Some people claim that Barack Obama’s election has ushered in a “postracial” America, but the truth is that race, and racial discrimination, are still very much with us. The Supreme Court should keep this reality in mind when it considers a challenge to an important part of the Voting Rights Act that it recently agreed to hear. The act is constitutional — and clearly still needed.
Section 5, often called the heart of the Voting Rights Act, requires some states and smaller jurisdictions to “preclear” new voting rules with the Justice Department or a federal court. When they do, they have to show that the proposed change does not have the purpose or effect of discriminating against minority voters.
When Congress enacted Section 5 in 1965, officials in the South were creating all kinds of rules to stop blacks from voting or being elected to office. Discrimination against minority voters may not be as blatant as it was then, but it still exists. District lines are drawn to prevent minorities from winning; polling places are located in places hard for minority voters to get to; voter ID requirements are imposed with the purpose of suppressing the minority vote.
After holding lengthy hearings to document why the Voting Rights Act was still needed, Congress reauthorized it in 2006 with votes of 98 to 0 in the Senate and 390 to 33 in the House. Now, a municipal utility district in Texas that is covered by Section 5 is arguing that it is unconstitutional, and that it imposes too many burdens on jurisdictions covered by it.
If the Supreme Court — which is expected to hear arguments in the case this spring — strikes down Section 5, it would be breaking radically with its own precedents. The court has repeatedly upheld the Voting Rights Act against challenges, and as recently as 2006 it ruled that complying with Section 5 is a compelling state interest. It would also be an extreme case of conservative judicial activism, since the 14th and 15th Amendments expressly authorize Congress to enact laws of this sort to prevent discrimination in voting.
A perennial criticism of Section 5 is that it covers jurisdictions it should not, or fails to cover ones it should. There is no way to construct a perfect list, but Congress has done a reasonable job of drawing up the criteria, and it has built flexibility into the act. Jurisdictions are allowed to “bail out” if they can show that they no longer need to be covered, and courts can add new jurisdictions if they need to be covered.
In last fall’s election, despite his strong national margin of victory — and hefty campaign chest — Mr. Obama got only about one in five white votes in the Southern states wholly or partly covered by Section 5. And there is every reason to believe that minority voters will continue to face obstacles at the polls.
If Section 5 is struck down, states and localities would have far more freedom to erect barriers for minority voters — and there is little doubt that some would do just that. We have not arrived at the day when special protections like the Voting Rights Act are not needed.
Velvet Revolution (“VR”), a non-profit dedicated to clean and honest elections, today offers a $100,000 reward for hard information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons who helped to rig the 2002 Senate race in Georgia in favor of Saxby Chambliss. That election pitted the war hero Max Cleland, a popular incumbent, against far-right novice Saxby Chambliss. The pre-election polls showed Cleland with a comfortable lead–and yet Chambliss “won” by a wide margin.
To date, the truth behind that upset “victory” (and the equally surprising win by Sonny Perdue, the rightist candidate for governor) has been confirmed by three different whistle-blowers–including Chris Hood, who worked for Diebold in 2002.
A candidate for Supervisor of Elections in Broward County, FL, was arrested yesterday, following threats and orders from her opponent, the current Broward SOE, Dr. Brenda Snipes.
Ellen H. Brodsky, the county’s first non-partisan candidate for SOE, had previously been barred from public counting and oversight on a number of occasions, at the county’s official Canvassing Board site and voting machine warehouse in Lauderhill, Florida.
After being taken into custody yesterday afternoon by three uniformed police officers, Brodsky was held overnight at the Broward County Jail even though the $25 — that’s twenty-five dollar — bail had been posted for her by her son by 8pm last night. She was finally released well after 5am this morning.
(Note: An account of the arrest posted this morning on the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s blog incorrectly reported that Brodsky was “released on bail Thursday evening.” A report later filed on their website by the same reporter correctly noted that she “was released from jail at 5:40 a.m. Friday.”)
