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Election Fever
October 25, 2012 9:32 AM   Subscribe

An opposition provincial official in a hotly contested election has threatened to arrest international election observers monitoring for fraud and voter intimidation. In an area with a rich history of secessionist fervor, ballot box stuffing, and repeated infringements on the voting rights and representation of ethnic minorities, this pronouncement is certainly controversial. Rogue vigilantes, organized in this province, are expected to deploy to polling sites across the nation, causing alarm. It is not a chaotic contest in a fledgling democracy. It is Texas, the United States. Previously.

Texas is not the only state with election protection issues as the 2012 federal, state, and local elections draw near. In Ohio, the election may come down to a "nightmare scenario" of provisional ballots, and absentee ballots were mailed with the wrong election day. In Florida, absentee ballots were mis-printed, and are now being hand-copied. Voter registrations in Virginia were found trashed by Republican-connected contractors.

If there is any hint of a problem when voting on Election Day, or if you observe any hint of voter intimidation or suppression beforehand, call toll-free 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683), a hotline sponsored by a consortium of non-profits. For aid in Spanish, call 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota (1-888-839-8682). Click on your state for a list of regulations and your voting rights.

If you are not volunteering on Election Day for voter contact or mobilization, consider volunteering as an poll watcher or legal help, especially if you are a lawyer.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College (30 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's not a fledgling democracy. It's a fledgling fraud.
posted by Goofyy at 9:42 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you are an active-duty member of the US Armed Forces, are a family member of such, or are an American citizen living overseas for work, school or an other readon, the Federal Voting Assistance Program will be able to help. Vote!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:43 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Onion, or a dark vision of the future?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:51 AM on October 25, 2012


It's going to be really interesting to watch just how over-the-top the reactions are going to be in states like Texas if Obama wins re-election. And, by "really interesting" I mean "fucking unbelievably scary".

These nuts are whipping themselves into a real orgasm of paranoia, fear, delusion, and hate, and something's going to pop...somewhere.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:57 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Related article from the New Yorker.
posted by mareli at 9:58 AM on October 25, 2012


In Maryland there have been reports of absentee ballots with missing pages (including Question 6, the same-sex marriage referendum). So far the problem seems limited, but I'm keeping my ears open.
posted by postel's law at 10:01 AM on October 25, 2012


It is not a chaotic contest in a fledgling democracy. It is Texas, the United States.

You say that like these are mutually exclusive.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:02 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


At first I was confused at this foofaraw, because no one expects Texas to go for Obama, but then I remembered the downballot races, and yes, Mr. AG, I do worry that my votes will get lost in the bowels of our uninspected electronic voting machines. Though I'm not as worried as I would be if I lived in a majority Hispanic or African American district. As a white lady without any obvious dirty-hippie tells, it's unlikely I'll be harassed while attempting to vote.
posted by emjaybee at 10:07 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


In December, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, wrote, “Election fraud is a real and persistent threat to our electoral system.” He accused Democrats of “standing up for potential fraud—presumably because ending it would disenfranchise at least two of its core constituencies: the deceased and double-voters.”

Fascinating how this is shaping up. If Romney wins, it's because the election was legitimate, free, and fair. If Obama wins, it's because there was election fraud. At least, that's the story which one side has been feeding to itself for months if not years.

I've been hoping for this all to be over in a week or two, but somehow I suspect it is going to be a very long 2-3 months.
posted by hippybear at 10:07 AM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's not a fledgling fraud, it's just a fraud.
posted by Benjy at 10:07 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


“The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable,” Lenarčič said. “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”

Lenarčič took issue with insinuations that officials in the group would meddle with elections, reiterating that they were bound by national laws and regulations, as well as their own strict code of conduct.


If you were going to "observe" the elections in another country, wouldn't you want to make sure you know how that country's elections system works before making pronouncements about it?

While dragging up Acorn (yet again) is completely off-topic, Abbott has a valid point, the states (for the most part) decide their election procedures, regardless of any pledges made to the U.N.
posted by madajb at 10:20 AM on October 25, 2012


How Republicans view election fraud and voter ID laws, written by a former Republican.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 10:20 AM on October 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Though I'm not as worried as I would be if I lived in a majority Hispanic or African American district.

