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Cheating Determines Iowa's Elections, Schultz Implies

(Rhetoric like this is one reason voter ID laws undermine public confidence in the integrity of elections. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Does any other Secretary of State agree with Iowa’s Matt Schultz–that abortion and gay marriage are legal because cheating determines election outcomes? Or is our Secretary of State saying Iowa has the worst elections in the nation?

In an astonishing, passionate speech to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition April 15, Shultz said the group could not advance its agenda because its opponents "cheat" at the polls. His solution?Voter ID cards, of course.

Schultz offered no evidence of such cheating. He charged that

we have a lot of forgetful Democratic Senators in the state of Iowa. They just don’t get it. . . . Why would somebody be against voter ID? WHY? It’s time to call a spade a spade. . . This about honesty and integrity–I’m an Eagle Scout–I think it’s important we have an Eagle Scout be Secretary of State.

Calling a spade a spade apparently means being ready to say Democrats win by cheating, which he soon said.

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Who Can Vote?

(Thanks to IowaVoter for covering this important issue. Click here for background on Governor Terry Branstad's executive order rescinding former Governor Tom Vilsack's 2005 order creating an automatic process for restoring ex-felons' voting rights. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Iowa's voting laws made news last week when the Des Moines Register reminded us of who cannot vote here. Iowa has become one of the most difficult places to vote for felons.

It's not clear to me why everyone who is 18 years old cannot vote, criminal record, even presence in jail notwithstanding. Is this a democracy or not?

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Schultz Vindicated: Voter Fraud Proven!

(Another reminder that photo ID laws don't address real problems with the voting system. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

In his press conference in January Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz said voter fraud cases were “getting prosecuted all over the country.” This must have been one of them.  The convict is the Indiana Secretary of State, Charlie White, a Republican. He has stepped down from office.

This one would not have been prevented even if White had shown his ID. He probably did show his ID, given that Indiana has a recent voter ID law.

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Schultz Raises Dead Voter Scare Again

(You'd think he would have enough real problems to work on in this job. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Our Secretary of State still wants to see your ID. Make that a photo ID with an expiration date on it, please, so your Iowa State student ID card will not suffice.  

You need it unless you vote absentee, or get someone to swear you are really you, or swear it yourself if you are in a nursing home and can't vote like other absentee voters. Or unless you have a religious objection or swear you are indigent. In those last two cases we break out the dreaded provisional ballots again.

With that many loopholes his new bill offers way more inconvenience, hassle, confusion, and expense for the state than it offers security for already honest elections.

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Repubs Stage Crime at NH Polls

Republicans took a ribbing during Iowa's recent caucuses because they did not practice what they preach. They did not require their own voters to show a photo ID card before allowing them to vote for a Presidential candidate.

Now some Republican dirty tricksters have tried to make their case for ID cards in a novel way—by committing a crime. They went to New Hampshire polls and got ballots for people who had just died. They filmed themselves doing it(embedded here). This is supposed to prove that ID cards are needed. Actually it proves something else.

Two things, in fact.  First it proves the crime of impersonating a voter is already well deterred. The tricksters never cast the ballots that were given to them. They merely left the polling place as soon as they had been handed the blank ballot. Even for the sake of their propaganda, they knew better than to carry this crime any farther.

But if it's not worth the risk even in this case where they were in control of events, how much less is it worth the risk of actually casting just one fraudulent vote into a sea of thousands of legitimate votes? At one polling place the trickster was spotted by a poll worker who recognized he was using the name of a recently deceased man. This inconvenient fact was not included in the propaganda video. The likelihood of altering the outcome is so tiny that no voters ever take this risk. Voters are smarter than tricksters, as we shall see shortly.

The trick also reveals something else inadvertently–that the crime is so rare no good evidence of it exists. It has to be staged. Ask your friends if they know of any cases. Ask if they have ever gone to vote only to learn they had already been impersonated by a previous voter. Better yet ask our Secretary of State Schultz how many voters ever report to him that they have been stopped from voting for this reason. You won't find much evidence.

Now that video of this crime has been released, it turns out that merely “obtaining” a ballot in someone else's name is a crime. It wasn't necessary to cast the ballot. They may already be guilty.

Why didn't they stage this trick at the Iowa Republican caucus sites? Because it would have made Republicans look bad. It still does.

 cross-posted at 

Email Voting Is Foolish

Iowa has only dipped its toe into the vortex of email voting. Other states are diving in because it sounds so convenient. They should step back if they want their ballots to be secure.

Here's computer security expert David Jefferson, writing two weeks ago:

I am very concerned about the widespread push toward Internet voting in the U.S., of which email voting is just one kind. Neither the Internet itself, nor voters’ computers, nor the email vote collection servers are secure against any of a hundred different cyber attacks that might be launched by anyone in the world from a self-aggrandizing loner to a foreign intelligence agency. Such an attack might allow automated and undetectable modification or loss of any or all of the votes transmitted.

While all Internet voting systems are vulnerable to such attacks and thus should be unacceptable to anyone, email voting is by far the worst Internet voting choice from a national security point of view since it is the easiest to attack in the largest number of different ways.

Jefferson goes on to list some of the pitfalls beginning with lack of privacy. Iowa allows return of ballots by email only for people in war zones. We require the voter to acknowledge in writing that he understands his ballot is no longer secret.

But Jefferson goes on to list more pitfalls Iowa is not acknowledging: Vote manipulation while in transit, malware being attached to the email ballot, server attacks, denial of service attacks, etc.

He is not expecting things to get more secure in the future:

These facts will not change: These vulnerabilities are facts about email voting. They are fundamentally built in to the architecture of email, of the Internet itself, and of the PCs and mobile devices that people vote from, and are not going to change for as far ahead into the future as anyone can see. Anyone’s security claims to the contrary should be treated with extreme skepticism. No amount of encryption (even if it were used for some parts of the voting infrastructure), no amount of firewalling, no use of strong passwords or two factor authentication, no amount of voter signature checking, and no other security tricks of the trade are sufficient to materially change these facts.

All the same problems apply to ballots returned by FAX, Jefferson says.

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz is warning about unauthorized voting. He claims–without evidence–that Iowa should fear impersonators at the polling place. He thinks he can prevent this by requiring voters to produce photo ID cards. He says this will make our elections more secure.

If this is not just a voter suppression scheme, if he really worries about secure voting, he should hold the line against email voting.

cross-posted at IowaVoters.

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Auditors Study Photo ID

(This week Secretary of State Matt Schultz blamed Iowa Senate Democrats for killing a "commonsense" voter ID bill. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

When Iowans elected a new Secretary of State in November, county election officials (Auditors) adapted quickly. Secretary-elect Schultz had already riled the auditors during the campaign. He had insinuated that voting rolls were improperly managed, and he had called for new laws to block imaginary illegal voters.

The auditors initiated a study of photo ID requirements for voters when Schultz told them he would press for such a law in Iowa. A handful of other states have a similar requirement. Seven auditors traveled to two of those states, Indiana and Florida. Their 14-page report is now available on the front page of their website.

Reading between the lines of the report one can see the ID laws don't prevent this imaginary fraud so much as move it to a new place in the voting system. Voters can escape the photo requirement by voting absentee in Indiana, for example. One Indiana official said he encourages voters to use absentee ballots if the ID rule is a stumbling block for them. However, the Iowa report notes

Since mailed absentee ballots are already the area of the election process that is most prone to voter fraud, this “go-around” actually opens the election process to greater potential for voter fraud.

Indeed Indiana and Florida each cite their own history of absentee ballot fraud yet both still permit absentee voters.

It is not clear if either state relies on the photo rule anyway. Indiana absentees avoid the photo law. At the polls it is common to rely more on signature similarity than to study the photo ID, according to one Indiana official. Furthermore, Indiana allows names that don't exactly match each other, citing ten variations of the name J. Crew, for example, that would all be allowed to vote with the same ID card.

