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As we spend the day recounting yesterday, there were no incidents of voter fraud in the states where the GOP made a fuss over ACORN and other voter registration groups.

In fact, voting went remarkably smoothly, despite the surge in turnout -- a result, many voter experts say, of the use of early voting in key states.

Which raises key questions -- why isn't there early voting in all states? And after all of the debate over voter registration fraud, why not just institute universal voter registration?

"The single most important thing that Congress can do right now is create universal voter registration, which would mean that all eligible voters are automatically registered," said Rosemary E. Rodriguez, the chairwoman of the federal Election Assistance Commission, in an article on the subject in the New York Times this morning. The majority of states -- 32 -- have early-voting, with Congress discussing its expansion, the Times reports.

In fact, legislation for universal registration is already in the works in Sen. Hillary Clinton's office -- which would minimize long lines and the problems created by third-party groups like ACORN, which might sate the appetite of the GOP who has long accused ACORN of propagating voter registration fraud.

But, as the Times points out, even though making voting easier might sound like a non-partisan issue accepted by both sides of the aisle, it is anything but:

Lorraine C. Minnite, a political science professor and voting rights expert at Barnard College, said Republicans had generally resisted such efforts in part out of concern about ineligible voters like noncitizens being permitted to vote.

"But the bigger reason that Republicans have resisted expanding the franchise," Dr. Minnite said, "is that the new people who are likely to come into the electorate are more often of lower income and are people of color, who tend to vote Democratic."

Tom Jensen, a Democratic pollster based in Raleigh, N.C., said early voting gave Mr. Obama the edge for his narrow victory in North Carolina by offering his campaign more time to organize rides and get people to the polls. Mr. Jensen noted that Mr. Obama won early balloting by 178,000 votes but lost among Election Day voters by 165,000 votes.

"Obama had a great ground game," he said, "but if you only have 13 hours to get everyone out, it's much harder."

The first hearing on the government's reasons behind holding six enemy combatants in Guantanamo began yesterday, only to be closed to the public -- and the detainees themselves -- after a judge ruled that the evidence was classified. The case is the first to come to trial after the Supreme Court's June decision that gave detainees habeas corpus rights. In 2005, the judge overseeing the trial, Bush-appointee Richard Leon, said enemy combatants had no habeas corpus rights. (New York Times)

The U.S. will open a probe into two airstrikes in Afghanistan that may have left 60 civilians dead, amid growing pressure from local leaders who say the U.S. military's attacks frequently disregard the dangers posed to innocent people. (CNN)

Former NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) may have broken local laws by soliciting sex from a call girl the night before Valentine's Day, but the Justice Department says he paid for it with his own money (never mind his career) and they will not bring charges against him. (AP)

Read More →

BMW Direct, the notorious direct mail firm famous for striking fundraising deals with loser candidates -- predictably lost two of its high profile races this Tuesday.

We mentioned late last week that a BMW client, Deborah Honeycutt -- a Republican challenging Democratic incumbent Rep. David Scott in Georgia -- looked to be making a small challenge to Scott and had raised almost $4.7 million through BMW Direct, though the vast majority had gone in fees back to the company.

Well Honeycutt lost her race -- by the same margin she'd lost in 2006 -- 38 percentage points. According to FEC records, Honeycutt has spent $4.3 million this election cycle, $47 for every vote she received.

As for BMW's other high-profile loser candidate, the Republican challenger to Jack Murtha in Pennsylvania's 12th District, he lost too. Touted by Michelle Malkin as a "jaw-dropping political miracle" Russell brought in almost $2.5 million through BMW Direct -- but spent more than half of that in payments back to the direct mail firm. While he pulled tighter to Murtha at the end of the race, it was more due to the Congressman's gaffes, than any awe inspired fundraising.

One last thing about Honeycutt -- it looks like she's going to have more to deal with than just a lost election. Scott has filed a federal complaint against Honeycutt for allegedly funding sleazy fliers that called Scott the "worst black congressperson."

Special thanks to TPM Reader BK for the tip.

The casino company Las Vegas Sands, which is owned by right-wing billionaire Sheldon Adelson, has said it may default on debt and face bankruptcy, reports Bloomberg. In trading today, stocks in the company plunged.

The news wire adds:

Today's admission comes after Adelson, who holds a stake of more than 64 percent, invested an additional $475 million in September to avoid violating the terms of a loan, and hired an unidentified investment bank to raise more capital with his help.

But as recently as July, Adelson, who is said to still have considerable resources, had assured reporters on a conference call the company will not have liquidity problems."

Adelson, a Bush pioneer, last year worked with ex-Bush-administration officials to found the group Freedom's Watch, which advocates an open-ended commitment to the war in Iraq. As The New Yorker recently reported, he's fiercely opposed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and is a close ally of hawkish Israeli politician and ex-PM Benjamin Netanyahu. He has been a major contributor to AIPAC, and over the years has funded numerous congressional trips to Israel.

