There they go again
October 18, 2008 | The fabric of my personal democracy has been seriously ripped, but contrary to Mr McCain's hyperbole, it has nothing to do with Acorn. Instead it is the US Postal Service that is to blame.
Absentee ballots were mailed out recently and should have arrived this week, at the latest. I did not get mine. Yesterday, I went to the website of the Riverside registrar of voters to get a phone number so I could call and found a web page where you could check on the status of your absentee ballot. I put in the required information (birthdate and last four digits of your driver's license or social security number).
We could not find your record.
Please call the Election's office to inquire about your ballot status.
Hello? You can't find my record? I've lived at this address for six years now and have always voted by absentee ballot. Of course I've got a record. I called and listened to a succession of various voices telling me to hold the line, they would be right with me — for 17 minutes!
When I was finally connected to a live person, she looked up my name and said I was not registered as an absentee voter. "How can that be?" I asked politely, containing my petulance. A few clicks of the keyboard later she told me that they had sent materials to me earlier this summer, and they had been returned by the post office as undeliverable at that address. (As an aside, I still don't know how she knew which record to look at since there is at least one more Paul Williamson just in Palm Springs alone, much less in the entire county. Curious.)
Were I even a skosh bit more cynical I might suspect dark forces at play, but the USPS is, indeed, a likely culprit. For the first few years I lived here, I got the mail of anyone in Palm Springs whose street address included the same number as mine, irrespective of the street name. In the last few years, the USPS has taken to sending my mail back to the sender marked "undeliverable." This never seems to happen with offers to tune up my air conditioner, credit card offers, or other junk mail, but it does happen with things like premium notices from my insurance company and, now, my absentee ballot.
Earlier in the campaign, when the hottest issue seemed to be Obama's wearing, or not wearing, of a flag lapel pin, Obama said politics was in the "silly season." The season has definitely changed. It is now the vicious season. Make that Vicious, with a capital V.
Since Sarah Palin has been on the campaign trail leveling charges of "palling around with terrorists" and the like, things have gotten really ugly. Shouts of "kill him," "traitor," "terrorist," and blatent racial slurs have frequently been heard at Republican rallies. Last night there was a report that the Secret Service, assigned to protect Sarah Palin, has been preventing reporters from reaching and interviewing the shouters. Most recently she has taken to commenting on how much she enjoys visiting the "pro-American" parts of the country.
Yep, we're back to with-us or against-us, pro-American or anti-American demagoguery. Yesterday on MSNBC, a Minnesota congresswoman, Michele Bachmann, told Chris Matthews on Hardball that Obama's associates held "attitudes, values, and beliefs" that are "over the top anti-American. "Absolutely. I'm very concerned that he may have anti-American views." She later extended her accusations to the wider Congress: "I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America. I would love to see an exposé like that."
I encouraged, slightly, by the fact that Bachman's opponent received $30,000 in contributions immediately following Bachman's comments (MSNBC: Rachel Maddow).
On Wednesday, a blogger's main article was on What's Missing at Barack Obama's Political Campaign Rallies? dianosphere.com. The answer: chants of USA! USA! USA! I'm simply sickened by all this jingoism.
Joe Biden got it right in his reaction to Palin's comments: "I have never been to a state that hasn't sent its sons and daughters to serve its country.... It doesn't matter where you live, we all love this country" (Associated Press via Yahoo.com).
For years now the Republicans have been raising alarums about the menacing bogeyman of voter fraud, alleging that countless people are voting illegally, thereby putting democracy in peril. This year is no exception, and McCain's drama-queen charge that fraud was "destroying the fabric of democracy" coincided with charges of wide-spread registration fraud in several states, not surprisingly the same states that are the current battleground states where McCain is danger of losing states that went to George W Bush in 2004.
Despite all the claims of fraud, the Justice Department has been able to find almost no evidence of it after a five-year search (sidebar). This year, in a perverse twist of fate, charges are being speciously supported by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. That law mandated that voter registrations be checked against central state databases rather than relying on county records. No match, no vote. Sounds reasonable.
Except... the case of Wisconsin is instructive. The state only recently got its central database operational, and initial results were that 22% of registrations failed to match. But then they took the registrations of the 6 retired judges on the board that oversees elections and found that 4 of those also failed to match (sidebar). There is a computer truism: Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO). The central database is riddled with errors and the system is not capable of dealing with innocent discrepancies like nicknames, minor typos, etc. Why should we not be surprised? Three words: no-fly list. No computer system is bulletproof.
But as a result, hundreds of thousands of voters' registrations are likely to be questioned in this election. And since new registrations for this election are overwhelmingly Democratic, the thought of all those disqualifications gives Republicans what slim hope they may still have.
Fortunately, we have a Democratic presidential candidate this time who is not going to sit back and take it. Obama has launched a pre-emptive legal attack, calling for the special prosecutor to treat accusations of voter fraud as an extension of the investigation into the firing of several US attorneys.
Democracy is, indeed, threatened, but not by voter fraud.
Last updated on Apr 13, 2018