TPM News

In Indiana, Republican fears of voter fraud appear to have been unfounded.

Before the election, GOP secretary of state Todd Rokita, a fast-emerging TPMmuckraker favorite, had called on law enforcement authorities to investigate ACORN, claiming he had found evidence of widespread registration fraud perpetrated by the group.

And the Lake County Republican party had filed suit, unsuccessfully, to shut down early voting "satellite" centers in three Democratic cities in the northern part of the county. The GOP argued, among other things, that allowing early voting at the satellite centers, rather than limiting it to the county seat, which is in a more Republican area of the county -- could increase the chances of fraud.

But yesterday, the man who led the Republicans' legal effort in Lake County, party chair John Curley, told the Chicago Tribune: "The election is over and it was a good clean election."

Curley even added, according to the paper, that early voting "might be the wave of the future."

The final margin of victory for Obama in Indiana was just 22,986 votes -- close enough that Republicans might have been expected to raise concerns over fraud if such evidence had existed.

Just in case you missed this yesterday, Newsweek dishes on campaign secrets, reporting that hackers broke into both campaigns' computer systems in mid-summer and that VP candidate Sarah Palin actually spent more than $150,000 of campaign funds on clothing. Meanwhile uptight DC insiders were titillated -- I mean, scandalized -- by the thought of Sarah Palin greeting McCain aides Mark Salter and Steve Schmidt in a towel. (Newsweek)

Despite a trial that lasted more than a month, dredged up details of drug abuse, massage chairs, and marital dynamics, and ended in a guilty verdict, one in three Alaska voters said in exit polls that the corruption of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) was not a factor in their decision. Loyalty to "Uncle Ted"--and perhaps to his mastery of the pork barrel system--may have trumped fear of felons, giving the 84 year-old a narrow lead against his Democratic challenger, Mark Begich. (AP)

High-profile Democrats and Republicans -- including minority leader Mitch McConnell -- have said Stevens can expect expulsion from the Senate if he returns. But now, with Stevens' re-election looking likely, McConnell has hedged, suggesting that the Senate will wait to take action until the case finishes working its way through the courts. (ProPublica)

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James Tobin, the former GOP official accused of participating in a plot to jam Democratic phone lines in New Hampshire on Election Day 2002, appeared in court yesterday and pleaded not guilty to new charges related to the episode.

Tobin was earlier convicted of telephone harassment in connection with the scheme, but the conviction was overturned last year, and this year he was acquitted. He never served jail time. Prosecutors had appealed, but recently filed new charges, alleging Tobin lied to FBI investigators during questioning about the plot.

The case is being heard in federal court in Portland, Maine, Tobin's home state.

Two other people -- the head of the New Hampshire GOP and a Republican consultant -- have served jail time for their roles in the phone jamming.

Phone records released in the case show that Tobin, at the time a New-England-based staffer for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, made two dozen calls to the office of then-White House political director Ken Mehlman within a three-day period around Election Day 2002. Mehlman has said none of the calls involved the phone-jamming incident.

But the Republican National Committee has admitted to paying Tobin's legal bills during that case, totaling nearly $3 million.

The Department of Homeland Security has announced that TPMmuckraker favorite Julie Myers will step down as head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), effective November 15th.

Myers, the niece of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers, had little experience in homeland security issues when she joined DHS, but was known for her loyalty to the White House. Her husband, John Wood, has served as chief of staff to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.

ICE has been in the spotlight during her tenure -- and not for the right reasons.

First, there's this from earlier this year:

Last Halloween, at a fundraising event for charitable organizations held at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Headquarters Building, they held a costume contest. And the winner was a white lawyer dressed in dreadlocks and prison stripes.

When it came time to present himself to the judges, among them Julie Myers, the chief of ICE, he said "I'm a Jamaican detainee from Krome -- obviously, I've escaped." Krome is an ICE Detention facility in Miami that is mostly filled with Jamaican, Haitian and Latin American detainees. The judges, Myers among them, laughed, according to a report (pdf) issued yesterday by the House Committee on Homeland Security.

(Click through to see the picture of Myers and the contest winner -- it's worth it!)

Then last week, on the eve of the election, law enforcement sources leaked to the Associated Press the news that Barack Obama's aunt, Zeituni Onyango, had been denied a request for asylum four years ago. The leak, which is being looked into by internal investigators at ICE, appears to have violated government regulations, and, as TPMmuckraker reported Monday, may increase the chances that Onyango could be persecuted if she's deported.

In a statement announcing Myers' departure, Chertoff said that Myers approached him about stepping down in mid September.

Though the race is still too close to be called, Sen. Ted Stevens' slim lead over his Democratic contender, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, has many wondering what exactly would happen if the convicted felon (and perhaps seven term senator) succeeded in his bid for re-election.

