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.

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It now appears that isolated reports of the NRCC's robocall tactics began emerging a week or so ago, but the reports were sporadic, and it didn't become apparent that the repeat phone calls were part of a coordinated national campaign until over the weekend.

One of the earliest accounts came in an Illinois newspaper article from November 1:

Rozanne Ronen, a Barrington resident, got the call -- "Hi. I'm calling with information about Melissa Bean ..."

Then she got the call again and again and 18 more times, making for a total of about 21 calls since October 24.

"They are very annoying," Ronen said.

Pat Vockeroth, of Mount Prospect, received the calls too -- "Hi. I'm calling with information about Tammy Duckworth ..."

"If you only listen to the first sentence, you think they are from the Duckworth campaign," she said.

But the calls aren't paid for by Bean, Duckworth or even the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, they are paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The NRCC acknowledged that it was the source of those Illinois calls but suggested a contractor was to blame for the repeat calls:

Jonathan Collegio, NRCC spokesman, acknowledged that the NRCC has paid for series of robocalls in the 6th and 8th districts, saying phone banking are part of any modern campaign.

"Phone banking is used by campaigns of all stripes and all these calls are made between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.," he said.

Asked about the repetitive nature of the calls, Collegio said that may be a problem with the contractor.

"Because these calls are done by computers, it could be some kind of a glitch. This is all a matter of voter contact where we are trying to make sure people are aware of the upcoming election and make sure they vote the right way," he said.

Given that harrassing repeat calls have been reported in congressional districts around the country, it is unlikely that this is merely a contractor's "glitch." But the repeat nature of the calls was not immediately recognized as part of the NRCC's national robocall campaign. For instance, an AP report on the NRCC campaign which also appeared on November 1 focused on the fact that the calls had a tendency to mislead voters into thinking they came from the Democratic candidate, but made no mention of the fact that calls were being repeated multiple times in order to harrass voters and leave them with a negative impression of the Democratic candidate.

The NRCC robocall campaign thus flew under the radar exactly as intended.

We'll have more on this and other voter suppression tactics throughout the day.

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.