Mojo - November 2012

Charlie Crist's Wife Receives Sleazy Robocall

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 8:57 PM EST
Florida governor Charlie Crist and his wife, Carole.

I just ran into former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, the former Republican who has endorsed President Barack Obama, and his wife Carole, while they were strolling through the Obama campaign event in Chicago. "What's going to happen in your state?" I asked him.

It's close, he said. It's possible Obama can win. Yes, I replied, but if it's close, shenanigans can come into play.

"Yes, yes," Crist said. "Listen to what happened to my wife." He then nudged me in her direction. "Tell him," he said to her.

It was a phone call, she said. A robocall. it came at 8:15 this morning. Usually, she hangs up on such calls. But this one she listened to. It went something like this: "I'm calling from the supervisor of elections for Pinellas County to remind you that Election Day is tomorrow and you can vote until 7:00 pm." Tomorrow.

"If you woke up and heard about long lines and heard a call like this," she told me, "You might think you can wait until tomorrow. How many thousands of calls like this went out? And who made them? I don't know." (She was indeed one of thousands in the county who received the same misleading call.)

Well, I said, let's hope Florida is not another mess. "Yes," she said. "Let's."

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Linda McMahon Spent $100 Million to Lose Twice

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 8:47 PM EST
Chris Murphy, the next senator from Connecticut

On the last day of her campaign, Linda McMahon got desperate. The former wrestling exec and GOP senate candidate in Connecticut, who has sunk at least $42.6 million into her latest campaign, engaged in a series of misleading tricks that seemed intended to dupe voters into believing she was a Democrat.

Ultimately, it wasn't enough. The blue lean of Connecticut was too great for even McMahon's vast fortune to overcome, and Rep. Chris Murphy, a 39-year-old liberal Democrat, will replace retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) in the Senate come January. Between this campaign and her last losing bid, in 2010, McMahon has now spent a cumulative total of nearly $100 million of her own money in pursuit of federal office. That is more than any other American in history.

Republicans who want to take something good out of the McMahon situation might point to the fact that her spending forced the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to spend money supporting Murphy. That money could have otherwise been spent in closer races in less-blue states. But that's not much comfort compared to the rejoicing progressives will feel after replacing Lieberman with a young, charismatic, liberal.

There's no Senate election in Connecticut in 2014. So if McMahon wants to spend even more of her money in pursuit of a Senate seat, she'll have to wait—or move.

Lines of 150 People and 90 Minute Waits in Akron, Ohio

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 7:55 PM EST

Long lines for early voting in Akron, Ohio yesterday.

At 6:40 this morning, when the Joy Park Community Center in Akron, Ohio, opened up to voters, as many as 150 people were already in line. Two observers told Mother Jones that the polling place opened 10 minutes late due to troubles with one of its optical scanners, which tallies votes.

The community center also had trouble with an audio device meant to assist hearing-impaired voters, according to Daniel Greenfield, an election observer volunteering for the Obama campaign. The machines were back up and running two to three hours later, he said. It's unclear whether the troubles were caused by malfunctions or by poll workers not knowing how to operate the machines.

Leader of the Free World Barack Obama Weighs in on Korean Dance Sensation "Gangnam Style"

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 7:14 PM EST
Obama-endorsed.

As the Obama reelection campaign wound down, the campaign committed him to a string of radio interviews noted for their focus on the big issues of our time, such as collateral damage resulting from the administration's controversial drone program, spicy food, football teams, singer-songwriter Flo Rida, singer-songwriter Pitbull, his friendship with George Clooney, and Carly Rae Jepsen's hit single "Call Me Maybe."

And on the day he will find out if he will serve a second term, the president taped a segment with radio station WZID-FM in New Hampshire.

Via the AP, an election-day quote from the president:

During a radio spot with WZID-FM in New Hampshire, the commander in chief was pressed on whether he and first lady Michelle would do a rendition of the South Korean rapper PSY's hit ["Gangnam Style"], which has hundreds of millions of views on YouTube.

"I just saw that video for the first time," Obama replied. "I think I can do that move. But I'm not sure that the inauguration ball is the appropriate time to break that out."

"Maybe," he concluded, "do it privately for Michelle."

So if Obama loses his reelection bid, one of the last things he will have addressed before his defeat will have been "Gangnam Style."

That is the way history will be written.

Voter ID Chaos in Pennsylvania

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 6:48 PM EST
Misleading flier handed out by a poll volunteer in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is quickly emerging as the national epicenter of voting chaos. In addition to epic lines, voting machine malfunctions, and what voting rights advocates describe as a possible "unreported purge of voters," Mother Jones has received numerous reports of voters being asked to show ID at the polls. In March, Pennsylvania passed one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country, but last month a state judge blocked it from taking effect until 2013.