Brodsky is a longtime member of a number of election integrity advocacy groups in Florida, including the Broward Election Reform Coalition, which she also founded. Earlier this year, she determined to run against Snipes as a non-partisan candidate.
Brodsky is the latest in a string of election integrity advocates around the country who have been arrested in the course of attempting oversight of our election procedures — although she is the first, to our knowledge, who also happens to be a candidate on the ballot.
The action has brought condemnation from a number of other election watchdogs and even other election officials in Florida who have characterized the arrest to The BRAD BLOG as an outrage and an abuse of power by Snipes and her office…
“For a candidate, or a member of the public who wishes nothing more than to observe the process, to be taken into custody would be outrageous absent really extraordinary reasons — none of which I’ve heard articulated in this matter,” Leon County (Tallahassee) Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho told The BRAD BLOG this afternoon.
“I’ve been an election official for twenty years. Not even one time has it become necessary to even threaten someone’s removal by law enforcement at any kind of meeting that I’ve ever attended,” said Sancho who has spoken with Brodsky “on many occasions” and met her “a couple of times in face to face meetings.”
Ellen Theisen, of the non-partisan election integrity watchdog organization VotersUnite.org, was similarly troubled by the arrest.
“It’s outrageous that Ellen Brodsky was arrested and kept in jail overnight,” Theisen wrote via email today. “Her work toward election integrity in Broward County has been dedicated, creative, effective, and respectful to the law. The idea that she would be ‘disruptive’ is nonsense. I’m convinced that was fabricated by those who appear to be threatened by her requests for transparency and accountability in the Broward County election process.”
Filmmaker David Earnhardt, who earlier this year released the award-winning documentary Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections, calls Brodsky “a remarkable woman who has dedicated the better part of the decade to demanding fair and honest elections.”
He told us that she hosted a screening of his film in Fort Lauderdale in late September. “It’s offensive that she was arrested for this and kept in jail overnight. I have no doubt that she was assertive in demanding her rights – but it’s ridiculous they would have even called the police in the first place, much less arrest her,” he said.
Brodsky was arrested, according to the inmate summary she was given upon release (on which her name is misspelled as “Bordsky”), for “TRESPASS/STRUCTURE OR CONVEYANCE” and “DISORDERLY CONDUCT.” The bond for the trespass claim was set at $25, no bond amount was attached to the disorderly conduct charge, according to the summary.
“A total abuse of power”
“It was horrible,” Brodsky told us by phone today, concerning “the whole process of being in jail overnight.”
“The arrest was a total abuse of power on Brenda Snipes’ part. She had given the orders. The buck stops with her.”
“I didn’t do anything. They just want to eliminate any kind of critics,” she explained, following a number of weeks when she had occasionally been allowed to monitor testing, counting and recount processes by the county Canvassing Board.
“They wanted to eliminate me from the process, because I’m the only one who is on top of these things. I go out of my way to be an expert on this, to watch what’s going on,” she said in a detailed recounting of the problems she’s faced with Snipes and her deputies over the last several months.
At times she was barred from oversight of testing and counting, other times she was allowed in under strict rules, often accompanied by a number of armed guards, she told us. In the meantime, a number of public records requests she’s made have gone unanswered, including information she sought after noticing that voting machines had been opened for use beginning on October 1, even though early voting was not scheduled to begin until weeks later.
During her last visit to the Canvassing Board to monitor counting and the processing of ballots of November 7th, she was evicted after asking a number of questions to Canvassing Board judges, even though she raised her hand, as instructed, and even waited a full hour and a half before being allowed to ask her questions, according to her account.
“The first question I asked on the 7th,” she says, Lauderhills officer C.Y. Bell “jumped on me.” Literally, she says. “She was standing there the whole time ready to pounce on me. Her taser thing was right in front of my face. It was very scary. She jumped on me, grabbed my arm, she was ready to throw me out then and there.”
