News From The U.S. Election Reform Movement
Nashua Advocate Staff
Friday, February 04, 2005
News: Republican Bush-Appointee Paul DeGregorio of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission Slams The Nashua Advocate Now It's Our Chance to Respond
By ADVOCATE STAFF
It wasn't enough for Mr. DeGregorio that we wrote an entire, fully-sourced article about him, in which our readership had every opportunity to compare our analysis of his actions with reporting of same in other news outlets. It wasn't enough that we've meticulously tracked the progress of the election reform movement in the United States over the past sixty days and have found little evidence that the primary body charged with furthering this cause the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has been of "assistance" to the movement in any manner whatsoever.
It isn't enough for Mr. DeGregorio, apparently, that we have used his own words and the words of the Election Assistance Commission itself to draw our conclusions, nor that we've been tracking the respective contributions of Republicans and Democrats to the election reform movement on a nearly day-to-day basis, and can judge for ourselves without any assistance from appointees of the Bush Administration which party has shown the most concrete commitment to election reform.
Here, then, we present the "unedited" Mr. DeGregorio or someone quite credibly claiming to be Mr. DeGregorio as he offers this screed against The Nashua Advocate, which can be found in its original location on our site by clicking here. Our response to Mr. DeGregorio follows his comments.
Dear "Advocate Staff" or whoever is hiding under that banner:
It's because people like you, who distort and take out of context what people like me may say, that the election reform movement is unable to gain enough traction and obtain the political support that is needed in this country to make it a real priority. If you had told your readers the realand truthfulstory about my work in elections, they may have seen that I have worked all my adult life on improving elections throughout the world. Yes, I did a lot of work in poor countries like Nigeria, Congo, Sierra Leone and Cambodia, where democracy still has a long way to go. However, I have also devoted a great deal of my life to improving the election process in America. By using a ive quote about people standing in long lines in the hot sun in Nigeria, where I was making the point how folks in new democracies tend to participate in greater numbers than we do in America, you failed to tell your readers how in the very next line in that article I said it was "inexcusable" for someone in America to have to wait more than an hour to vote in a presidential election. I am pleased that you put in a link to the article and hope that people read it in its entirety. In recent months I have given plenty of speeches to US election officials where I have openly criticized them for many of the problems Americans experienced at the polls on November 2nd. I also praised them for the hard work they put in to make democracy work in America, often under difficult and underfunded circumstances. If youor folks like you who are always quick to criticize or smear Republicansever took the time to learn of my passion for election reform in America, and that of other Republicans, you would find the common ground that is out there for election reform. It was President Bush and the Republican Congresswith strong Democratic supportwho has appropriated $3.1 billion for election reform in America. And these are the first federal dollars that have ever been spent in American history to improve the way we conduct elections. So if you are going to criticize, I suggest you also give credit where it is due.
When folks who purport to be for election reform write distortions such as you haveit's hard for me and others to take seriously anything that you advocate.
US Election Assistance Commission
The Advocate has divided its response to Mr. DeGregorio into sub-sections, which are presented in bold, below.
We are indeed, in the strictest sense of the word, anonymous.
Yet our news coverage is anything but.
Unlike, for example, the Fox News Channel the favored propaganda organ of the National Republican Party we are not derelict in our responsibilities as journalists and commentators. First and foremost (tackling the issue of our "commentary") we are confident in our presentation as journalists in the sense that where our articles unmistakably, notoriously, and unapologetically include editorializing, it is a feature which we (unlike Fox) never use any simpering platitudes like "fair and balanced" to try to obscure. We editorialize and we do it in a way which is self-evident to our readership. That's why we chose "Advocate" as the appellation for our news outlet; we do, indeed, intend to "advocate" the cause of election reform, as contrasted to, say, the Election Assistance Commission, which falsely claims that it will provide real "assistance" to an America in dire need of meaningful and timely election reform (but more on that later).
And our news? It's always sourced. Any reader who wishes to skip the commentary and editorializing can always go right to the "mainstream" media source behind the story. And we invariably attempt to provide our readership the most well-regarded and most credible news sources we can which is often difficult, because the stories we seek to cover frequently go entirely unreported by the mainstream media. Nevertheless, if we can quote The New York Times, we do; if The Post, we do; and so on. Though we will never relinquish a story simply because it appears in, say, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch as opposed to The Los Angeles Times.
