Monday, January 24, 2005

Slash and burn

Hand out leaflets? Yes. Put up yard signs? Yes. Get out the vote? Yes. Cut the opposing side's tires to try to limit turnout? No.

The Milwaukee County district attorney charged five Wisconsin Democrats today with criminal property damage, The Associated Press reports. The charges stem from an incident in which someone slashed the tires of 25 vans that the Republican Party rented to carry voters to the polls on Election Day. If the five are convicted of the felony, they could face penalties up to a $10,000 fine and three and a half years behind bars.

In my book, voter suppression and deception are two of the most despicable things anyone can do. Unfortunately, members of both of this country's major political parties have engaged in it in the past. This incident, if prosecutors prove their case, would rank as another sad example of just how low people are willing to go to try to get their candidate elected.

The Wisconsin Five are entitled to the presumption of innocence that our system affords them, but if they're convicted, they'll deserve whatever sentence is imposed. No one has the right to try to prevent registered voters from exercising their rights.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with all of this. But I think that some of the "Republicans vote on Tuesday, Democrats vote on Wednesday" signs that went up in Ohio are much more sinister. But it's all despicable.


12:00 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

I think any form of vote disenfrachisement is wrong, regardless or how severe or how subtle. In fact, because the Democrat party has been so slow to introduce any sort of vote-verification legislation since 2000 makes me tend to believe they have their own skeletons in their closet, including the surprise nomination of John Kerry over Howard Dean in the primaries. But hey, that's just my own bullshit detector going off.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

WN, I'm with you. That was one of those classic "there oughta be a law" situations that just turned your stomach. For all I know, of course, there might actually be a law, but even so, I doubt they'd ever nail down the perpetrators.

Jen, I've also long been suspicious of Kerry's last-minute emergence to overtake Dean in Iowa. The fact that Iowa has not a primary but a caucus system, where all of your neighbors and coworkers get to see exactly how you vote and actively try to persuade you to change your mind, doesn't help matters. It's easy to see how the threat of, say, a withheld bonus or an exposed affair might motivate someone to go stand in another candidate's corner.

Your detector may be on to something.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WN, I'd like to see these signs which told Dems to "Vote on Wednesday." do you have a link to them? (I'm not saying that I don't believe you, but I do want to see documented evidence of them.) More importantly, I want to see the chumps that fell for it. Anyone with one iota of political knowledge could see the signs as a joke, and anyone who can't probably shouldn't vote in the first place.

And sure, you could probably come back with "the elderly might see it and believe it," but even they would have family members or staff members at the nursing home that could tell them it's not true, or perhaps even that "liberal media" could help out. But if the elderly voters did not have any of those groups helping them, and they didn't comprehend that the signs are ridiculous, do we really want them voting? I want any voter, no matter their age, to have some political sense and have some knowledge of whom they are voting for. If they do not, then they should not vote.


3:40 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

J.B.G., what you "want" in a voter is irrelevant. All registered voters have a right to go to the polls and make their voices heard through their votes, regardless of whether you think they have "some political sense" or "one iota of political knowledge." I agree that in an ideal world, everyone would be fully informed about all issues and all candidates and choose accordingly. But that ideal world isn't to be found on this planet.

Your condescension about the voters confused by those fliers is completely unwarranted. If you'd spend a minute or two on Google instead of demanding that others bear the burden of proof, you'd find that the letters in question were printed on stationery designed to emulate official county letterhead. As the criminal investigation indicates, that goes far beyond the level of an obvious joke that only "chumps" would believe. A slight correction to WN's recollection: the fliers were mailed to voters in Pennsylvania, not in Ohio.

The entire Washington Post story above is worth a read if you feel like getting really sad about how pervasive and sophisticated these voter suppression campaigns have become.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry about the error - I knew the fliers were in one of them there northern states.

But, yeah, sorry to hear that you feel that way, JBG. Maybe if you lived in Hale County, maybe if you saw the elites trying to take advantage of the poor and ill-informed day in and day out, maybe if you had the same sense of outrage like I do - maybe you'd feel differently.


10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Alabamian, you say that my opinion on the fliers is unwarranted, but I opined about fliers. As WN had originally claimed, they were signs, and I said those who had fallen for the signs were chumps.