“Then I screamed ‘Help, canvassing board, I didn’t do anything.’ This was like that ‘Don’t tase me, bro’ thing.” she explained. “That got their attention. I then waited an hour and a half, and then they took a break and I reminded her [Judge Zeller, President of the canvassing board] that I was told I could ask a question.”
She asked three questions, the last of which concerned why she was not allowed in the building the night before, at 7pm, when she believes the counting board was in session, which should have required the ability for public oversight under Florida’s Sunshine Law.
She then says she was ejected from the counting room, and told by Officer Bell, “if If you ever come back here, we’ll have a warrant for you. If you ever come back to this voting machine warehouse or canvassing board, we’ll have you arrested.”
After discussing the matter with her attorney, Brodsky returned yesterday with a friend for a 1pm counting that was listed on the county’s website. She says she recorded much of what occurred on her cell phone’s recorder.
“We saw the notice on the door, proceeded to ask, ‘can we come in?’ because the Canvassing Board was supposed to meet at 1pm. But the first thing I was told was ‘we don’t want you in the building, you’re not allowed in the building.’ Next I was told the canvassing board is not meeting, even though it was posted on the door, and on the website.”
“While I’m trying to inquire about the canvassing board meeting,” she says, Snipes deputy Fred Bellis “is busy photographing me, calling on his cell phone to who knows where.”
Soon two officers arrived and suggested there was a warrant out for her arrest. But “after they researched, they said ‘yeah, there is no warrant out for your arrest.'”
Then Officer Bell arrived, met with the other officers, and “all three, in a concerted effort, handcuff me and throw me into the back of a police car.”
Latest in a string of such arrests
Brodsky’s arrest is the latest such detention of an election integrity advocate.
In September, activist John Brakey of AuditAZ was arrested during a mandatory post-election “audit” in Pima County (Tucson), AZ, after questioning officials about dozens of ballot bags that had missing or broken security seals.
In August, Phil Lindsey of ShowMeTheVote.org was arrested and thrown in jail in Jackson County, MO, when he refused to show a photo ID to pollworkers who had wrongly insisted he could not vote without one. The demand by the election officials was in violation of state law.
“I will tell you, my feeling from a lot of officials is they don’t like being questioned,” explained Tallahassee’s Sancho, who was chosen by the Florida Supreme Court to oversee the 2000 Presidential recount in the state.
“I would caution officials over the removal of any observer from the elections process, because only by keeping the process as open as possible can we maintain credibility within the elections process,” he says.
“Elections officials in Florida,” he continued, “really are uniquely placed, because of the power we have over the process — and it’s pretty immense — so there’s a tendency, a lot of times, for election officials to act in an autocratic manner. I’m not saying [Snipes] did, but it wouldn’t surprise me.”
“The power that we as elect officials have, has to be used very, very, veryjudiciously,” he added.
“What this has to be about is, fundamentally, the process. Quite frankly, I’ve never found the use of police powers an effective answer to people who are looking for the truth,” Sancho told us.
For Brodsky, she now wonders what will become of her ability to oversee her own election which, according to the results reported by officials, show that she lost in a landslide. “It was a difficult time to run as an independent, with Barack Obama on the ballot,” she noted. Her opponent, Snipes, ran as a Democrat.
But it’s now virtually impossible for Brodsky to know if her election was conducted fairly. “I’m gonna have a hard time auditing my own election if I’m not allowed to be there, and if my public records requests aren’t getting answered,” she said.
Additional note, it was too late this afternoon on the West Coast to contact Snipes for her point of view on all of this, but we refer you again to the Sun-Sentinel’s coverage for some of that here and here.
others that their children were told by a girls’ basketball coach they would be suspended.