I live in Austin. I have some small faith they won't lose my precinct's votes (especially if I vote early) but they'll keep trying to gerrymander me into some loser Republican district or otherwise force my Congresscritter (Lloyd Doggett) out. And while I was surprised to realize how strongly I support the idea of outside poll-watchers, I think they should already be here because early voting has already started.

What I really think is that we need people to watch the ballot counting but that's less distrust of the ballot counters than it is distrust of the voting machines' general integrity.
posted by immlass at 10:25 AM on October 25, 2012


While dragging up Acorn (yet again) is completely off-topic, Abbott has a valid point, the states (for the most part) decide their election procedures, regardless of any pledges made to the U.N.

I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty sure the Supremacy Clause does in fact obligate states to conduct themselves in accordance with treaties that the federal government has ratified. I'm not 100% sure if the US is obligated by treaty to admit observers from OSCE, but if they are (and it sounds like they are, according to Lenarčič), then so is Texas.
posted by invitapriore at 10:34 AM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Amen, immlass. I was gerrymandered out of Lloyd's district and into one of those serpentine excuses to disenfranchise democrats and minorities. I like the article 1970s Antihero posted above, but exlanations of the problems with gerrymandering and voter ID laws seem to have no effect on any Republican I know. The ends are all that matter.
posted by Seamus at 10:38 AM on October 25, 2012


It doesn't look like this one is going to be close enough for the Republicans to steal. But they're trying.
posted by zjacreman at 10:52 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


invitapriore - I don't really understand those who object to outside monitoring of elections of any kind, believing myself that we should strive to have an election system that we can be proud and eager to have monitored as an example to democracies everywhere.

That said, the OSCE is not actually a formal treaty organization and members voluntarilly allow observers from the organization, for example as was done in the 2004 election. Some of the arms control work the OSCE is involved with involves specific treaties, but the organization itself is simply based on an agreement in principle between member states.

I'm not sure what constitutional claim one could make that simply monitoring an election counts as interfering with states rights, but the defense against such claims probably wouldn't be the supremacy clause. Maybe the "don't be silly" clause...

See also the US Mission to the OSCE site.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:56 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


It doesn't look like this one is going to be close enough for the Republicans to steal.

Depends on what you mean by "this one." Presidential? Probably not close enough (I'm a superstitious baseball fan, so until the score says "final," I try to not say stuff that can jinx the race/game). But there are state ballot initiatives/propositions and lots of local races that can be stolen by this kind of fraud, and since those have a larger effect on most peoples' daily lives than who the POTUS is, keeping a spotlight on potential fraudsters is critical.
posted by rtha at 11:33 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty sure the Supremacy Clause does in fact obligate states to conduct themselves in accordance with treaties that the federal government has ratified. I'm not 100% sure if the US is obligated by treaty to admit observers from OSCE, but if they are (and it sounds like they are, according to Lenarčič), then so is Texas.

As I said, "for the most part".
But election procedure is mostly left up to the states, so I'm not entirely sure the federal government would be interested in forcing the issue.

My point was, though, that just because an understanding exists between the U.N. and the federal government does not mean that the states are going to A) recognize it or B) feel obligated to abide by it.
Lenarčič seems to be under the impression that they will.
posted by madajb at 12:31 PM on October 25, 2012


It doesn't look like this one is going to be close enough for the Republicans to steal.

Actually, it does. You'll notice an even-larger-than-usual gap between the "registered voters" polling and "likely voters" polling, even with Obama's massive GOTV operation and the War on Women reducing the "enthusiasm gap". That's probably because the pollsters are finally acknowledging the GOP vote suppression campaign (not to mention the "Romney connections" to a voting machine manufacturer with quality control problems).

I've told this story before. I grew up in a Republican household, and my mother, when not employed as a teacher, worked long hours as a volunteer for a Republican Women's Group (yes, oxymoronic, even in the '60s and '70s). In 1972, I was 17, not yet eligible to vote, but with a little parental arm-twisting, I 'volunteered" for a few hours' work on Nixon's re-election campaign (or The Campaign to Re-Elect the President, don't mention the name). Placed at a phone bank, I was given a very specific script to use in talking to the people I interrupt at dinner and a hastily scribbled bio for myself as a college student who WAS old enough to vote (the one thing they didn't have in '72 was lists of which names in the phone book were known Republicans or Democrats). There was a mild odor of dishonesty in the campaign office, but nothing really smelly until I was offered a chance to go on a 'field trip'. It was to go to nearby retirement and nursing homes to "help" the residents who had trouble filling out Absentee Ballots. Actually, taking a stack of pre-filled party-line ballots to the homes where the Republican owners gave us access to the most senile/demented residents to get an "X" on the signature line and then sign the "witness" line. I smilingly opted out of that, but Nixon - and most of the Republican Party - lost my vote that day, and since then, it has been obvious to me why the GOP has had more Absentee votes in their favor for the last 40+ years.

