Sunday, October 29, 2006
Using Our Religion
Readers urged me to write about this today and it is worth some discussion:
The federal government is investigating the takeover last year of a leading American manufacturer of electronic voting systems by a small software company that has been linked to the leftist Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chávez.
The inquiry is focusing on the Venezuelan owners of the software company, the Smartmatic Corporation, and is trying to determine whether the government in Caracas has any control or influence over the firm’s operations, government officials and others familiar with the investigation said.
The inquiry on the eve of the midterm elections is being conducted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or Cfius, the same panel of 12 government agencies that reviewed the abortive attempt by a company in Dubai to take over operations at six American ports earlier this year.
The committee’s formal inquiry into Smartmatic and its subsidiary, Sequoia Voting Systems of Oakland, Calif., was first reported Saturday in The Miami Herald.
Officials of both Smartmatic and the Venezuelan government strongly denied yesterday that President Chávez’s administration, which has been bitterly at odds with Washington, has any role in Smartmatic.
“The government of Venezuela doesn’t have anything to do with the company aside from contracting it for our electoral process,” the Venezuelan ambassador in Washington, Bernardo Alvarez, said last night.
(Right. This is worthy of investigation but the president of Diebold saying he was determined to deliver Ohio to Bush in 2004 was just a figure of speech.)
The fact that the government is investigating Hugo "sulphur" Chavez's alleged interest in election machines may very well be part of an emerging post-election GOP narrative. I have believed that Republicans might claim vote fraud in this election for some time. I wrote back in June:
The Republicans have figured out something that the Democrats refuse to understand. All political messages can be useful, no matter which side has created it. You use them all situationally. The Republicans have been adopting our slogans and memes for years. They get that the way people hear this stuff often is not in a particularly partisan sense. They just hear it, in a sort of disembodied way. Over time thye become comfortable with it and it can be exploited for all sorts of different reasons.
In this instance, there has been a steady underground rumbling about stolen elections since 2000. Now, we know that it's the Republicans who have been doing the stealing ---- and the complaining has been coming from our side. But all most people hear is "stolen election" and they are just as likely to paste that charge onto us as they are onto them. It's like an ear worm. You don't know the song its from, necessarily, but you can't get it out of your head.
We have created an ear worm that the Republicans are going to appropriate --- and they will use it much more aggressively and effectively than our side did. They are already gearing up for it. As I mentioned a month or so ago, Karl Rove was at the Republican Lawyers Association talking about how the Democrats are stealing elections:
QUESTION: The question I have: The Democrats seem to want to make this year an election about integrity, and we know that their party rests on the base of election fraud. And we know that, in some states, some of our folks are pushing for election measures like voter ID.
But have you thought about using the bully pulpit of the White House to talk about election reform and an election integrity agenda that would put the Democrats back on the defensive?
ROVE: Yes, it's an interesting idea. We've got a few more things to do before the political silly season gets going, really hot and heavy. But yes, this is a real problem. What is it -- five wards in the city of Milwaukee have more voters than adults?
With all due respect to the City of Brotherly Love, Norcross Roanblank's (ph) home turf, I do not believe that 100 percent of the living adults in this city of Philadelphia are registered, which is what election statistics would lead you to believe.
I mean, there are parts of Texas where we haven't been able to pull that thing off.
And we've been after it for a great many years.
So I mean, this is a growing problem.
The spectacle in Washington state; the attempts, in the aftermath of the 2000 election to disqualify military voters in Florida, or to, in one instance, disqualify every absentee voter in Seminole county -- I mean, these are pretty extraordinary measures that should give us all pause.
The efforts in St. Louis to keep the polls opened -- open in selected precincts -- I mean, I would love to have that happen as long, as I could pick the precincts.
This is a real problem. And it is not going away.
I mean, Bernalillo County, New Mexico will have a problem after the next election, just like it has had after the last two elections.
I mean, I remember election night, 2000, when they said, oops, we just made a little mistake; we failed to count 55,000 ballots in Bernalillo; we'll be back to you tomorrow.
That is a problem. And I don't care whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, a vegetarian or a beef-eater, this is an issue that ought to concern you because, at the heart of it, our democracy depends upon the integrity of the ballot place. And if you cannot...