Florida voters can avoid presenting a photo if they have two forms of ID or if their signature on voting day matches a prior signature in the state's database.

Look-alike brothers Bill Jones and Bob Jones could probably vote for each other in Indiana as easily as in Iowa. People with paperwork skills can probably navigate the system with little hassle. I don't think the voter ID demand is even intending to stop them, both because it is so rare that one voter impersonates another, and because that is no way to steal an election.

This campaign may be driven by a widely held notion among Republican activists that “DemocRATS” don't win elections unless they cheat. Rather than rely on evidence for this view, they hold it as a matter of faith. They proceed to claim it's just a sensible requirement, thus avoiding the need think clearly about the notion.

The auditor's report does not advocate or condemn voter ID laws. Auditors knew they had to avoid that policy debate. Instead it explains the stories of the other two states and recommends some minimum standards for Iowa in case the legislature agrees to erect this new blockade. They include “a significant financial investment” in voter education for the indefinite future, money for free ID cards, money to defend the law against a likely court challenge, and money for improving the technology that links databases of registered voters and licensed drivers. That's four new lines of expenditure, estimated to exceed two million dollars a year in the report.

But since the report was written, Secretary Schultz has reduced funding for Iowa's innovative poll worker technology tool known as Precinct Atlas. Counties who use the optional device must divide up the $30,000 cost formerly paid by the state.

Secretary Schultz says his new ID plan will make elections “secure.” County auditors who used the Precinct Atlas made the same claim for it. Security is in the eye of the beholder.

cross posted at Iowa Voters.

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Schultz Can't Stop Pandering

This appears at the Iowa Republican in the story about yesterday's gay-bashing rally:

 “Several Republican officials were in attendance at Tuesday’s rally, including Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, . . . .”

 Hmmm.  Was he checking IDs, or helping them register to vote, or what?  Maybe he was furthering his pledge to bring jobs to Iowa.

 Most likely I have been proven correct in my prediction that Schultz would be out of the SoS office frequently in pursuit of some other office. 

Iowa's Best Criminals

(Mosiman was Story County auditor for 10 years before taking a position in the Secretary of State's office. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The Iowa Secretary of State is fixing to scare off a group of criminals who must be insanely smart. These folks commit their crimes in front of numerous witnesses. They always offer a handwriting sample first. They never get caught. They are so sly, people never even know the crime occurred.

They are Iowa's fraudulent voters.

Deputy of Elections Mary Mosiman was on the radio Monday warning about this crime. She was pinch-hitting for Secretary Schultz, who yanked himself at the very last moment. Was Schultz too embarrassed to finger these elusive voters with Mosiman's evidence? Listen to her case:

“If they did want to commit fraud, they could go in as somebody else, they could vote. They would be long gone before anybody knew about it, assuming that person that was really the voter did not come in. We still wouldn't know because when that actual person came in, the person who committed the fraud so to speak would be gone.”

Yes, unlike dumb criminals, these people leave the scene after they commit their crimes. When asked for actual instances of this crime Mosiman repeated herself:

“Personally, I can say, that if it did occur, we would never know because the person who committed that crime is long gone. Have there been any instances that have been caught and prosecuted? None that I am aware of.”

In other words, “It never happens.” If it had, the Deputy of Elections would be able to cite places and dates rather than baseless fears.

Just consider the risks these criminals take:

*They cannot impersonate a deceased voter because those names are regularly removed from the rolls.

*They cannot impersonate an inactive voter, because inactive voters already must show an ID.

*They cannot impersonate someone who has already voted, because that is a dead giveaway!

*They cannot impersonate someone who shows up later because their signature forgery would be strong evidence against them. (Plus the number of times it has happened would become known by the number of alleged forgeries. So far that number is at zero, even according to Mosiman.)

They must impersonate an active voter who does not actually show up later to vote. It must be one who would not be recognized by any poll worker or poll watcher. See how smart these criminals are! How do they do it?


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Voter ID Law Fails to Work

(Perhaps Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz will reconsider the merits of costly voter ID requirements that don't prevent fraud. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The new Republican Secretary of State in Indiana has been indicted for voter fraud. His fraudulent voting behavior was not prevented by the state's photo ID law. By the way, here's his photo ID now:

Fraudulent Voter in Indiana

Actually I don't know if he showed his ID card when he voted, but it is required by Indiana law.

Secretary White simply did not live where his vote was cast. But he needed to appear to live there because he was getting paid to represent his old neighborhood on the city council!

Now that this fraud has apparently been perpetrated on the Republican Party of Indiana (it happened in the primary election), what does the man's attorney have to say about it?

“I'm confident that this doesn't rise to the level of a criminal offense. … He had kind of a chaotic personal living situation at the time.”

Money may be the mother's milk of politics, but double standards are the sine qua non. . . . . .also posted at IowaVoters.

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Auditors Embarass House Republicans

(Note also that Secretary of State Matt Schultz was unaware that "inactive" voters who show up on election day are already required to show ID under Iowa law. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Iowa's county election officials (the county auditors) oppose a bill that has already passed the Iowa House. The bill would require voters to show a photo ID before voting. Absentee voters would have to photocopy their ID and mail it in with the ballot (Think for a moment how that would help the auditor know if the person in the photo matches the person who mailed the ballot).

Republicans dominate both the House and the auditors group. The sixty House Republicans voted unanimously for the bill three weeks ago. According to the Register, not a single auditor endorses it. Meeting last week, the Iowa auditors decided to register their group in opposition to the bill.  

Secretary Schultz said the bill, HF 95, should be passed to prevent people from impersonating someone else at the poll. Auditors said they had never heard of such a thing happening.

This is the second time the group has rebuked the new Secretary of State. Last summer a large faction of the auditors endorsed Schultz's opponent, an unusual step for these generally tight-lipped officials. Even Schultz's home county auditor, Republican Marilyn Jo Drake, endorsed the incumbent Mike Mauro.

Other groups that have registered against the bill include the ACLU, AARP, the Governor's Developmental Disabilities Council, the Methodist Church, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Backing the bill are the Farm Bureau, the Iowa Minutemen, and the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition.

 cross posted from

Kevin Koester's Shell Game

(Not the first time and won't be the last that Iowa legislators pretend to care about money in politics. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

One state representative wants you to worry about $3 gifts being given to him. While you are following that distraction, his majority leader can collect $1000 or more from utility companies, corn growers and car dealers. Those “campaign contributions” came in after the election.

Which will matter more? The $3 trinkets Koester points to, or the big bucks he ignores? And to think he says, “There is a climate where public trust of elected officials is on a decline . . .”

Is he curing the decline or causing it?

                                                     cross-posted at 

Branstad vs. Voting Rights

(Branstad is likely to sign this order soon after taking office. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Candidate Terry Branstad promised to make it harder for some people to vote. He wants to turn back the clock, reversing a national trend of thirteen years.

In the early days of the USA only property owners could vote. A hundred years later all barriers to voting were gone except the one that kept women away from the polls. Then new barriers were built against Blacks and felons, notably poll taxes and other tests that were unfairly applied.

Branstad thinks it terrible that everyone might be able to vote: “All of the sudden you're just going to make 50,000 people eligible to vote,” he fretted. Imagine that!  
(continues after the jump)

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Separate Lever Machines?

lever machine

The Iowa constitution says

Judges shall serve for one year after appointment and until the first day of January following the next judicial election after the expiration of such year. They shall at such judicial election stand for retention in office on a separate ballot which shall submit to the question of whether such judge shall be retained in office . . .”

What does that mean?

Surely it doesn't mean a separate piece of paper for every judge who must be retained. I think we would have been drowned in separate ballots in November.

Maybe it means one extra ballot with all the judges on it. But the wording conflicts with that because “judge” is singular. The ballot is for a single judge.

Or maybe it means each judge is to be voted on separately rather than with other judges who are also up for retention.

