Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Blackwell Hires Lebron's Publicist to Woo Cleveland's Black Vote

According to a well-placed source, speaking to Pope Urban II on condidition of anonymity, the Blackwell campaign has hired Lebron James' former publicist with the explicit attempt at "garnering more black votes," particularly in the Democratic stronghold of Cleveland.

No word as to whether or not this publicist is Alexandria Boone.
The Pope Has Returned

After a month-long work hiatus, the Pope has returned...

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Strickland Continues to Drub Blackwell in Polls

In a poll released today by Rasmussen Reports, Ohio's Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland holds a 13 percent lead over Pat Robertson's favorite candidate, Ken Blackwell. The beleagured Secretary of State, whose lone political highlight in more than a decade of elected office in Ohio was an amendment banning gay marriage, has struggled to keep pace with Strickland, as the moderate Democrat has won over myriad moderate Republicans afraid of Blackwell's radical proposals.

Unfortunately, the news isn't as promising for the Ohio Senate Race, as Republican incumbent Mike DeWine leads challenger Sherrod Brown by seven points.

Both of these figures, however, are tempered by a recent Wall Street Journal/Zogby Poll which gives Brown a 12.7%-point lead, but has Strickland ahead by just five percentage points.

Ken Blackwell will be the fortune recipient of a bevy of national assistance, as conservative organizations around the country recognize the danger in losing the gubernatorial race in Ohio, as the ramifications for 2008 could prove catastrophic. If Ohio goes blue, so too will the White House.

But unfortunately for Blackwell, Strickland will make him run on his record, which is meager at best.

As Secretary of State, Blackwell helped Ohioans grow accustomed to antiquated voter registration laws, outrageously long lines, and a dearth of voting machines in Democratic precincts. Indeed, such are reasons that Ohioans are refusing to swallow the Blackwell talking points.

And Blackwell's alignment with radical religous ideologues like Rod Parsley, who openly bash gays and Muslims, has further hindered his standing in Ohio. Further, Blackwell's stance on abortion--a plan to ban all abortions, just as in South Dakota--has alienated him from any moderate Republican voters.

As Rasmussen, um, reports:

Strickland attracts 82% of Democrats, whereas Brown attracts only 66% support from GOP voters. Unaffiliated voters and moderates prefer Strickland by a margin of two-to-one or more.

Strickland is viewed favorably by 53%, unfavorably by 32%. Blackwell is viewed favorably by 44%, unfavorably by 45%; 25% have a "very unfavorable" view of him.

So there's good news for Strickland, and mixed news for Brown.

Let's not grow complacent with these encouraging poll figures, then, and continue to support Strickland and Brown in two of the most important elections in Ohio history.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cat Got Your Tongue?

For a man that loves to hear his own voice, Ken Blackwell certainly has been awfully quiet the past few weeks as two of his favorite issues have risen to the forefront of statewide and national debate.

Blackwell, who almost single-handedly pushed through an anti-gay marriage amendment in 2004, and whose opposition to abortion has been well-documented due to Blackwell's fervently radical religious views and his pledge to support an all-abortion ban should he win the gubernatorial election, has been conspicuously silent as President Bush has touted his failed constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage, and as the Ohio General Assembly has debated whether or not to follow Blackwell's advice and ban all abortions.

The reason for this is simple: Mr. Blackwell is attempting to recast himself to Ohio voters as a traditional Republican, which his time in office, and the friends he keeps, proves quite clearly to be blatantly false. For a man whose greatest (and lone) accomplishment in office was to pass the anti-gay marriage act, Mr. Blackwell's lack of a record despite over a decade in public service is embarrassing, to say the least. It is only now that Mr. Blackwell has come up with economic plans that are notably conservative--and the hallmark of his candidacy was so disliked that it was torpedoed by his own party.

So how does Mr. Blackwell feel about abortion? Well, he told The Other Paper the following:

Q: If Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, would you sign a law that would outlaw abortions in the case of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother?

A: Yes.

Q: Including the life of the mother?

A: Yes.

And there has been just a peep out of Blackwell regarding the current conversation in the General Assembly:

The question: House Bill 228 would make it a felony to carry out abortions in Ohio or transport a woman across state lines to have one. Would you sign this abortion bill?

Blackwell: "Yes, if amended. The legislation removes current pro-life protections in the law because it enacts a total ban. I would support an amended version with pro-life protections reinstated if the legislation is later challenged and overturned in court."

Not exactly singing it from the rooftops.

Indeed, Mr. Blackwell's campaign website makes no mention of the specifics of his already professed desire to ban all abortions in Ohio:

Ken Blackwell believes all innocent life is sacred and should be protected. His opposition to abortion has been steadfast and consistent, he has always been pro-life. The first obligation of government is to protect innocent life. As Governor, Ken would advance a culture of life, just as he has for 30 years, as Mayor of Cincinnati, Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission and in statewide office.

Ken believes that government can assist in advancing a culture of life through legislation as well as promotion of life affirming organizations such as pregnancy help centers. Abortion always has two victims, a mother and a child. But society as a whole is also damaged in the process. We need to provide charity and assistance to mothers and fathers in the challenging moments of a troubled pregnancy.

So what has Mr. Blackwell been up to for all these years? Massaging his relationship with the radical religious right, with individuals like Pat Robertson and Rod Parsley, and by touting his hatred of abortion and of homosexuals.

It is no surprise, then, that such tenets of his previous platform have been left behind in his post-primary campaigning, for he knows that such policies will not win him favor with Ohio's moderate Republicans, nor its independents, all of whom are quickly filing into the Strickland camp.

