Democrats mastermind concerted effort to disqualify military ballotsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread
Disqualification of ballots by Democrats 'systematic'
By Rowan Scarborough THE WASHINGTON TIMES
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When vote counters arrived Friday in heavily Republican Duval County, five lawyers from the Al Gore camp stood poised to contest virtually every military ballot waiting to be opened. During a 19-hour process that ended Saturday at 4:30 a.m., the Gore team challenged the authenticity of signatures, dates and addresses. They got one Navy lieutenant's ballot thrown out. The officer wrote on the envelope he could not get a postmark on his ship before sending it to Florida. "The big story here is this was a systematic, heavy-handed effort by the Democrats to eliminate absentee military ballots," said Jim Post, a Republican attorney who fought the Gore challenges. "That was clear from the beginning of the day." Mr. Post said he has never seen such a concerted campaign to disqualify overseas ballots. In the end, the Democrats succeeded in knocking out 64 military voters. This meant Texas Gov. George W. Bush likely lost 30 to 40 votes from Duval alone, based on the fact he took nearly 70 percent of the 542 military ballots approved by the three-member canvassing board. Duval, home to a large Navy base in Jacksonville, was a microcosm for what went on in Florida's other 66 counties on Friday as Democratic lawyers successfully nullified hundreds of votes from sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines, Republicans charged. As proof, they cite their own experiences and a strategy memo written by a Democratic lawyer in Tallahassee. But Doug Hattaway, a Gore spokesman, denied there was any such strategy. "Both sides had observers there, and it's a very bipartisan process," Mr. Hattaway told the Associated Press. "Bush didn't get what people expected," Mr. Hattaway said. "He got like 600, and we're happy about that." Mr. Bush netted 630 votes from the final overseas ballot count. A Democratic lawyer who led the Gore effort in Duval County did not immediately return a phone call yesterday. Mr. Bush's official 930-vote lead in Florida could have been hundreds of votes higher if not for the Gore challenges. Florida's counties tallied the last remaining overseas ballots Friday and reported them by Saturday's noon deadline. The Gore legal offensive drew a sharp rebuke yesterday from the nation's two largest and best-known veterans groups, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The final tally showed 1,527 overseas absentee ballots got tossed, while 2,199 survived, of which Mr. Bush garnered about 65 percent. Mr. Post and another Republican lawyer in Duval, Tom Bishop, said they were amazed at the range of technicalities Democratic lawyers cited to discard military votes. At one point on Friday, the Democrats had the election board compare ballot signatures with signatures on file. The Democrats then claimed some signatures were fraudulent because every t was not crossed or every i dotted, Mr. Post said. Democrats succeeded in getting a handful of ballots thrown out because they arrived one and two days after the election, he said, even though common sense said the form must have been filled out before Nov. 7, Election Day. Democrats also tried to convince the Republican-controlled board to check computers to see if service members requested their ballots in the correct way. The board denied that request. "The ballot would be examined front and back by the Democrats for any defect and they were raising things like inadequate addresses for attesting witnesses or that the address wasn't as detailed as they wanted it to be," said Mr. Bishop. "There was no question in any one's mind that with any defect they were going to raise an objection. Whoever was directing them truly wanted to disqualify military ballots." Mr. Post said that when the canvassing board agreed to keep out ballots, "the Democrats squealed with joy." The lawyers said federal and state laws give election boards the discretion to count a military ballot even when the envelope postmark is missing, provided the ballot is signed and dated. This is because military personnel are not always able to get mail postmarked at a small outpost or ship. But Democrats objected anyway and succeeded in getting some tossed out, the lawyers said. They said if the Democrats had not objected, the board likely would have accepted some of them. Mr. Post said he did not challenge any military ballots in Duval nor did Republicans lawyers in other counties. Before the overseas absentee counting began Friday, Gore spokesmen asserted that they would win the military vote. They said the vice president would attract votes from minorities in the enlisted ranks. But at the same time, Democrats were orchestrating a statewide effort to knock out overseas votes, Republicans say. A Democratic lawyer in Tallahassee circulated a memo to lawyers beforehand listing all the technicalities on which service members' votes could be disqualified.
Democrats mastermind concerted effort to disqualify military ballots
-- Ain't Gonna Happen (Not Here Not@ever.com), November 21, 2000
How About Ballots Without Postmarks?