Back when the retention elections began in the 1960's we didn't have paper ballots. We had lever machines! Surely the authors of the amendment would have protested if they saw judges occupying lever slots on the same machine as every other candidate. Did they protest? Did they demand separate paper ballots?

Don't be ridiculous. “Separate ballot” means a separate vote for each judge. It is a rule designed to deter Governor's from appointing cronies and to sort out incompetent judges, not to dictate ballot style.

cross posted at

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Michael Mauro, 2007-2011

(One of the biggest disappointments on a disappointing night. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Michael Mauro was a good Secretary of State. He was always interested in our elections. He failed to win his own re-election.

Before Mauro our Secretary was Chet Culver. Culver used his time to become well-known around the state, saying “get out and vote” at every opportunity. The publicity this created was for him as much as for the elections he advertised. Who could be against voting? He used his name recognition to run for Governor.

But Culver left a mess in the elections department. He failed to stop dozens of counties from adopting paperless touchscreen voting machines, ignoring experts who warned against them. Some counties had two entirely different systems in each polling place–a touchscreen plus a paper system as well.

Having been a county auditor himself in Iowa's largest county, Mauro came to the state job with experience and credibility. He dumped the touchscreens soon after his 2006 election. He later created a system for sending ballots overseas that was named best in the USA. He was so respected by Iowa's county auditors that many of them took the unusual step of endorsing his re-election.

Four years in a low profile job is not enough to gain name recognition. Yesterday Iowa's conservative voters kept all the incumbents they recognized except one (Governor Culver). They also passed over the guy they didn't recognize (Mike Mauro). I'm sure they meant no ill will. Thank you, Michael Mauro.

cross posted from 

Iowa Voter Rolls: More Apples Than Oranges

cross posted at Iowa Voters.

 Last week a story surfaced that seven Iowa counties supposedly had more registered voters than adult citizens. The story was advanced by a devious blogger and became state-wide news. Let's take a look at his devious ways.

1. He pretended to be more than one person, calling himself a “law center” when in fact he is a lawyer-blogger whose blog is called This deviation from the facts managed to fool Iowa Secretary of State candidate Matt Schultz who yesterday told a radio audience the blogger was a non-partisan watchdog group.

2. His letter to Iowa's Secretary of State Michael Mauro would find its way onto the website of Mauro's opponent Schultz, but he never called the Secretary to investigate before he threatened to sue, according to Mauro's election director Sarah Reisetter.

3. He used the Republican Noise Machine to push the story. It was picked up by the Washington Times, Michelle Malkin, and and he put it on his other blog at pajamas media. Eventually Iowa media took the bait. Bingo!

4. His accusatory letter had no numbers included so the public could not evaluate his threat. This allowed Matt Schultz to pimp the story while carefully noting that he could not know if it was actually worrisome or even true.

5. When confronted with real numbers by this post, he alleged that some of the adults should not count because they may be non-citizens. He avoided admitting that the rural county in question is only .2% foreign born. That's two people for every thousand. And no doubt some (all?) of them eventually became citizens.

6. Finally he admitted he has no ability to sue since he doesn't live in any of the states he threatened. Someone else will have to use his non-numbers to buttress their own court case. Fat chance in Iowa.

The blogger (J. Christian Adams) never discussed the real reasons that there might be more voters on the list than there are on the census website. Let us count the reasons:

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Schultz Ignorant About Voter Rolls

(Next time Republicans should nominate someone who knows something about this job. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Candidate Matt Schultz went on the radio yesterday to push his “number one issue”—requiring photo identification of all voters. In the process he showed how little he knows about election laws and covered up his discomfort by laughing his way through the ten minute interview.

Schultz portrayed the accusatory as a “non-partisan group.” In fact it is a blog run by a highly partisan attorney. If you try to find the so-called center with a Google search, all you can find is the blog. Schultz should know this by now.

Then he acknowledged that no actual numbers were provided in the letter threatening to sue Iowa for incorrect numbers. He admitted that the charges are unproven. Nevertheless he still features the letter at his website and he wants to use the story to push his agenda. That is indeed the real purpose of the story in the first place–to scare us into erecting barriers to voting.

Schultz joked about dead people voting or about people moving here from Chicago to impersonate dead Iowans at the polls. Since this canard is not grounded in any facts, he offered no facts to back it up. If he ever checked the voting rolls for dead Iowans, he could see that their names are removed as part of routine list maintenance. If he had paid attention last week to Secretary Mauro's rebuttal, Schultz would even know the number of deceased removed in each county.

He further alleged that poll workers are powerless to stop an unfamiliar voter from impersonating the dead. He's never actually read the law: Iowa Code 49.77 (3)

A precinct election official may require of the voter
unknown to the official, identification in the form prescribed by the state commissioner by rule. If identification is established to the satisfaction of the precinct election officials, the person may then be allowed to vote.

In a few minutes on the radio Schultz and his interviewer managed to mention aliens, Arizona, cheating, felons, dead voters, and Chicago politics while pretending to be average citizens bewildered by the ways of election administration. I'd say that makes him a poor candidate for Secretary of State.

Still, you got to hand it to him. When you are not constrained by any facts, a few minutes on statewide radio is all you need to plant doubts in the minds of the public. He was wildly successful at that.

cross-posted at

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Mauro Attacked By Republicans (Yawn!)

A Republican partisan is trying to make Iowa look bad. He is threatening to sue us over our voter registration rolls.

It's not news when a blogger threatens to sue a state official, so he calls his blog “Election Law Center.” This isn't your average blogger, since he is a lawyer, but he's still just a partisan hack trying to gin up fears of dead people voting or of aliens behind the curtain canceling out your vote.

Naturally this attack is featured on the website of the Republican candidate for Secretary of State Matt Schultz. What else has he got to offer us? Probably nothing. Last spring he was the only one of the several Republicans running for this nomination who did not answer questions I sent about the auditing of voting machine results.

Now he aligns with that blogger who says several Iowa counties have listed more voters than there are adults in the county. He can't know how many people live there since census figures are nearly ten years old. Other figures on population do exist, but Republicans always say they are not reliable. They oppose using those figures in lieu of the census when drawing up legislative districts. Since those figures can make it look like there are phantom voters, then it's OK to use the data.

How could there possibly be more voters than citizens? For one thing, . . .

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HAVA Audit Nicks Culver But Misses Touchscreens

(Thanks to IowaVoter for the update. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The 2002 Help America Vote Act sent $30 million to Iowa for new voting equipment, training, and voter education. Now a federal audit at the Election Assistance Commission says less than 2% of the money was not spent according to Hoyle. Iowa must reimburse itself this money–some $575,000 by the end of this year.

But the real scandal was the money that was “properly” spent on touchscreen voting machines that have since been scrapped. If anyone wants to criticize then SoS Chet Culver, it should be for that foolish purchase, taken when the flaws of paperless voting were well known and public skepticism was running high. But no, that scandal is forgotten. Even the federal Election Assistance Commission, which is looking over Culver's shoulder in this audit, would never admit that touchscreens were folly. Many states still use them.

This is a trivial scandal compared to the Iowa film tax credits or to most audit scandals you read of. The original audit charges were that nearly ten percent of the money had been misspent, but the EAC has now vindicated the Iowa SoS and has dropped the majority of the charges.

The remaining complaints don't show that the public was cheated so much as they show Culver failed to follow some rules. He failed to get a competitive bid before hiring a consultant to conduct public meetings and otherwise help prepare the HAVA plan for Iowa. He allowed a voter education project to cover too many topics, some of which are now said to be not educational. He spent some money celebrating the Voting Rights Act and on Get Out the Vote radio ads that should not have been paid with HAVA money.

So now Iowa must pay this money back to the Iowa HAVA account at the Secretary of State's Office. You see, the expenditures may have all been legitimate–it's just that they weren't in line with the HAVA rules for using federal money. It's not clear which other Iowa source of funds will be tapped for this money. No money goes back to Washington, D.C.

That's it! No one claims the consultant (Iowa Public Policy Group) did a poor job. Their contract is more than three quarters of the money at issue. This could indeed be favoritism of some sort on Culver's behalf, so let's wait to see if anyone makes that claim. I'm not very sympathetic when competitive bidding rules are ignored. Shame on Culver. Had there been a competitive contract, maybe we would have saved a few bucks.

We still would have had touchscreens at the end of it. That's the real scandal.

cross-posted at 

Grassley Partisans Pack the House

(Imagine the national scandal if a person had called George W. Bush a "little Hitler" at a public meeting, and a Democratic member of Congress had responded that the person was right to be concerned about Bush's motives. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The crowd applauded Sen Grassley for merely walking into the room in Pocahontas today. They were clearly his fans, and they filled a good part of the Expo Center on the fairgrounds.

The very first man railed against too much government using the mandated EXIT signs above all the doors as his example. Anybody too stupid to know the way out of the building would likely not be smart enough read the sign, he said. This drew another round of applause and laughter.

No guns were in evidence, but I imagine the four sheriff deputies may have had theirs. I wasn’t close enough to them to notice. One elderly voter who got the microphone stood right next to the Senator, accused Obama of “acting like a little Hitler, ” (more applause) and said he was ready to take his gun to Washington.

Senator Grassley did not rebuke the man for his threat or his characterization of Obama, but he tepidly said he did not ascribe any ulterior motive to Obama and said he agrees with Obama on some things. But he also told the man “you are right” to be concerned about Obama’s goals.

The man ended by asking if the government would bail him out if he went broke farming. Grassley said “No” and the crowd applauded again, apparently forgetting that Pocahontas county routinely drew many millions of dollars in annual farm subsidies under the last farm program.

Lots of people didn’t get called on as the hour ended. The news here was the large turnout and the partisanship of the group. Obama opponents were the biggest part of the crowd and the most vocal. Although MoveOn called or emailed its members urging their participation, they did not carry the day.

Iowa Vindicates Two Lonely Progressives

This weekend the Iowa legislature voted to mostly repeal the rule on where sex offenders can sleep. The rule kept them 2000 feet from day care centers and schools, but it didn’t actually restrict their movements during the day. The new law reverses the situation by addressing loitering instead of sleeping.

Back in 2002 when the old law was passed only two legislators voted against it. One thing legislators fear more than sex offenders is the chance of being called soft on crime. Indeed that is what happened in 2008 when one of those legislators, Ed Fallon of Des Moines, offered progressives the opportunity to vote for a better Congressman. Incumbent Leonard Boswell smeared Fallon as soft on sex offenders. Boswell won, too.

The Iowa legislature began this session by passing an obscure campaign finance law that was a rebuke to the way Fallon had run a previous campaign. They ended the session by voting exactly like Ed had voted in 2002–against the 2000 foot folly. Ed has been proven right and every Democrat realizes it. His foresight was not acknowledged during the debate.

The other correct vote in 2002 was cast by state senator Johnie Hammond of Ames. She will be honored for her leadership on civil liberties this Saturday at a dinner in Iowa City. The ACLU-IA will recognize Hammond with its Louise Noun Award. Louise Noun served as president of the Des Moines chapter of the League of Women Voters in 1948, the Iowa Civil Liberties Union from 1964 to 1972, and the Des Moines chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) from 1974 to 1976.

These two progressive voices have prevailed.  We need more like them.

New Facebook Group for Iowa's 4th

I have started a new Facebook group as  meeting place for the “Progressive Democrats of Iowa's 4th”.  Go read the description and sign up if you are into Facebook.  A Facebook group looks like a pretty good tool for us to get acquainted and organized for more and better Democrats.  Write something “on the Wall” so we can start working together.

 I have to add that I was assisted by the Hillbilly bloggers who posted here over the weekend. Good luck to them, too. 

Montana's McCulloch Surpasses Iowa's Mauro

This week a bill to randomly check on the electronic vote tally by actually looking at some ballots (ah–the audacity!) passed the Iowa House without dissent. But it's already being stymied in the Senate, though no one is sure why. This paradoxically reverses the situation from four years ago when the Senate unanimously passed a paper trail bill only to see the House kill it without explanation.

Meanwhile the great state of Montana on Tuesday signed its audit bill into law. A picture of the Montana Secretary of State appeared in GovTech magazine as a result. Let's tell Senate Democrats that Mike Mauro is just as good looking as Secretary McCulloch and also deserves to be featured in national publications.

cross-posted at

Early Vote--Early Count--Early to Bed

  The Iowa House has passed a bill to speed up election returns, as if getting speedy results were the main goal of the counting. The House wants to count absentee ballots before the polls open, something that is now strictly forbidden.

Don't worry about this affecting the election by giving one side a warning that the results may be close. Don't worry–it will be illegal to leak this information even though some highly political people at the courthouse will know the information on the absentee results. Don't worry even if the county auditor himself is in a tight re-election race. Having his staff counting the ballots on Monday won't allow him to be warned about his imminent defeat on Tuesday. Don't think that the people who went to jail in Ohio for rigging the recount in 2004 have any cousins in Iowa election departments.

If this is HSB 133 we're talking about (the news reports don't give the bill number) there's even less reason to worry. The bill now on the web says only quite a few party cheerleaders will get to bite early on the apple of knowledge:

The only persons who may be admitted to that room are

the members of the board,
one challenger representing each political party,
one observer representing any nonparty political organization or
any candidate nominated by petition pursuant to chapter 45 or
any other nonpartisan candidate in a city or school election appearing on the ballot of the election in progress,
one observer representing persons supporting a public measure appearing on the ballot and
one observer representing persons opposed to such measure,
and the commissioner or the commissioner's designee.

I'm sure they can keep a secret, so don't worry, be happy. Get to bed early on election night. It was a long campaign. Just be glad it's over.

But if it's really close, we still won't know about recounts or audit results. We'll still have to wonder. So what's the point for democracy? Early bedtimes? Insider trading?  

cross posted at 

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Senate Advances Popular Vote

(I also support directly electing the president. This bill is a step in the right direction. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The Iowa Senate's state government committee has approved the bill that would move the USA away from the archaic electoral college. I was quite surprised–but pleased–to hear from Jack Kibbie last week that this might happen.

Most Americans think the electoral college is a mistake. Apparently the whole world agrees, because no other country has ever copied this 200 year old method of choosing a leader. It's really a relic of the free-state, slave-state compromises that were made in writing the Constitution. Until now it's been impossible to get rid of it, because it's so hard to amend the Constitution.

The new idea is to sign up states in a contract to cast their electoral votes as a group with all the votes going to the winner of the national popular vote (NPV). If Iowa joins the group, we'll vote for the national winner even if another candidate did better in Iowa. This plan will go into effect when the group controls the majority of the electoral college votes. Ingenious!

Skeptics always assert that the electoral college protects us and other small states. This not true. Research into where candidates spend their time and money in the 90 days before a Presidential election proves they don't go to small states unless they are also swing states, such as Nevada in 2008. Who campaigned in Rhode Island or Wyoming? No one did, because they are not swing states.

So far only four states have joined—Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii. These are states that usually get ignored by Presidential candidates, so I can see why they passed it. Iowa has been a swing state, the center of much spending and campaigning. If the electoral college is kaput, we may get less attention. That's why I was surprised to see the bill gaining ground here. Time to get cynical . . . .

Why would we pass this bill? Isn't this carrying good government a little too far? (snark)

Maybe it has to do with the caucuses. We barely defended our caucus timeline in 2008 from attacks by Florida and Micigan. We get double attention in Iowa as both the first caucus and as a swing state. If we are generous enough to forego the swing state advantage, maybe the voters elsewhere won't keep beating on our caucus advantage.

Or maybe we see our swing-state status eroding. If Iowa becomes reliably Democratic(voted for the D five times of the last six elections), candidates won't come here in election years, only in caucus years. Going to the NPV could bring the candidates back since those many Iowa independents and Republicans would not be disenfrancised in a NPV system.

Whatever the motive–good government or selfish government–I'm glad for the progress. I hope the full Senate approves it, too.

——cross posted from

Kibbie Shows Progressive Side

(I love diaries like this. If you go to a politician's town-hall meeting, take notes and write it up for Bleeding Heartland afterwards. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

State Senate President Jack Kibbie showed his progressive side yesterday at a town meeting in Pocahontas.  Kibbie promoted a bill to require mental health coverage in health care policies, and another to curtail mandatory prison sentences.  He also wanted to make Iowa income tax more progressive.

 The senator said judges should have more discretion in sentencing.  He cited the case of an Iowa farmer who killed his neighbor and got four years in prison.  Meanwhile he said people are getting 15-25 years for breaking and entering or for false documents.  “We've got to stop locking people up and throwing away the key.” he concluded.  Go Jack!!

 As for mental health insurance, Kibbie said unpaid bills are “landing on the backs of other taxpayers” and “It's time for the insurance companies to carry their share of the load in this regard.”  He claimed a similar change of law in Minnesota has resulted in higher insurance premiums–but only six tenths of one percent higher.  You tell 'em, Senator!

Kibbie advocated two changes in Iowa income taxes that would make the rates more progressive.  He'd limit the research tax credit that is claimed by Iowa's major corporations such as John Deere and Monsanto.  Kibbie said about $50 million leaks out of the tax code this way, sometimes going as a “refundable” credit to companies that don't even owe income taxes.  From your pocket to theirs.

 Secondly, he'd chonge that complicated stuff in Step 6 of the Iowa Form 1040 about deducting federal income taxes.  Do you ever do your own taxes?  If you can negotiate Step 6, you can probably work for the IRS!  Federal deductibility benefits the richest Iowans who deduct their tax bill on line 31.  Other Iowans take up the slack by paying one of the nation's highest rates of income taxes.  Kibbie said only one other state has a law like ours.  He said our rates could drop from 9% to 6.5% if we would change this law.

 Kibbie decried Iowa's status as “low wage state” and said young Iowans are departing to get better pay in neighboring states.  “It's all related,” he said, referring to the tax code, wage levels, collective bargaining laws, tuition, and the brain drain.  Amen.  Kibbie for President!

 Wait—-Kibbie is already President (of the state senate).  It's sometimes said that if Kibbie will back an idea, others will back the idea.  The logic is that he represents a conservative district and what flys here will fly anywhere.  None of the two dozen constituents present Friday objected to any of the above ideas.  Maybe Iowa is on the verge of a Great Progressive Leap Forward.  Ready . . .Set . . . . . . .LEAP!  


Budget Deficits & Campaign Debts

(Although the lottery sale may be a dead letter, IowaVoter's point stands: our current campaign finance system creates too many opportunities for corruption as well as the appearance of corruption. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The state of Iowa is facing a budget deficit, but it's our Governor who is trying to pay off his “debts.”.  This lottery episode is an argument for public financing of election campaigns.

When rich donors drop $25,000 or so into a candidate's pocket, an implicit IOU has just been created.  The best way to pay off these “debts” is with public money, either tax cuts for the donor class, state  contracts for the contributors personally (see Bill Richardson), or sale of state assets like the lottery.

 The common objection to public financing for elections is “We don't want tax dollars going to politicians.”  This myopic argument forgets that politicans gain control of ALL the tax dollars once in office and too often use those dollars to pay back their “investors” (see Bernie Madoff).

 The irony is that Culver promised to consider public financing for elections during his run for office.  He has broken that promise.   

 Another irony is that none of the Republican bloggers who assailed Culver over the lottery bothered to look any deeper, except Krusty.  He went into some detail about big donors and what they expect in return (“we all know that Kehl has a motive, he wants to buy the Lottery. Kirke wants a casino license in Ottumwa, Sandquist wants an increase in the gas tax, and maybe Albaugh wants illegals to help keep his private golf course in tip top shape . . . .”) but his main objection was that the donors he named were Republicans.  Apparently if he'd be content if the donors would stick to fleecing the taxpayer through members of their own party only.

 Let's try the bi-partisan approach.  VanderP can have public financing for his race, Culver can have the same.  No more IOUs or done deals on the lottery or anything else.  Iowa Citizens for Communitiy Improvement surveyed Iowa donors last fall and found 73% supported public financing of campaigns.  Culver could get re-elected by following their lead.

Iowa Voting Machines "Totally Nuts"

(Scary. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The University of Iowa's professor Doug Jones, a world leader in voting machine oversight, has today described the Diebold voting machine audit logs as “just totally nuts.” Diebold machines count most of the votes in Iowa elections. The audit logs are supposed to reveal what the machine has been doing as it proceeds through the stages of ballot reading and counting.

Audit logs came under scrutiny in Humboldt County, California when a public auditing process discovered that votes had not been counted in the official results. Those official totals had come from Diebold (now hiding behind the name Premier) vote counting software. interviewed Jones, who said

“These audit logs could give us some assurances [about an election] if they were genuinely designed so that a casual bystander could look at them and understand them,” says Doug Jones, a University of Iowa computer scientist and former chairman of a board that examines and approves voting machines for use in Iowa. “[But] having them cryptic and obscure destroys the value in terms of election transparency.”

So it seems that Diebold logs don't tell everything that happened in the correct order, as we all thought a log was supposed to do. Wired's “Threat Level” reporter Kim Zetter goes on–

The audit logs appear to record only limited types of events on the system and provide no comprehensive record that tracks every event performed by an election official.

Premier didn't respond to a query from Threat Level about the logs. But Jones said the Premier/Diebold system, as far as he knows, provides no single log file that chronologically lists all events in the life of an election.

Instead, he says, the system keeps “lots and lots of different logs” that appear to have been “independently designed by people who didn't talk to each other” and that are incomprehensible to anyone except the vendor. He assumes Premier has documentation explaining how to interpret the logs, but says if it does, the company doesn't share that information with election officials, making independent audits of a voting system difficult if not impossible.

So . . .lots of logs . . .don't talk to each other . . .need documentation to interpret the logs . . .but WAIT—

“From the point of view of actually doing any forensics, it's a mess,” Jones said. “Because you have to understand what all of the logs are saying, and all of the documentation to understand what they're saying are not public documents. I find that truly reprehensible. The idea that you can have this inscrutable document, but that you can't have any document to understand that document, is just totally nuts.”

I know that Iowa auditors are conferring with the Secretary of State about a weak audit bill for the current legislature to consider. “It will be better than nothing,” I was told. Given the “threat level,” I think that is a pretty low standard for a state that wants to be First in the Nation again in 2012. Having fallen for Diebold's disasterous devices despite Jones's best efforts to protect Iowa, we need a strong audit bill. States from Maine to California (literally) are pushing past us.

cross posted at

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Black Hawk Recount Baffles Officials

( - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Voting machines in Black Hawk County have apparently counted ballots that don't exist. This was discovered Wednesday during a recount in the close race between Representative Jeff Danielson and challenger Walt Rogers. Seven ballots are missing. According to the WCFCourier the recount shaved votes from both candidates.

The county conducted an honest-to-goodness hand recount of paper ballots. The recount occurred because precinct pollworkers had suspected a miscount on election night. County Auditor Grant Veeder organized an investigation, laying ballots in piles and counting them twice.

Veeder says “We are still doing some checking” in an effort to explain this anomaly.

Iowa took a giant step forward in this election by doing without touchscreen voting machines. We still need to take the next step. We need post election audits during which actual cast ballots are counted by hand and compared to the machine that already counted them. In the Black Hawk case the machine looks to have failed.

Iowa Sitting Pretty for Nov 4th

(Thanks to IowaVoter for flagging this report. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

cross posted at 

With all the scare stories now arising about the upcoming election, it's time to remind ourselves that Iowa looks pretty good. We won't have (shouldn't have) long lines to vote on election day. We won't have any touchscreens to go awry. We won't have many registration problems. Let's review our enviable situation.