But the ones that made these fliers should indeed be punished, and I can't fault those who fell for something that was carefully made to look authentic. The same does not go for CBS and their infamous Bush memo, however, as they had the manpower, the resources and the time to look into its authenticity before making a decision.

Why would I have to research your viewpoint and find something that supports it? Does the defense team defending an accused murderer have to search for evidence that supports the prosecution's stance? If someone makes a claim, they need to present the supporting evidence, not me.

"I want any voter, no matter their age, to have some political sense and have some knowledge of whom they are voting for. If they do not, then they should not vote."

There's nothing wrong with me wanting voters to be somewhat informed. I didn't suggest we test voters to see if they can pass Poli. Sci. 101 and deny voters the right to vote if they can't. (Heck, I'm sure most states let the illiterate vote if they can make their X). But if you fall for something that's obviously fake (i.e. the signs that never existed but were discussed in the earlier post), then I won't shed a tear for you if you fall for them. Same goes for those infamous butterfly ballots. If you're confused at the polls, ask a poll worker. If you mess up, get another ballot. It's kind of like not putting your name on your exam answer sheet. If you get a zero because you forgot to, then it's your own fault.

The only person who should keep you from voting is you. If you are an uninformed voter, I hope you would not vote in the election, or at least not vote in races you know nothing about.

It does matter what I want. "What people want" is what our country is founded on. Democracy. That's what it's all about. Granted, some of the things people want are unreasonable or unattainable, but I think we can want a few things that would make this world a better place.

Isn't what we want the basis of all opinion? Does that make every viewpoint on your blog irrelevant?

"You may want Bush to handle some things differently, but what you want Bush to do is irrelevant, because he was elected and he has the right to run this country the way he wants." Now how ridiculous what that sound if I said that and meant it?

And saying that some quality can only be found in a "perfect world" is such a pessimistic idea. Just because it would exist in a perfect world - does that mean we can't try to put it in our world?


On a somewhat related note, I still wonder why Dean was pushed aside for Kerry. From what I could tell, Dean's only fault was his enthusiastic "Yahhh!" while Kerry was tagged a "flip-flopper." Which is the better horse to bet on? With hindsight being 20/20 or better, I'd say Dean was the better horse.


11:19 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

You can want uninformed voters to stay home all you'd like. Heck, I'd prefer if they did, too. But the bottom line is that if they opt not to, then none of us have the right to tell them that they can't vote.

Voting is fundamental to our entire system of government, and it should be the easiest thing in the world for someone to do. You might not have sympathy for the elderly voter who can't read the butterfly ballot, but I do. There's no reason to make people jump through unnecessary hoops to vote, and there's no reason to impugn their intelligence if they're confused by an unfamiliar process.

You're looking at these situations from the perspective of a college graduate, but you have to remember that not everyone in life is fortunate enough to get that kind of education. Something you can spot as an obvious fraud might confuse someone who isn't as savvy or knowledgeable about the electoral process. Anyone who tries to manipulate a poor or uneducated person into not voting, no matter how crude or obvious the techniques might look to you, is scum and should be treated as such.

Your CBS memo reference was irrelevant to the issue at hand, but you should know by now that the scandal was blown well out of proportion. The memos themselves were almost certainly fake, but military records independently corroborate many of the substantive allegations in the CBS story. Salon's Eric Boehlert did a bang-up job of digging for the truth back in September. (Watch the brief ad to get a free day pass. It's worth the time.)

I suspect Dean might have had a better chance than Kerry -- he certainly had a clearer position on the Iraq war -- but Republicans would have launched their typical "paint him as a wild-eyed liberal" attack against anyone the Democrats nominated, so it's unclear if he could have won. Still, it's always entertaining to play the "what if" game.

12:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I can compare simular situations and you call my argument "irrelevant," yet you can compare one of my political standpoints to NCAA football (and a flawed comparison at that)?

Both the "Vote on Wednesday"fliers and the Bush memo were forgeries that fooled some people. I think they are similar enough to compare.

Is a butterfly ballot an "unnecessary hoop" for voters to jump through? I wouldn't go that far. Confusing, maybe, but not a "hoop." Doesn't a bipartisan group usually set the standards for these elections anyway? I mean, every election has to have rules and standards that say what kind of ballots are used, how the names are aligned on the ballot (alphabetical by party, alphabetical by last name, etc.), and I don't think either party tries to select a ballot that will fool the other party more than their own voters will be fooled.

