Oct. 18 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 349   McCain 171   Ties 18
Senate Dem 59   GOP 41  
House Dem 249   GOP 185   Ties 1

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strong Dem Strong Dem (250)
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tied Exactly tied (18)
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weak GOP Weak GOP (18)
strong GOP Strong GOP (137)
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Presidential polls today: AK CA CO FL MO MS ND NV OR PA TX WY RSS
Dem pickups (vs. 2004): CO FL IA MO NV NM OH VA GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA SMS

PW logo Obama Sweeps the Debates Cindy McCain's Tax Returns Released
All Eyes on Powell Extra Bonus Quote of the Day
Republicans Reverse Course in Lousiana Florida Still a Toss Up

News from the Votemaster

Obama Will Break Spending Record This Week

When Barack Obama broke his promise to take part in the public campaign financing system, he took a lot of flak for it with Republicans accusing him of being untrustworthy. However, now he is reaping the benefits of that decision. He is currently outspending John McCain on TV advertising four to one. This week he will surpass the $188 million the Republicans spent in 2004. Because McCain opted into the public system, he got $84 million without having to waste any time going to fundraisers, but he is also limited to spending no more than $84 million, although the RNC can raise and spend unlimited money. All in all, Obama is swamping McCain on the airwaves.

Challenges Could Disenfranchise Millions of Voters

The Help America Vote Act, passed after the 2000 debacle in Florida, mandates that states have a statewide data base of eligible voters to help people vote and to prevent fraud. However, these data bases are full of minor errors and hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of voters may be disenfranchised as a result. To make this clear, consider the five newly registered voters listed below on the left. The data for the same people (matched by social security number) appears in the drivers license data base below on the right.

New Voters
Name Address SS #
John A. Smith 24 Maple Ave 123-45-6789
Mary Jones 50a Main St 314-15-9265
William Wong 123 North Road 271-82-8182
Nancy Wilson 62 1st Avenue 299-79-2458
Peter Adams 120 Davis Ave 602-21-4179
Drivers License Data Base
Name Address SS #
John A Smith 24 Maple Ave 123-45-6789
Mary Jones 50A Main St 314-15-9265
Bill Wong 123 North Road 271-82-8182
Nancy Wilson 62 First Avenue 299-79-2458
Peter Adams 120 Davis Avenue 602-21-4179

Unless very carefully programmed, the software might reject all these new voters on the grounds of suspected fraud because the data don't agree. Could the software be made smart enough to do "fuzzy matching?" Of course, but only if the people writing it were instructed to do so. In addition, in many states criminals have recently been purged from the rolls--along with everybody else with the same name as any criminal. But there is much dispute as to which crimes disqualify one, what about people who have served their time, and people who have been pardoned? Even if the laws are clear, which they generally aren't, the data bases are so riddled with errors and the clerical personnel so ill-trained, that the whole issue of voter registration could be a time bomb that explodes on election day.

There have already been numerous lawsuits filed by the state Republican Parties challenging thousands of newly registered voters, most of whom are Democrats. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday against a GOP lawsuit trying to disqualify 200,000 new voters in Ohio whose voter registration data does not agree with other state data bases (like the examples above). In a Montana case, case a federal judge ruled that the Republicans had filed the case "with the express intent to disenfranchise voters." In some cases it is the Democrats going to court to prevent a (usually Republican) secretary of state from purging eligible voters. In other words, attempting to disenfranchise voters has become just another campaign tactic. It is virtually always the Republicans trying to purge (new) voters because the new voters are so heavily weighted towards the Democrats. If they can eliminate 100,000 voters, they will probably get rid of 80,000 Democrats and 20,000 Republicans, which is clearly worth the effort.

Another source of controversy is a group called ACORN that is registering voters. John McCain said in the third debate that its fraudulent registration practices threatens our very democracy. It is indeed likely that some ACORN workers have registered nonexistent voters--because the registrars are paid for each voter registered. However, voter registration fraud is not voter fraud since the fictitious voter won't show up to vote because he doesn't exist. The Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, has said that ACORN is not really a problem.

If the government would do a better job of registering voters, private groups like ACORN would not be needed. However, voter registration has always been a partisan battleground. After the Civil War, the Democratic-controlled legislatures in many southern states enacted poll taxes to discourage the newly freed slaves from voting. Another common tactic used by the Democrats then was to introduce some gigantic hurdle to voting--such as a test on the state constitution that even lawyers couldn't pass--and then exempt anyone whose grandfather was a registered voter, which conveniently got most whites (but few blacks) out of having to pass the test. Nowadays it is the Republicans who are fighting all attempts, like motor-voter laws, to make it easier to register, because such laws predominately help poor people and they tend to vote Democratic. The NY Times has an editorial on this subject today.

