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Thursday, August 24, 2006

GOP Voter, Is Thy Name Petard?

Paul Kiel at TPMmuckraker has an excellent post about what's going on in TX-22. Briefly, Tom DeLay has decided that he'd rather Kash in on K Street than Kontinue to represent his former Konstituents. DeLay Kwit the 2006 election race after winning his district's primary, evidently using the primary Kampaign to juice up his Koffers (which Kan then be used to help pay any legal expenses related to the state money-laundering charges Kurrently pending against him). DeLay then Klaimed that he had moved to northern Virginia, and thus the local GOP should be allowed to replace him on the ballot. Unfortunately for the Hammer, the Kourts nailed him by refusing to overturn or ignore Texas law, which Kwite Klearly disallows replacing a Kandidate under such Konditions.

All of that was decided several weeks ago, and since then there's been a lot of amusing news about RepubliKan disarray in Delay's old district (TPMmuckraker has reported a bunch of it). After various disputes among potential write-in Kandidates, the local party settled on its choice: Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.

Kiel's post today details the difficulty that Sekula-Gibbs will have, since voters who want to Kast their votes for her will have to spell out her name. That might be bad enough. As Kiel writes:
But it gets trickier. Voters in Texas' 22nd District will use the eSlate electronic voting machine. I decided to take it for a test drive and experience the thrill of democracy myself -- which you can do on Hart Intercivic's website.



Uh oh! But not to worry - we were assured by Josh Allen of Harter Intercivic that the actual machines have 25 characters, not a mere 18 as in the demo above. So her name will come in just under the limit.

The eSlate machine does lack a keyboard, however -- users roll a trackwheel to choose letters on a screen. And unfortunately for Dr. S-G, there's no hyphen.

Kiel has done a nice job of reporting: he contacted a lawyer in the Texas Secretary of State's office, who explained that
Judgments as to spelling will be made by "the counting judge," according to Amy Mitchell, an attorney with the Texas Secretary of State's office; such judgments tend to be lenient -- basically, if it "looks like" the name, it's counted as the name. Serious write-in candidates often lead to recounts, she said. Misspellings may well be the hanging chad of this election season.

Ms. Mitchell didn't know that the eSlate machine lacked a hyphen, but did say that “If you had most of the name without the hyphen, I don’t think the counting judge would discount the vote just because you didn’t have a hyphen that wasn’t on the program.”
Now, CCM's reader surely remembers all the RepubliKan foul-crying during the SCOTUS-stopped recount of the 2000 Florida presidential election---we need objective standards, can't rely on subjective attempts to "divine the voter's intent", etc. All of these Komplaints were a little odd given that
  1. At the time of the election, Florida statutes stated that the standard for hand recounts was "the intent of the voter" -- no more detail than that, plain and simple.

  2. The SCOTUS per curiam decision in the first Bush v. Gore case made it quite clear that the Florida Supreme Court had to follow the text of Florida statutes exactly, since otherwise the Florida Supreme Court would in effect obviate Florida's ability to take advantage of a certain safe-harbor provision in federal law concerning the counting of electoral votes. The details are complicated, but it's quite clear that the Florida SC decision to provide no real detail about counting standards was due to the SCOTUS's initial unanimous slap.
Now, the basis of the equal protection part of the second Bush v. Gore decision---the one that elected George W. Bush president, 5-4---was essentially that different people in a state can't have their votes' validity evaluated using different standards.

Let's leave aside the fact that the SCOTUS decision constituted a Catch 22---can't change the law, can't follow it, and let's also leave aside the fact that no federal election in history conceivably can have been constitutional under this standard. Instead, we'll just point out that relying on counting judges to discern whether a voter's stated choice "looks like" the name "Shelley Sekula-Gibbs" entails subjectivity and, potentially---likely?---different standards for different ballots.

I can't help thinking that if Ms. Sekula-Gibbs were a Democrat, the RepubliKan solution to this problem would be something like "You Kan't Kount any ballots for her if they don't have her name spelled exactly Korrectly!" I can even imagine a well-dressed bunch of Kongressional staffers starting a riot over attempts to count the ballots.

One can't help but think RepubliKans will advocate much greater leniency this time around.

And I hope that Democrats don't make a point of challenging ballots that reasonably look like attempts to vote for Ms. Sekula-Gibbs. RepubliKan hypocrisy, dishonesty and vote-suppression efforts are infuriating and deserve nothing but scorn. But the proper response on this issue is to set a good example, not to sKrew voters facing a less than simple situation. Since 2000, Democrats have understandably argued for more protections and options for voters (see Senate, New Jersey, 2002, for example). I hope they will avoid the tantalizing opportunity to sully that record just to get back at the RepubliKans---in Tom DeLay's district, no less---this year.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Jane said...

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Jane

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8/31/2006 3:33 PM  

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