"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" - Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obama Is Dominating in the Polls, but Four Things Keep Me Awake at Night




If you are sitting at home on your complacency couch; I just want you to know that are many of us that are working up to 20 hours a day to the point of dizziness where caffeine no longer helps and we simply crash until the next day when we renew to fight to make sure that every vote counts.  We have problems in Ohio, Florida, North Carolinas, Colorado and everywhere else that the “match up” provision is in place.  The Republicans are attempting to crash the election system into confusion and then steal it in litigation after November 4, and that is a fact! So get off your sofa and do anything you can or are asked to do to provide the sanctity of the Election 2008 Balloting…Please!  This post for example is being prepared over a supper of Pizza and Coke in a hotel room before we swing into the night shift.


And Something That Makes Me Feel Good!



ACLU: White House Intervention In Ohio Voting Is "Partisan ...
TPM, NY - 26 minutes ago






Obama reprises call for change and unity


We are one week from election day. Barack Obama leads John McCain in every poll. Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com gives Obama a 96.7 percent chance of winning. And some McCain supporters with a nose for survival are jumping off of the Republican bandwagon faster than Sarah Palin running to an Alaska consignment shop (yes, I'm talking to you Joe Lieberman).


And yet I can't bring myself to believe Obama will win next Tuesday.


You have to forgive me. As a 41-year-old Democrat, I've seen too much to ever be confident. I watched the nation choose a bumbling Bush (the first one) over a smart, successful governor, all because the governor was a bit of a nerd. Okay, a lot more than a bit, but still. (I often think about the Saturday Night Live sketch in which Jon Lovitz, as Michael Dukakis, in a debate with Dana Carvey's George H.W. Bush, responds to a nonsensical response by looking into the camera and saying, "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy!") I've seen Americans twice put into office a language-bungling, shallow-thinking, political legacy who, as was brilliantly said once, was born on third base but acted like he hit a triple (one of the elections coming after it was clear he had led America into a dangerous, damaging, unnecessary war that was completely mismanaged by his administration).


So you can at least understand why I won't believe that the U.S. has elected Obama until/if I see McCain giving a concession speech.


I know what you're thinking right about now: "But Mitchell, it's over. Just look at the polls." I get it. I'm not pretending that there is necessarily a rational underpinning for my paranoia. I wouldn't begin to set out an electoral path to victory like Silver gamely tried to do for theNew York Post (give the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid credit for asking a smart Obama supporter how the paper's guy could pull an upset).


But I can tell you the four things that keep me up at night and make me wonder if there ever really will be an Obama inauguration in January.


Close Races

When the polls are viewed through the prism of how many of the close states McCain has to win, they certainly look daunting for the Republicans. But consider that Obama holds fairly small leads in nearly all of the toss-up states, according to Rasmussen, which is ranked as the most reliable of all the major polling organizations by fivethirtyeight.com (only Seltzer and SurveyUSA have a better record, and Rasmussen is the top daily tracking poll).


According to Rasmussen:


Virginia: Obama up 51 percent to 47 percent.
Colorado: Obama up 50 percent to 46 percent.
Missouri: McCain up 48 percent to 47 percent.
Ohio: Obama up 49 percent to 45 percent.
North Carolina: McCain up 49 percent to 48 percent.
Florida: Obama up 51 percent to 47 percent.
New Hampshire: Obama up 50 percent to 46 percent.
National Daily Tracking Poll: Obama up 51 percent to 46 percent.


Considering that, depending on the scenario, McCain has to win most (if not all) of these states, the numbers I have laid out above look very good for Obama. It's hard to imagine McCain sweeping so many close races.


But here is where the dread creeps in: The biggest lead Obama has in any state is five points. So if there is one big event, or one big factor, that can put a jolt into the election nationally, it can change the look of the map in a hurry. As you consider the next three nightmare scenarios, remember how relatively little effect they have to have on the electorate to shift the outlook of the race.