The Republicans most obviously made a pledge after the Chicago "irregularities" in 1960* to never be out-frauded again.
*I've also heard stories, that I cold not google up, that a couple of Republican-run smaller cities in downstate Illinois had even before then installed "Chicago-style" political machines in their favor to try to match the Democrats.

As for me, I've volunteered twice for Democratic candidates in the years since, always looking irregularities in the process, and they were totally squeaky clean, at least in the field offices I was in. (Yes, it's anecdotal evidence, but it's my personal anecdotal evidence - your mileage may vary)
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:32 PM on October 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


That said, the OSCE is not actually a formal treaty organization and members voluntarilly allow observers from the organization, for example as was done in the 2004 election. Some of the arms control work the OSCE is involved with involves specific treaties, but the organization itself is simply based on an agreement in principle between member states.

Yeah, I figured if there was a hole in my argument it was with regards to the legal status of the OSCE. I was reacting more against what I read as the blanket assumption that agreements with international bodies don't affect state law, but it sounds like I was wrong in the main. Thanks for the info. I'm not sure where Lenarčič's insistence comes from, then.
posted by invitapriore at 12:39 PM on October 25, 2012


I certainly won't argue that the Republicans are at the eye of the current potential electoral fraud storm. However, do I really need to point out that the second link in the FPP - the one that links to outright and clearly criminal election fraud - is about Lyndon Johnson, Democrat? It's an open secret that South Texas politics is as dirty as it gets, and it's no Republican stronghold by any stretch of the imagination.

As for outright election fraud that I have direct firsthand knowledge of, a Democrat County Judge in my hometown won by a handful of votes. It was found, by opposition investigators going house to house, that the margin of victory was considerably smaller than the number of vacant lots and homes of people who admitted they were not citizens, though their home addresses showed up on the rolls.

None of this excuses Republican shenanigans, and I am not saying "both sides do it", but Republican skepticism is not something they cooked up in some mass hallucination.

As for the 100-foot poll distance, this is nothing new. International election observers have come to the U.S. before and had to remain well away from the polls. The threat to arrest them is ill-advised public bluster or chest-thumping, but it does appeal to the large contingent of Fox News voters who are convinced that American Sovereignty is threatened by the UN and Agenda 21.
posted by Xoebe at 1:45 PM on October 25, 2012


I've witnessed many Dutch elections (well, being born there helps) and last week I witnessed elections in Curacao. There were some accusations of vote-buying in Curacao, but watching the whole voting and vote-counting process I can't help but feel this small little island is a more mature democracy when it comes to the election process than the USA is.
posted by DreamerFi at 2:07 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Excellent post, Hollywood Upstairs Medical College. Thanks for gathering all this together.

See also this piece by Jane Mayer about Hans von Spakovsky via this related thread:

The Voter-Fraud Myth: The man who has stoked fear about impostors at the polls.
posted by homunculus at 2:22 PM on October 25, 2012


Or via this thread, even.
posted by homunculus at 2:37 PM on October 25, 2012




I thought Victoria Collier's article in the most recent Harper's, "How to Rig an Election" (Exerpt) was fascinating and scary. It might be available elsewhere...

Mark Crispin Miller on why the article, and Harper's coverage, is important.
posted by sneebler at 4:07 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]




We still let states control the polling for national elections. Why? Yes, I know it's in the Constitution, but why is it in there, and is that still a good idea? I think that's the real issue that this absurd little piece of theater raises. I know for a certainty that the elections office in my town shouldn't be trusted with a high school class president election, and that the head of that office is elected mostly thanks to party machine patronage. I assume that's how it works pretty much everywhere else as well, and it's a system that deserves zero trust.

The fact that the attorney general for a sub-national entity would have the nerve to threaten a representative of an international organization of which the United States is a founding member is a secondary annoyance.
posted by 1adam12 at 3:40 AM on October 26, 2012




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