Who Gets to Vote? State's Struggle to Register Veterans, Felons and Minorities

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

By Erin Ferns

In the aftermath of the presidential primaries, stories of unprecedented voter registration and turnout are drifting to the back burner. But with an exceedingly imbalanced electorate, the fight to create access to the voting rolls and enforce the voting rights of all Americans continues. With historic voter registration drives underway and a preview of the types of problems that could occur in November, the focus of the media is beginning to shift towards the less sexy, but crucial elements that work to maximize voter participation while ensuring eligible voters can cast their ballots and have them counted. In Project Vote's view, this is a welcome development since many of the potential issues require more time to sort out than is available if problems are noted only weeks in advance of the election. This week, election officials, advocates and a presidential candidate worked to assist in or restore voting rights for hospitalized veterans in Connecticut, minority citizens in Georgia, and former felons in Tennessee.

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Leaving Delegates on the Table: Why Clinton Might Lose

One unusual aspect of Super Tuesday that seems to have gone unnoticed is that despite the national popular vote splitting so evenly at 48%-48%, very few of the state primaries and caucuses were actually all that close at all.  

Of 22 Democratic primaries and caucuses, only six were decided by a margin of ten points or less, and only three were actually close, coming within a margin of five points or less.  Why?  Because most of these states simply weren't even contested.  The Clinton campaign had television ads running in only half the February 5th states, and there were numerous states in which they didn't bother to run an active field campaign.

The Clinton campaign made clear that it planned to win Super Tuesday based on a tight four-state strategy, focusing on California, New York, New Jersey, and Arkansas, which, they frequently cited, made up 40% of the delegates assigned --- a strange strategy in a system that isn't winner-take-all.  Clinton's name recognition and her general support level across the country would have to hold her up in the vast swaths of the country that she had already conceded.

This strategy of focusing hard on winning the biggest states turned out to be one of this campaign season's great blunders, and it is one that the Clinton campaign seems to make repeatedly.  The Obama campaign has repeatedly found ways to get ahead in the delegate count, out-organizing rural areas of Nevada to win an extra delegate while the Clinton campaign won Clark County, and then repeating that success to run a field campaign across 22 states that kept the delegate count close in states Clinton won and racked up the delegates in states Clinton did not bother to contest.

The Clinton campaign has responded by pleading that its financial resources were stretched --- despite raising over a hundred million dollars in campaign funds over 2007, and despite a loan of $5 million (nearly four times Obama's net worth, by the way) that topped her some $13 million cash on hand and $13.5 million raised in December.  That's some $30 million in funds.

It was not a lack of funds that led the Clinton campaign to ignore rural areas, to write off multiple states.  Rather, the Clinton campaign seemed oddly unprepared, clinging to a misjudgment, counting on national poll numbers, unwilling to run the expansive grassroots national campaign that the Obama campaign had been preparing for for months.

By the time Super Tuesday was over, it was clear that the Clinton campaign had done little to build organizations in the subsequent primaries and could do little to contest them.  Yesterday alone, they fell an additional fifty delegates behind.  Ignoring states you think you will lose only means that you lose them more badly --- instead of trying to even up the delegate count.

And that must be the most frustrating part for the Clinton campaign.  In many of these states, there is little doubt that they have probably left delegates on the table.

Despite Howard Wolfson's claims post-Iowa that the delegate count was paramount, the Clinton campaign never seemed to act like it, as Obama won a pledged delegate lead in Iowa and simply never let it go, adding a delegate here and a delegate there, slowly running up his count, patiently organizing future contests.  There's talk already that this lead in the delegate count is, or soon will be, insurmountable.

The Clinton campaign might just be learning its lesson:

In addition to focusing on the large states -- something Cecil admitted had been their focus -- they are "opening offices" and "hiring staff" in Wyoming, Montana and even Puerto Rico to try to get every delegate possible in "congressional districts where we can be successful."

Though you have to wonder if it might be too late.

Postscript: Actually, Maggie Williams seems to be making almost exactly the same point today, describing the campaign's mistakes:

- That they didn't plan aggressively for small states, which allowed Obama to rack up delegates and project momentum.
- That the campaign will use volunteers in a larger role in the remaining contests.

Can I point something out though?  It's great that the Clinton campaign has discovered grassroots campaigning, but its examples are a little scary: sure, Wyoming votes on March 8th, but Montana votes on June 3rd and Puerto Rico on June 7th.

