Montana, 6,000 voters were purged from the voting rolls in Democrat-leaning counties on the grounds that their mailing addresses had changed. Turns out a significant number of those purged are military personnel on active duty -– quite a few serving in Iraq -– and another substantial number are students seeking to vote in their home districts. There also were a number of elderly folks who had moved from their homes to senior housing and hadn't yet changed their registration addresses. (Source, an irate essay by John Bohlinger, Republican lieutenant governor of Montana. )

* In several states, voting machines have switched Democratic votes to Republican candidates in early elections. There are many problems, yet, with such machines, particularly in swing states.

There are so many similar stories I could double the length of this piece and still not come close to using all of those I have in hand. There's the story of hundreds of absentee ballots being sent out with the name “Barack Osama” instead of Barack Obama. And there's the story of an email sent by the Pennsylvania Republican Party's “Victory 2008” committee to Jews throughout the state, falsely alleging that Obama “taught members of Acorn to commit voter registration fraud” and hinting that Obama has the same goals for Jews as Hitler did in the 1930s. And many more.

So just one final note:

Reporter Alexander Bolton wrote an article I found on thehill.com on Oct. 21 about the efforts of police departments in major cities across the country to “beef up their ranks” and otherwise prepare for “possible civil unrest and riots” once the Nov. 4 election returns are known.

The facts of his story were confirmed by Catherine Elsworth, Los Angeles-based reporter for the British paper, The Telegraph.

“Some worry that if Barack Obama loses and there is suspicion of foul play in the election, violence could ensue in cities with black populations,” Bolton wrote.

Among the many scary facts in the story: In Oakland, cops plan to deploy extra units in riot gear, as well as extra traffic cops, and will have SWAT teams on standby. (Do you suppose those cops might intimidate would-be voters? Having seen the ninja turtles in their black armor during the Republican National Convention, I tell you flatly that they will.)

Similar preparations have been made in Chicago, Philadelphia and other large cities with substantial black populations, Bolton said.

He and Elsworth said cops are worried that angry mobs could be set off not by an Obama loss, as such, but by perception of another stolen election. One possible trigger, they said, is a repeat of the deliberate tactic, widely used in 2000 and 2004, of keeping black citizens from voting by providing too few voting machines and polling places in their neighborhoods, thus requiring standing in lines for many hours to vote, and having the polls close before you can vote, or perhaps by jiggering of voting machines, or discovery of other tricks.

One can't but ask: Do the cops know something we don't?

Isn't it ironic? Republicans claim to want to export “democracy” to other countries, but try very hard to keep it from functioning in America. Of course, what they mean by “democracy” when talking of other countries is corporate rule.

See you in the camps.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gas price electioneering

Excited about the big drop in gasoline prices?

Don't get too wound up.

At the beginning of the July 4 holiday period in 2006, the average price of gasoline in the United States was $2.873. By the middle of October, as the mid-term elections neared, the national average price of gasoline was $2.219, and prices hit a low of $2.02 in states such as Missouri, that, coincidentally, were states the Republican Party felt it needed to win.

By early December of 2006, a time when gasoline prices historically drop, the national average price of a gallon of gasoline had bounced back to $2.297. The elections were over. The price of gasoline jumped around quite a bit over the next few months, with several reasons cited for the volatility, but we know the trend was up, up, up.

Oil company execs know who provides the special tax breaks at times when they're already pulling in profits at unprecedented levels.

But of course it's all coincidental.