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David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

Need proof that our election system is broken?

San Diego ran out of absentee ballots and was forced to mail out photocopies of the actual ballot.

If that wasn't bad enough, when the photocopied ballots are filled out and returned, the Registrar of Voters staff will copy the votes by hand onto the actual ballot, which can then be run through an optical scanner.

For more on GOP robocalls that leave the impression with call-saturated voters that the call is from the Democratic candidate, take a look at this post by Paul Kiel earlier in the week over at TPMMuckraker.

A couple of days ago, we linked to a report out of Houston that the GOP was placing signs near early voting polling stations in Tom Delay's former district that read "Encourage Terrorists. Vote Democrat."

Here are some pics.

(Thanks to TPM Reader D for the link.)

We're getting reports from a number of congressional districts that one or another of the GOP committees is sponsoring robocalls that begin with "I'm calling with information about [fill in name of Democratic candidate]." Apparently, many voters, irate with the flood of calls, assume that the Democrat is the one sponsoring the call.

In addition to the New Hampshire 2nd and New York 19th, which we covered below, TPM readers report such calls in the Illinos 6th (Roskam v. Duckworth), Illinois 8th (McSweeney v. Bean), and California 4th (Doolittle v. Brown). However, we do not have reports from those district of repeated callbacks after the recipient hangs up, as has been reported in the New York 19th.

More on what we're hearing about GOP dirty phone tricks in the New York 19th Congressional District.

Three TPM readers have reported a phone scam with a double whammy. The call purports to be for John Hall, the Democratic challenger, but makes negative assertions about Hall. If the caller hangs up, they are called again and again, as many as seven times, according to one report.

So either the recipient hears a negative message about Hall, or they think Hall is harrassing them with repeated phone calls. Either way it's a win for Hall's opponent, Republican incumbent Sue Kelly.

If you're in the NY-19, let us know what you're hearing.

Ted Haggard confesses to "sexual immorality", saying he has had a "lifelong sexual problem."

I fear that's his way of saying he's gay, something for which he probably will seek a "cure." Hard not to feel sorry for the guy.

Voting machine snafus have been reported during early voting in Florida's 13th Congressional District, where Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings are vying for Katherine Harris' open seat:

The voters who complained say they picked Jennings, but the 13th Congressional District had no vote registered for either Jennings or Republican Vern Buchanan when a screen reviewing their votes came up.

The voters all said the touchscreen machines allowed them to go back to the 13th District race and make a selection, and their vote was recorded properly in the end.


Similar problems cropped up in South Florida during early voting:

Broward Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman Mary Cooney said it's not uncommon for screens on heavily used machines to slip out of sync, making votes register incorrectly. Poll workers are trained to recalibrate them on the spot -- essentially, to realign the video screen with the electronics inside. The 15-step process is outlined in the poll-workers manual.


Can you imagine an ATM "slipping out of sync" after heavy usage? Billions of dollars worth of commercial transactions are successfully completed every day in this country by consumers involving far more complicated software and far more possible choices than an electronic voting ballot. There is simply no excuse for this kind of thing, and anyone who suggests it's just par for the course was either sold a bill of goods or is selling one.

More GOP dirty phone tricks in New Hampshire, scene of the 2002 phone-jamming incident that led to criminal prosecutions of Republican operatives:

For the second straight day yesterday, Democratic field offices received dozens of phone calls and e-mails from frustrated voters upset about repeated automated phone calls they thought were coming from Democratic candidate Paul Hodes - though the calls were paid for by a Republican group instead.

The National Republican Congressional Committee spent nearly $20,000 on the calls last week. Depending on the rate, that could mean more than 300,000 automated phone calls into the Second Congressional District.

Incumbent Republican Congressman Charlie Bass denounced the calls yesterday and said he tried to get the NRCC to put a stop to them. But a spokesman for the NRCC said the automated phone calls would continue indefinitely.

"The calls will continue as planned," said Alex Burgos, a spokesman for the NRCC, the national group charged with electing Republicans to the House. "They are done independently of Charlie Bass's campaign. He has nothing to do with them."


The only surprising thing here is that the NRCC has essentially admitted this is one of its tricks. We have a report that a similar effort is underway in the New York 19th Congressional District, where Democrat John Hall is trying to unseat Republican Sue Kelly.

Reports of GOP voter supression efforts are coming in from all around the country, in local, state, and federal races. Here are a few samples:

In North Carolina:

On Monday morning, when Chapel Hill lawyer Bob Epting approached the early voting center at Morehead Planetarium, he . . . was approached by a female college student who asked whether he was a registered Democrat.

"Yes I am," he said.

She replied, "Good, here's a list of our judicial candidates."

Epting thanked her, folded the piece of paper without looking at it and put it in his pocket. . . .

But after exiting the poll, he remembered the piece of paper and removed it from his pocket. Standing at the top of a dozen or so marble steps, he scanned the list in disbelief. It was a list of Republican candidates.


In California:

Senator Dianne Feinstein sounded off today over a mailer that prominently displays her picture. It's billed as a voter information guide for Democrats, despite the fact that it recommends voting no on some issues that Feinstein and the Democratic Party support, including Proposition 86, the tobacco tax, and Proposition 87, the oil tax.


We'll keep posting as we hear about them.

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