Here, too, we are distinguishing ourselves: we do not, as Fox News does, refer to "some people are saying" or "many people think" to falsely lend weight to an unsourced news story. If it was in the news and we're reporting on it, you can see for yourself what "some people" did or did not say about the matter, and indeed find out precisely who those people are. But you read The Advocate to see what we have to say about the matter.
And who are we?
As noted above, there is certainly some anonymity used in the reporting system of The Advocate. And at the risk of implying a certain degree of paranoia among the Staff which, overall, does not feel itself to be in the least paranoid we would simply point to the Bush Administration's long and storied history of publicly dismantling those who disagree with it, in ways big and small, legal and illegal (a certain well-reported scandal involving a covert C.I.A. agent comes to mind), by turns amoral and unscrupulously immoral. Are we grand enough to think ourselves "targets" of the Administration? No, not really. On the other hand, The Nashua Advocate has been in operation for only sixty-seven days just over two months and already we are seeing appointees of the Bush Administration publicly "calling us out" (as it were) because we accurately quoted them in a news story. So, we intend to, and are, getting serious attention on a national level which we feel the quality of our news-reporting, our commentary, our analysis, and even our satire deserves.
Nashua, NH is the home of The Nashua Advocate. There are approximately 85,000 people in Nashua. The News Editor represents that he is an attorney in Nashua, and has made no secret in the various forums he has participated in that he is a public interest attorney. It also so happens that he is a graduate of Harvard Law School but he hasn't seen it relevant to mention that before now, either, given that it is his ideas and not his CV which are at issue here.
The reporting, the commentary, the analysis, and the satire presented on these "pages" exists quite apart from the personas of our Staff: by retaining a certain degree of anonymity, we ensure that opponents of the election reform movement will not be able to bring down a cause by bringing down one or more of its thousands and thousands of (admittedly self-styled) champions. The Nashua Advocate intends to be just that, a champion of election reform: on the other hand, anyone with any real desire to find out the identities of Staff could do so, and in fact the News Editor (for one) uses his real name in much of his private correspondence with fellow-travelers in the cause for election reform.
So, Mr. Degregorio, we're afraid you'll have to address our ideas, not our histories. That's something Republicans are often loathe to do, to our collective (here at The Advocate) chagrin.
We find it striking to hear a member of the United States Election Assistance Commission say that "the election reform movement is unable to gain enough traction and obtain the political support that is needed in this country to make it a real priority," however and wherefore that assertion may be made.
Mr. DeGregorio, for instance, sees the election reform movement as being so slight in its righteousness, so timid in its prescriptions, so vainglorious in its attentions that a single online news outlet say, The Advocate can make it "hard for me [Paul DeGregorio, Member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission] and others to take seriously anything that you advocate."
That we advocate?
We, sir, are unpaid "volunteers," of the same sort Jefferson Airplane sang so over-earnestly about in 1969.
You, sir, are paid to "take seriously" that which "we" spend our days to "advocate": election reform. It is your job to take election reform seriously whether I or my Staff report stories from the New York Times or instead publish pictures of ourselves on over-sized tricycles eating ice cream.
But let's take Mr. DeGregorio at his word.
Let us assume that the pro-election reform coverage of The Advocate dwarfed exponentially by the anti-election reform coverage of the mainstream media and the "bully-pulpit" of the President (was Mr. DeGregorio saddened to see that the purpose of his Commission, election reform, was not mentioned a single time by the man who appointed him, President George W. Bush, when he had the opportunity last Wednesday night to speak to tens of millions of Americans on live television?) let us assume that our coverage has indeed affected the election reform movement negatively.
[As much as this does, frankly, leave us wondering where precisely the movement would be if it were in the hands of legislators and bureaucrats like Mr. DeGregorio, rather than activists].
Have the Democrats been "chilled" by our strident attention to this topic?
It does not seem so. Democrats in the U.S. Senate (cf. Harry Reid [D-NV]) have made "election reform" a published, nationally-recognized "top ten" priority for the National Democratic Party and have introduced at least two bills (cf. "Dodd" and "Ensign") to remedy some of the problems seen on November 2nd, 2004.
[We're still perusing the Republican platform to find the word "reform" outside the contexts of "tax reform," "tort reform," and "Social Security reform" in each case, of course, rolling back the progress of the last fifty years of human civilization in, you know, a "reform"-type way].
More bills, from Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Clinton (D-NY) (with co-sponsorship from Senator Boxer [D-CA]) are forthcoming. In the House, it's much the same: with companion bills to go with those Senate bills just mentioned, as well as a comprehensive "Voting Opportunity and Technology Enhancement Rights Act of 2005" sponsored by the Ranking Minority Member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Representative John T. Conyers, Jr. (D-MI).
We're sorry to be so dense, Mr. DeGregorio but as one of the five members of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, did you say you supported these bills, or not?
Does the man who appointed you support them, or not?
How, given modern dictates of professionalism and competence, can you call yourself a Member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission without having a clearly-articulated, unambiguous, comprehensively-justified position on each of these bills and any and all pending election reform legislation?
Perhaps, sir, what you meant is that it is Republicans like yourself who are so grossly affected by the tendency of election reform advocates to speak their minds and to quote, say, you, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
As for the long waits at some polling places, [DeGregorio] remarked: "I have seen people in Nigeria wait three or four hours in 105-degree temperature in the hot sun. They don't complain and they are pleased to participate in a presidential election."
Sorry if we misconstrued that comment as being asinine.
It just kind of leapt out at us as something a man of even marginal self-restraint would have immediately retracted seconds after quelling the oral diarrhea which caused its utterance. We found its patronizing, unctuous tone to be wholly unacceptable from a man charged with eradicating the sort of ills he (to a nationally-recognized paper, no less) found himself trivializing in disgusting fashion.
Other than that, we have no opinion.
So, back to what Republicans think of long voting lines what you, sir, think about long voting lines.
Has our online coverage of the election reform movement so "chilled" Republicans that not a single Republican anywhere has offered even a single bill, anywhere in the United States, whose effect would be the reduction of long voting lines in areas which tend to be heavily Democratic?
Is it because of The Nashua Advocate that President Bush mentioned the words "freedom" and "liberty" 42 times in his inaugural address, but the word "election" only 4 times in his State of the Union speech all 4 times with regard to Iraq, and never in direct conjunction with the words "U.S." or "reform"?
Did The Advocate make "Voter ID" bills the only sort of "election reform" Republicans support nationally, as it's the only sort of election reform which could possibly benefit their chosen electorate?
And which of these circumstances do you personally consider a failure on your part, Mr. DeGregorio?
Were you elevating the tone when you compared and contrasted ten-hour waits in Columbus, Ohio and long voting-line waits in Nigeria?
Were you advancing the cause you are charged to champion when you told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that you have seen "no discrepancies or problems that call into question the fact that President Bush carried Ohio," then went on to concede that neither you nor the Election Assistance Commission had held any hearings in Ohio, or attended the hearings that were held by members of Congress?
Were you advancing the cause of election reform in spending the last two months investigating a Democratic Secretary of State in California in fact, searches of news articles since November 2nd, 2004 seem to suggest this is the only thing of substance you've done since Election Day rather than investigating any officials from your own party, such as Ohio's Republican Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, whose violations of the law and administrative discretion and good sense and even basic standards of decency are remarkably well-documented? Or did you not get the memo on that one?
Why did you wait until precisely twenty-four hours after President Bush's re-election was certified to tell the Post-Dispatch (in their paraphrase; apparently you were never directly quoted on this): "it is inexcusable for any U.S. voters to have to wait more than an hour to vote"? Where were you on November 15th? December 13? Christmas? New Year's? You say you gave "plenty of speeches" after the general election chastising elections officials for their poor performance on Election Day could you point us to the news articles detailing those speeches? Were you so allergic to microphones in the days following your chosen candidate's election victory that not a single national news outlet could drag a quote from you criticizing severely the conduct of the election?
What, did you go on vacation after a presidential election which failed abysmally to meet the standards of competence you and your fellow Commissioners were ordered by Congress to ensure? [Your $140,000 salary was certainly enough to afford several such vacations. We, in contrast, are willing to call you out as a hypocrite entirely for free].
Even the Post-Dispatch which was interviewing you at the time of its observation noted that, for those who don't know you personally, the platitudes you deliver about fair elections "might sound a tad Pollyannaish given the vagaries of democracy and the irregularities in recent elections."
But then, let us guess: you see "problems," not "irregularities," right?
All About Paul
Which brings us, most squarely, to a discussion of "you."
Let us be perfectly clear: we do not give a rat's ass for work you did in "Nigeria, Congo, Sierra Leone and Cambodia."
Why? Not because we don't admire your hard work we do but because you didn't face any of the challenges then that you face now, here in America, and for this reason your work abroad tells us nothing about your intentions here.