Assuming he wins re-election, Stevens with have a two-front battle to wage: one with his colleagues in the Senate, and the second with an appellate court.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has already said that "a convicted felon is not going to be able to serve in the United States Senate" shortly after the Alaska Republican's conviction. He has promised that Stevens will face an ethics committee investigation and expulsion, regardless of his appeals process. With Democrats holding a strong majority and many Republicans -- from John McCain to Mitch McConnell -- calling for his resignation, it's unlikely that Stevens would last long after a January swearing in.

So what will happen to Alaska's second senate seat if Stevens is sent back to the wilderness of AK? ProPublica has your answer:

So what happens if the Senate gives Stevens the boot? Under Alaska state law, the current governor--perhaps you remember her--would appoint a temporary replacement. Then a special election would be held to choose a senator to serve out the remainder of Stevens' six-year term. With no primary election in the near future, a special election would need to be held within 90 days of Stevens leaving office.

Could Stevens actually run again via the special election? After all, Alaska's voters and Senate leaders could theoretically end up playing a game of ping-pong--where Alaska votes him in, the Senate expels him and then Alaska votes him back in. We're looking into it.

ProPublica consulted an Alaska law expert in a later article and discovered that it wasn't quite that simple (is it ever?) -- in 2004, Alaska voters approved an initiative that stripped the governor from the power to appoint a replacement to the U.S. Senate, and which conflicts with current state law. It looks like it'll come down to the Alaska Supreme Court -- with nothing even starting to be resolved until the legislature meets in January.

After covering Alaska for the last five months -- and staying up until 4 a.m. refreshing State Election Board results -- I would have to say you shouldn't put anything past Alaska.

As for Stevens' appeal, it hasn't been filed yet, but we can already hypothesize what it will entail: prosecutorial misconduct and perhaps grounds related to the jury.

Despite GOP scare-tactics over voter fraud, a record turnout and attempts at voter suppression, few voting problems were seen in yesterday's historic election. (Chicago Tribune)

The alternate juror in the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens -- who was called in after Juror No. 4 lied about her father's death in order to attend a horse race in California -- is telling her tale in her own personal blog. Juror No. 11 spilled the beans on the jury's nicknames for the members of the court and the arguments made in deliberations. (Blog of Legal Times)

And speaking of Stevens, the 84 year-old senator seems to have defied the odds -- though the race has yet to be called -- with a slim lead over his Democratic contender, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich who was heavily favored to win. Not one to be left out, scandal-ridden Rep. Don Young has soared to an apparent victory over Ethan Berkowitz (D) -- a huge upset over the poll which had him losing by as much as 13 percentage points. (Anchorage Daily News)

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Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie says that his office received no reports whatsoever of fraudulent voting occurring today.

Ritchie, a Democrat, told TPMmuckraker that one young man did attempt to sell his vote on eBay(!), but he was quickly apprehended and charged with a felony. No one voted fraudulently in his name.

Minnesota Majority, a conservative group, had raised concerns about voter fraud in recent weeks.

Earlier tonight, we posted a statement from Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, saying she also had received no reports of illegal voting in her state.

Ritchie said his office would conduct a review of the state database in the coming weeks, and that it was possible that they would find a very few cases of ineligible voters casting ballots.

But he stressed that, in his experience, genuine voter fraud "does not happen."

He added: "The specter of this is raised as a political strategy," by losing candidates, to explain their losses. Ritchie called the strategy "despicable."

A statement from Jennifer Brunner, the Ohio Secretary of State:

"We have received no reports of election irregularities in Ohio today - and we have been on the lookout for any hint of illegal voting or voter suppression.

Republicans in the state had raised fears of voter fraud after the Supreme Court rejected their lawsuit against Brunner, over discrepancies in some voters' registration information.

Security has been assigned to Ohio's Democratic secretary of state Jennifer Brunner, reports the Toledo Blade.

Brunner was sued by the state Republican party over a dispute about discrepancies in the registration information of newly registered voters. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Brunner last month.

Brunner has reported receiving death threats after the ruling, and her office was the target of a security breach.

Is the GOP now laying the groundwork for claims of computerized voter fraud?

The computer forensics company Forensicon just sent out the following press release:

Republican National Committee Prepares for Computerized Voting Fraud Legal Battle

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwire - November 4, 2008) - Forensicon, Inc., a Chicago-based computer forensics company, was contacted last Thursday by a security firm lining up vendors to assist the Republican National Committee with consulting related to potential allegations of computerized voter fraud. It has been widely reported that electronic voting machines in many states are vulnerable to hacking by anyone with the right equipment and a few minutes' access to the voting machine.

Yesterday, noted Chicago resident Oprah Winfrey attempted to cast her vote for her candidate, but the vote failed to register correctly.

It has been widely reported that electronic voting machines in many states are vulnerable to hacking by anyone with the right equipment and a few minutes' access to the voting machine with a handheld computing device. The lack of printed voting receipts in many of these systems leaves the election ballots in many areas vulnerable to rampant fraud and abuse.

"If the election returns vary significantly from the polled numbers in any precincts that proves crucial to the election outcome, I expect that a legal struggle over the validity of the election results will ensue," said Forensicon's President, Lee Neubecker.