Sunday, October 17, 2004

Provisional ballots - the election night nightmare

David Boies -Courting Justice
David Boies' new book Courting Justice
How many of you think the election will produce a solid winner on election night, raise your hands? Now think again. Remember these two words -- provisional ballots. Keep them in mind while watching Tim Russert tote up the votes in the battleground states with his grease pencil and whiteboard -- these are the ballots the election officials must give you to fill out if you think you were wrongly purged from the voter rolls. In battleground states, Republicans are engaged in trench warfare to ensure that few, if any, provisional ballots are ever counted.

Republicans know that there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, so anything that suppresses the overall vote is peachy keen with them. (That's why election day is not a national holiday or held on a weekend -- the goal is to make it harder for working-class people to get to the polls. And again, I ask, why have the Democrats refused to fight for these reforms?)

Better yet for the Republicans is when they can suppress an entire category of voters. In Florida last time, Republican operatives passed out flyers in black churches that said you couldn't vote if you had a parking ticket. Ed Rollins let slip the fact that Republicans routinely funnel money to black preachers to depress voter turnout, only to find that the truth is not a defense against bi-partisan attacks.

In 2000, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris was warned by the company she hired to purge the rolls of convicted felons that her requested approach would knock thousands of eligible voters off the rolls. Harris then ordered them to use the flawed formula anyhow. After all, that was the idea. The fewer the merrier in Republican eyes.

After the last presidential election debacle, provisional ballots were endorsed as a reform that would ensure voters cannot just be turned away. The rule now is that any voter who is rejected can request a provisional ballot that must be kept on hand by law until the outcome of the election is certified. In a tight race, the determination about the validity of those thousands of provisional ballots in battleground states could make the difference.

That's why the Republicans are fighting so hard to make this reform as useless as possible. In some places, Republicans are instituting rules where a person who picks the wrong precinct is simply not told that he is registered elsewhere and that is used as justification to discard the ballot.

For all the rhetoric about how we want free and fair elections, the Republican tricksters are out there wreaking havoc wherever possible. The height of hypocrisy is having Republican operatives fund efforts to put Nader on the ballot -- then the court fights delay printing absentee ballots -- and then having the Republicans spin the delay as a Democratic plot to deny our brave soldiers the vote.

David Boies, who fought for Gore the last time, has a new book detailing what happened -- along with an army of lawyers on both sites just itching for a fight. Forget putting on the coffee. Unless it's a blowout, we won't know squat on November 3.

No comments: