dana liebelson

Dana Liebelson


Dana Liebelson is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. Her work also appears in Marie Claire and The Week. In her free time, she plays electric violin and bass in a punk band.

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Democrat Jon Tester Wins Montana Senate Stand Off

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 9:13 AM PST

Each man in the Montana Senate race wanted to prove he was the bigger cowboy. The contest attracted record-breaking campaign donations that worked out to about $16 per cow. And after a long night of ballot counting, the Associated Press announced Wednesday morning that the winner of this Western standoff is seven-fingered incumbent Democrat Jon Tester, whose victory ensures Democrats and their allies will control at least 53 seats in the Senate.

The race between Tester and Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg was among the most closely watched of this election cycle, with the two candidates running neck and neck throughout the campaign. Outside groups, including Karl Rove's American Crossroads, spent at least $23 million running attack ads in the state, making it the most expensive race in Montana's history.

Tester, a third-generation farmer, has served on the Senate since 2007. He's pro-choice, supports Obamacare, and voted to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, even though he doesn't support gay marriage. He took a strong stance against the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, predicting it would be "disastrous for our democracy." He even proposed that both he and Rehberg should pledge to refuse any Super PAC or third-party group support during the Senate race—a suggestion that Rehberg shot down.

Rehberg, a fifth-generation rancher, tried to portray himself as a maverick by skipping the Republican National Convention and highlighting his opposition to the Paul Ryan's budget in campaign ads. But the GOPer drew criticism over his enthusiasm for domestic drilling, staunch denial of climate change, and past opposition to AIDS funding. According to Rehberg, "The problem with AIDS is, you get it, you die, so why are we spending any money on people that get it[?]"

A super-PAC funded by Tester supporters made a last-minute $500,000 ad buy for Dan Cox, a libertarian candidate who looks certain to draw more than 5 percent of the vote. The Montana GOP has accused Tester supporters of dirty tricks for allegedly trying to funnel Rehberg votes to Cox. They're right to be peeved: Cox's vote total is currently greater than Tester's winning margin, adding weight to the theory that the libertarian's presence in the race may have made the difference.

This year's Montana Senate race will also be remembered for its strange, entertaining campaign ads: Rehberg supporters made fun of Tester's haircut, accused him of not tipping and said Obama and Tester were twins. The Montana Democratic party tried to frame Rehberg as a drunk and showed Tester bringing Montana beef to Washington. And then there was the ad for Cox showing a guy on a hunting trip with his son shooting out a security camera. Boring, the Montana Senate race was not.

Voter Finds Another Romney-Loving Machine in Pennsylvania

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 3:49 PM PST

County officials have found another Romney-loving robot: A faulty electronic voting machine in Union County, Pennsylvania, has been recalibrated and put back online after it wouldn't allow a vote for President Obama, Mother Jones has confirmed.

Earlier today, MJ reported on another incident this morning in Perry County, Pennsylvania, in which a voting computer's touchscreen ballot converted all Obama votes into votes for Romney. The second machine came to light after a local college professor found he couldn't cast his vote for Obama on it.

"I spoke with a poll worker there and saw her fold up the machine. I also called [a national wattchdog hotline] to report the incident," said Andy Hirsch, director of media communications at Bucknell University, who posted a video of the machine's malfunction on Vimeo after it failed to record his ballot choices.

John Showers, chairman of the board of elections for Union County, confirmed that there was a problem with the calibration of the machine; the problem has since been fixed, and the machine has been returned to service. He said: "In general, there's a calibration issue with one machine in each election here, so we had this one, and it was taken care of," he said.

Hirsch said he'd learned about that previous machine snafu in Perry County, just before he set out for his own polling station. "I watched that video right before I left, and wondered whether or not it was real," he said. "Now I'm not surprised!"

Watch the video here:

Romney-Loving Voting Machine "Recalibrated" and Back Online

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 12:14 PM PST

An electronic voting machine in Perry County, Pennsylvania, that changed a President Obama vote to one for Mitt Romney is now back online, after officials received a complaint and recalibrated the machine, Mother Jones has confirmed.

A viral YouTube video posted mid-morning Tuesday by user "centralpavoter" shows someone repeatedly trying to vote for President Obama on a digital touchscreen, and the screen locking in a vote for Mitt Romney instead. The user posted a link to the video on Reddit, writing: "I asked the voters on either side of me if they had any problems and they reported they did not. I then called over a volunteer to have a look at it. She him hawed for a bit then calmly said 'It's nothing to worry about, everything will be OK.' and went back to what she was doing. I then recorded this video."

The user wrote that he had no problem voting for candidate Jill Stein.

MSNBC's Zachary Roth reported that a Pennsylvania electronic voting machine was taken out of service after the video went up, but Mathew Keeler, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, says the machine is back online again—though he couldn't confirm whether that rejiggered terminal was the same machine featured in the video.

"There was a single complaint, so they recalibrated the machine, did a test run, and put it back online. We've had no complaints since then," Keeler says. While he couldn't say for certain that this was the machine that "centralpavoter" attempted to use, he added that "we believe they are probably connected."

Check out the video here:

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