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Friday, October 29, 2004

Election Roundup Continued

More information and stories about voting and elections from around the nation.

Polling place locations: http://www.mypollingplace.com/find.php or call 1-800-OUR-VOTE (1-800-687-8683).

National: In Ohio, Michigan, and Florida, the Bush Administration argued last week that voters do not have the right to sue to enforce the voting rights in the Help America Vote Act, only the Justice Department does. Courts in all three states rejected the argument. Contrary to the efforts to limit jurisdiction to the Justice Department, Supreme Court and Justice Department precedent has allowed outside groups and citizens to bring suits to enforce voting rights for over forty years.

California: As Ian Hoffman of the Tri-Valley Herald writes, many California voters who registered close to the October 18 deadline will likely have to cast a provisional ballot on November 2 because their registration has not yet been processed.

Florida: Republicans and Democrats are accusing each other of intimidating early voters, especially Haitian-American voters.

Iowa: Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver told county officials not to count ballots cast in the wrong precinct. The latest instructions reflect a switch from last Friday, when Miller issued an opinion saying Iowans who vote in the correct county but wrong precinct should have their votes for president and Congress count.

Voters can and should still cast provisional ballots even if in the wrong precinct, according to Miller. These ballots will be assessed later by a special precinct board two days after the election. Such ballots will be rejected in Iowa if the voter also cast an absentee ballot, is not properly registered to vote, also voted at the polls, or is not qualified to vote because the person is not 18, not a U.S. citizen, mentally incompetent or a convicted felon.

Ohio: Yesterday, a federal judge prohibited six county elections boards from considering the Republican challenges thousands of recent voter registrations. The Republicans are appealing, but due to notice requirements to challenged voters, it is doubtful the challenges can be heard before the election even if the ruling is overturned.

In Summit County, not one of the six barred from considering challenges, dozens of voters turned up at the elections board to defend their right to vote. The board dismissed some 1,000 challenges. In Lake County, the board dismissed all but around 100 challenges.

Also, U.S. Representative Sherrod Brown stepped down as one of the Democratic electors in Ohio due to the Constitutional ban on elected officials serving as electors. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution reads in part: " . . . but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector." Seems like someone in the Ohio Democratic Party might have found the time to take a look at the Constitutional requirements for electors.


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Dear Reader,

As I look at the various Amicus Briefs on the Albuquerque lawsuit, I think how wonderful they are based on the principles of democracy and all, but my reality-based comments are much more significant since the public's civil rights are being violated by a wealthy candidate using his own money. Look what I wrote back then:

I ran several campaigns in New Mexico. In one, our opponent had $650,000.00 of her personal money and we had $50,000.00 in contributions. We were unable to rebut the opponent's half truths and lost by 1100 votes.

Campaign Reform Violates First Amendment Rights ? Think Again ! 12-13-2000

N.M. State Republican Party Chairperson John Dendahl is fond of reminding people that the Supreme Court has included unlimited spending on campaigns as a form of constitutionally-protected “Freedom of Speech.” And by this inference, threatens a lawsuit by his party on any Campaign Finance Reform measures. Since his party is adept at raising huge amounts of money, they have no reason to support Campaign Finance Reform. The Republican Party has the ability to collect money at national and state levels and utilize it locally thus taking control of an election away from local people. It is a sort of gerrymandering. By threatening local officials with “Holding the Party Line”, Dendahl can silence their objections to this. When they have stepped out of line, Dendahl has used the financial resources of his party to defeat them in a Boss Tweed fashion. And this is what has been done by Dendahl in many legislative races. This has even been done by Dendahl in the Albuquerque City Election which by statute are non-partisan races.

Ordinary citizens on the other hand, have little or no opportunity to influence elections with their campaign contributions, willingness to run for office, or participation in an election process. A twenty dollar contribution or volunteer time on a campaign, allows no personal time with a candidate or a review period with the party platform, thereby, infringing on our ability to get our point of view across. Some might argue that this is an infringement on the rights of Freedom of Speech and Equal Protection under the Law. At the 2000 Republican National Convention five minute spots with candidate George Bush were sold at $5,000.00 a piece. Over 300 millionaires and mega corporations took advantage of this to ask for things like industry-specific legislation. This excessiveness and blatant influence peddling is what begs for control. Even the top corporations winning this influence must want to conserve their own money and wonder one day if they will be outbid by their competitor who will then win some advantage that will make the business competition between them somehow unfair. Big money creates a climate of unfairness.

If the ultimate form of Freedom of Speech is running for a political office to espouse your particular view of democracy, and you are poor, then you will have relatively no opportunity to get this message across without lots of money. You can not compete with a wealthy candidate like Steve Forbes or Donald Trump who can spend their own unlimited money. Access to the media is based on press releases, press conferences and paid advertising. There is a limited amount of space and time for news to be run in newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Press releases are a dime a dozen and are routinely ignored by the press. Press conferences take time to organize and launch so at a minimum only a handful can be done by any campaign, and of that number only one may be truly successful reaching a majority of viewing, listening and reading audiences. At some point, competing news stories drown out your voice (as a campaign or as a private individual) and then the paying advertisers eat up the rest of the space. Simple letters to the editor are difficult enough to get run, and the reading public often responds to newspaper marketing surveys that they are “bored” by letters with political messages. Newspaper editors no matter how noble and willing to defend Constitutional rights, often have to kow-tow to the genius of the marketing department when circulation goes down. More limitations on Freedom of Speech.