Voter Fraud

Make no mistake: If the Republicans cannot generate more votes for their candidate, they are happy to win by decreasing the number of votes of their opponent. Shortly after the 2004 election, Robert Kennedy wrote about voter fraud in Ohio, and there have been a number of films to cover the story, as well.


And it's not like the GOP is going to suddenly play fair in 2008. On Friday, Bush asked the Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, to investigate 200,000 voter registrations for minor discrepancies in data. Bush is quick to look into non-issues like this one and the minor voter registration (note, voter registration, not voter fraud) allegations at ACORN, but he can't be bothered to enforce congressional subpoenas or investigate actual voter fraud allegations. (Hendrik Hertzberg wrote an excellent piece in the New Yorker explaining how the ACORN issue has been completely distorted and misused by the Republicans.) It's fair to say that McCain has the might of the federal government on his side in any election fraud-related issue.


The Ohio problems are not unique. Early voters in West Virginia had their computer monitors flip their Obama votes to McCain, and a confusing North Carolina ballot, whichexcludes the presidential race when someone chooses to vote a party line, may cost Obama, by one estimate, tens of thousands of votes. Today brought news of a flyer in Virginia telling Democrats to vote on November 5 (the day after the election), and a man in Florida posing as a worker for a Democratic candidate for Congress (but whose information was traced back to a consultant of the Republican incumbent) taking ballots from Democrats and promising to deliver them. And that doesn't even include the widespread purges of voters in Democratic neighborhoods conducted by Republican state officials. An excellent article on voter fraud, also co-authored by Kennedy, can be found here.


Remember, it only takes a few points in the key swing states to make a difference.


So even if the polls are correct and most Americans support Obama, I would not be the least bit surprised to wake up next Wednesday to a "miraculous" McCain comeback victory (with the miracle provided courtesy of election irregularities). Of course, this year, the Democrats are better prepared for such an eventuality, and any fraud will be more vigorously challenged. But that only does so much to assuage my fears.


October or November Surprise

It's not too late for the president to engineer an event to put national security on the front burner of the election. After all, security is the one issue on which McCain outperforms Obama in polls. If we've learned one thing from watching McCain run a disgusting smear campaign, it's that Republicans, who seem to see the White House as a birthright, are not below doing anything to secure victory.


I fear that Bush's move to have Mukasey investigate voter registration in Ohio is not the end of his involvement, but only the beginning. It's not like any Republicans right about now are looking for Bush's endorsement or want him to campaign for them. But this is a way the president could actually affect the race.


More Than Just the Bradley Effect

There has been a lot of debate about whether or not there is a Bradley Effect; that is, if there are white voters who tell pollsters they will vote for a black candidate, but when they get into the voting booth, they can't bring themselves to actually do it and cast a ballot for the white opponent.


But there is nothing to which one can compare this election. An African American has never been a Republican or Democratic nominee for the presidency before. There is just no way to judge what will happen on election day.


Even if the Bradley Effect does not exist (and there certainly is a strong argument to be made in that regard), I am concerned that there are white voters who won't vote for an African-American candidate, and that many of them are contained in the "undecided" category of the polls. (Despite an interesting science-based defense of undecided voters in today's New York Times, I still can't imagine how anyone at this stage of the race can't decide between two candidates who are different in virtually every way.)


There are things to look at if you want to scare yourself into thinking that race may be a deciding factor in this election. For example, in the race for governor in Missouri, a state that leans red (Bush carried it in 2000 and 2004), Attorney General Jay Nixon leads Republican Congressman Kenny Hulshof by nearly 20 points (57 percent to 38 percent) in the latest Rasmussen poll (October 17), and yet in the presidential race in the state, Obama trails McCain by one point in Rasmussen's latest survey (October 27). On CNN this morning, a radio host from Missouri didn't shy away from explaining the difference in the numbers: He attributed it to Obama's race.


Maybe race is the reason, and maybe it's not. We don't know for sure, but I'm certainly afraid it is. The Missouri factor is not unique. Based on Rasmussen results, the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate seats in ColoradoVirginiaNorth Carolina and New Hampshireare all outperforming Obama in their states.