I think if someone that was confused by that ballot asked a poll worker, I would bet that poll worker would say, "Yeah, it's a bad design," and point out how to effectively vote. If you're confused, mess up the ballot, and drop it in the box anyway, you can only blame yourself if your vote doesn't count the way it should. If you do ask a poll worker for help and get told the wrong instructions, then I do think it unfair if it were counted wrong.

The ballot was flawed, but like anything in life, you usually have little problem if you read the instructions. If that fails, ask an expert.

Common sense isn't taught in college. It isn't taught in high school. It's taught by real-life experience, and even those without post-secondary experience have it. If I wasn't college educated and a senior citizen, if I've voted for years on the first Tuesday in November and something comes along and tells me otherwise, I'm going to ask someone about it. Asking about an odd occurrence is common sense in my book.

The persons who forged the "Wednesday" documents are indeed scum, but I still expect even those with a lower education level than myself to use a little common sense.

Onto the CBS memo. It's great that someone from Salon dug up the truth (I'm guessing later in September after the CBS snafu), but that's irrelevant because he didn't work for CBS. Even if most of the memo was true, CBS said the memo was the truth and it wasn't. A half truth is still a lie. I'll give CBS the benefit of the doubt and say the memo story wasn't out of malice, but any news organization should carefully scrutinize any questionable "evidence" that comes their way from a source that may have an interest in the outcome.


12:02 AM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Your concept of "common sense" in voting is based on your knowledge of the electoral process, which you gained from your education and your voting experience. Many undereducated people and first-time voters don't have those things to guide them.

And yes, I would classify a butterfly ballot as an unnecessary hoop. Voters shouldn't have to ask for help to vote when a clearer ballot design would allow them to vote on their own without feeling like a lesser person for not being able to understand a confusing ballot with which they saw everyone around them having no problem.

Voting should be the easiest thing in the world for someone to do, and I don't care if bipartisan rules and regulations stack the deck equally against people on both sides. I want that deck unstacked for everyone.

The CBS memo analogy was flawed because some of the factual assertions in those fake documents were apparently true, whereas the factual assertions in the Pennsylvania mailings were not. Also, thanks to overuse, "CBS memos" may soon be a phrase that spawns its own version of Godwin's Law in the blogosphere. I have to do my part to prevent that from happening. :-)

3:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You got to work with the material you're given. That's the mantra of the comedian, and that's what I feel about these butterfly ballots.

Yes, the bipartisan committee should have picked an easier ballot, but they didn't. The voters have to vote on the ballot they're given.

My teachers always said that the dumbest question is the one unasked. Asking questions when you are confused is just a part of life. No one should feel like a lesser person for asking for help on an obviously confusing ballot, and if they do, that's their problem. Asking that dumb question when you don't know the answer may be one of those "hoops" in life, but you have to get over it, else you're likely to not get very far in life.

To counter your argument on why my analogy was flawed, the Pennsylvania mailings did make at least one true factual assertion: "immense voter turnout" was "expected on Tuesday." (Even the best lies have some basis in truth.) And I'm jokingly pointing this out and not really using it as my main argument.

An analogy is "similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar." They were both authentic-looking documents and people fell for both of them. They're alike in these two major ways, but you say they're not comparable?

One contained more truth than the other, but I didn't compare them that way myself. I simply compared them to what they both were: forgeries. It doesn't matter how much truth is in a forgery: A forgery is a forgery.


3:21 AM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

So the thread comes to an end with a fundamental disagreement: You believe that whatever election officials decide to do about ballots, voters should just have to "get over it," whereas I think election officials should bend over backwards to serve their constituents and stamp out any ambiguity that may exist in the system.

I'm fine with wanting people to learn to overcome their fear and discomfort and ask tough questions; I want the same thing. I just don't want the voting booth to be the place where they have to learn to do that.

And yes, a fraud is a fraud, but I have to do my part to stop "CBS memos" from becoming a hackneyed talking point, which, independent of your comments, it is becoming. Quite honestly, there are bigger lies and bigger fish to fry out there, and I'm tired of hearing about them.

7:45 AM  

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