Daily Archives: October 31, 2014

Bring me the head of Anthony Pollina

We received a pair of campaign mailers the other day. (One for each Household Voter.)

Which isn’t at all unusual; it’s rush season for political postage, which gives the USPS a nice little bump in bulk mail. But there was an unusual twist to this one. See if you can spot it:


If you didn’t know the players, you’d think this was a standard piece of party-line bumpf. But it’s not.

This mailer, for the three-seat Washington County State Senate district, endorses two Republicans and one Democrat. Ann Cummings is a Democratic incumbent; Bill Doyle, Our Eternal Senator, is a Republican incumbent; Pat McDonald is a Republican challenger.

Who’s missing? Why, none other than Prog/Dem incumbent Anthony Pollina.

The mailer wasn’t sent by any political party, but by four separate business groups working together: the Campaign Research Center (a.k.a. VT Chamber PAC), the Vermont Ski Areas Association, the Association of General Contractors PAC, and Vermont Realtors PAC. Four groups not known for prioritizing Environmental Protection.

You’d expect these guys to promote Republicans, wouldn’t you? Why no love for Republican Dexter Lefavour? Aside from, y’know, the fact that he’s nothing more than slot-filler.

And why Ann Cummings?

A couple ideas present themselves.

— Tony Pollina is the most liberal of the incumbents, and the most vulnerable — having finished in third place in each of the last two elections. Mind you, there was plenty of room between Pollina and the next Republican finisher each time. But McDonald has a high profile and plenty of connections, and the VTGOP has high hopes for her.

I think they’re wrong, but that’s how they see it.

— Ann Cummings is a liberal Democrat, but (a) she’s a longtime incumbent and a strong vote-getter, and (b) well, she’s a Realtor.

I don’t think her profession was the deciding factor in this cunning plan. More likely, it’s a tactical maneuver to try to isolate Pollina as the weakest link. And by listing a popular, established Democratic incumbent plus the immovable Bill Doyle, they might just trick a few liberals into thinking that McDonald is on their “team.”

It’s clever. Kinda squicky, but clever.

One more thing. Do you suppose the Realtors checked with Realtor Cummings before sending this mailer? If not, it seems discourteous to me. If so, and Cummings approved it, then she ought to explain herself to her fellow Dems.


Randy Brock labors mightily and brings forth a gnat

We have another missive from the desk of Randy Brock, former State Auditor and very unsuccessful candidate for Governor in 2012. This time, he has turned his gimlet eye to the subject of voter fraud, one of the right wing’s favorite chimeras.

(President Bush’s Justice Department spent ungodly amounts of time on this, and came up with a laughably small number of actual cases. That was enough proof for me that voter fraud is not a serious issue.)

Randy Brock's Fraud-O-Tron. Not exactly as illustrated.

Randy Brock’s Fraud-O-Tron. Not exactly as illustrated.

Thankfully, he eschewed the partisan rant. Instead, he went Full Auditor on it, harnessing “big data and inexpensive computer power” to do a vast comparison of voter records. He took “a sample of over 100,000 Vermont voters” from the 2012 election and compared them all to voter records in 48 other states. (Didn’t say which one he omitted. Alaska?) And he found…

… wait for it…

… a whopping 22 cases in which a Vermont voter also cast a vote in another state.

Please check my math, but I believe that’s a rate of 0.02 percent.

Color me unimpressed.

Brock, of course, feels otherwise:

Do we accept a small amount of voter fraud as the “cost of doing business” in a democracy? Or do we say that we must address the rare breaches of voter integrity that strike at the heart of our form of government?

That’s a bit overwrought, don’t you think? Two one-hundredths of a percentage point “strikes at the heart of our form of government”?

Look, I’d love to have a fraud and error rate of zero across the board. But voter fraud is way, way, waaaaaaay down the list of problems with our system of managing elections. Or should I say, our underfunded patchwork clusterfuck NON-system, with different rules and structures in every state, political hacks often in charge, blatant maldistribution of polling places, and vote-counting processes that seem incapable of anything close to precision.

You want “strikes at the heart”? How about Bush v. Gore?

And I’m not even talking about the mischief done by Katherine Harris or the Republican goons who intimidated election officials or the rank partisanship of the U.S. Supreme Court. I’m talking about the simple fact that, given an extremely close election, Florida was incapable of delivering an accurate count. Because of problems with collection and tabulation and incompetence and those God damn hanging chads, there was simply no way to be absolutely certain who won Florida.

That’s what strikes at the heart of our form of government: the fact that we have a system that can’t be relied upon to tell us who actually won the race for President.

Similar events unfolded in Ohio in 2004: A very close election that produced a messy, uncertain result.

(Leaving aside, for the sake of this argument, how many minority voters got discouraged by hours-long lines at their polling places, and how many votes the Democrat lost as a result. I’m just talking about accurately counting the votes that were actually cast.)

Brock actually suggests a reasonable solution for his little tiny problem. Not mandatory voter ID, but “something called the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a multistate partnership that uses sophisticated software to prevent cross-border voter fraud.”

It’s reasonable, but my response is that there are far worse problems with our system of registering voters, facilitating their right to vote, and accurately counting the votes. A lot of them have to do with fragmented authority. More have to do with a lack of resources.

If you want to get serious about a robust, reliable electoral system, there are much better places to start than with Randy Brock’s 22 votes, or with ERIC, or with mandatory voter ID. We’d be a hell of a lot better off if we created a coherent, consistent, capable, fair, unimpeachable election system.  Then we can address the virtually nonexistent “problem” of voter fraud.

Corren redux

Got a phone call today. From Ben and Jerry.

Well, they weren’t live on the line; it was a robo-call on behalf of Dean Corren for Lieutenant Governor. And no, they didn’t offer free ice cream for my vote.

It’s part of Corren’s last-minute, multi-media blitz. Since last I reported, the Corren campaign has filed four more mass-mediz expenditure reports with the Secretary of State’s office, one of which was a $3,000 bill for robo-calls.

The new filings add up to $11,411, bringing the grand total of Corren spending since Oct. 20 to a whopping $72,372. That includes TV, radio, newspaper, and online advertising, robo-calls, graphic design services, and campaign consultancy.

Pretty impressive. It’ll have to be equally effective, for him to have a chance at taking down Phil Scott next Tuesday.