Both the New York Times (Pennsylvania) and the New Yorker (Ohio) have recently done features on rust-belt white voters, and in each case, it's clear that Obama has to overcome some pretty strong race-based biases. The Times piece features one voter saying, "I'm no racist, but I'm not crazy about him either. I don't know, maybe 'cause he's black" (the person claimed to be voting for Obama anyway), while another remarks, "He scares me. The coloreds are excited, but my friends and I plan to write in Hillary's name." When I read the last line, chills of fear and disgust literally shot up my spine. I don't know what bothered me the most: that someone would care so much about a candidate's race (the positions of Clinton and Obama are so similar), that the person would admit it to a New York Times reporter, or that the person would use the term "colored." It's 2008. How often do you, in your day-to-day life, hear that word? I can remember someone using it to me once in the last 20 years (and, oddly, it happened a few weeks ago, but it had nothing to do with Obama).


Look, I get it. Despite yahoos like the people quoted in the article, the polls look good for Obama right now. But with this kind of race-based nonsense floating in the ether, especially when the McCain campaign is all too happy to fan these flames whenever possible (like when a McCain staffer pushed the phony attack story of Ashley Todd to reporters), I can't feel entirely comfortable.


McCain and Palin have spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania, despite every poll showing Obama with a more-than-10-point lead. Why? Is it a suicide mission? It just may be. It may be that McCain has run out of viable options, so he is going for one of his now-patented Hail Mary plays and hoping it is more successful than the last two (choosing Palin and "suspending" his campaign to work on the financial crisis), which both backfired on him. But since we're talking about what keeps me up at night, what if race is the wild card that McCain is counting on in Pennsylvania? I'm not saying he's right (in fact, I don't think he is), but since I'm admittedly looking for doomsday scenarios, I can't help but think of this one.


And again, with the numbers fairly close on a state-to-state basis, it's easy to be afraid of one false inflammatory rumor taking hold in this final week and tipping the scales to McCain in too many states. It's not like there is any shortage of McCain robocalls or flyers trying to scare voters out of supporting Obama.


To be perfectly clear, it's not that I am predicting McCain will win the election. The logical side of my brain realizes that McCain's scare tactics have seemingly failed, and it is really hard to make a mathematical case right now that he has a real shot of winning. But as a lifelong Democrat who has seen my party lose winnable races, I can't help thinking about how things can go wrong this year. And these four factors are what keep me up at night. Let's hope I'm worrying for nothing.


Obama Dominates The New South

McCain Support Continues Downward Spiral | Obama Leads by 19 Among Those Who Have Already Voted


Barack Obama leads John McCain by a 52% to 36% margin in Pew’s latest nationwide survey of 1,325 registered voters. This is the fourth consecutive survey that has found support for the Republican candidate edging down. In contrast, since early October weekly Pew surveys have shown about the same number of respondents saying they back Obama. When the sample is narrowed to those most likely to vote, Obama leads by 53% to 38%.

A breakdown of voting intentions by demographic groups shows that since mid- September, McCain’s support has declined significantly across most voting blocs. Currently, McCain holds a statistically significant advantage only among white evangelical Protestants (aside from Republicans). In addition, Obama runs nearly even with McCain in the so-called red states, all of which George W. Bush won in 2004.

Just as ominous for the Republican candidate, Obama holds a 53% to 34% lead among the sizable minority of voters (15%) who say they have already voted. Among those who plan to vote early but have not yet voted (16% of voters), 56% support Obama, while 37% support McCain.

While Obama’s support levels have not increased much in recent weeks, a growing percentage of his backers now say they support him strongly. Currently, 74% of Obama voters say they support him strongly, up from 65% in mid-September. A much smaller majority of McCain backers (56%) say they support him strongly, which is largely unchanged from mid-September.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 23-26 among 1,500 adults interviewed on landline and cell phones, for the first time includes minor-party candidates Ralph Nader and Bob Barr. Few voters support either candidate, and their inclusion does not substantially affect the margins of support in the Obama-McCain race. 