Nevertheless, voters across the state report encountering signs and election volunteers requesting identification. Even the polling place in Shaler where Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett voted this morning boasted a hand-scrawled sign informing voters to be prepared to show a photo ID, a poll worker at the precinct told Mother Jones

Voter Finds Another Romney-Loving Machine in Pennsylvania

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 5:49 PM EST

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:

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Watchdog: Evidence of Unlawful Voter Purge in Pennsylvania

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 5:14 PM EST

The Election Protection Coalition, which is managing a voter protection hotline, says that eligible voters may have been unlawfully purged from the rolls in major urban areas of Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. 

"We suspect there has been an unreported purge of voters in Pennsylvania," said Barbara Arnwine, head of the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights. There are "too many voters being affected by this for us to think it’s voter error or voter confusion," Arnwine said.

The Election Protection Coalition said it had fielded at least five reports, each describing dozens of voters being turned away from their polling places because they were not registered as of this afternoon. Under federal law, states are supposed to purge the rolls only after voters have failed to vote in two consecutive general elections, and only then after notifying voters of their intent to do so. According to the Lawyer's Committee, those calling the Election Protection hotline claimed to have voted in 2008, and so shouldn't have been purged. 

Jon Greenbaum, a former Justice Department attorney who now works with the Lawyer's Committee, said that the only other explanation for the reports was administrative error. Pennsylvania is already facing widespread confusion among poll workers and voters over the impact of a recently passed voter ID law.

Fox's Alternate Reality Election

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 5:13 PM EST

Today I'm embedded at the Election Protection phone center in Washington, DC. The room is filled with the chatter of volunteers fielding thousands of calls from all over the country about troubles at polling places, voters being wrongly turned away because of voter ID, or lack of working voting machines, or prohibitively long lines. This is where you'll the real story of how votes are discouraged and blocked in 2012.

But on Fox News, there's only one story: the New Black Panther Party. Back in 2008, a pair of members of the NBPP showed up at a polling station in a mostly black neighborhood in Philadelphia, one of whom was holding a baton. Then, as now, Fox News hyped the story, at the expense of covering genuine voting problems elsewhere. A Bush administration lawyer, working with GOP activists, tried to file a voter intimidation case but was unable to find any actual intimidated voters. The Justice Department ultimately narrowed the case, acquiring an injunction against one of the two NBPP members—the one who was holding a baton—and barring him from ever carrying a weapon near a polling place again. 

After the charges were trimmed, Republicans accused the Obama administration and the entire Justice Department of being racist against white people, knowing that the prosecution was championed by conservatives at Justice working with outside GOP activists to shore up what they knew was a weak case. An Inspector General's report found no wrongdoing on the part of political appointees at the Justice Department, or the officials who ultimately decided to narrow the charges.

The right's fixation on the New Black Panthers, then as now, is another example of American politics being separated into two distinct versions of reality. While voters all over the country struggle with systemic problems caused by Republican engineered restrictions on voting, changes that were deliberately sought to disenfranchise potential Democratic-leaning voters, the right is fixated on some loser standing outside of a polling place in a silly uniform. My colleague Kevin Drum made a similar point this morning. Unfortunately, it can't be made enough.

Things to Know Before You Instagram Your Ballot

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 3:31 PM EST

It's Election Day! Twitter and Facebook are exploding with snapshots people have uploaded of their completed ballots. But before you Instagram your vote, make sure it's not illegal in your state.

The Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP) reports that seven states explicitly prohibit doing so. Other states also frown upon it:

If you want to take photographs or shoot video inside your polling place, you must be cautious to avoid violating the law. Election laws are serious business – you could be removed from the polling place and even subject to criminal penalties. Some states like Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas expressly prohibit the use of photographic and recording equipment inside polling places. In addition, a majority of states have laws prohibiting the disclosure of your own marked ballot, although the details of these laws vary significantly.

As the CMLP points out, there's a good reason for the rules—they're intended to "protect voters from interference and intimidation." Basically they don't want you snooping on people's ballots, which makes sense.

The laws differ by state, so check here for information relevant to where you live. The CMLP notes, however, that even if you can't film inside the polling station, you can likely film outside:

In the vast majority of states, these laws make a distinction between what you can do inside a polling place and what you can do outside a polling place. The laws are more restrictive when it comes to activities inside and within certain buffer zones around the entrance, which are typically 100 feet from the entrance or interior voting area. Outside of the polling place and these buffer zones, your ability to document your voting experience is much freer.

That said, reporters here at Mother Jones and folks at organizations like Video the Vote are asking voters to send in videos and photos of excessively long lines or any suspected malfeasance at the polls. You can certainly capture things happening outside your polling station, but make sure you check the laws in your state before taking photo/video inside.

And if you see something askew at your voting place, please report it to us as well as your local election officials and the Election Protection Coalition.

Romney-Loving Voting Machine "Recalibrated" and Back Online

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 2:14 PM EST

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: