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October 3, 2004 - Blackwell the Magician

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Ford Fessenden in the Sunday New York Times (September 26, 2004) reports this -


COLUMBUS, Ohio — A sweeping voter-registration campaign in heavily Democratic areas has added tens of thousands of new voters to the rolls in the swing states of Ohio and Florida, a surge that has far exceeded Republican efforts in both states, a review of registration data shows.

The analysis of county-by-county data shows that in Democratic areas of Ohio — primarily low-income and minority neighborhoods — new registrations since January have increased 250 percent over the same period in 2000. In comparison, new registrations have increased 25 percent in Republican areas.


So what are the Republicans to do?

Jim Bebbington and Laura Bischoff report this in the Dayton Daily News -

Blackwell rulings rile voting advocates

Voters-rights advocates are criticizing two recent decisions by Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell that they say will unfairly limit some people's ability to vote Nov. 2.

Blackwell's office has told county boards of elections to follow strictly two provisions in Ohio election law:

• One requires Ohio voter registration cards be printed on thick, 80-pound stock paper.

• The other ordered boards to strictly interpret the rules regarding provisional ballots, the ones cast by voters who move before the election but are still registered in Ohio.

The paper-stock issue is frustrating Montgomery County Board of Elections officials, who have a backlog of registrations to complete. If they get an Ohio voter registration card on paper thinner than required, they are mailing a new card out to the voter. But if they still have the backlog by the registration deadline, Oct. 4, voters will not have another chance to get their correct paperwork in, said Steve Harsman, deputy director of the Montgomery County board.

"There is just no reason to use 80-pound paper," Harsman said.

In Montgomery County there is a backlog of around 4,000 registrations, Harsman said. A few hundred could be affected by this provision, he said.

Cuyahoga County board of elections officials are ignoring the edict because they have already had an avalanche of new registrations submitted on forms printed on newsprint in The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer

"We don't have a micrometer at each desk to check the weight of the paper," said Michael Vu, director of the Cuyahoga County Board. …


And here is a quick summary -


In the final days before the registration deadline Ken Blackwell, Ohio Secretary of State, has ordered the local election boards to send out new applications to applicants who have submitted registrations on the wrong paper. The ostensible reason for this order is to insure that the applications can make it through the postal system without being damaged. The Secretary didn't point to any examples of voters who were stupid enough to mail regular weight paper as a postcard, nor did he cite examples of complaints from the Postal Service that this has been a problem. Never mind also that the applications he wants thrown out have already been delivered to the election boards safely.

The phone number of the Ohio Sec. of State is 614-466-2585


I wonder if anyone called.

You might want to look at the controlling federal election law for a giggle – as almost everyone on the web links to it.  And note what is in bold here -


Sec. 1971. - Voting rights

(a) Race, color, or previous condition not to affect right to vote; uniform standards for voting qualifications; errors or omissions from papers; literacy tests; agreements between Attorney General and State or local authorities; definitions

All citizens of the United States who are otherwise qualified by law to vote at any election by the people in any State, Territory, district, county, city, parish, township, school district, municipality, or other territorial subdivision, shall be entitled and allowed to vote at all such elections, without distinction of race, color, or previous condition of servitude; any constitution, law, custom, usage, or regulation of any State or Territory, or by or under its authority, to the contrary notwithstanding.

No person acting under color of law shall -

in determining whether any individual is qualified under State law or laws to vote in any election, apply any standard, practice, or procedure different from the standards, practices, or procedures applied under such law or laws to other individuals within the same county, parish, or similar political subdivision who have been found by State officials to be qualified to vote;


deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election; …


Does the Ohio law that specifies paper weights supercede the Federal Code?  Probably not.

Florida is a mess from the hurricanes and no one is thinking about how to suppress the vote of those who would vote the wrong way.  Down there right now they’re busy clearing the streets and stringing up new power lines.  No time for that.  So Ohio is the new Florida.

Or maybe it’s not.  By mid-week Blackwell did something Kathleen Harris would never do.  He changed his mind.

See Blackwell ends paper chase
Some could be unable to vote because of flap over registration forms
Wednesday, September 29, 2004, Catherine Candisky, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH


Under fire from voting-rights advocates, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell retreated yesterday from a directive that critics said would slow voter-registration efforts and even block some people from casting a ballot Nov. 2.

… Last night, a spokesman for Blackwell denied that the GOP officeholder was trying to prevent people from voting and said county boards should accept voter registration forms on paper of any weight as long as they are otherwise valid.

"We’re not the paper police. We’re not going to go to county election boards and review voter registration forms," said Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo. "We want them to process the forms." …


But, but, but… ?  Is not the test of a true leader whether he or she is steadfast and resolute no matter what popular opinion is, and no matter what changes on the ground, not matter what the advice of experts is, and no matter what the rigid and unresponsive law demands?  This is, frankly, a flip-flop, and the single leadership sin no American can ever forgive.

Blackwell can never run for office anywhere as a Republican now.


Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta says not so: “No, I think you're wrong about this.  I think he can't run as a Democrat.  As I understand it, flip-flopping is okay as long as you're a Republican, since nobody will ever call you on it.”


Oh, and the Ohio Democratic Party has filed a federal lawsuit about these matters.  But not about disqualifying voters registering using the wrong paper stock.  It's that other edict – ordering election boards to strictly interpret the rules regarding provisional ballots, the ones cast by voters who move before the election but are still registered in Ohio.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 27, 2004

COLUMBUS - Ohio Democrats filed a federal lawsuit today to protect the voting rights of Ohio citizens that are threatened by Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell’s recent decision.

Blackwell recently directed Ohio election officials not to issue provisional ballots except in very narrow circumstances. Unlike many other state election officials, Blackwell is specifically refusing to issue these ballots to voters who find themselves at a polling place other than the one for the precinct where they live. The federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), passed by Congress after the 2000 Florida recount, makes provisional ballots widely available to voters who are denied the right to vote on election day.

“As Democrats, we will fight hard to count every vote,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Dennis L. White. “Blackwell’s decision will deny the right to vote to thousands of Ohioans. We don’t need another Florida to happen right here in Ohio this year.”

The Ohio Democratic Party and the Sandusky County Democratic Party filed the lawsuit against Blackwell today in United States District Court in Toledo. Sandusky County Democrats are particularly concerned about the voting rights of farm workers and other minority citizens in northwest Ohio. The lawsuit asks the court to declare that Blackwell’s decision violates HAVA, and to order him to issue a new directive that complies with federal law.

“Ken Blackwell is becoming the Katherine Harris of 2004. He is trying to place new obstacles in the way of Ohio voters, and we will not let him do it,” said State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo). “He’s trying to cook the vote with directives to county boards of elections that are discriminatory and move our voting rights backwards.”

The lawsuit was assigned to Judge James G. Carr and seeks a preliminary injunction in order to receive an expeditious ruling on the matter.


Will they get an injunction?  Judge Carr’s bio is here - born in Boston, BA from Kenyon, and a law degree from Harvard, a lot of work in Chicago (Cook County) and nominated to the bench, in 1994, by Clinton.

Roy Cohn did once say, "I don't care what the law is, just tell me who the judge is."  In September of 2002 Carr joined in a panel opinion that declared that it was unlawful for the Bush administration to conduct deportation hearings in secret whenever the government asserted that the people involved might be linked to terrorism. (See this from the New York Times.)

A good guy?

But note this about Carr -


"He's a little goofy. He gets things wrong sometimes, though. Sometimes he'll make correct statements but really lose sight of the big picture. Lawyers need to help him get to the right place. He doesn't always have the best judgment." "He's not very good at recalling proceedings and remembering what's happened from appearance to appearance." " . . . I have to say that I think he is very biased in favor of law enforcement. He just won't allow for the fact that sometimes these guys inaccurately convey what happened, which is bothersome. Also, he's sensitive to due process - so long as no one is going to get acquitted." "He has a very distinct pro-law enforcement bent." "I think he tries to be fair, but he favors the government."

- "Lawyers' Evaluation" in Almanac of the Federal Judiciary 48. 6th Circuit (1998).


The full item runs down Carr’s decisions and concludes – “The public has lost enough confidence in the federal judiciary as it is. Judge Carr is so unprincipled, biased and incompetent he should be impeached, not promoted.

This is going to be fun!


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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