To put even a finer point on this: your President and your Party do not support the work you are charged to complete, and we believe this will direct your actions as Vice-Chairman of the Election Assistance Commission quite a bit more than anything we at The Advocate say, and quite a bit more than any personal biography of your (to use terms we prefer) "inclinations" or "predilections" toward election reform.
We do not trust that your commitment to fair elections is deep or sincere enough to overcome the fact that those who made you what you are to whom, literally, you owe your job categorically and virulently oppose the sort of election reforms which we at The Advocate believe are mandatory in a just society.
[One reason, we suppose, you did not specify the "common ground" you see between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of election reform. Could you?].
Your reference to Nigerians who "don't complain" about long lines did nothing to dissuade us from our doubts.
Nor did your claim that "one hour" is the maximum a person should have to wait on line to vote, when your Party and your President have shown no inclination whatsoever to make that fantasy a reality. We apologize for not being so stupid as confuse your words with your actions.
So, let's talk about your actions. Let's talk, in fact, about the Report of the United States Election Assistance Commission, which, while linked to in the article you so decried, you strangely failed to draw readers' attention to in your screed.
You say the President has given $3.1 billion to election reform.
Nevermind that the Post-Dispatch, just four weeks ago, put that number 23% lower, at $2.4 billion.
Nevermind that, because the important thing is that you, like many bureaucrats, use here an absolute number in order to distract and dazzle stupid people. The question, of course, is not whether $3.1 billion is a lot of money who cares whether it is or isn't but whether it was enough money to do the job. Was it? Ask Ohio, which is now scrambling to institute less-accurate optical-scan voting equipment statewide because it can't afford top-of-the-line election machinery. Or consider the state of affairs in Franklin County and across Ohio on Election Day, where poor-, minority-, and majority-Democrat precincts were short-changed on voting machines because county commissioners had too little money to adequately administer their requisite election processes.
When you tell us that there were "no problems that call into question the fact that President Bush carried Ohio," why do you not also give your opinion of the non-partisan study reported in The Washington Post which found that between 5,000 and 15,000 voters left voting lines in Columbus, Ohio alone due to shortages of machines?
Have you calculated how many voters that would come to across Ohio?
We have. [Again, at no cost to the government].
And what's more, let's (cutting to the chase, and perhaps, sir, cutting you to the quick) ask you this: do you support the Help America Vote Act, which mandates paper audits for all electronic voting equipment? One could certainly doubt your intentions on this score by reading, well, what you said to the Post-Dispatch (or are we taking you "out of context" here too?):
In one key mission, DeGregorio and his colleagues will be leaping into the debate over whether paper records should be required in computerized voting to guard against machines producing false vote totals, accidentally or otherwise.
DeGregorio hasn't come down on either side in the debate.
The Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission hasn't yet decided whether we need paper audits in the U.S.? What, still waiting for those marching orders from the President?
Apparently so, because if there's one thing the E.A.C. hasn't been doing, it's "its job" as the Report of the E.A.C. readily attests.
See here (quoting from the Report now):
"$2 billion in funding...was available to the States by the end of FY 2004?an unprecedented figure for election reform" (didn't you quote a figure 55% higher?);
"[we issued] a report on facilitating voting for absentee military and overseas voters" (why start with them, rather than ensuring that domestic voters, who are infinitely larger in number, can vote effectively? Is it because absentee military voters were more likely to vote Republican on November 2nd?);
"[we] mounted two national initiatives to address the issues of poll worker recruitment, training, and deployment" (if only you'd been able to finish that important work! Because, as you know, poll workers were inadequately trained in heavily-Democratic precincts around the nation on Election Day);
"the delayed establishment of EAC and operating budget constraints restricted its ability to conduct some HAVA-mandated activities within the prescribed timeline" (what? But didn't President Bush control how quickly the EAC Commissioners would be appointed after the authorization of the EAC? Why would the President wait until nine months or so before a general election to get you guys up and running? Which activities were you unable to complete because Mr. Bush dragged his feet? Oh, these "issuance of HAVA Title III guidance on voting systems standards, statewide voter registration systems, provisional voting, voter education, and voters who register by mail"; "development of a report on the feasibility and advisability of reducing or waiving postage for absentee ballots submitted by voters in the general elections for Federal office"; "development of d voluntary voting system guidelines and a national voting system testing program").
So, if one were to opine that the 2004 presidential election was "standardless," and that this lack of standards for acceptable election practice like, how many voting machines a precinct should have, based upon its number of registered voters cost the Democratic presidential candidate tens of thousands of votes, or even hundreds of thousands of votes, nationwide, who should we blame, sir: you, or the President?