Political MoJo

For Some Virginia Voters It's "The Best Day of the Year.'' Dispatches from Around the State

| Tue Nov. 7, 2006 4:34 PM EST

By mid afternoon, voters had slowed to a trickle at polling booths in towns along the fringes of northern Virginia exurbia, which often provides the swing vote for the state as a whole. Voters we talked to tended to be disgusted in general with the Bush Administration and fed up with the dirty Senate campaign. Nonetheless, there were numerous Allen diehards, who noted he had been dependable in the past and now could be viewed as the lesser of two evils.

Reston, once a model new town, is situated well out from Washington in northern Virginia, the key swing area of the state. At the Community Center, Jane Bullock, 58, an entrepreneur, formerly Chief of Staff for FEMA, said she had to leave her job at FEMA because of the administration. She was plenty mad. "This country is on the wrong track, the president is deranged. We need senators who will bridge the gap. I think Webb is more conservative than I am but he's the better choice. He's got the right attitude on the war in Iraq." She went on, "This administration, they don't care about government. You saw what happened with Katrina. They simply don't care about people and it shows in their government."

Linda Cooper, 37, bartender, former graphic designer, came up to the polling station skipping and singing: "This is the best day of the year!" She declared, "Mr. Bush is inarticulate and the Republican Party follows a not very well thought out foreign policy, and a not very well thought out domestic policy. I don't think they care about the average American who earn less than $30,000 a year. He is insular in his wealth and I think the majority of Republicans are. And I think the average American is suffering." Time for a change, she said.

Justin Salop, 26, accountant, said he voted for Allen: "There was a lot more negative ads and campaigning and more shock than what I have seen in the past. It has made me increasingly upset with the parties and politics." He decided to vote for "the lesser of two evils," adding, "Being a business guy I have always been for growth and expansion, but I think we have hit a point, at least in this area where it has gone way too far. I'm getting tired of every little area being turned into a condo."

Dave Spanbauer, 62, retired high school basketball coach, voted for George Allen "because he's an athlete and because I'm a basketball coach. I would have voted Democrat if the Democrat person had enticed me to vote for him. But the fact that he came on to slander Allen."

Further west is Leesburg, offering a nostalgic glimpse of a Virginia long gone. In the early 1970s you could still see chain gangs of prisoners working along the roadside under a shotgun toting police officer. Segregation died hard around here, if in fact it did die. By its looks, Leesburg remains a memento of an earlier time. At the town firehouse, Mary Kraseman, 65 and retired, said "George Allen has always come through on what he said he was going to do."'

A 58 year old woman teacher, who asked that her name not be used, said "I think it's time for a change and the Republicans have messed things up totally."

Purcellville, once a farm town center not far from Leesburg, now part of the sprawling exurbia. At the elementary school, Mary Coate, 50, a housewife said, "I am for the marriage amendment. I believe it should be between a man and a woman and I don't want people from Massachusetts coming and demanding recognition for their gay marriages."

-- Reporting in Virginia by Caroline Dobuzinskis and Jessica Savage

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Ohio's New Voter-ID Law Turns Away Congressman

| Tue Nov. 7, 2006 4:19 PM EST

From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

WESTWOOD - Congressman Steve Chabot found out just how serious elections officials are about the new voter ID law when he showed up to vote at his polling place in Westwood.

Chabot went into the polling place at Westwood First Presbyterian Church about 9:30 a.m. and pulled out his Ohio driver's license to show the poll workers. They looked at his license, and told the congressman that, even though they know perfectly well who he is, his driver's license was issued to his business office, not his home, which is his voting address.

Somewhat sheepishly, Chabot went back out into the parking lot, jumped in his 1993 Buick - the one he talked about on his campaign commercials - and started heading back to his home a few blocks away to find a proper ID.

"I guess I'll see if I can find a utility bill," Chabot said. "That's the law. You have to have proper ID."

Chabot returned about 10 minutes later with a bank statement and a Social Security Administration statement in hand.