Reginald Simpson, a student at Pearl Junior High, explained that when students on the bus started saying, “Obama is our president,” the bus driver told them she didn’t want to hear his name. One kid said, “This
is history woman,” and according to Simpson, “She pulled over and kicked me and the kid off the bus.” They were left waiting at the high school and later taken to their own school.
“They feel like they afraid to say who our president is, cause they afraid they going to be in trouble,” Reginald’s mother Canishia told WAPT. “We teach our kids not to be racist, and here it is going on. I just feel hurt by it.”
The Simpson family is black. However, another mother whose son was on the bus and who also plans to confront school officials about the incident is white. “This is what the whole election was about,” Venus Neagu told WAPT. “It was supporting someone. And now that they’ve done it and they’re on the school bus, now they’re getting consequences for it.”
School officials reviewed video from the bus and promised that no students would be punished. The superintendent released a statement saying, “It appears that some persons, out of disappointment and disillusionment with the election may have been so frustrated that they said something inappropriate to students. We have taken appropriate steps with the bus driver and the coach.”
From John Gideon:
Today we have reports that ES&S software actually flipped votes in three races at one polling place in Crawford Co Kansas. We also have reports that ES&S software incorrectly reported results in one race in Polk Co North Carolina.
The long count of votes in Hillsborough Co Florida seems to be over with the blame for problems being put, where else, on “human error”. It seems that Premier/Diebold had warned Florida users of their high-speed OSX voting machines that those machines could not take a high-volume of ballots without bogging down and causing problems. Hillsborough ignored that warning. However, why would a vendor put out a system for use in elections that cannot be used in a high-volume of ballots. King Co. Washington wanted badly to use that system. If they had it would have been a disaster.
National: Push to Expand Voter Rolls and Early Balloting in U.S.
National: Election gives early-balloting initiatives a boost
National: Election-Day Problems — Part Deux
CA: Election Night traffic slowed Secretary of State’s computers
FL: Leon County elections officials still counting votes; Boulware needs 158 for House 9 recount
FL: Hillsborough County – Two days after polls close, Johnson concedes Hillsborough elections supervisor race to Busansky ‘ [Diebold/Premier OSX optical-scan system]
FL: Hillsborough County – Hillsborough election fixes up to Busansky
FL: Hillsborough County – Human Error Suspected In Election Results Delay
FL: Hillsborough County – Ousted Johnson Still Blames Voting Machine Firm
FL: Hillsborough County – Editorial – Cleaning up after Johnson’s disaster
KS: Crawford County sees voting machine error
[ES&S ballot programming error that flipped votes in some local races]
KS: Machine error could affect Crawford County attorney race
KS: Crawford County – Error comes from voting machine programming
Officials to test machines Saturday in Frontenac
KS: Crawford County – Error in voting machine could affect four races
Officials to test machines Saturday in Frontenac
IA: Plymouth County – Speedy ballot count? Result of paper voting machines
IN: Hamilton County – 350 Hamilton Co. ballots tossed after error
MN: Man will judge machine: scanner accuracy big in Senate race
MN: Coleman campaign questions big Franken gains
MN: FAQ on the Senate recount
NC: Polk County – Revised results give Democrats sweep in county board race
[ES&S incorrectly reported results]
NC: CD-5 – Goode Issues Statement on 5th District Race
NE: Douglas County – Thousands of early ballots arrive late
NY: [Governor] Paterson Seeks Voting Assessment
NY: Electronic Voting Machines Still in Limbo
SC: Charleston County – Like old times
Voting glitches bring delays of yesteryear to mind
TN: Tenn. will pay $25M for voting machines
State spent millions on paperless version less than five years ago
TN: TN to spend $25M grant on voting machines
TX: Scanning paper ballots best election choice, study says
VA: North Carolina early voting eliminated hassles
VA: Recount Fictions in Virginia’s Fifth
VA: Goode cites ‘irregularities’ in reporting votes
WV: Release of returns delayed
A registered Democrat in Pennsylvania writes the Huffington Post to report that she has received an anonymous phone call telling her she should go to the polls on Wednesday.