While ACORN has gotten a lot of publicity lately because McCain and Palin keep talking about it, voter registration fraud is bipartisan. Here is a story in today's LA Times about a Republican group engaging in similar tactics. While there is no data on who is doing the fraud and why, anecdotal evidence suggests Democratic fraud is bottom up (individual registrars making up names to earn a few more dollars) whereas Republican fraud is top down (campaign officials doing it to win elections), but the subject remains controversial.

Study of Cell-Only Households

Close to a third of all 18-24 year olds do not have a landline. Pollsters are seriously beginning to be concerned that their presidential preference (Obama by a landslide) is being undercounted. Mark Blumental wrote a column in the National Journal looking at this issue and concluded that Obama's strength is probably being underestimated by 2-3% as a result of this effect.

Is John McCain a Maverick?

No! says Terrellita Maverick, a descendant of Samuel Augustus Maverick, who went to Texas in the 1800s and became famous for not branding his cattle, which led to unbranded cattle being called "mavericks." The Maverick family has been active in progressive politics for generations, including Fontaine Maury Maverick, who was a congressman and his son, a firebrand lawyer who defended draft resisters. The Mavericks object strenuously to McCain's being labeled a maverick, saying: "He's a Republican. He's branded." Thanks to Debbie Scherrer for the pointer.

Ted Steven Testifies at His Trial

Indicted senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) testified yesterday at his trial on charges of lying on his Senate gift disclosure form. Stevens said that the work done in transforming a simple A-frame into a luxurious two-story house was organized by former VECO CEO Bill Allen in his capacity as a personal friend, not in his capacity as CEO of an oil services company interested in getting contracts. Stevens maintains that he asked Allen for a bill, but Allen never sent one. Closing arguments from both sides are expected next week.

Obama Continues to Lead in the National Polls

With seven new national polls released yesterday, Barack Obama continues to lead John McCain in all of them, with the average lead being 6.3%

      - Battleground (Obama +4)
      - Diageo (Obama +10)
      - Gallup expanded (Obama +6)
      - IBD (Obama +5)
      - Rasmussen (Obama +4)
      - Research 2000 (Obama +10)
      - Zogby (Obama +5)

Today's Polls

We have 13 presidential polls today. In Colorado, Obama is maintaining a lead of 7 points, but two polls in Florida give opposite results, perhaps indicating a tightening there. Probably the strangest result is in North Dakota. We have now had three polls in a row showing Obama ahead or tied, and this in a state George Bush won by 27 points last time.

State Obama McCain Start End Pollster
Alaska 38% 57% Oct 14 Oct 16 Research 2000
California 59% 35% Oct 15 Oct 16 SurveyUSA
Colorado 52% 45% Oct 16 Oct 16 Rasmussen
Florida 47% 49% Oct 16 Oct 16 SurveyUSA
Florida 49% 45% Oct 13 Oct 15 Research 2000
Missouri 52% 46% Oct 15 Oct 15 Rasmussen
Mississippi 40% 50% Oct 14 Oct 15 Research 2000
North Dakota 45% 45% Oct 14 Oct 15 Research 2000
Nevada 50% 45% Oct 16 Oct 16 Rasmussen
Oregon 53% 38% Oct 14 Oct 15 Research 2000
Pennsylvania 52% 39% Oct 13 Oct 17 Muhlenberg Coll.
Texas 40% 52% Oct 14 Oct 15 Research 2000
Wyoming 35% 58% Oct 14 Oct 16 Research 2000

We also have four Senate polls. Alaska is close for the moment, but if Stevens is convicted, it is hard to imagine him winning. In Oregon, Jeff Merkley (D) is opening up a substantial lead over Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR).

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
Alaska Mark Begich 48% Ted Stevens* 46% Oct 14 Oct 16 Research 2000
Colorado Mark Udall 51% Bob Schaffer 44% Oct 16 Oct 16 Rasmussen
Oregon Jeff Merkley 47% Gordon Smith* 41% Oct 14 Oct 15 Research 2000
Wyoming Nick Carter 36% John Barrasso* 57% Oct 14 Oct 16 Research 2000

We also have two House polls, both in at-large states. In Alaska, Ethan Berkowitz (D) appears be to on track to defeat incumbent Rep. Don Young (R-AK), who is the target of a corruption investigation. To some extent, that was expected. What was not expected was a close race for the Wyoming open seat, but at the moment, it appears to be a tie.

Cong. Distr. Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
AK-AL Ethan Berkowitz 50% Don Young* 44% Oct 14 Oct 16 Research 2000
WY-AL Gary Trauner 44% Cynthia Lummis 43% Oct 14 Oct 14 Research 2000

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