He went inside and voted quickly.

"My wife told me to bring two documents just to be sure," Chabot said. "I guess this just shows the poll workers are really doing their job."

The Ohio voter ID requirement is the work of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who is famous for his partisan hatchet job on the 2004 presidential election. Only two weeks ago, Blackwell issued a directive requiring that any ID used at the polls show a current address. It was challenged in court but upheld by a judge on October 29. Its impact on vote suppression this year could foretell problems down the road: according to the NYU-based Brennan Center, some 25 states have proposed similar voter ID requirements. Stay posted for more news about how the law is affecting Ohio voters today at the polls.

Also, here's a link to a Mother Jones story I wrote which talks about how these voter-ID laws are at the center of many tight secretary of state races across the country this year.

New Jersey Slime Fest

| Tue Nov. 7, 2006 3:32 PM EST

Tom Kean Republicans in New Jersey are claiming they are being screwed by voter irregularities caused by Dems. Party officials formally notified the New Jersey attorney general and U.S. attorney Chris Cristie that in Hudson, Middlesex, Camden, and Passaic counties, voters were running into machines where Democrat Bob Menendez's name appeared to have been pre-selected. WNYC's Bob Hennelly is reporting the turnout in Jersey is strong, with the Democrats running the only visible get out the vote operations there.

New Jersey is the scene of one of the nation's slimiest slugfests with Tom Kean Jr. trying to topple the incumbent Menendez by calling him a crook.

Vote by Mail: the Solution to Today's Problems?

| Tue Nov. 7, 2006 3:20 PM EST

Daily Kos forwards along a press release written by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden that makes the case for vote by mail. It's a system that has been used in Oregon for years with positive results. Registered voters receive their ballots at their home address weeks before the election and fill them out at their leisure. When completed, the ballots are put in secure drop boxes at libraries, county offices and other locations. The whole process is convenient and uncomplicated. Other arguments that Wyden puts forward:

Vote by Mail eliminates poll problems--there are no long lines, polls to open late or even confusion about where to vote.

Vote by Mail eliminates voter roll issues and the need for provisional ballots--ballots are mailed only to registered voters at their official address. Those who do not receive a ballot have ample time to resolve the issue with election officials.

Vote by Mail reduces the risk of voter intimidation--a 2003 study of Oregon voters showed that groups--like the elderly--who are most vulnerable to coercion prefer Vote by Mail.

Vote by Mail creates a paper trail.

You can learn more at the Vote by Mail Project.

Election Night Resources for Political Junkies

| Tue Nov. 7, 2006 2:25 PM EST

For those of you like us who are watching voting irregularities until the exit polls come in, and will watch exit polls until the real numbers come in, and will watch the numbers until the results come in.... here's some stuff from around the web to fuel your obsession.

Taegan Goddard's Political Wire has a list of poll closing times for each state in the country, with links to pages where you can get results.

The Wall Street Journal has made a handy scorecard [PDF] with the House and Senate races that will determine control of Congress.

And CBS has a neat article on how networks make each "call" that so many people tonight will exult/groan over.

More from Mother Jones as the day goes by.

South Carolina Governor Rejected From The Polls

| Tue Nov. 7, 2006 1:42 PM EST

In South Carolina, the highest elected official in the land forgot his voter identification card and was turned away at the polls. According the the Associated Press, Republican Gov. Mark Sanford tried to vote using a driver's license with a Columbia, South Carolina address that didn't match his precinct in Sullivan's Island. Following protocol, poll workers rejected him. He went home to get his voter ID card, came back about 90 minutes later and cast his ballot.

If South Carolina's own governor can't get it right, what should we expect in Ohio? A directive there requires voters to show a photo ID with a current address, a scenario that would have presumably barred Sanford from casting a regular ballot.

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FBI Investigating Voter Suppression in Democratic Precincts in Virginia

| Tue Nov. 7, 2006 1:30 PM EST

MSNBC reports: "State officials yesterday, after getting information initially from Democrats, said that they were able to document dozens of phone calls that were made to heavily Democratic precincts in which the people who were receiving the calls were either given incorrect information about polling sites, misdirected about election laws. And so the FBI has now interviewed state officials and state officials say the investigation continues."