“I received a phone call from an unidentified caller yesterday telling me that because of the expected high voter turnout, Democrats will need to vote on Wednesday, November 5th,” she writes.
The calls are obviously misleading, as voting ends on Tuesday. And apparently they have been going on for quite some time. This past Friday the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported“robocalls making the rounds in Pittsburgh region” disseminating the misleading information. The reader who contacted Huffington Post was from the Philadelphia suburbs, at the opposite end of the state.
Contacted by the Huffington Post, a spokesman for the Obama campaign’s Pennsylvania operations said he was aware of the misleading calls but “not worried about” their impact.
If you hear anything more about this or other last-minute election tactics, please contact the Huffington Post.
Attorney Cliff Arnebeck, cyber-sleuth Steven Spoonamore and author Mark Crispin Miller explain the background the ‘Connell Anomaly,’ named for Mike Connell, allegedly Rove’s IT fixer, who, in a late-breaking story, has been ordered by District Judge Solomon Olive to testify on Monday.According to Arnebeck’s press release,”Connell was a key inside IT contractor for Ken Blackwell in the administration of the 2004 and 2006 elections, while managing the IT function for the Bush Presidential campaigns andother Republican partisan campaigns in 2000, 2004 and 2006. Plaintiffs’ counsel and Plaintiffs’ cyber security expert Stephen Spoonamore in the King Lincoln case before US District Judge Algenon in Columbus have identified Connell as a key witness to Karl Rove’s various maneuvers affecting elections during this decade.”
Remember: Mike Connell, Rove’s boy, is the guy who said he helped steal the election to “Save the babies.”
3 days until Election Day.
Amongst all of the stories of failures, lawsuits, voter purges and voter suppression there is an occasional story that begs to be read and passed on to others so they will read it. This morning’s featured article is one of those. Imagine wanting to exercise your right to vote so strongly that you are willing to travel from Bangalore, India to New York City just to step into the voting booth and pull the lever. It’s a story worth the read.
Featured – National: When Use It or Lose It Means Traveling 9,300 Miles to Vote
National: Voting Shouldn’t Be a Game of Chance
National: Will This Election Be Stolen? Mark Crispin Miller
National: Will This Election Be Stolen? Hans A Spakovsky
CO: Voters line up now to avoid lines on Tuesday
CO: Judge orders Colorado secretary of state to stop voter purge
Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman must stop canceling voters
from the state registration rolls
CO: Federal judge rails at Secretary of State Coffman to stop purges
CO: Colorado Judge Angered Over Secretary of State’s Continued
Purging of Voter Names
CO: Judge orders Coffman to stop continued voter purge
CO: Voter turnout already nears halfway point
CO: Moffat County – More than half of voter roll votes early
FL: Troops overseas miss out on voting
FL: Palm Beach County – New Wrinkle.. That is, Crease.. in Tabulating Votes
GA: Counties report record turnout for early voting period
GA: GA Voting Problems
GA: Federal Court Intervenes in Handel’s Voter Purge
GA: Russell County – Voting machine lands in driveway
IL: Video: Oprah Sees Own Presidential Vote Dropped by Touch-Screen
IN: Marion County – Judge rules for GOP on absentee ballots
MI: ACLU Stops Illegal Voter Purges in Michigan
MS: Voter Coalition Debut Massive Voter Watch; Criticizes Hosemann
NC: Craven County – Voter complains about refusal to allow use of paper ballot
NC: Guilford County – Today’s voting could set a record
NJ: How safe is your vote?
NJ: Will your vote count?