As the election nears, the number of advertising spots available for political ads dwindles and the price goes up. Technically, the person with the most money has the ability to buy more spots and at more desirable times or locations (even with billboards); thus effectively drowning out your message. The ability to counter negative or false advertisements can be lost if you run out of money. Theoretically, a candidate that has blatantly lied or distorted his record or his opponents’ record(s) can be elected; even though in hindsight this is not what the electorate wanted; and even while the opponents’ Freedom of Speech has been trampled on. The media must be forced to play a part in this campaign reform. Their sales agents call various campaigns to alert them of an opponent’s ads and to design a counter ad at an added expense (which is illegal under current CFR !). In effect they create a bidding war for the last few days worth of advertising space before election day; that at some point eliminates the candidate with the least money.

So, Mr. Dendahl and the Supreme Court, rethink who has the greater ability of expressing their Freedom of Speech. Unlimited spending on campaigns as a form of constitutionally-protected Freedom of Speech should have its limits when it encroaches on truth, participation, candidacy, and other viewpoints. The Republican Party shouldn’t have the exclusive right to buy away someone else’s Freedom of Speech.

-------------------------------------------------------------------
Is there a way to influence the national ACLU that their policy will hurt the little guy and protect the wealthy. My editorial is based on actual New Mexico campaigns that I worked on where big money shut out our access to media and going grassroots with people.
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Think Campaign Reform Violates First Amendment Rights ? Well your wrong ! 2-10-2002

The Republican Party is fond of reminding people that the Supreme Court has included unlimited spending on campaigns as a form of constitutionally-protected “Freedom of Speech.” And by this inference, threatens lawsuits by the party on any Campaign Finance Reform measures. Since this party is adept at raising huge amounts of money, they have no reason to support Campaign Finance Reform. The Republican Party has the ability to collect money at national and state levels and utilize it locally thus taking control of an election away from local people. It is a sort of gerrymandering. By threatening local officials with “Holding the Party Line”, the state party can silence their objections to this. When they have stepped out of line, the state party can use the financial resources of the party to defeat them in a Boss Tweed fashion.

Ordinary citizens on the other hand, have little or no opportunity to influence elections with their campaign contributions, willingness to run for office, or participation in an election process. A twenty dollar contribution or volunteer time on a campaign, allows no personal time with a candidate or a review period with the party platform, thereby, infringing on our ability to get our point of view across. Some might argue that this is an infringement on the rights of Freedom of Speech (the First Amendment) and Equal Protection under the Law (the 14th Amendment that was used to award the election to George W. Bush).

At the 2000 Republican National Convention five minute spots with candidate George Bush were sold at $5,000.00 a piece. Over 300 millionaires and mega corporations took advantage of this to ask for things like industry-specific legislation. The big winner was by far Enron Coropration which bought four private interviews with Vice President Dick Chenny. This excessiveness and blatant influence peddling is what begs for control. Even the top corporations winning this influence must want to conserve their own money and wonder one day if they will be outbid by their competitor who will then win some advantage that will make the business competition between them somehow unfair. Big money creates a climate of unfairness. Even Enron could now use the 200 million it shelled out in the last five years to buy public policy influence at federal and even state levels.

If the ultimate form of Freedom of Speech is running for a political office to espouse your particular view of democracy, and you are poor, then you will have relatively no opportunity to get this message across without lots of money. You can not compete with a wealthy candidate like Steve Forbes or Donald Trump who can spend their own unlimited money. Before a candidate officially files his declaration of candidacy or announces for office, he is not legally obligated to report anything he has received. That is why candidates hold off on starting up their campaigns (through vague exploratory committees or book writing attempts).

Access to the media is based on press releases, press conferences and paid advertising. There is a limited amount of space and time for news to be run in newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Press releases are a dime a dozen and are routinely ignored by the press. Press conferences take time to organize and launch so at a minimum only a handful can be done by any campaign, and of that number only one may be truly successful reaching a majority of viewing, listening and reading audiences. At some point, competing news stories drown out your voice (as a campaign or as a private individual) and then the paying advertisers eat up the rest of the space. Simple letters to the editor are difficult enough to get run, and the reading public often responds to newspaper marketing surveys that they are “bored” by letters with political messages. Newspaper editors no matter how noble and willing to defend Constitutional rights, often have to kow-tow to the genius of the marketing department when circulation goes down. More limitations on Freedom of Speech.

As the election nears, the number of advertising spots available for political ads dwindles and the price goes up. Technically, the person with the most money has the ability to buy more spots and at more desirable times or locations (even with billboards); thus effectively drowning out your message. The ability to counter negative or false advertisements can be lost if you run out of money. Theoretically, a candidate that has blatantly lied or distorted his record or his opponents’ record(s) can be elected; even though in hindsight this is not what the electorate wanted; and even while the opponents’ Freedom of Speech has been trampled on. The media must be forced to play a part in this campaign reform. Their sales agents call various campaigns to alert them of an opponent’s ads and to design a counter ad at an added expense (which is illegal under current CFR !). In effect they create a bidding war for the last few days worth of advertising space before election day; that at some point eliminates the candidate with the least money. It is possible to outbid an opponent’s advertising in these last days and effectively silence their Freedom of Speech rights by your exercise of Freedom of Speech. You could buy out the truth and replace it with a wealthy lie.

The Supreme Court should rethink who has the greater ability of expressing their Freedom of Speech. Unlimited spending on campaigns as a form of constitutionally-protected Freedom of Speech should have its limits when it encroaches on truth, participation, candidacy, and other viewpoints. The Republican Party shouldn’t have the exclusive right to buy away someone else’s Freedom of Speech.

WilliamHenryMee@aol.com
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