I have to admit, too -- look, I'm not a lawyer. So all I've got to rely on is common sense. But what is the matter? I go to the grocery store and I want to cash a check to pay for my groceries, I've got to show a little bit of ID.
Why should it not be reasonable and responsible to say that when people show up at the voting place, they ought to be able to prove who they are by showing some form of ID?
We can make arrangements for those who don't have driver's licenses. We can have provisional ballots, so that if there is a question that arises, we have a way to check that ballot. But it is fundamentally fair and appropriate to say, if you're going to show up and claim to be somebody, you better be able to prove it, when it comes to the most sacred thing we have been a democracy, which is our right of expression at the ballot.
And if not, let's just not kid ourselves, that elections will not be about the true expression of the people in electing their government, it will be a question of who can stuff it the best and most. And that is not healthy.
QUESTION: I've been reading some articles about different states, notably in the west, going to mail-in ballots and maybe even toying with the idea of online ballots. Are you concerned about this, in the sense of a mass potential, obviously, for voter fraud that this might have in the West?
ROVE: Yes. And I'm really worried about online voting, because we do not know all the ways that one can jimmy the system. All we know is that there are many ways to jimmy the system.
I'm also concerned about the increasing problems with mail-in ballots. Having last night cast my mail-in ballot for the April 11 run-off in Texas, in which there was one race left in Kerr County to settle -- but I am worried about it because the mail-in ballots, particularly in the Northwest, strike me as problematic.
I remember in 2000, that we had reports of people -- you know, the practice in Oregon is everybody gets their ballot mailed to them and then you fill it out.
And one of the practices is that people will go to political rallies and turn in their ballots. And we received reports in the 2000 election -- which, remember we lost Oregon by 5000 votes -- we got reports of people showing up at Republican rallies and passing around the holder to get your ballot, and then people not being able to recognize who those people were and not certain that all those ballots got turned in.
On Election Day, I remember, in the city of Portland, Multnomah County -- I'm going to mispronounce the name -- but there were four of voting places in the city, for those of you who don't get the ballots, well, we had to put out 100 lawyers that day in Portland, because we had people showing up with library cards, voting at multiple places.
I mean, why was it that those young people showed up at all four places, showing their library card from one library in the Portland area? I mean, there's a problem with this.
And I know we need to make arrangements for those people who don't live in the community in which they are registered to vote or for people who are going to be away for Election Day or who are ill or for whom it's a real difficulty to get to the polls. But we need to have procedures in place that allow us to monitor it.
And in the city of Portland, we could not monitor. If somebody showed up at one of those four voting locations, we couldn't monitor whether they had already cast their mail-in ballot or not. And we lost the state by 5,000 votes.
I mean, come on. What kind of confidence can you have in that system? So yes, we've got to do more about it.
Nobody can ever accuse these Republicans of not having balls. It's really breathtaking sometimes. This is not an isolated remark. Here's an excerpt from yesterday's Chris Matthews show:
MATTHEWS: ... What did you make—we just showed the tape, David Shuster just showed that tape of a woman candidate in the United States openly advising people in this country illegally to vote illegally.
MEHLMAN: It sounds like she may have been an adviser to that Washington state candidate for governor or some other places around the country where this has happened in other cases with Democrats.
But the fact is, one thing we know, the American people believe that legal voters should vote and they believe that their right to vote ought to be protected from people that don‘t have the right to vote.
Rove was talking to the Republican lawyers association, many members of which specialize in "voter fraud," and may very well be preparing to challenge every close race and file spurious complaints to Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department.
And even if they didn't, be prepared to hear all of our complaints about election stealing yelled back at us if they lose. They are not afraid to take somebody elses talking point and use it to their advantage. It's one of the things they do best and because a lot of people don't pay close attention it will sound perfectly reasonable to them that the Democrats stole the election.
Just something to think about as we look to the morning after election day.
One other thing Rove said during that talk before the GOP lawyers:
Well, I learned all I needed to know about election integrity from the college Republicans.
I don't doubt it for a moment.
*note: the excerpt of my original post has been altered a little bit to include more of Karl Rove's comments.
digby 10/29/2006 05:13:00 PM