The survey finds that the proportion of Americans who disapprove of Bush’s job performance has hit a new high in a Pew survey (70%); just 22% now approve of the way Bush is handling his job. Since January, when Bush’s job rating was already quite low, at 31%, his approval mark has declined by nine points.

As disapproval of President Bush’s job performance has edged upward, fewer voters say that McCain would take the country in a different direction from Bush’s. Currently, more voters say McCain would continue Bush’s policies than say he would take the country in a different direction (47% vs. 40%). Just a week ago (Oct. 16-19), voters were divided over whether McCain would continue Bush’s policies or not (44% continue, 45% take new direction).

Favorable ratings for the Republican Party, which rose sharply following the party’s convention in early September, have declined to about their previous levels. Currently, 50% say they have an unfavorable opinion of the GOP, while 40% express a favorable opinion of the party; in mid-September, about as many had a favorable opinion of the Republican Party as an unfavorable one (47% favorable vs. 46% unfavorable).

By contrast, a solid majority (57%) continues to express a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party, while 33% have an unfavorable impression. Majorities have expressed positive opinions of the Democratic Party for the past two years (since October 2006).

Obama-McCain Matchup

Coming out of the party conventions in September, Obama and McCain were running even. As the campaign enters the final stretch, Obama maintains a solid lead over McCain, with few significant changes since mid-October among key voter groups.

In mid-September (Sept. 9-14), McCain held significant advantages among those earning more than $75,000 a year, white evangelical Protestants, whites who have not completed college, and white men. Today, he maintains a significant advantage only among white evangelical voters, and has lost the lead or seen it shrink in most other categories.

For example, among voters earning $75,000 a year or more, McCain held a 53% to 39% advantage in the Sept. 9-14 survey. Now, Obama leads by 52% to 41%. After the conventions, McCain held a 52% to 38% edge among white voters. Today, he and Obama are running evenly at 44% each. In September, McCain held a 56% to 34% advantage among white respondents with some college education. Now, the candidates tally 46% each.

Meanwhile, the latest survey shows Obama continuing to dominate among his core support groups. Nearly seven-in-ten voters younger than 30 (68%) say they support the Illinois senator, compared to 24% who say they support McCain. Among women, Obama leads by 20 points (54% to 34%).

Fewer See McCain Taking ‘New Direction’

Since last spring, American voters have been divided over whether McCain would continue President Bush’s policies or take the country in a new direction, should the Republican nominee become president. In the current survey, however, a plurality of voters (47%) say the Republican nominee would continue Bush’s polices while four-in-ten say McCain would take the country in a new direction.

Independent voters have become substantially more likely to say McCain would continue Bush’s policies (37% in mid-October, 48% now) than to say he would take the country in a new direction (50% in mid-October, 38% now). By comparison, there have been no significant changes in opinion among Republican voters or Democratic voters: The vast majority of Republican voters (74%) say McCain would take the country in a different direction, while nearly as many Democratic voters (69%) say he would continue Bush’s policies.

Who Would the Candidates Favor?

Half of voters say that, if elected, McCain “would do too much for wealthy Americans.” Far fewer – just 17% – believe that Obama “would do too much for African Americans” if he is elected. These opinions are largely unchanged since mid-September.

Whites who have not completed college are more likely than white college graduates to say that Obama would do too much for blacks (24% vs. 8%). Nearly half of whites (46%) who have not finished college say that McCain would do too much for the wealthy.

Among all white voters, 19% say, if elected, Obama would do too much for blacks; roughly twice as many (39%) say that McCain, if he is elected, would do too much for the wealthy.



Who Are The Undecideds?


A week before the election, nearly one-in ten voters (8%) remain undecided in their choice for president and there is little to suggest that these voters will move strongly to one candidate or the other on election day.