No Touchscreens. This is Iowa's signature accomplishment. We owe a big debt to Secretary of State Mauro who traded in the touchscreens as his first major step in office. Now all of us get to vote on paper. Polling places can arrange as many ballot marking booths as they need to prevent lines of voters. No votes will be lost to the dastardly touchscreen gadgets. It's because of this victory that this blog has been so quiet lately. No sense in pointing out the state's shortcomings when such a major change has just been engineered.

No Registration Problems. Iowans can register until the end of next week. If they miss that date, they get a second chance on election day. This means hardly any provisional ballots will be needed. Everyone with a good ID card should be able to vote without any prior preparation. You can check your registration right now at this website.

The Brennan Center (with help from Sean Flaherty of Iowan for Voting Integrity) has released a major report on the status of election readiness. Iowa is one of eight states given credit for “best practices” in ballot accounting and reconciliation. See the third map.

On the other hand, we fall into the black space on the bottom map regarding audits of the machine readout. That's Mauro's next challenge. Someone needs to hand count some ballots after the polls close to see that the machines got it right in their hi-speed readings. Haste makes waste! Slow down and double check the damned things!

That challenge is for the government to face next legislative session. If we get good audits we can join the list of only six states that get shaded green on the top map (Alaska, Oregon, California, North Carolina, and our neighbors Missouri and Minnesota).

For now the voters should see a welcoming environment at the polls. Any snafus will be local–not the fault of state law. Take advantage of our enviable situation by voting.

Grassley Misleads His Town Meeting on FISA

(First-person accounts of what politicians are telling their constituents are very useful. I hope other Bleeding Heartland users will post diaries about what they hear from elected officials and candidates (not only at town-hall meetings, but also any noteworthy radio ads or direct-mail pieces). - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Senator Grassley discussed the pending FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveilance Act) legislation today at a town meeting I attended.  He either does not understand the issue or he purposely misleads his constituents.  I don't know which explanation is more alarming.

 When one woman asked about FISA, the Senator said it had passed the Congress and was going on to the President now.  He then rambled on about how FDR intercepted postal mail during WWII and how Obama supports the new bill and how there are Al Qaeda cells in the US.  He said the government has to listen to all foreign calls without a search warrant  because “by the time you got a warrant the call would be over with.”  

 Doesn't he know that warrants are typically granted after the fact for calls that were intercepted without warrants?  Doesn't he know that calls are not targeted one at a time?  If he doesn't know that stuff, he is less informed that many internet readers.  If he does know, he has just misled his audience.

He went on to say there had been many terrorist plots uncovered since the warrantless wiretapping began, citing the preposterous plots to bomb the Holland Tunnel and  to attack Fort Dix, and reminding us of the “dirty bomber” arrested at O'Hare Airport.  Does he know that none of these episodes had anything to do  with warrantless wiretaps?

 I immediately followed up the woman's question by telling the Senator that the FISA bill was indeed coming before the Senate again next week.  I argued against retroactive immunity for wiretapping crimes that had not even been investigated yet and reminded him that the wiretaps had begun before 9/11.

 Grassley said that if the President told the phone company to do it then they should not be punished.  He said the lawsuits would be more than the entire value of the phone companies.  Apparently he thinks they are guilty and face a big penalty.

 Luckily he did not say that, “If the President orders someone buried alive, it would be OK to do it.”  That question was raised in a Congressional hearing last week and the witness dodged it.  It should be put to Grassley.

Our senior senator does not seem to doubt the unlimited power of the President.  If the current President wants to secretly violate laws instead of getting them changed by a famously compliant Congress, Grassley has no problem with that.

 So why do we even need Senators? 

Gronstal Gets It Right

 Mike Gronstal has accepted the burden of the majority.  He has forged ahead, fixing flawed Republican legislation even though few Republicans followed him and his Senate Democrats.

 I'm referring to the school sales tax equalization bill that passed the Senate with only five R votes this week.  Gronstal had noted the bill mainly pumps money into R districts and had wondered why Rs wouldn't vote to take the money, saying he'd let the bill die rather than go it alone.

 This crazy local-option sales tax was created in a previous Republican-run legislature.  It siphons money from counties with little retail trade to counties with larger trade, such as Polk county.  It sounds like something rural Republicans should have opposed, but they always go for regressive taxes.  The local control aspect took the burden off them, too.

 Thank Democrats for partly fixing this folly.  The tax is still regressive but now it will give rural areas a fair shake.  Republicans lost control of the legislature for a reason.  Democrats should not shrink from the burden of correcting old errors, even if Republicans drag their feet. 

 Gronstal even came out of the debate sounding fiesty.  Maybe he does stand for something besides re-election. 

Fearful Democrats

Senate leader Mike Gronstal has demonstrated again that Democrats only stand for one thing–their own re-election.

 Gronstal says he won't bring up the school sales tax equalization bill, which the House passed  already.  He wants more Republicans to vote for it so he can cover his ass.  He says most of the benefits of the bill go to rural districts and the Republicans who hail from  those districts are too dumb to vote for their own interests, so he'll just drop the bill.

 Well, Gronstal didn't put it that way.  He just said the Rs are agin it despite being the main beneficiaries, so he's not doing them no favors.

 He'd rather stiff those of us who live in rural areas and have already elected Democrats to govern us well.  Maybe he'd prefer we elect Republicans,  thus raising the odds that some Rs would vote for the Democratic agenda.  Democrats already have 30 of the 50 Senate seats.  Why let 20 dead-ender Republicans have the whip hand?  If there were only 10 Republicans, would Gronstal still need a few of them to cover his ass?

I was in Des Moines last weekend.  I spent hundreds of dollars on clothes,dishes, books and other items that are not sold in my rural school district.

I enriched the Des Moines schools.  I'm depending on good government to address this inequity.  Can Democrats do it?  Do they stand for anything? 

Obama Gains in Pocahontas Convention

Obama gained on Clinton in the Pocahontas county convention today, as each candidate won three of the six delegates to the state convention.  Despite a personal message from John Edwards to one of his Pocahontas fans earlier this very morning, the 18 Edwards delegates went their separate ways.

 Of the 50 seats in Pocahontas, Clinton had claimed 16 at January caucuses while Obama had captured only 9.  By the time the Edwards camp collapsed and the handfull of Biden, Richardson and uncommitted delegates realigned, the vote was .  . . .wait for it  . . .23-23!  Four delegates declined to associate with either preference group.

 Thus Obama went from 18% strength here in January to 50% now.  Clinton grew from 32% to 50%.

 A discussion of two pages of platform planks yielded these results among others;  FOR a single payer health insurance system; FOR public financing of Iowa political campaigns; FOR electing the President directly instead of using the electoral college. 

Cover your county convention

Please plan on reporting here at Bleeding Heartland the news from your county convention next Saturday.  I'll report on mine (Pocahontas) which opens with half our delegates committed to either Hillary or Obama and the other half to Edwards, Biden or Richardson.  What will these delegates do?

 We'll have a platform debate, too.  If there's any news from that, I'll include it as well.

 We'll be signing up volunteers for fall door-knocking and yard signs.  What will you be doing to get organized?   

 To see the status of your convention delegate's preferences, go to

Your Precinct's Results On-line

The IDP has told us how to see our precinct's results on the internets.  This is a major step toward verifying the integrity of the caucus mathematics.  The site is

 Right now the site is blank, and I can't actually tell how it will work on Thursday.  But here's my plan–

I intend to get someone who is not at the church where we'll be caucussing to 

watch the website linked above.  That person will send a text message to my 

cell phone as soon as the website shows the results we have phoned in. The message will tell us how we voted (as if we didn't already know!)

 Then we at the caucuss can be assured that the phone system has gotten our message.  All the candidates will have the raw data in hand as well. We won't have to wonder if anyone is massaging the data.

