Monday, August 30, 2004

No Such Number / No Such Zone 

Not long ago we read an entry from "Murfmom," a Daily Kos diarist who was planning to vote by absentee ballot in Miami-Dade County, FL. The ballot instructions said -- in English, Spanish, and Creole -- "You will need to affix a 37 [cent] postage stamp if mailed within the United States." At the local P.O., however, Murfmom was told that the actual cost of mailing the oversized ballot envelope was 49 cents. An envelope bearing a single first-class stamp might thus be returned as undeliverable due to insufficient postage -- too late, perhaps to be remailed before the voting deadline.

Smelling a swamp rat, Murfmom immediately fired off a string of inquiries to the relevant authorities, and was eventually told that the Post Office delivers all absentee ballots -- even the ones that are short on stamps -- to the Miami-Dade elections office, which then picks up the cost of any outstanding postage.

We'd thought about linking to the story, but decided against it because the situation had been resolved and the explanation seemed reasonable enough. After all, we like to imagine that people are basically good, and that even in Florida there must be a handful of decent, honest election officials who are simply trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities, and do not, therefore, require constant monitoring.

What corn-fed saps we are. From Greg Palast:
On Friday, Theresa LePore, Supervisor of Elections in Palm Beach, candidate for re-election as Supervisor of Elections, chose to supervise her own election, no one allowed. This Tuesday, Florida votes for these nominally non-partisan posts.

You remember Theresa, "Madame Butterfly," the one whose ballots brought in the big vote for Pat Buchanan in the Jewish precincts in November 2000. Then she failed to do the hand count that would have changed the White House from Red to Blue.

This time, Theresa's in a hurry to get to the counting. She began tallying absentee ballots on Friday in her own re-election race. Not to worry: the law requires the Supervisor of Elections in each county to certify poll-watchers to observe the count.

But Theresa has a better idea. She refused to certify a single poll-watcher from opponents' organizations despite the legal requirement she do so by last week. She'll count her own votes herself, thank you very much!

And so far, she's doing quite well. Although 37,000 citizens have requested absentee ballots, she says she'd only received 22,000 when she began the count. Where are the others? Don't ask: though she posts the names of requesters, she won't release the list of those who have voted, an eyebrow-raising deviation from standard procedure.

And she has no intention of counting all the ballots received. She has reserved for herself the right to determine which ballots have acceptable signatures. Her opponent, Democrat Art Anderson, had asked Theresa to use certified hand-writing experts, instead of her hand-picked hacks, to check the signatures.

Unfortunately, while Federal law requires Theresa to allow a voter to correct a signature rejection when registering, the Feds don't require her to permit challenges to absentee ballot rejections.

I know what you're thinking. How could Madame Butterfly know how people are voting? Well, she's printed PARTY AFFILIATION on the OUTSIDE of each return envelope. That certainly makes it easier to figure out which ballot is valid, don't it?

And dear Reader, please take note of the implications of this story for the big vote in November. Millions have sought refuge in absentee ballots as a method to avoid the dangers of the digitizing of democracy. Florida and other states are reporting 400%-plus increases in absentee ballot requests due to fear of the new computer voting machinery. Some refuge. LePore is giving us an early taste of how the Bush Leaguers intend to care for your absentee ballot.
Do you recall November and December of 2000, when Team Bush got such great mileage out of the fact that the notorious butterfly ballots that cost Al Gore thousands of votes had been designed and approved by a (nominal) Democrat?
Theresa and the Jebster have been quite close since LePore came out of the closet. The Republican-turned-Democrat, nominally independent, this year accepted the sticky embrace of the Republican Party. One really has to wonder if she ever truly left the Republicans in the first place.
John Kerry -- where is your S.W.A.T. team?

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