When undecided voters are asked whether there is a chance they might vote for McCain or for Obama, only 14% indicate a preference for one candidate over the other (7% for McCain and 7% for Obama). More than three-quarters (78%) of the undecideds continue to express uncertainty: about three-in-ten (29%) say they might vote for either of the two candidates, while almost half (49%) say that they do not know if there’s a chance they might vote for either Obama or McCain. The remaining 8% say they will vote for neither candidate.

Undecided voters are less educated, less affluent, and somewhat more likely to be female than the average voter. Nearly half of undecided voters (48%) say they attend religious services at least weekly, which is same as the proportion of McCain supporters. Fewer Obama supporters (31%) say theyattend religious services at least once a week

On most issues, the positions held by undecided voters fall between those of Obama and McCain supporters, although they are somewhat more similar to McCain supporters on the issue of illegal immigration. Overall, these voters are more likely than supporters of either candidate to say they don’t have an opinion about most issues.

Undecided voters do clearly distinguish themselves from supporters of both McCain and Obama in their lower levels of participation and interest in this election, and partisan politics in general. A majority (51%) of undecideds do not identify with either the Republican or Democratic parties and fewer than half (48%) report having voted in the primaries this year; by contrast, 63% of both Obama and McCain supporters say they voted in a primary. 

Fewer than four-in-ten undecided voters (37%) say they are following news about the election very closely. By contrast, majorities of both Obama supporters (56%) and McCain supporters (55%) say they are tracking election news very closely.


ALERT!! Confusing North Carolina Ballot Leaves off Votes for President!!


Please contact ALL your friends and family in North Carolina and alert them to the confusing ballots with which some voters have already encountered difficulties, particularly among new voters and the elderly.  Voting the straight Democratic party ticket on the ballot DOES NOT include voting for the President!!


RALEIGH, N.C. — “I was sure I voted for president, but then a friend told me that a straight-party vote in North Carolina includes every office except president. That made me really mad,” Linda Chavis told OffTheBus.


Politically speaking, Chavis didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. She is a volunteer “crew chief” for the Obama campaign in Raleigh who did not notice the separation between the straight-party vote and the presidential vote on North Carolina’s poorly designed ballot in 2004. “I thought I voted against George W. Bush, but it turned out I didn’t vote for president at all. It’s an issue today because we’re still using the same confusing ballot,” said Chavis.


Chavis wasn’t the only dumbfounded voter in 2004. A Duke University researcher estimated that more than 90,000 people who voted in North Carolina inexplicably did not cast a vote for president. That’s 60,000 to 70,000 more than researchers would expect.


“One way to measure the impact of ballot design on voter confusion is the Residual Vote Rate. That’s the difference between the number of ballots cast and the number of valid votes for president cast,” said David C. Kimball, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In the last two presidential elections, the number of lost votes for president was “about twice as high in North Carolina as the national average,” Kimball told OffTheBus.


“I would guess that most — if not all — of this difference can be attributed to North Carolina’s confusing ballot,” said Lawrence Norden, an attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. In North Carolina, a straight-party vote counter-intuitively does not include a vote for president. Voters must make a separate mark under the Presidential Contest box.


On Election Day 2008, there will probably be more voters than there were in 2004, and many of them will be first-time voters. “I believe as many as 100,000 votes for president could be lost this time around,” Norden told OffTheBus.


This year’s butterfly ballot?


It is important that ballots are easy to understand. Remember what happened with the butterfly ballot in Florida? When just a couple of hundred votes (out of 5.8 million cast) separated George W. Bush and Al Gore?


The ballot design flaw disproportionately impacts three groups who are likely to be heavily represented in the election this year: new voters, the poor, and the elderly. On the internet, poll workers in the Tar Heel State have “twittered” for help in explaining the ballot on election day. Some less sympathetic bloggers have replied that if people can’t understand the ballot, they shouldn’t be voting.


“Elections are held to get instructions from the public, they are not literacy tests,” said Norden. “If something confuses people and it can easily be fixed, then it should be.”