 I thank the Iowa Democrats for developing this reporting system. I have high hopes for it.  All vote counting should be aggregated in public like this.  Next June and next November every precinct should be reported to a website as soon as each county can possibly do it–surely before midnight.  What's on the website should also be hanging in the window back at the polling places.  Vote in secret, but tally the votes in public. 

The Republican precinct poll could be as open as this, too.  Will it be? 

Michelle Obama: A Changer Has Come

Speaking just four days after Christmas in Pocahontas, Iowa, Michelle Obama told her audience of fifty that a changer has come to us.  He knows we are all alike and that we do not want to fight. He is full of hope.  He has come in a form that we may not have anticipated, but he he is! 

He is ready now.  We should not expect him to come again.  It is a lot of work to run for the White House even once, never mind twice.  In eight years the hope will be drained out of him, anyway.  


He will give bring change because he will follow the Biblical admonition: To whom much is given, much will be expected.  He has been given much in the way of the family values that we all share and in the outstanding education and legal talent he has shown.  He did not use his talent to enrich himself.  He went into community service where he fought (what? He fights?) for change in Chicago politics. Now he will bring change to America.

 Following the sermon stump speech, Michelle did not take any questions about politics or issues.  She immediately began shaking hands with the people in the front pew row of chairs.  Ninety six percent of the audience remained seated, apparently waiting their turn to shake her hand.  Two others got up and left having realized this was not the political event they had expected.

Edwards Push - Polling!?

I just got called by a “third party” polling firm from Minnesota and was asked about the caucus and who I might support.  Then came three questions about the leading candidates.  

 How much does it concern me that Hillary changes her position so often? The questioner cited Iraq, NAFTA, and ethanol as issues where she has changed.

How much does it concern me that Obama has voted “Present” several times 

rather than standing up for abortion rights, thus disappointing his supporters?

The third question is the one that reveals Edwards is behind the poll.

“John Edwards is a liberal trial lawyer.  Some say his plan to get the war over in one year is [inadequate somehow, I don't recall the exact wording].

Does this concern you?”

 WTF?  This is what we all want, isn't it?  After clear attacks on the record of the other two candidates, this “attack” was a softball.  I had already told her I was “maybe” going to support Edwards.  So these questions are clearly intended to re-enforce my stated intention. 

 Finally I was asked my age, income range, and whether anyone in the house is a union member.

Who still doubts this is an Edwards push poll? 

Culver Comes Lately to Vote by Mail

Our former Secretary of State, having overseen the purchase of new voting equipment during his tenure, NOW wants to reconsider.  He seeks our opinion of a vote-by-mail regime as a way to (1) solve the paper trail problem and (2) boost turnout.  Democrat Gronstal nods, but Republican Zieman resists.

Why didn't Mr. Culver mention this when he was SoS?  Because he was so intent on succeeding Vilsack as Governor that he dared not make any waves.  Instead he concentrated on saying what good elections we ran in Iowa, and on boosting turnout with cheerleading and absentee ballots.

He let counties spend their federal money on paperless black boxes masquarading as high tech election equipment.  Last spring he cut money from the state budget that could have solved the paper trail problem by eliminating the touchscreens.  As a result many counties will be adding poor quality printers to their dubious touchscreens.  This is mal-administration.

Moving to all mail voting will mean ditching the touchscreens, which should be done, of course.  But moving to scannable paper ballots in the touchscreen counties is a far simpler and cheaper way to get a paper trail.

Will turnout be higher?  If we want high turnout we need high stakes elections where people see a reason to vote.  My hometown saw its turnout triple on Tuesday as the mayor and one councilman were ousted in a blue collar revolt.

If we want higher turnout, we could try public financing of some races.  (Are you still there, Mr. Gronstal?) That gets new candidates who are barred by the present need to raise money just to run for state representative.

So I'm with Zieman on this one.  Zieman said

  “Having worked with Governor Culver on election reform, there's always a motive to his madness.”

I wonder what it is.


Cross posted at 

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Switchboards Light Up in Congress

Washington Congressman Norm Dicks told one of his constituents that Congress was being “inundated with calls in favor of the Ban-DRE amendment.” DRE is lingo for touchscreen voting machines.

The calls came pouring in when a rumor arose that the House Rules committee would allow a vote on such an amendment when the Holt paper trail bill reaches the floor. At this writing it is unclear if the Rules committee has adopted such a rule or even if the bill will make it to the floor this week as had been expected.

So YOU have time to call, too. DREs are the evil heart of the election Frankenstein we deal with today. Every time they are investigated by impartial computer scientists, DREs flunk. They should definitely be banned.

Here’s the Rules Committee phone number: 202-225-9091

For good measure, here’s the phone of Rules chairwoman Louise Slaughter of NY: Phone: (202) 225-3615
Fax: (202) 225-7822

And don’t forget your own Representative:

Bruce Braley (202) 225-2911
Dave Loebsack http://loebsack.hous…
Leonard Boswell Phone: (202) 225-3806
Fax: (202) 225-5608
Tom Latham– Toll Free:866-428-5642
Steve King–Phone: 202.225.4426
Fax: 202.225.3193

Let freedom ring!

cross-posted at

Senator Sanders Puts "Hold" On Nussle

According to the American Prospect's Terence Samuel, Jim Nussle's nomination has been held up by Senator Sanders, and possibly by another Senator as well.

 Sanders wants some straight talk about the economy from the administration before he will vote on Nussle, saying, “You have five million people who have slipped into poverty in the last six years, and yet we have a president who keeps telling us how robust the economy is.” 


The story is here :


Farm Bill Follies

The farm bill will come up soon in Congress.  It looks like the House bill will re-enact the status quo, or make it worse. (see… )

 Here's a taste of what's wrong with the old bill.  The top 20 Iowa recipients of farm crop support price payments (money in the mailbox), took home $24 million of your tax money. That's more than a million bucks each.

 But the 20 most rural counties in the state got only $13 million dollars in rural development money.  Since the combined population of those counties is 315,000, that means the farm bill was worth $41 to the average resident.

Is that what our urban readers want? Millionaire farmers (landlords) and declining small towns?  If not, they should take the advice of the Center for Rural Affairs and contact Speaker Pelosi, who has not taken this bull by its horns so far.

 Here you go:…

Edwards Kids Save the Day in Storm Lake

Senator Edwards was thirty minutes late when he arrived at the packed room in downtown Storm Lake, so he got right to work.  Edwards introduced his two young children, then– to their delight– released them for a quick trip down to the lakeshore.  Such cute kids.  It was the highlight of the event.

Edwards tried.  He cut his stump speech . . .

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Biden in Emmetsburg: Make Hope and History Rhyme

History says, Don’t hope

On this side of the grave, 

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave 

Of justice can rise up

And hope and history rhyme.

                     Seamus Heaney



Hot on the heels of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden charmed a crowd of 110 guests at the home of Senator Kibbie tonight.

If the caucus were tomorrow, he might win Emmetsburg.

Quoting Irish poet Seamus Heaney, Biden said the goal of the 2008 election will be to get the US out of the hole dug by the Bush government.  He said Iraq is the biggest boulder on the road to the future.

 More . . . .


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Hillary's Audience Overflows onto Emmetsburg Street

I went to hear Hillary Clinton this morning in Emmetsburg but I couldn't get in the door.  Arriving several minutes before 9:30, we found 100 people on the street and the Pizza Ranch already full to capacity.  The only entertainment for us was the dozen anti-abortion protestors who held large signs of fetuses and their leader who wielded a megaphone from across the street, frequently reminding us “Thou shalt not murder (sic).”

I waited. 

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Unfunded Mandates & Sore Losers

Iowa has now passed a voting machine paper trail bill.  All our paperless voting gadgets either get replaced or get printers added by 2008.  This may cost more than the $2 million the legislature kicked in to pay for it.  Counties may have to kick in some more.