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2008 Campaign Weekly Roundup (February 4-8, 2008)

[Republished from 2008Central.net]

A roundup for February 3-8 on the Democratic side...

  • Super Tuesday Results:
    • Hillary Clinton won Arizona, Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
    • Barack Obama won Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Utah.
    • The winner of New Mexico is yet to be determined, but with 99% of precincts reporting Hillary Clinton is currently ahead by 1,123 votes.
  • Delegate Standings Projections (including superdelegates):
    • Hillary Clinton: 1076
    • Barack Obama: 1006
  • The Obama campaign has stepped up its argument that if Hillary Clinton is the nominee elected Democratic officials in conservative areas may suffer from a backlash by sending out a mailer that blames the Clintons for Democratic losses between during the 90's and the 2000 election.
  • The Clinton campaign clashes with MSNBC and just two days after TPM asks"Is Obama Being Hurt By MSNBC And His Other Media Worshippers?"
  • Debatarama: Hillary Clinton challenges Obama to a debate a week (including one on Fox News) between now and March 4.  After some back forth, the campaigns eventually agreed to hold two debates - one in Ohio and one in Texas.
  • Obama campaign pushes for the release of Hillary Clinton's tax returns.  When pressed on this issue during a press conference call, Clinton Communications Director obfuscated by asking "When will Senator Obama release the complete details of his relationship with Tony Rezko?"
  • Barack Obama picks up Washington's Governor Chris Gregoire; Clinton gets Rep. Norm Dicks.
  • Fund Race: Following reports that Hillary Clinton loaned her campaign $5 million dollars, the Obama campaign used this information to kick off a fundraising blitz, which the Clinton campaign countered.  Now that the dust has cleared, the totals so far since Super Tuesday show Obama with an edge, but Hillary Clinton isn't getting blown away:
    • Barack Obama: Over $7.5 million (figures disclosed yesterday, so this number is sure to be higher now)
    • Hillary Clinton: About $8 million; 75,000 new donors (figures disclosed today)
  • Bill Clinton promises to be nice going forward, clarifies his role in a Hillary Clinton administration; JW criticizes.

A roundup for February 3-8 on the Republican side...

  • Super Tuesday Results:
    • John McCain won Arizona, California, Connecticu, Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Oklahoma.
    • Mitt Romney won Alaska, Colorad, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Utah.
    • Mike Huckabee won Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia.
  • Delegate Standing Projections:
    • John McCain: 724
    • Mitt Romney: 281
    • Mike Huckabee: 196
    • Ron Paul: 14
  • Mitt Romney suspended his presidential campaign on February 6 and noted that he was motivated in part out of concern that continuing his quest would help get Obama or Clinton elected, which would mean surrender to terrorists (Romney's argument).
  • Fred Thompson endorsed John McCain and called on the rest of the party to get behind McCain.
  • Mike Huckabee promises to carry on with his campaign and demonstrated his commitment to the trail by appearing as a guest on the Tyra Banks Show (you have respect anyone that wants something so bad that they're willing to sit across from Tyra for an hour...shudder).
  • James Dobson backed Mike Huckabee; Huckabee's connection to televangelist Kenneth Copeland are likely to be the subject of a Senate investigation into Copeland's ministry (we blogged about Huckabee's connection to Copeland in late January).
  • Ron Paul's blimp was grounded after being vandalized.
  • Question: Ron Paul making a third party run?  Answer: No.
  • Cindy McCain taken to task on her "grudge list" among other things.

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Hillary Reminds Me of Eli Manning

In this week of Supers--the Super Bowl, Super Tuesday--Hillary, the Senator from New York, reminds me of Eli Manning, the quarterback of the NY Giants.  They both calmly continued on with the game, focused on the goal, even though a favorable outcome seemed unlikely, even though they have faced the constant onslaught of the media.

Congratulations to both of you on your wins in this Super week! I find you inspiring.

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Primary Precinct Problems Presage General Election Chaos Unless Addressed Immediately

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

By Erin Ferns

An increase in turnout among historically underrepresented voters Tuesday brings hope for outstanding voter participation that represents all Americans in November. Project Vote's Super Tuesday exit poll analysis found young and minority voters made a strong presence at polls in key states across the country, including record-setting turnout among Latinos in California. While voter participation appears to be on the rise in this critical presidential election year, polling place problems persist as some voters - and their precincts' poll workers - were unaware of state and federal voting procedures, creating the risk of intimidation and disenfranchisement. In order to maintain fair and open access to voting for all Americans, it important to prepare voters and facilitate effective poll worker training before November.

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