See video of the report here. Print report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch here. American Prospect's blog TAPPED has sound of one of the calls. A man refers to the voter being called by name, and threatens him with criminal charges if he shows up to the polls. Pretty stunning stuff.

Mother Jones has been all over the Allen/Webb race, with a cover story today and two Washington Dispatches.

The Northeast: The Worst Place to Vote Today?

| Tue Nov. 7, 2006 1:29 PM EST

Despite high profile vote-counting controversies in Ohio in 2004, provisional ballot data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission shows that the worst place to vote that year was the Northeast: the region had the second highest percentage of provisional ballots cast as a percentage of voter registration, 1.34, but reported the lowest rate of counting those ballots, 42.8 percent. The worst state was New York, with a whopping 2.21 percent of registered voters casting provisional ballots, yet only 40 percent of those ballots being counted. That means the percentage of people who were denied a vote in New York was .88 percent—or more than the .79 percent margin that decided the presidential election that year in New Mexico.

Provisional ballots, which were required for the first time in 2004 by the Help America Vote Act, aren't the only measures of election fairness, but a large number of provisional ballots cast and then invalidated most likely means: 1) Voters are uneducated about registration rules, or 2) Elections officials are excluding people who should be eligible—neither of which is good news.

So how are things going this year in the Empire State? The Albany Times-Union reports on phone calls, some automated and some allegedly made by people who live nowhere near New York, that are raising complaints on both sides of the aisle of unfair campaign tactics: "Republicans claimed Democrats were misdirecting voters to the wrong polling places -- an allegation Democrats chalked up to honest errors."

Among New York residents to hit a snag: Chelsea Clinton

States with Voting Problems

| Tue Nov. 7, 2006 12:50 PM EST

People for the American Way reports the election incident reporting system (EIRS) "is experiencing enormous traffic and is difficult to access. We are working to solve the problem." Some of the hotspots this morning:

Ohio: Confusion over photo ID requirements, delays because of voting machine problems.

Pennsylania: Long lines in Allegheny county where machines did not work this morning. Machine failures resulted in some leaving the polling place without having voted. Voting machine-related delays also in Philadelphia and Lebanon county.

Illinois: In Will County, an election judge failed to show up and a polling place was still closed an hour after polls were supposed to open.

Florida: Voting machine problems and the failure of an election judge to show up in Broward County cause delays. Also, "In Deerfield Beach, one predominantly African American precinct did not open for at least two hours when machines failed, and no paper ballots were available,'' says People.

Indiana: Electronic voting machines were causing problems in Delaware County and Marion County. In Delaware County, computer errors were causing problems in 75 precincts, and in Marion County, touch-screen machines were not working in more than 10 percent of the county's precincts, and voters were using paper ballots instead.

Virginia Voters Speak Their Minds

| Tue Nov. 7, 2006 11:05 AM EST

At the Westgate elementary school in Manassas, another northern Virginia Washington suburb, voters are put out because some have been re-routed through two precincts before landing in a third where their names are listed on the books. There were reports of heavy voting in the early morning hours here, but by mid morning there was but a trickle of voters going in and out of the school.

People were not shy in expressing their opinions on who they voted for and why.

Thomas Hamilton, 70, said, "I am better off today than I was four or eight years ago." He cast his ballot for Allen.

Roger Johnson, 58, a plumber, doesn't like the war and thinks the Dems "are a step in the right direction." Johnson adds, "Bring the babies home."

Linda Gerkin, 46, a receptionist, said the war was a major issue. "I support the troops and what we're doing but I'd like to get them out of there," she said, adding the Republicans -- "they'll get them out."

Luis Unana, 26, a student at George Mason University who works full time in a security firm, said he wanted to see traffic improvement and improved higher education. He was against the war, and voted straight Democrat.