And in May, the Boston Globe reported (via Nexis) that Adelson has "waged some bitter anti-union battles in Las Vegas."

Since we're rounding up the evidence (or lack thereof) of voter fraud taking place yesterday, it's worth also noting what the top election officials in Ohio and Minnesota told us on Tuesday night.

Ohio secretary of state Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, said in a statement released toTPMmuckraker the night of the election: "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."

And her counterpart in Minnesota, Mark Ritchie, also a Democrat, told TPMmuckraker in an interview that his office had received no reports of voter fraud.

In both states, Republicans or their allies had raised concerns about the possibility for fraud. Brunner had reportedly received death threats after she fought a GOP lawsuit aimed at cracking down on voter fraud. The Supreme Court sided with Brunner.

Despite last minute legal wrangling on Election Day eve, Florida's election came off without a hitch, with no reports of voter fraud and few problems.

Democrats and Republicans had reached a truce on Monday evening, that the Florida GOP would not file "frivolous" challenges to voters.

But on Nov. 4, there were glitches at individual polling places, but no major problems

From the Miami Herald:

• The only scanner at Coral Ridge Mall in Fort Lauderdale broke and voters had to put ballots in a bin until it was replaced.

• In the David Park Community Center in Hollywood, the first 20 or so voters were handed misprinted ballots listing Amendment 3 twice.

• A poll worker in Sunny Isles Beach was dismissed for being ``rude and overzealous.''

• Two precincts in Palm Beach County opened late.

Statewide, voting went so smoothly that Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning called Election Day ''almost eerily quiet,'' despite an unofficial record turnout.

''It's been a great day for Florida,'' he said.

David Ogden, who during the Clinton administration led DOJ's civil division and also served as chief of staff to Janet Reno, is leading the transition team for the department, reports the Washington Post. Ogden is currently a partner at the WilmerHale law firm.

And the paper adds that "Democrats and interest groups have been developing "to do" lists for Justice, which had deemphasized antitrust, civil rights and environmental enforcement work under President Bush."

Ogden's deputy on the transition will be Thomas Perelli, who, according to the Post, "supervised the government team suing cigarette makers and oversaw the Justice unit that defends federal agencies in complex legal disputes."

We'll be watching closely to see what direction the department moves in under the new administration. But initial signs suggest the grownups may be back in charge.

Colorado's Secretary of State Mike Coffman -- who was elected on Tuesday to Tom Tancredo's Congressional seat -- had been ordered by a judge just days before the Election to stop purging voters from the system.

But despite his best efforts to purge voters from the rolls -- voting rights groups who filed suit estimated 35,000 people were purged in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and settled to get 20,000 back on the rolls just days before Nov. 4 -- Colorado had record turnout and early voting, with few problems.

From the AP:

Colorado Common Cause, one of the groups that sued the state, and another watchdog group, Election Protection, said they received about 800 calls from Colorado voters, mostly about registration questions.

"Compared to 2006, Colorado is doing fabulously," said Jenny Flanagan, executive director of Common Cause.

Flanagan said there were some hiccups, such as provisional ballots being given out "wholesale" in some counties, including Arapahoe and Denver, at the first sign of trouble with a voter's registration.

"I don't know if election judges are overwhelmed or if it's a training issue, but it's something we're going to be looking at in the coming days," she said.

Though his lawsuit threatened to hold up registrations and his poll watchers threatened to create long lines and frivolous challenges, not even GOP Attorney Gen. J.B. Van Hollen's best efforts to raise the specter of voter fraud could suppress Wisconsin's voter turnout.

Wisconsin's top election official, Kevin Kennedy, estimated between 2.9 million and 3 million voters cast ballots in the election the AP reports. That's just under the number of 2004 and nearly 70 percent of the voting-age population.

"As far as voting, everything seems to be going very smoothly in the state," Van Hollen told WTMJ radio.

"We've had very few problems around the state. It appears as though the reports are that most polling places are conducting themselves very well."

In Pennsylvania, where the state Republican party had filed a grab-bag of a lawsuit related to concerns over the integrity of the vote, there were no such problems yesterday.

Voting did not always go smoothly, reports the Associated Press. Fox News showed footage of a man in Black Panther attire holding a nightstick at the doorway of a polling place. There were long lines at many other locations. And according to voting rights groups, some voters whose names were missing from registration books were sent away without being given provisional ballots, as required.

But none of these problems related to voter fraud. That issue had been the major underlying concern of a lawsuit filed late last month by the GOP. It sought, among other things, to force ACORN air public-service announcements reminding first-time voters that they must bring identification to the polls, and to compel the state to provide more provisional ballots.

A judge rejected the suit.