Obama Supporter Concerns of GOP Vote Caging, Suppression - At Least in THIS Case --- So Far SEEM to Be Unfounded...
By Brad Friedman on 9/12/2008, 2:27pm PT  

I've been getting panicked email and phone calls, and everything else, since a caller to the Thom Hartmann Program yesterday mentioned receiving an Absentee Ballot Request form in the mail from the McCain campaign. Apparently, the caller from Wisconsin was a Democrat, suspected foul play (and not without reason!) and was followed by several other callers and emailers reporting the same in that state and others around the country.

Lee Rayburn, who was guest hosting for Thom, called me just after he got off the air yesterday to let me know what was going on, and to forward some of the emails he had been receiving so I could check them out to figure out what was going on. In fact, I had already received some of those McCain Absentee Ballot Request forms from others in the days preceding yesterday's show.

Well, with panic among Dems (understandably) reaching a fevered pitch by last night, claims of "massive Republican vote caging" going on, as based on these mailings, he asked me to come on today and explain what I was able to learn about the situation. (Audio of interview posted below.)

As discussed during my appearance with Lee on Thom's show this morning, in this case at least, those mailers seem to be generally on the up and up. While it appears to be a massive and very aggressive GOTV effort from the McCain campaign --- even targeting Democrats in places they consider "swing states," like Wisconsin --- there doesn't seem to be anything nefarious going on with these particular mailings. At least so far as I've been able to tell...

The addresses on the postcards to Election Clerks --- included in the mailings so the receiver can send in their absentee ballot request --- all seem to be correct addresses for those officials, and the postcards seem to be legit (even if the mailings in Ohio seem to have had an extra, unneeded check box on them, and the ones in NC, targeting Republicans, fail to let folks know they also need to include both birth date and phone number in order to properly receive their absentee ballots. Both of those cases seem to be administrative failures, and seem likely to affect Republicans more than Dems from what I can tell.)

Don't get me wrong. There are many despicable, anti-democracy GOP dirty tricks in the works (Steve Heller wrote about some of them here yesterday.) But this does not appear, yet anyway, to be one of them. And, oh, by the way, unless you really have to do so, voting by mail is a terrible idea.

More details on what we've been able to learn --- and my thanks to John Gideon of VotersUnite.org for his quick assist --- are given during my interview (appx 12 mins) with Lee on today's show, as posted below.

MP3 Download, or listen online here...

(Thanks to Ben Burch of WhiteRoseSociety.org for the archive!)

BTW, as I note during the interview, I think it's great that folks are paying attention this time, raising hell when they see something suspicious, and taking action on it --- by contacting the media, their local and state election officials, etc. So good job, folks! Stay vigilant! But remember to stay level-headed at the same time, when possible, to make sure we know what we're working with when this stuff comes up. And it's gonna come up a lot between here and there. I promise.

UPDATE: There are still some concerns, with some of these mailers, that while the address for the Election office may be correct, it may for an office in a county other than where the voter actually lives. I'm trying to look into these instances, seen in both Wisconsin and Missouri, to determine what would happen if a voter sent their absentee request form to a county other than the one where they are registered. Will update with any info I can glean from officials over the weekend...

UPDATE 9/15/08: Kathie Wild, City Clerk of Mayville Wisconsin, has replied to our query concerning the above, after I'd forwarded a copy of a McCain mailer which had been sent to a Madison voter with an "Absentee Ballot Request" postcard included as addressed, incorrectly, to the County Clerk in the city of Mayville. Wild's response follows in full...

If an absentee request that isn’t for a Mayville voter was sent to my office I would forward the application on to the correct clerk. So far I have not received any requests that weren’t for Mayville voters. Actually so far I have only received one request from this mass McCain mailer. I personally received this mailer at my home address and it did have the correct address on it.

The address on the attached mailer that you attached in your email seems to have the correct Mayville City Clerk except that it is missing PO in front of the box. I still think that would make it here however. Our address is PO Box 273 15 S School St.

My feeling is that the address thing is just a mistake on the McCain campaign.

Thanks,
Kathie Wild
City Clerk
City of Mayville

And in a response to concern about mailers sent to voters in St. Louis County, MO, reportedly with postcards addressed to a different county, a source close the Sec. of State's office tells us:

We've seen these. My initial concern is that although it includes two copies of the correct absentee request form, the mailer says "vote by mail" and in Missouri we do not have "vote by mail" and you still have to have an excuse to vote absentee. Might be confusing to voters.