Still in Denial, Obama's Attorney Describes Serious Concerns About Voting Machines and More as 'Hyperbole'
Argues 'More Votes Lost From Incompetence Than Fraud or Oppression'...
By Brad Friedman on 11/2/2008, 4:14pm PT  

-- Brad Friedman, The BRAD BLOG

Why corporate mainstream journalists have a need to identify everyone as either "liberal" or "conservative" is beyond me. But setting that aside, of far more import is the substantive information in Washington Independent journalist Jonathon E. Kaplan's report today featuring lead Obama attorney Bob Baeur's attempt to defend against my fervent critique of the campaign's woefully inadequate and dangerously misguided efforts in dealing with the massive voting machine problems occurring around the country since early voting began (and, of course, well before even that)...

[Note 11/3/08: An updated version of the article, now posted here, scales by on the "liberal" thing, after I sent a gentle complaint to Kaplan.]

The article does nothing to assuage my concerns about the Dems' self-proclaimed "behind the scenes" efforts on these matters. Bauer was still unable to offer a shred of evidence that the campaign or the DNC has taken such concerns about the use of wholly unverifiable voting systems --- and worse, allowing and actually encouraging election officials to access those machines during the election, at the time they are most vulnerable to tampering, for "recalibration" --- with the gravity the issue deserves.

Incredibly (though no longer surprisingly), the Democrats persist with their tortured logic that taking action on problems with voting machines will somehow depress the electorate, before quickly changing the subject to concerns about Republican chicanery on the front-end voter suppression stuff.

As an Election Integrity advocate recently noted rather eloquently, the front-end voter suppression issues and the back-end voting machine failures are two sides of the same coin. You can't worry about one without worrying about the other. The Dems, unfortunately, are still worried about only one side of the coin, as Kaplan's report demonstrates all too clearly (yet again) today...

From the Independent...

As Republican charges of “fraud” and Democratic claims of “voter suppression” have escalated in the home stretch of the presidential campaign, liberal activists have started blasting Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign’s “voter protection effort” for not doing enough to ensure that all Democratic votes will get counted on Election Day.

Liberal bloggers want Obama to do more to publicize voting problems, such as technical glitches in voting machines and GOP efforts to hold down turnout in the same way it has countered Republican-generated smears and robocalls.

“I remain not just exceedingly skeptical, but downright furious at the party’s brazen willingness to allow millions of votes to go either uncounted, incorrectly recorded, or recorded in such a way that is 100% unverifiable by any human being,” voter protection blogger Brad Friedman wrote in his blog last week.

“They need to get over their tortured thinking that discussing these issues somehow depresses turnout. There is zero evidence for that thinking,” Friedman, author of Bradblog, wrote in an email.

Obama’s chief election law attorney Bob Bauer downplays the criticism, saying evidence from the 2004 election shows that highlighting problems with voting machinery and voter suppression turns off Democratic voters.

“It’s never helpful if the environment is filled with hyperbole about false claims. Voters don’t want to hear it,” Bauer said in a phone interview Thursday. “We’re not going to fall for [the Republicans’] public relations bait. But if they take a concrete action we will respond to it.”

Bauer maintained that the Obama campaign has moved quickly to respond to technical problems with voting equipment and to quell efforts to deceive voters.

While I'm happy to give the campaign some credit for their efforts concerning dirty tricks and some of the voter suppression games being played out by Republicans across the country, they deserve no credit --- zero, none at all --- for their "efforts" to "respond to technical problems with voting equipment."

The very little response they've taken --- and yes, for those from the DNC and Obama campaign who keep writing to me about it, I'm quite aware of what they are doing, and not --- is either wholly inadequate, or dangerously misguided, as I noted above. That they do not seem to have any real technical experts advising them on these concerns, or if they do, they are not listening to them, is outrageous after all that we've come to learn over the last several years about these machines.

Please read the whole article, as Bauer makes a number of points that are certainly to the campaign's credit, and I don't wish to overlook those. But then there are points in the article like this:

When voting machines started flipping votes for Obama to McCain, lawyers from the campaign’s Machine Task Force were dispatched to West Virginia recently to make sure the machines will be recalibrated.

The campaign, however, has not held a single press conference to highlight such problems.

I've already spoken to the dangers (and stupidity, and often futility) of "recalibrating" such systems during elections, but I point the above out in order to highlight the single response from Bauer, in a fairly lengthy article, to the concerns of voting machine problems.

Shades of Kerry/DNC's 2004 'Election Protection' Efforts...

We have written many times recently that the Obama/DNC "election protection" effort is a slightly beefed-up version of Kerry/DNC's from 2004. They continue, in Kaplan's article, to highlight their assertion that they've got thousands of lawyers on the ground, ready to roll if there are any problems on Election Day. That, of course, is far too little, far too late, at least if "every vote" actually matters to the Democrats...

Underscoring the campaign’s view that voter protection is as much about winning a public relations battle as it is a legal one, Bauer and the DNC’s outside counsel, Joseph Sandler, have hired Jenny Backus, a Democratic strategist, as a spokeswoman.

“[Sen. John] Kerry had amassed a pretty large operation himself in terms of having lawyers out there ready to pounce,” said Kenneth Gross, a campaign finance and election law attorney in the Washington, D.C. office of the firm Skadden, Arps.

