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John Fund's Political Diary
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good, good, good stuff, except when Fund writes the U.S. is "our democracy."  He knows better, as he said during an interview on CNN, the United States is a republic.
 


Democracy Imperiled
America’s election problems.

By John Fund

EDITOR'S NOTE:This is the introduction of John Fund's new book, Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, released today from Encounter Books.

Our nation may be on the brink of repeating the 2000 Florida election debacle, but this time in several states, with allegations of voter fraud, intimidation and manipulation of voting machines added to the generalized chaos that sent our last presidential contest into overtime. There is still time to reduce the chance of another electoral meltdown, both this year and in future years. But this will not happen unless we acknowledge that the United States has a haphazard, fraud-prone election system befitting an emerging Third World country rather than the world's leading democracy. ..

 

Thursday, April 13, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

Voter fraud in Pennsylvania? Gov. Rendell isn't worried.

BY JOHN FUND

ELECTION 2000

Midnight Oil
How they make decisions in Palm Beach County.

Tuesday, November 14, 2000 12:01 a.m. EST

The following is an excerpt taken from CNN's Breaking News of the Palm Beach County press conference 2 a.m. Sunday. Click here to read a related editorial.

Judge Charles Burton (Chair, Palm Beach County Canvassing Board): Can I inquire of the Department of Elections? Assuming this board were to request an advisory opinion--

Carol Roberts (Palm Beach County Canvassing Board): Excuse me, Mr. Chair--

Burton: Hold on.

Roberts: --but I made the motion and--

Burton: All right, we will vote on it in a moment.

Roberts: Excuse me, but the gentleman said we should be following the laws of the state of Florida. These are the election laws of the state of Florida. And under Chapter 102, I think it's Chapter--it's 102.166. It's under paren. D. Sorry, it's--sorry, it's paren. five. If the manual recount indicates an error in the tabulation which could affect the outcome of the election, the County Canvassing Board shall--this is the law--correct the error and recount the remaining precincts with a vote tabulation system.

That's A. B, request the Department of State to verify the software or manually recount all ballots. Under existing state law, I do not feel that we need to have an opinion to tell us what state law is. The law is very clear. I also believe, Mr. Chair, that we've heard enough people. I really want to call the vote. I have the right to call the vote. And if you'd like to take a vote on calling the vote, I'll make that.

Burton: All right. Thank you, Commissioner. The Chair would like to recognize one other person from the Department of Elections. Your name, please.

Carrie Carpenter (Assistant General Counsel for the Department of State): My name is Carrie Carpenter and I'm Assistant General Counsel for the Department of State and I believe that the Department could be helpful in providing assistance with interpreting the statute that was just read.

The Department is authorized under the elections code to provide advisory--formal advisory opinions on the election laws of the state of Florida. And does so, regularly, whenever the interpretation of a statute is questioned or in doubt, or perhaps if there may be more than one interpretation of a statute. For example, in this particular statute that was just read which reads, "if the manual recount indicates an error in the vote tabulation which could affect the outcome of the election, the County Canvassing Board shall . . ." and then it lists three things. However, you really don't get to those three options unless that criteria has been satisfied. And an interpretation of that could be helpful because it is my understanding that it is the Department's position that when a manual recount for the entire county is done, it is because the manual recount of the one percent demonstrated some type of error in the equipment, in the machines that were used. And if what this board found today was not an error of that type, but, instead, was an error of voter--of voter error. For example, if a voter did not push a chad completely through, or a voter did some other type of voting error by not following voting instructions and that caused the machine not to properly read the ballot. That is not the type of error that can be attributed to an error with a machine. And, therefore, that would not be a vote tabulation error that would affect the outcome. It would be a voter error that may affect the outcome. And so I believe that we can provide assistance in giving an interpretation, a formal advisory opinion to this board.

Burton: And just one other quick question. Quick question.

Roberts: I'd like to answer--

Burton: One quick question.

Roberts: I'd like to answer her--

Burton: Please. Assuming we were to ask for an opinion, when could we receive it?

Carpenter: You could receive it tomorrow.

Burton: All right.