PA: Some PA Counties May Ignore Paper Ballot Court Order
PA: Plenty of paper ballots to be available just in case
PA: Paper ballots are prepared if needed, officials say
PA: Lancaster County – He’s running an election marathon
SC: Both parties gear up for potential legal challenges as voting begins
TX: Civil rights group expresses concerns that machines are ‘flipping’ votes from Obama to McCain
VA: Civil rights group renews Va. election lawsuit
VA: Va. voters wait in long lines; NAACP seeks injunction
VA: Cast your ballot for early and weekend voting
WA: King County – And the winner is …? State rules on mailed ballots could delay results for days
**Articles and commentary included in “Daily Voting News” may not all reflect the opinions of VotersUnite.Org or its allied organizations. The articles are all included for the information of the subscribers of “Daily Voting News” though we realize that the subscribers may not agree with the opinions given in all articles or in the commentary**
A growing database of Voter Assemblies is here:
You should register the Voter Assembly you are organizing here:
Here is the plan. Regardless of the declared presidential victor, this Wednesday, we will gather in Voter Assemblies, and we will act:
B. If it is unclear whether voting rights violation rise to the level of election theft, as was the case in Ohio 2004, we will mobilize everywhere to demand a full and complete count of the vote.
C. If it appears that the election result was defined by the rigging of the process, we will rally nationwide to press for progress in enacting democratic reforms.
But first comes a different kind of crunch: Local courts already are seeing an influx of people who, for whatever reason, are not listed as registered voters and are petitioning a judge to be enrolled.
While county boards of election typically have judges available on Election Day to rule on such cases, voters this year are heading to court days or even weeks ahead of time.
In Saratoga County, they’ve even set aside mornings to settle registration disputes.
“We’re letting them come in from 8:30 a.m. to noon,” said Saratoga County Judge Jerry Scarano. “We think election day is going to be very busy.”
“They’re being swamped,” agreed Michael Guiry, a retiree who this year moved back to Edinburgh, in Saratoga County, from Florida to be near his family.
Guiry and his wife registered to vote when they got their New York driver’s licenses, but when Guiry applied for a hunting license a few weeks ago and double-checked his voter status, he wasn’t listed. So he drove to Saratoga for a hearing before Scarano, who put him on the voter rolls.
“We have to go after school,” said Jean Harsen of Kinderhook, who plans to take her 18-year-old son, Johnathan, to Columbia County Court this week.
Harsen said Johnathan registered at a booth set up by Barack Obama supporters at the Columbia County Fair, but the county Board of Elections never got his registration.
There are lots of reasons why registrations don’t show up: Sometimes they’re simply lost, or the people running the voting drives forget to turn them in.
“It’s incumbent upon the people who are doing these drives to bring these forms in,” said Geeta Cheddie, acting election commissioner in Columbia County.
She recounted several stories in which people claimed they had sent in registration cards, but after double-checking realized they hadn’t – or had misplaced the cards altogether.
Geddie said she wasn’t sure what happened with Harsen’s registration.
“The courts are always a recourse,” she said, adding that she’s already referred a few unregistered people to the courthouse in Hudson.
Nor is it the presidential race alone that’s sparking the increase in court visits.
The state Board of Elections last year put registration lists online so that voters can check their status. But even that good work has been complicated by the fact that the state board in Albany was swamped last month with thousands of mail-in registration cards that people printed out from the Web site of Rock the Vote, a nationwide campaign to boost voting by young people.
Normally, individuals register at their local county board of elections, since those are the official repositories for voter rolls. But Rock the Vote had people send registrations to the state, which is required to accept all received before the Oct. 15 deadline. The state office was then obliged to sort and send the cards to the individual counties.
“Every day we would send out a shipment to each county,” said state Board of Elections spokesman Bob Brehm.
The upshot was that registrations may have been in the mail, but they weren’t yet listed on the Web site – creating another reason for nervous voters to head for the courts.
Election lawyer Henry Berger said many voters are figuring they can avoid Election Day hassles by going to court in advance if they have doubts about their registration status.
“Some people are getting more sophisticated about this. They are going in early,” he said.
Rick Karlin can be reached at 454-5758 or firstname.lastname@example.org