Rep. Libby Jacobs calls that an “unfunded mandate.” 

Last year Jacobs could have done things her way, avioding the unfunded mandate she now laments.  But no, that wasn’t her real concern back then.

When the paper trail bill came up last year she wanted to attach it to an onerous voter ID bill to prevent the non-existent crime of impersonating a voter. That killed the bill since Vilsack would never sign that law.

Time and again this session Republicans have decried the way Democrats have passed bills to deal with problems long neglected by previous legislatures.  To Christopher Rants and Libby Jacobs, I say, “You had your chance to do it your way, but you chose not to do it at all.”

Googling for Dollars

“A bill working its way through the Iowa Legislature would provide tax incentives for a “Web search portal business” if that business invests at least $200 million in the state. . . In Council Bluffs, the Council Bluffs Industrial Foundation is assembling 180 acres of land north of Lake Manawa. The foundation, which is affiliated with the Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce, will not say whether the land is for a Google project.

“No estimates were available for the amount of money that the company could receive from the incentives in the bill. The incentives involve sales, use and property tax exemptions for certain kinds of equipment and electricity.

“The City of Council Bluffs is considering offering up to $48 million in local property tax rebates over 20 years for whatever company builds on the land being assembled north of Lake Manawa. Those incentives would be in addition to the state incentives.

“Google announced earlier this year that it was building a $600 million data center in Lenoir, N.C., that would employ 210 people. State and local incentives for that project could be worth more than $260 million. The incentives include sales tax exemptions on electricity over 30 years.”
  Omaha World Herald, April 19, 2007

for the rest of the story, keep reading . .

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Promoting Film, Promoting Hollywood Welfare

“. . . the Iowa House has approved a

package of incentives to encourage more film production and development in Iowa. 

House File 892 creates . . . a variety of tax

incentives . . . will provide . . . an income tax credit . . .also allows an Iowa-based business an investment tax credit . . .  Finally, it has an income tax exclusion . . .

“These incentives will assist film makers with the expenses of producing a film, and make Iowa more competitive with other states that already have incentives for film projects. “

  By Speaker of the House Pat Murphy

“I never made an investment decision based on the tax code. . . .[I]f you are giving away money, I will take it.  If you want to give me inducements for something I am going to do anyway, I will take it.  But good business people do not do things because of inducements, they do it because they can see they are going to be able to earn the cost of captital out of their own intelligence and organization of resources.”

  By Paul O’Neill, former CEO, Alcoa and  former Secretary of the Treasury, quoted in THE GREAT AMERICAN JOBS SCAM

VOICE Money Found!!

(Why aren't we doing this already? - promoted by Simon Stevenson)

Where there’s a will, there’s a way!! I know how to get the money for Iowa’s clean elections bill. And is it ever SWEET!

Look here: Plug the Wal-Mart Loophole

It’s real tax money that now gets slyly siphoned out of the state and turned into tax-free profits for Wal-Mart and other devious corporations who operate in many states. They shift their money around, turning Iowa profits into “expenses” that they “owe” to their other pockets in other states where the money is not taxed. Eventually it becomes untaxed profits.

The fix is a reform known as “combined reporting” and it could have brought us $99 million in the year 2002. That’s FAR MORE than the ten million that we supposedly can’t find for VOICE.

We know where it is and we know how to get it. What are we waiting for, more campaign contributions to Patrick Murphy from Wal-Mart?

cross posted at http://iowavoters.or…

House Passes Same Day Registration

(Nice job by the Iowa House, now it is up to the Senate. - promoted by Chris Woods)

By a vote of 54-45 the Iowa House of Representatives approved of election day voter registration.  You can tell how desperate were the opponents of this bill by the fact that they raised this argument:

“Support the Troops!”

It’s just incredible.  One representative said that since soldiers died for the right to vote, we all could at least bother to register an arbitrary 10 days before the election. 

How much more charitable it would have been to reverse the argument, saying “Voting is a right worth dying for, so don’t try to keep people from the polls by throwing up needless roadblocks.”  Actually, Rep. Wessel-Kroeschell  did answer the troop argument by reminding opponents that young adults are most of the missing voters as well as most of the war casualties. 

A generation ago the US Supreme Court said registration deadlines could not be set except as a way to manage the workload of election officials.  Yet we never heard the case made that removing the deadline makes elections unmanageable.  Instead we heard attacks on the diligence, awareness, and honesty of voters.


Congratulations to those who advanced election law by voting for this bill.

Jacobs Has Poor Case Against Same Day Registration

Des Moines Representative Libby Jacobs argued against same day voter registration today on Iowa public radio, but threw in the towel when asked for evidence to support her view point.

The only legitimate argument Jacobs made was that voters could cast multiple ballots at multiple polls if the bill passes.  When asked if this actually happens in the several states that have practised same day registration for many years, Jacobs said she hasn’t kept up with the results in other states. 

Ha!  You can bet she’d know about it if there actually were any evidence of busybody voters.  So she is just using this argument without bothering to see if it’s true?

Jacobs and a couple callers made other, even weaker points against the bill.  Jacobs wanted to make sure voters were “eductated” and implied that educated voters would have been registered under the old system.  A caller said if voters couldn’t get registered under the old system they wouldn’t be likely to use the new more lenient system anyway.  Another caller worried that last minute campaign surprises (i.e., dirty tricks) might prompt new voters to pour into the polls based on erroneous information. 

These three arguments all indicate lack of faith in law-abiding voters. 

So opponents don’t trust voters to have good judgement, to be educated or to behave honestly.  All these worries can be directed against voters who register well in advance of elections.  There is apparently no bureaucratic reason for requiring advance registration.  At least no one  mentioned one today.

Jacobs also said this is not a partisan issue in that there is no Republican party caucus position on it.  It’s just a coincidence that the bill passed the House state government committee on a party line vote!

Iowa is a Red State

(On the positive side, things look good for establishing at least a paper trail here. - promoted by Drew Miller)

There is a new map at Verified Voting.  It shows Iowa in red.

Red states have fallen behind in the open elections department.  Verified Voting’s map used to concern itself with whether states had paper trails for their balloting.  Now they have moved on to asking whether states with paper trails are conducting audits to see if the machine count actually reflects the real count on the paper ballots.

States in red (danger!) on the new map have neither an audit nor even a paper trail. 

Woe is Iowa.

Beware of Undesirable Voters

Radio coverage of yesterday’s committee vote on same-day voter registration has me worried about low quality voters.  We may be about to open the floodgates.

Opponents of electon-day voter registration heard on the air warned about two classes of undesirable voters who will now mess up elections.

First:  People Who Don’t Plan Ahead.  These people are not taking voting seriously, according to the sound bite on the airwaves.  The argument was made by a state representative who said he tells his community college classes that voting should not be a last minute whim.  You have to think about it–and about whether you registered before you moved across town or since you moved.  People who can’t get registered on time also probably have messy desks, or procrastinate on their college assignments.  They should not vote for President until they shape up.

Second:  Libby Jacobs warned about serial voters, roaming the polls on election day, registering and voting here, there, everywhere until they get dizzy.  The radio report failed to explain how these voting addicts would get the various id cards the bill requires for same day registration, but we know there are ways!  Illegal aliens probably already have a leg up on this skill, so that’s even more reason to worry.

I wonder how Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana and the other same day registration states have dealt with these Undesirable Voters.

Dvorsky Wants New Voting Machines

( - promoted by Drew Miller)

State Senate Appropriations chair Bob Dvorsky is looking for money to replace the nearly new (but undesirable) touchscreen voting machines in Iowa. Good for him.

With Secretary Mauro’s committment to getting a good paper voting system, Dvorsky’s action can solve the problem. Just get Mauro the money, and he’ll take care of business. He wisely bought a paper based system for Polk County. Now he will get it done for all of Iowa.

Tell your state senator to back Dvorsky’s bid for money to replace touchscreens.

cross posted at