Roberts: Mr. Chair, I was--I was--I was involved in a recount that produced the immediate past senator of the state of Florida. It was the Mac McKay recount. At no time did anyone ever have the allegation that there was anything wrong with the machines. There was a hand manual recount because I was part of that. And that hand manual recount was actually asked for for the same reasons that I am asking for this now. And I believe based on that, and I will tell you that this is not--that was not the only manual hand recount that I have been involved with. I was involved with a manual hand recount of a state representative's race. It was also asked for. Not because there was any question about the machine tabulations, but because there was a question about the error in the actual count. And I still would like to call the vote. I would like to call the vote.

 
JOHN FUND'S POLITICAL DIARY
It's Not an African Country
Will "chads" really choose the president?

Monday, November 13, 2000 2:15 a.m. EST

No, the sparsely populated country just south of Libya has not all of a sudden started making news. Rather, the talk about different types of "chad" is at the center of the current vote count firestorm in Florida, and how it's handled will probably determine who the next president is.

A chad is the small perforated portion of a paper ballot that voters use a stylus to punch out and thus indicate their choice of candidate. But not all chads are created equal. If a chad is punched completely out, a computer registers a vote. But many voters don't vote for every office, either because they don't know about any of the candidates or are disgusted with all of them. In a very few cases, the stylus doesn't completely punch through and the little pieces of chad stay stuck to the ballots. In some cases machines can't read them.

As ABC News points out, there are about a half dozen different types of chads. There is the "pregnant chad," the "dimpled chad," the "tri chad" (with three corners hanging loose from the ballot), the "swinging-door chad" (two corners) and the "hanging-door chad" (one corner). Chad shouldn't really exist in this country because for at least 25 years optical scanners have been available to count votes. A voter fills in an oval with a lead pencil, takes it to a scanner which then shows any problems with how the ballot was filled out. Some new machines allow the voter to carry home a copy of how he voted.

In Leon County, Florida (Tallahassee), optical scanners worked like a charm this year. A machine recount of all county ballots this week resulted in not a single change to any vote total. Unfortunately, only about 7% of the country uses such scanners. A full 37% of all voters are stuck with punch cards and chads, technology decades old and prone to problems. Some counties keep punch cards because new voting technology takes a back seat to other budget priorities, although perhaps the current crisis will change that shortsighted attitude.

Make no mistake about it. A recount of punch card ballots can be one of the most grueling, subjective and confrontational events in politics. The problem, ballot experts say, is that trying to divine a voter's intentions on a secret ballot is often inherently subjective. As former Sen. Alan Simpson told us, "Some counties use the 'sunshine test' to see if sun will shine through the ballot chad indicating it's loose. Others will go on about how many dangled and how many are hung, how many got pimpled or pregnant or gave birth."

Another problem comes from "ballot fatigue." The more that punch-card ballots are handled, even carefully, the more votes you will get, and the greater the chance of changing an election outcome. The mere act of running punch-card ballots through a computer will loosen some chads. Picking up a card from a pile and sliding it toward you can loosen a chad. Cup the ballot in a hand and a chad can pop out. If the fragile ballots are "tortured" enough by machine or hand a desired result can often be achieved.

In Florida, the three-member Palm Beach canvassing commission has no clear standards set in state law on how they will conduct a recount of punch-card ballots. The two Democrats changed their mind twice on what standard to use in the sample recount of four precincts done on Saturday. In the morning, they indicated a ballot would be valid of only one corner was detached from the card. Then they decided to go with a "sunlight" test, in which ballots were held up to the light. Midway through the count, the standard was liberalized and they discontinued the "sunlight" test and went back to the one-corner standard. The new standard required them to go back and recount all the ballots they had just ruled on.

In the end, this shifting standard produced enough changes in vote totals to prompt a 2-1 vote in favor of a countywide recount that will begin Monday. At the speed the sample recount went, it would take Palm Beach County workers 37 days working 24 hours a day to complete the task.

None of the problems associated with recounts prove that election bureaucracies tilt toward one party or candidate. But election workers are often underpaid and overworked as well as unfamiliar with all the mechanics of a recount. They are often no match for sharp, aggressive lawyers who can make their life miserable if they don't bend in their direction on interpreting ballots. Arnold Steinberg, a GOP pollster in California, recalls a 1980 election that turned into a nighmare. Democratic Rep. James Corman, heir apparent to take over the House Ways and Means Committee, had been defeated by Republican Bobbi Fiedler, and Democrats wanted the seat back.