Think of it this way. “Imagine if confusing road signs were causing traffic accidents. Sure, a few people might say, ‘What’s wrong with those new drivers, those elderly drivers — why can’t they figure out the signs?’ But before there were more fatalities, surely the government would replace the confusing signs with symbols that people can easily understand,” said Norden.


Early voting started a week ago, already there are problems


“We’ve already had reports that people don’t understand the ballot instructions,” a Democratic Campaign official in North Carolina told OffTheBus. Speaking off the record, he said that the Board of Elections is “supposed to be educating voters at the polls, but so far the results are uneven. The word’s not getting out consistently. Simply handing out a blue piece of paper isn’t all that effective.”


Adding to voter confusion, the GOP intends to challenge the legality of certain new voter registrations on Election Day, something they are already doing in Ohio. “This year I think we’re going to see more first-time voters — young people and minorities — than ever before, and as first-time voters, they are likely to be challenged,” sociologist Wayne Baker, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, told OffTheBus. Baker blogs the election at OurValues.org.


If two percent or more of North Carolina voters unknowingly “skip” the presidential contest, it may very well have an impact on the outcome. In 1992, George H.W. Bush narrowly defeated Bill Clinton in North Carolina by getting 43.34 percent of the vote versus 42.65 percent for Clinton. Polls indicate that this year the presidential race in North Carolina might be similarly close.


The Brennan Center recently rated North Carolina among the six best prepared states for voting system failures such as machine breakdowns and programming errors. The state’s preparedness for hardware and software problems improved dramatically after their touch-screen machines failed in Carteret County in 2004 and more than 4,000 votes were lost. “I’ve been telling less-prepared states they don’t want to become another North Carolina, waiting for a meltdown to improve their practices. And I don’t want North Carolina to be another North Carolina. I hope the ballot design flaw doesn’t throw the results of its presidential contest into doubt,” said Norden.


VotersUnite.org recommends that people in North Carolina avoidstraight-party voting.




A Voting System That Keeps it Real


Why don't we have a mandated, universal, one-size-fits-all voting standard for Presidential, House and Senate races (we'll get into the state and local at some later point)? Dumb question? "Stupid is as stupid does" -- the fact that voting laws differ from state to state is, simply put, a hot steamy mess. It attracts little logic that one state's set of election ordinances are stronger than a neighboring jurisdiction or that one county's voting machines are more secure than a similar county just because the former spent more money to snag a better machine. And, let's save some space to even begin talking about electronic voting machines; we should definitely get used to digital voting, but competing this out to various companies who refuse to open source the technology while building faulty machines is a bit shady and malfeasant. Why do legislators appear to avoid the real issue regarding the institution of ONE voting standard (electronic or not)? Why not create one standard and compel all states to use one universal method?


Well -- let's correctly assume that all voting will go electronic... what's the problem of every state and district using the same technology or the same standard in collecting ballots? And, why are we worried about collecting paper verifications when we don't even have a standard, yet?


The irony in this rib-split election is that Election Day is no longer the event we anxiously anticipate. It's the antiseptic of any patience, merely the deadline we await on the cracking nail-bite of polls, long primaries and early ballots.


Good news is that the latter is a probable savior of a functioning modern democracy possibly gone defunct. As that "Supreme Being" In [Which] We Trust only knows how much we need it. Yet, you wouldn't know that judging from the daily lactose of pop culture interference. Still, as of 2008, more than the usual number of Americans appear eager to -- for a change -- actually exercise their basic constitutional right. On the real, it didn't help global image when your boy with the 23rd letter in the alphabet is "spreading democracy" on an anti-terror rant, yet barely half of us are voting back home. Obviously, that defied any real sense while offending many reasoned sensibilities. We're now finding the enthusiasm a bit infectious this cycle.


With the early voting thing now the flavor of the month, folks who would have found innumerable reasons to stay home, go straight to work or fake a sick day now have little excuse. Once November 4th passes and winners are picked, the big question is whether or not we'll do something with or about this newfound energy. With much discussion, probing and furious legal wrangling over voter fraud and ballot machine insecurity, there is quite a bit of justifiable concern when the actual foundation is found cracking.


