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November 4, 2008

Reports and False Reports
Posted by Teresa at 06:37 PM * 30 comments

From Daniel Nasaw, The Guardian, “McCain campaign distributing reports of ‘Election Day irregularities’”:

The McCain campaign is collecting reports of “Election Day irregularities” in swing states and distributing them to reporters. I cannot help but wonder if they are preparing a case to contest the legitimacy of the election, should Obama win by a 2000-like narrow margin.

The irregularities include “black panthers” who are “intimidating Voters By Standing Outside Of A Polling Station While Holding A Night Stick” in Philadelphia.

The story is entirely based on this video. Fox News grabbed the story and ran with it. Conservative news outlets are playing it as “Black Panthers in full uniform are standing outside of polling places, intimidating voters.”

Now that you’ve watched both videos: The building there is the Guild House West, a subsidized rehabilitative assisted-living facility located at 1221 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19123. It’s one of three apartment buildings operated by the Friends Rehabilitation Program.* It is a polling place—I checked. And there is no earthly reason the New Black Panthers would have personnel stationed there.

Now for the really pertinent information:

The Office of the Philadelphia District Attorney says there have been no complaints about intimidation at polling places.

Next: Jacqueline Dischell, an Obama volunteer who’s been monitoring that polling place since 0630 this morning, says there have been no incidents of intimidation. Dischell also says that one of the two guys shown in the video is legit—an officially designated poll watcher. The guy with the nightstick, who left hours ago, is reportedly a friend of his who showed up to hang out with him. I recommend reading the rest of her account, from the multiple McCain operatives showing up to bait the two guys, to the police who showed up to check it out leaving without getting out of their car.

As minimal factchecking would have established, there is no basis for reporting this voter intimidation story as fact.* The interpretation being retailed by Fox News is not reliable, to put it charitably.* And that has to have set some kind of speed record for the McCain campaign picking up on an internet-native story, and getting a statement about it onto their website. I expect people will be taking a closer look now at the other “Election Day irregularities” McCain’s organization is reporting.

Comments on Reports and False Reports:
#1 ::: Lylassandra ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 08:19 PM:

I don't know who's behind it, but my dad just got hit with some 'irregularities' as he went to vote-- they refused to let him on the grounds that, since no one in the area had offered their garage or whatever as a polling place, all the area votes had to be submitted by mail.

I will pause to let that absorb.

He made a scene, got to vote and got a complaint form... but I can't help but wonder what happened to all the other people they fed that line to. Absentee votes have to be received by today to count here, I believe. And it's not even like it's a rural area and they can claim that driving out to the polls is a hardship; this is a suburb of San Diego, for god's sake! I am livid, and I don't even want to know how my dad feels about it.

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 08:19 PM:

Ah, what we have here is the creation of a Dolchstoss narrative.

#3 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 08:19 PM:

Typical.

I had no intimidation at my polling place, but there was one which had the ballots disappear between last night and this morning, and another which had the machine refusing to accept ballots.

#4 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 08:32 PM:

What are they supposed to have done- stopped people from getting in? Followed people into the boots? The former would probably have been pretty dumb if you assume they were Obama supporters, given how Obama-friendly Philly seems to be, and if the latter had happened, the reports wouldn't have centered on footage of them outside.

#5 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 08:48 PM:

Raphael, #4: They were there, and they were black. Given the amount of race-baiting the McCampaign has already done, wouldn't you think that was enough to get them started?

#6 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 08:54 PM:

The scanner at my polling place wasn't working.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 08:58 PM:

I keep trying to re-upload the main entry and say you should read the account of it at Talking Points Memo. It starts with McCain operatives turning up to provoke the guys. A few hours later, it ends with the police who come to check it out not even getting out of their car. Do have a look.

#8 ::: nickcan ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 09:03 PM:

I don't think it's about preparing a case to contest the legitimacy of the election. It's more about sowing doubt and stealing a mandate. If there is the thought that Democrats are using "dirty tricks" to win then it lessens their victory this year.

It's really dispicable, calling into doubt the foundation of our democracy in order to cast a little doubt on the other guy's big win.

#9 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 09:07 PM:

#1 Lylassandra:

I semi-like the idea of sending in all ballots by mail (even though I also like the ritual aspects of going to the neighborhood polling-place), but the idea of instituting that at the last moment is proving difficult to absorb. Maybe even impossible.

I, for one, really want to know the details. If no place was offered, how did he know where to go? Had he been sent a ballot in the mail, with instructions to return it by mail? (I've not previously heard of how CA handles situations like that.) I think I'd also enjoy learning how he feels about it, if you feel like coping with posting a short form.

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 09:12 PM:

Nickcan, they've already cast doubts on our patriotism and said we aren't real Americans. Why should they stop at that?

This is where John McCain loses all vestiges of honor. He's willing to smear his fellow Americans and bring democracy itself into doubt, when he doesn't even have the excuse of wanting to win. It's just vindictiveness and vandalism.

#11 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 09:14 PM:

The 'Irregularities' will be reported and that is as close as the MSM will go. As long as the narrative is 'doubt exists over a Democratic President's election', that is how the MSM will play it.

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 09:15 PM:

Don, sometimes the best lies are the semi-random ones.

#13 ::: Tom Barclay ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 09:32 PM:

#1 Lylassandra:

Please ask your father to let MoveOn and the Obama campaign know about this.