Inconsistencies in the way the different counties could handle questionable ballots could spur a constitutional challenge, says Baran.
Duval County, for example, has 100 overseas absentee ballots without a postmark, so they will be rejected because Florida law requires these ballots have a postmark, says Richard Carlberg, assistant elections supervisor.
But in Bay County, which has 83 pending overseas ballots, election supervisor Melanie Williams-Boyd says she has one ballot without a postmark, but which her office stamped on Nov. 8 when it came in. Williams-Boyd says she believes that this vote should count because “it is impossible for the voter to have voted after the election because of the time it took for the mail to arrive from overseas.” It will be up to the canvassing board to decide.
Although Duval also stamps its ballots, Duval's Carlberg says it “hurts” to “throw out” the 100 ballots without postmarks.
Handwritten Dates Problematic, Too
Florida constitutional expert Timothy McLendon, from the Center for Governmental Responsibility at the University of Florida, raises another potential problem with dating ballots: The law allows elections officials to accept ballots postmarked after the election, as long as the voter has manually written Nov. 7 -- or an earlier date -- on the envelope.
McLendon says this dating option, which is acceptable under Florida law, leaves open the possibility of fraud at either end of the process: The voter may have put a pre- Nov. 7 date on after the election. Someone could have put the date on while it was being mailed. Finally, someone in the elections' office could have written a date.
“It is unlikely there would be too many cases of this kind of situation, but it could happen,” McLendon says. “Every vote counts.”
Other problems with overseas ballots identified by an ABCNEWS survey include 20 in Lee County that have questionable or missing witness signatures (Florida law requires the voter to sign and have a witness sign and also write in an address); and 50 in Okaloosa County lacking a postmark.
-- Some of (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 21, 2000.
overseas absentee ballots AND overseas absentee MILITARY BALLOTS are two entirely DIFFERENT animals!
Nice try but the men and women in uniform have been walked on and over for eight years now. They matter to some of us and according to the Florida A.G. their votes will be counted!
Get over it!
-- Ain't Gonna Happen (Not Here Not@ever.com), November 21, 2000.
-- (email@example.com), November 21, 2000.
Saturday, November 18 -- Since Election Day, George W. Bush has kept the goal posts moving continually back and forth to prevent Florida's southern, mostly Democratic, counties from hand counting their ballots until they were too late to be added to the certified total. But lost among the Bush camp's legal and rhetorical objections to hand counting is this small fact: since the Fateful Day, Bush has benefitted from hand counts in other counties, hand counts that have secured his lead by margins that began at 1784 and reportedly went as low as 225 votes before rising again in recent days with the arrival of more absentee ballots. On the basis of those slim and changing margins, the nation's pundits called upon Al Gore to concede, even in the face of widely reported voting irregularities that involve tens of thousands of ballots. For example, the Orlando Sentinel reported that over 180,000 ballots had been kicked out of Florida's computerized counting machines, indicating they had some sort of problem and went uncounted toward the final result.
Adding to questions about the vote total of Florida's sixty-seven counties certified by the Secretary of State Katherine Harris on Tuesday, November 14, the Washington Post reported intriguing news, without explanation, that eleven counties did not do the machine recount last week that is mandated by law in close elections.
Harris's November 14 tally officially gave George W.Bush a 300-vote lead. The next day, Harris, a co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Florida, said that, exercising her legally sanctioned "discretion," she would not allow hand-counted votes from the southern counties to be added to the certified total, and would add to the tally only those absentee ballots received after Election Day. She also issued her opinion, further confusing local election officials, that absentee ballots did not have to be post-marked on or before Election Day, November 7.
Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes last Tuesday accused the Democratic counties of "no longer counting ballots. They are 'reinventing' them," she said, a comment seemingly aimed to again raise doubts about Gore's character and alleged exaggerations, a story that got legs earlier in the election thanks to shoddy media reporting and misquotes.
For days, George W. Bush's consigliere, James Baker III, has said that hand-counted votes present "tremendous opportunities for human error and ... mischief." Baker accused the hand counters of "subjective" attempts to "divine the intent of the voter," thereby denigrating the whole hand-counting process -- the time-honored gold standard for deciding close elections. Democrats have called Baker's statements hypocritical, pointing out that six mostly Republican counties have partially hand counted their ballots and found 418 additional votes for Bush. (Those counties are: Franklin, Hamilton, Seminole, Washington, Taylor, and Lafayette.)