"The other side can send observers and lawyers who filibuster and wear both you and the vote counters down," he recalls. "We had grown-women observers cry from the abuse, and lawyers for the other candidate even refused to halt the counting to let them go to the bathroom."

Even though representatives of the candidates weren't allowed to touch the ballots, they often did anyway. "They would eyeball a ballot without any chads for that office missing and pick it up vigorously in hopes they could make it pop out," says Tom Bartman, a lawyer who worked on the recount with Mr. Steinberg. Ultimately, the Democrats halted the recount when it became clear Ms. Fiedler's 749-vote margin of victory was insurmountable.

As a young journalist, I too witnessed a disastrous recount in California in the 1980s. A state Assembly seat near Stockton went to Republican Adrian Fondse by 39 votes. A first recount narrowed the margin but still left Mr. Fondse the winner. He was sworn into office a month after the election. But then a second "hand" recount began. Democrats sent in the same tough team of lawyers that had handled the Corman-Fiedler recount. They were equally obnoxious and aggressive, with the difference that the number of votes they had to make up were much smaller. After more than a week of trench warfare and intimidation of election workers, the adjusted recount gave the election to Democrat Pat Johnston. Mr. Fondse was removed. He cleaned out his office, and Mr. Johnston moved in.

No party has a monopoly on bad behavior when it comes to recounts. In 1995 Indiana's GOP state legislators ran roughshod over the rights of a Democrat who had knocked off a GOP incumbent. They ended up not seating her and ruled enough ballots invalid to install her opponent in office. But Sean Cavanagh, a Democratic commissioner in Fayette County, Pa., says Democrats seem to be naturally born to fight longer and harder over contested races.

That kind of combat often works in reversing narrow election losses in recounts for lower offices. But in the case of Florida deciding who the next president is, such hardball tactics will likely both educate and irritate a weary public. "I say there are three things that people should never see being made," says former Sen. Simpson. "Laws, sausages and recounts." We're all about to see how ugly the recounting factory of Palm Beach is going to get.

JOHN FUND'S POLITICAL DIARY

Sunday, November 12, 2000
A Blatant Conflict of Interest
Theresa LePore should recuse herself from the Palm Beach vote-count process. A Blatant Conflict of InterestWall Street Journal


A Blatant Conflict of Interest
JOHN FUND'S POLITICAL DIARY
Drudge link

JOHN FUND'S POLITICAL DIARY

A Disputed Election
Now more than ever the nation depends on the rule of law.
Wednesday, November 8, 2000
There are already contentious issues piling up around Florida's vote count, which shows Mr. Bush with a 1,784-vote lead over Mr. Gore. In Palm Beach County, there are claims that faulty punch-card ballots caused 2,000 voters to vote for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore. Early this morning, election workers in Dade County were called back to recount absentee ballots in 27 precincts. Clay Roberts of the Florida Elections Division says that Broward County was still tabulating "late" absentee ballots--but he didn't know how many. Republicans charge that foreign residents awaiting naturalization were allowed to vote in Broward County even though they hadn't yet become citizens. The Voting Integrity Project, a nonpartisan watchdog group, says that Florida was a "hot spot" of allegations of voter fraud and irregularities on Tuesday. The group is preparing a report which it will submit to Florida's secretary of state.

THINGS CHANGED RAPIDLY, ONLY 300 CERTIFIED BY THE STATE VOTES OBTAINED BY A RECOUNT OF THE ENTIRE STATE AS OF NOVEMBER 15, 2000 PLACE GEORGE W. BUSH (who has a fabulous Spaniel named Scotty who loves to have a ball tossed to him) IN THE LEAD IN FLORIDA.

JOHN FUND'S POLITICAL DIARY
The People Have Spoken
Will Gore listen?
Friday, November 10, 2000
The "butterfly" ballot is used so the elderly will have a larger typeface. And there were real efforts made to educate voters on how the ballot worked. The county mailed a sample ballot to all registered voters. The local Democratic Party sent voters a postcard reminding them to punch the right line for Mr. Gore. At the polls, people were given the ballot only after they said they knew how to use it. Voters who made mistakes were given new punch cards if they asked for one.

Friday, November 10, 2000 JOHN FUND'S POLITICAL DIARY

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