#14 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 09:57 PM:

Kevin Roberts, media spokesman for the California Republican Party, just appeared on KTVU (a local San Francisco Fox affiliate). He announced Republican intention to file a lawsuit about alleged robocalls made by Democratic party operatives in San Francisco District 11. Roberts claims these robocalls are being made to registered Republican voters announcing that the California polls have officially closed. Nothing about it on Google.

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 10:13 PM:

And even if it were on Google, that wouldn't be evidence that the Democrats did it.

Was Kevin Roberts noticeably drunk? California hasn't been in doubt for some time now. Given that the Democrats have a strong lead, why would they use a despicable last-minute tactic like telling people the polls had closed early?

Unless Roberts is deranged, he's just poisoning the well.

#16 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 10:21 PM:

Or both. I'd believe morally deranged, and not even believing they can affect the race by playing the ump now. It's enough in their minds if they can just cast some doubt that will linger in the minds of the gullible until next time. And it's an excuse to throw rocks and stuff like that, too.

#17 ::: Lylassandra ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 11:07 PM:

@9: Oh, my mom, husband and I all vote absentee; the mail part wouldn't bother me but for two points: I think that requiring people to pay a fee to vote (though granted, a stamp is a small one) is illegal, and secondly, anyone hearing about this today and trying to vote by mail is SOL.

As for where he went, I got this all from my mom, so I'm not sure how that part of the story played out. But my parents are dedicated voters and their polling place has suddenly changed the last year or so. He would have had to check the back of his voter info pamphlet to go anywhere. (It used to be in the National Guard Armory, but at least the primary and possibly the election before that were at an old church.)

As for how my dad felt about it... I'm not sure I can repeat his sentiments in polite company.

#18 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 11:14 PM:

I looked at fivethirtyeight.com a while ago and there was a banner ad inviting me to make a contribution to something called the McCain/Palin Compliance Fund or something like that. I had trouble finding an explanation of what they were trying to do, just the form you fill out to send the contribution.

#19 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2008, 11:33 PM:

Erik Nelson @18, do Palin and McCain have any outstanding campaign debts?

#20 ::: Lylassandra ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2008, 12:33 AM:

And we won anyway!!!

#21 ::: John F ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2008, 02:21 AM:

Lylassandra @1 and Don Fitch @9:

I live in Riverside County (just north of San Diego County), and I am in a mail-in precinct as well. I received the same "surprise" in the 2004 general election, at the same polling place I'd voted for the primary. I can empathize - it can come as a heck of a shock to go to "your" polling place and have them tell you your name is not on the rolls. At the time, they let me vote a provisional ballot and provided a receipt and a number to call to verify that my vote was counted.

Always check your sample ballot, kids! When I got home, I sheepishly found both my sample ballot (with the "mail-in" designation clearly marked in the spot where the polling place normally appears), and the actual ballot in a pile of unsorted mail.

Same story this year. I voted "normally" in the primary, but received a mail-in ballot for the general election. Stamps are not required - the mail-in ballots can be dropped off at any polling place in the county on Election Day.

#22 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2008, 02:21 AM:

I think that requiring people to pay a fee to vote (though granted, a stamp is a small one) is illegal

And Oregon holds every single vote by mail.

I'm wondering how that can be, because you're right that the postage stamp amounts to a poll tax.

I presume that counties in Oregon, as here in Colorado, have drop-off locations that mail ballots can be handed off at, as well? And maybe having that free drop-off alternative is enough to refrain from casting doubt on the legality of the mail ballot?

(I do like the mail-in option. I like spending time with my ballot and my computer, unhurried, looking up stuff and making informed decisions at home.)

#23 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2008, 05:45 AM:

The envelope on my absentee ballot said "No Postage Necessary if Mailed in the United States". I went and dropped it off by hand at the courthouse anyway.

#24 ::: Lylassandra ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2008, 01:22 PM:

@23: What state do you live in? Because I'm now a fan.

#25 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2008, 02:04 PM:

TNH @ 15: Given that the Democrats have a strong lead, why would they use a despicable last-minute tactic like telling people the polls had closed early?

In SF District 11 the Democrat is the (relatively) conservative candidate for City Council, and so might benefit from low turnout.

I live in District 11, have met the Democrat in question, and don't believe the charge for a second, but it's not self-contradictory if you define his self-interest narrowly enough.

#26 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2008, 03:21 PM:

How do states with mail-in ballots (particularly when they are the only option) ensure that the ballot is secret?

It seems to me that a mail-in ballot eliminates the protection of the secret ballot. There is nothing to prevent an employer from making their employees show them the ballots, and "suggesting" a particular vote, or, in abusive relationships, the abuser forcing the victem to vote a certain way.

The voting booth is safe - whatever dangers you may face outside it, no one knows how you vote, and you can remain silent or lie about how you voted if needed.

A mail-in ballot sent to the home? Not so safe.

#27 ::: Lylassandra ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2008, 06:39 PM:

@26: Oddly enough, I had never considered that aspect of it, though I have occasionally wondered about the reliability of whoever plucks the votes from the mail and counts them.

#28 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2008, 12:27 AM:

Lylassandra @24: David's in California, unless he moved when I wasn't paying attention (which I strongly doubt!).

#29 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2008, 07:42 AM:

Brooks@28: A move in the near future is not inconceivable, depending on who ultimately hires Katie. But for now, yes, California.

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