So where in all this flurry is there any media discussion of hand- counted ballots for Bush versus hand-counted ballots for Gore? If hand-counted votes are so suspect, Democrats say, why not remove them from Bush's count? The answer, of course, is that doing so would have put Gore ahead.
Baker's Democratic counterpart, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, said in a news conference Thursday that the fact that "Republicans have hand counted in many of the counties themselves" belies Republican charges that "we have picked out a certain few counties" thought to hold promise for a Gore victory.
When a reporter asked Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes if Bush would accept his hand-counted votes, she did not respond, and ended the press conference. Likewise, on Wednesday Baker avoided a reporter's question about the Bush hand-count tally saying, "Some hand-counting was done from which we benefited," whereupon he also ended his press conference.
In fact, Bush has accepted those 418 hand-counted votes as part of his total, as well as 143 hand-counted votes from Volusia County, and probably many others tallied before Secretary of State Harris's deadline.
But despite much hand wringing from the punditocracy over the hand recounts in strongly Democratic counties, there have been few reports in the major media about the manual recounts in Republican-dominated counties and how they were conducted.
Meanwhile, Bush is blaming Gore for delaying the final vote count, and hoping the American people will, too. But Bush lawsuits and challenges to hand counting are responsible for most of the delays.
In Gadsden County, where Gore's hand-counted total exceeded Bush's, Republicans complained loudly about the result. On Thursday, Bush lawyers in Tallahassee argued that since Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties had not submitted their manual recounts by 5 p.m. on November 14, as ordered by Harris, they no longer had the right to do so. Bush also went to federal court to stop hand counting. Failing there he appealed to the conservative 11th Federal District Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which, on Friday, rejected the appeal. On Tuesday the 14th, Secretary Harris issued an edict ordering the hand-counters to cease, which was quickly overruled by Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Democrat. Broward went ahead with its count, but Palm Beach and Miami-Dade waited for the Florida State Supreme Court's decision on Thursday which gave them the go ahead. Harris had also petitioned the state Supreme Court to stop the hand-counting, saying it was being done without "coherent standards" and threatened "the integrity of the ballots." She didn't say whether that also applied to Bush's hand counted ballots. Her petition was rejected by the Court without comment. And on Friday, in a major victory for Gore, the Florida Supreme Court enjoined Harris from certifying the election totals "until further order from this Court."
That's just a sample of the wrangling that has delayed a final vote tally. As those events unfolded over the last two weeks, the Bush camp was also maligning the local election officers ("canvassers") in Palm Beach County, alleging that they are committing fraud. Harris, under heavy fire herself, has said that the outspoken Democratic canvasser, Carol Roberts, should recuse herself, and Roberts has been accused of corruptly manipulating and over-handling the ballots in an affidavit signed by a Republican count watcher. Roberts refused to recuse herself, and denies the charge of corruption, as did a lawyer who is a Palm Beach Democratic count observer. That lawyer said on CNN that any charge of corruption against Roberts is "a lie."
The Democrats haven't gotten much traction from citing the "Texas Election Code." Under "Manual Counting, Chapter 127, section 127.130," it says: "Standards by which to judge votes: At least two corners of chad are detached, light is visible through hole, an indentation on the chad from the stylus or other object is present and indicates a clearly ascertainable intent of the voter to vote, or the chad reflects by other means a clearly ascertainable intent of the voter to vote."
Burning the village in order to save it.
The news media have been slow to grasp the game that Bush and his operatives are playing -- one of stopping hand counts by Democratic counties, then saying it's too late for those votes to be counted, and all the while tearing down the process and maligning the intent of local (Democratic) officials.
In the last few days the Bush partisans have resorted to an extreme tactic: forcefully asserting that the Gore camp is trying to "steal" the election. The charge was replayed all over the media this weekend, and especially on the more sensational and hyperventalating cable news networks that must stoke the fires continuously (if only because they burn twenty-four hours a day). This amounts to the Bush camp jumping ahead of the process and sowing land mines, and thus ensures that whatever the outcome, voters around the nation will never be able to have confidence in the process that yielded the final result.
No matter who prevails in the closest presidential election in American history, this last tactic may be the one we all remember. It elicits a memory from the Vietnam era: "We had to burn the village in order to save it."
-- Hypocrite Bush (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 21, 2000.