Call the cynics crazy and the naysayers paranoid all you want: blatant ignorance to fundamental flaws in the voting system is straight political suicide.


At this stage, a week to go before D-Day, Republicans cry nasty foul over their perception of a "stolen election," the hypocrisy of which stinks more than halitosis. Lawsuits are being filed, some stretching legal writ; and there is some very shaky notion that while the financial markets disintegrate, average voters actually care about an grassroots group named after a oak tree nut. Recent Republican victimology is a rather peculiar concept given the party's longstanding relationship with bootstraps and simply "sucking it up." But, we all know how the game gets switched up from time to time, so there is nothing surprising in the final analysis. Still, a stronger point is made amid the shattered hopes of GOP hacks and circular firing squads: our celebrated system is actually quite vulnerable, from hanging chads to imbalanced Supreme Court decisions.


Should we begin looking into compulsory voting? Australia does it -- they might have boring elections compared to the soap-opera drama we dig back here, but at least everybody is participating. They also open-source their voting technology, rather than bid contracts to companies who want to keep it proprietary. Sure: compulsory voting is not democratic, one can easily say. But, there is no guarantee that we'll get back-to-back energetic Presidential elections like this one where the vast majority of eligible voters are fired up and those unregistered feel like teenage groupies who can't get tickets to a Lil Wayne concert. So, how democratic is it when we go back to a minority of eligible voters deciding the fate of everybody? Non-participation is just as un-democratic as being fined for not going to the polls. Again, just keeping it real and simple. If we made it compulsory, we can create exemptions, too, for those who won't vote due to religion or conscientious objection.


And while we complain about kids who don't know the difference between "a House and a Senate" or can't tell us the name of the last President, we're doing little to simply mandate civics education from pre-K to 12th grade. Let's not talk about the virtues of the occasional social studies class -- forget that. Let's discuss and then legislate rigorous standards making civics as necessary as immunizations. Seriously: we need to bring School House Rock back with a passion. Starting as early as elementary school, students shouldn't pass any grade without a basic grasp of how government works. High school seniors should not be able to graduate without a firm grip on such fundamentals as how a bill becomes law and how campaigns work. Colleges shouldn't admit without passing a basic test that is either as standard as the SAT or fully integrated into it. Stop telling kids to "rock the vote" as if all they need to do is fill out a registration form at a local hip-hop concert. Bring it full circle, keep it correct and start teaching future generations about the process and the system beyond the vote. What occurs as bills are moved through Capitol Hill committee hearings is more important than making sure some backpacking college freshman checks off their party affiliation.


True that many intellectuals are already bantering about how to either fix, modify or banish the Electoral College -- that's the first item raised in any coffee house exchange on what's wrong with American voting. But, why talk about the EC when we're having issues with the dumb stuff, like submitting a ballot? Hence, discourse on what's wrong with our voting system and how we fix it is as critical as the post-mortem horse race analysis we'll all pimp endlessly into 2009.


Now, if bets are placed on the assumption of such a national conversation taking place any time soon, don't waste your breath. Politics is now a multi-billion dollar hustle and the players have a vested interest in keeping the wool over our collective eyes. We need to circumvent that action. Vigorously revisiting holes in the foundation might feel stupid and somewhat embarrassing, but what could transpire following that conversation is a healthy thing. In fact, it might actually save our national life.


Camps Lawyer Up For High-Pressure Election Day | Record Registration Meets Unprecedented Legal Blitz In Battle To Determine Which Votes Count

by Eliza Newlin Carney


As the election enters its home stretch, lawyers and activists are organizing in unprecedented numbers to field questions from voters, watch for problems at the polls and brush up for a possible day in court.


This could prove both a blessing and a curse in an election that's been defined by increasingly bitter battles over who's really eligible to vote.