“Whatever Kerry had is that much more sophisticated and that much more vibrant. [Obama] has both depth and breadth. They are poised to bring action if there are irregularities on Election Day.”

And, while his name was mentioned, allow me to "out" Joe Sandler here as the lead DNC attorney whom I attempted to not name back in 2006 --- in an effort not to alienate him, in hopes he'd come to his senses and allow me to work with him to improve the party's legal efforts on this front --- when I wrote about my experience speaking to the DNC attorneys during their Summer meeting that year in Chicago.

The article, headlined "Dysfunction at the DNC" highlights my efforts to explain the boat being missed by the lead DNC attorneys, both back in '04, and as the '06 Election was barreling down on them. I noted an attorney in attendance who had smirked and dismissed a number of very serious concerns from voters and activists also present at the seminar.

"I had to restrain myself from walking across the room and punching him in the nose," I wrote at the time, in regard to his atrocious behavior. That then-unnamed attorney was Sandler. That he still remains at the DNC helm should be of little comfort to any Democrat who hopes the DNC will support appropriate action in the event of a serious election irregularity.

I'm happy to report, however, that the party has at least taken my advice in developing a sophisticated database of voting systems and laws in each county in America. Now that they've got such a database, it's a shame they don't seem to know how to use it properly. I've seen the database. I've seen the reports coming into it. And I'll repeat: They don't know how to use it.

'More Votes Lost From Incompetence Than Fraud or Oppression'

Kaplan goes on to write that "Obama’s attorneys have operated under the premise that more votes are lost to incompetence than fraud or suppression, although they are keeping tabs on proactive suppression efforts."

My snarky reply to that: That may be true, if we're referring to incompetence of Democrats.

My not snarky reply: The attorneys' evidence for such a presumptuous (and I'd argue, inaccurate) impression is not offered in the article, which instead then goes on to detail the number of attorneys the campaign is still in the process of trying to sign up for work on Election Day.

That the Obama/DNC team continues to labor under presumptions that simply cannot be justified with actual evidence is troubling enough. That the echoes of the '04 Kerry/DNC efforts continue in '08 is enough to send a chill down the spine of anybody of any party that cares about American elections in which the citizenry can have confidence after results have been reported, and candidates sworn into office.

Bauer does deserve credit in the few places where he, or surrogate public advocacy groups, have finally stepped up to fight back. In almost every case, those efforts have been successful so far this year --- even if they've haven't been nearly aggressive or wide-spread enough, given the all-out Republican assault on democracy that is occuring across the country in nearly every quarter.

While I'll point that out with a quote here, I'll also point out there is one misleading inaccuracy in it...

Bauer has won suits in Michigan and Montana while the Republican Party has lost suits in Ohio and Indiana. Interest groups have sued Republicans in Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Colorado and forced Republican officials to settle the disputes on terms favorable to Democrats.

...In the Pennsylvania case mentioned above, it was not a matter of interest groups suing Republicans. It was interest groups --- like the NAACP and VoterAction.org --- suing Democratic officials to "settle the dispute on terms favorable to" the voters. In fact, the Republicans in that case, at one point, joined the PA state Democrats in opposing the voter lawsuit, which was decided in favor of the voters, while Democrats in the state continue to fight against the spirit of the federal court's decision against them.

The suit was to ensure there would be some paper ballots made available to voters in the (completely predictable) event of massive voting machine failure that is likely to take place in the crucial battleground that is the Keystone State on Tuesday.

Credit Where It's Due, But Not Where It's Not...

The article goes on to quote me again, making a point I've been making for so long here at The BRAD BLOG (and elsewhere) to little avail, before Bauer again is quoted as quickly changing the subject...

Friedman says the Obama campaign still needs to be more aggressive.

“They need to bring lawsuits loudly and immediately, dozens of them, wherever necessary,” he wrote in an email.

Bauer says he has made a conscious effort to fight the legal battles on his terms rather than McCain’s. He held several conference calls with reporters after Republicans accused ACORN and the Obama campaign of working together to register fraudulent voters.

But rather than engaging McCain’s “Honest and Open Election Committee,” led by former GOP Sens. John Danforth (Mo.) and Warren Rudman (N.H.), Bauer turned the tables on McCain’s campaign by calling on the U.S. attorney general to investigate links between McCain’s campaign and federal law enforcement officials.

I'm happy to give credit to the Dems for their efforts to try and counter at least the most cynical (and likely illegal) aspects of DoJ/White House efforts to leverage inappropriate federal help in carrying out the GOP's ACORN "voter fraud" hoax, even while they've often left ACORN flapping in the breeze during the most repugnant of GOP attacks against them in state after state.

Yes, nobody's perfect. I fully understand that. So where the Dems have not followed what might be my advice in fighting the appalling GOP suppression efforts, I appreciate that they are moving forward as they decide, not as I do. At least, on that score, they are moving forward to some extent.

But where they remain completely and entirely in denial on the concerns of electronic voting, this many years along in the battle, is completely and utterly without legitimate excuse at this point. All voters should join me in being furious, no matter the "results" reported on and after Tuesday. And I suspect those who are following these issues closely enough to understand what's happening and isn't --- and who are able to see through the smokescreen still being offered by the DNC and the Obama campaign --- actually are.

The BRAD BLOG covers your electoral system, fiercely and independently, like no other media outlet in the nation. Please support our work with a donation to help us keep going. If you like, we'll send you some great election integrity documentary films in return. Details on that right here...