On the plus side, the growing cottage industry of voter protection advocates can guide voters through the often tangled process of finding the right polling place, bringing the right ID, and coping with long lines or voting machine snafus.


Increasingly, election litigation is becoming inevitable.


Given the record numbers of Americans who've signed up to cast ballots for the first time this year, those voters could use all the help they can get. Election Protection, a coalition of more than 100 national public interest and civil rights groups run by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, is already fielding up to 4,000 calls per day on its 1-866-OUR-VOTE hot line.


The downside is that too much oversight, particularly from law enforcement officials, could intimidate voters and increase pressure on already overextended election workers. The worst-case scenario, of course, is a contested election à la Florida 2000 that throws the outcome into the hands of the federal courts.


At this stage, poll numbers appear to point away from a squeaker election, lessening the threat of a make-or-break legal challenge. Still, some experts see recent GOP attacks on the community activist group ACORN as a strategy to lay the groundwork for a court fight. Republican nominee John McCain's warnings of widespread voter fraud by ACORN have been coupled with multiple lawsuits by GOP state officials challenging voter rolls.


"Playing up ACORN, playing up the potential for voter fraud by the McCain campaign and by the [Republican National Committee], lays the groundwork for an election challenge in the unlikely event that the election [is] very close," saidRichard L. Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.


On the flip side, Democratic nominee Barack Obama has assembled the party's largest-ever team of lawyers. The campaign has reportedly put together a multimillion-dollar program that deploys thousands of lawyers to oversee the election at the state and local level.


In Florida alone, state Democratic Party counsel Charles H. Lichtman has marshaled a team of 5,000 lawyers, law students and paralegals to work inside and outside polling stations on Election Day. The goal is not to prepare for litigation, Lichtman said, but to help voters navigate the practical mechanics of voting, from machines to IDs, polling places and questions about voter lists.


"The American public does not want to see litigation related to elections," said Lichtman, a partner with the Florida law firm of Berger Singerman, who ran Al Gore's recount operation for Broward County in 2000. "And by and large, history has shown that it's not hugely successful in any event."


Increasingly, though, election litigation is becoming inevitable. As Hasen noted in a recent FindLaw commentary, the number of election cases has gone up from an average of 96 before 2000 to about 230 cases a year since then.


The use of provisional ballots may also boost the risk of a legal tussle. TheHelp America Vote Act of 2002 requires election officials to offer provisional ballots to voters whose registration is in question. The surge in new voters, coupled with voter roll problems and controversies, make such questions more likely this year. But rules for counting provisional ballots vary from state to state, and their use tends to encourage lawsuits. "If you have provisional ballots, it increases the margin of litigation," said Daniel Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University.


Both Democrats and civil rights advocates also warn that federal oversight may go too far. Obama lawyer Bob Bauer has written repeatedly to Attorney General Michael Mukaseymost recently to express concern that GOP pressure might improperly involve the Justice Department in the election. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, joined with other GOP members of the Ohio congressional delegation in an Oct. 20 letter to asking Mukasey to intervene in a dispute over the accuracy of state voter lists. President Bush also weighed in on Oct. 24 at Boehner's request, asking Mukasey to look into the matter.


The FBI has reportedly launched an investigation into voter fraud allegations at ACORN -- prompting complaints from Democrats that the probe itself was improperly leaked. Bauer recently told reporters in a conference call that "we have had clear-cut attempts by the part of Republican elected officials to manipulate and pressure the Justice Department."


After a meeting with Mukasey earlier this year, civil rights leaders similarly discouraged the attorney general from following through on plans to send federal prosecutors to monitor the polls, warning that it could intimidate voters.


At their best, voter protection efforts educate voters, trouble-shoot problems and help overburdened poll workers keep the lines moving on Election Day. The trick for both lawyers and advocates will be to constructively help voters without disrupting the election.  Noted Doug Chapin, director of Electionline.org, in a recent briefing with reporters: "Any attention to the process is a good thing -- as long as people aren't getting in the way of the process."