As the gubernatorial candidate, Mr. Blackwell has already demonstrated his collusion with the corrupt Ohio GOP by forcing them into changing the law so that his TEL Amendment would not be a complete and utter failure. And yet when two of Mr. Blackwell's most strident issues came into the fray, he sat on his hands...
Blackwell Amends Draconian Law, Bowing to Criticism

A week ago, Ken Blackwell helped implement voting registration laws that were less than welcomed by voter's rights advocates of all stripes.

Mr. Blackwell has succumbed--ever-so-slightly--to the pressure.

Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, under fire for imposing draconian rules governing the activities of voter-registration groups, filed rule changes late Wednesday intended to clarify two issues of contention.

One change removed the definition of compensation, which previously had been described as "a payment or a gift of any amount."

Lawyers representing the Ohio Democratic Party and voter-registration organizations had argued that "any amount" meant that a League of Women Voters volunteer who accepted a can of soda or a sandwich would be considered a paid registrar, forcing the person to undergo training and be subject to felony penalties for elections fraud.

The second change makes it clear that it's OK for registrars to mail voter forms to a board of elections or the secretary of state.

The previous rule made no mention of the U.S. Postal Service. As a result, critics claimed that the requirement that registrars return the forms directly to elections officials meant that they could not use the mail.

Report: Republican Spending Limits (i.e., TEL Amended) Lack Teeth


The law says core state spending increases — not including fees, property-tax assistance or local government funding — cannot exceed 3.5 percent or the total of inflation plus population growth, whichever is greater.

Lawmakers passed the bill as part of a plan to get GOP gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell's more-restrictive constitutional spending cap off the ballot.

Exceeding the cap would take a two-thirds legislative vote. But it would take just a majority vote to change the law.

Last week, the Service Commission wrote in a memo that the law "contains no provisions allowing for enforcement of the limitation. It does not provide for any remedy if the General Assembly does not comply."

If lawmakers fail to comply with their own rules, "no court may order the General Assembly to comply with the rule."

Further evidence that Republicans are great at marketing--Look, we passed policy in line with our fiscally conservative roots!--but horrendous at governing.
Blackwell's Fiscal Conservatism?

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Blackwell campaign has spent $330 on valet parking, and $150 on car washes, with money that has been so generously donated to the campaign.

Not exactly Reagan-esque...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Strickland Opens Up Huge Lead on Blackwell

SurveyUSA reports. It will be fun to listen to the Blackwell campaign spin this one.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Blackwell's Draconian Voter Registration Restrictions Draw Fire

Courtesy The Columbus Dispatch:

At a hearing yesterday, some said Blackwell’s rules would shut down voter-registration efforts in Ohio that use paid workers. Afterward, state Democrats said the rules were reminiscent of Blackwell’s 2004 edict that the paper for registration forms had to be a certain weight.

"The proposed rules from Secretary Blackwell are obstructing voter-registration efforts intended to help all Ohioans," said Raj Nayak, associate counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group at New York University School of Law.

"These rules will make it harder for Ohio citizens to register to vote and to exercise their fundamental right to the franchise."

Peg Rosenfield, elections specialist for the League of Women Voters, said she fears that the league and other voter-registration groups would have to abandon their efforts in Ohio.

"The combination of ambiguity and the restrictions — we don’t know what to tell people," Rosenfield said. "The bill is restrictive but (the rules) are more restrictive than the bill."

Particularly worrisome to voter advocates is that those who violate the new law could face criminal charges.

Analysis on this absurd development forthcoming...
NY Times calls for Blackwell to step down as Secretary of State

Too bad this will fall on deaf ears:

If there was ever a sign of a ruling party in trouble, it is a game plan that calls for trying to win by discouraging voting.

The latest sign that Republicans have an election-year strategy to shut down voter registration drives comes from Ohio. As the state gears up for a very competitive election season this fall, its secretary of state, J. Kenneth Blackwell, has put in place "emergency" regulations that could hit voter registration workers with criminal penalties for perfectly legitimate registration practices. The rules are so draconian they could shut down registration drives in Ohio.

Mr. Blackwell, who also happens to be the Republican candidate for governor this year, has a history of this sort of behavior. In 2004, he instructed county boards of elections to reject any registrations on paper of less than 80-pound stock — about the thickness of a postcard. His order was almost certainly illegal, and he retracted it after he came under intense criticism. It was, however, in place long enough to get some registrations tossed out.

This year, Mr. Blackwell's office has issued rules and materials that appear to require that paid registration workers, and perhaps even volunteers, personally take the forms they collect to an election office. Organizations that run registration drives generally have the people who register voters bring the forms back to supervisors, who can then review them for errors. Under Mr. Blackwell's edict, everyone involved could be committing a crime. Mr. Blackwell's rules also appear to prohibit people who register voters from sending the forms in by mail. That rule itself may violate federal elections law.

Mr. Blackwell's rules are interpretations of a law the Republican-controlled Ohio Legislature passed recently. Another of the nation's most famous swing states, Florida, has been the scene of similar consternation and confusion since it recently enacted a law that is so harsh that the Florida League of Women Voters announced that it was stopping all voter registration efforts for the first time in 67 years. Florida's Legislature, like Ohio's, is controlled by Republicans.

Throughout American history both parties have shown a willingness to try to use
election law to get results they might otherwise not win at the polls. But right now it is clearly the Republicans who believe they have an interest in keeping the voter base small. Mr. Blackwell and other politicians who insist on making it harder to vote never say, of course, that they are worried that get-out-the-vote drives will bring too many poor and minority voters into the system. They say that they want to reduce fraud. However, there is virtually no evidence that registration drives are leading to fraud at the polls.

But there is one clear way that Ohio's election system is corrupt. Decisions about who can vote are being made by a candidate for governor. Mr. Blackwell should hand over responsibility for elections to a decision maker whose only loyalty is to the voters and the law.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Blackwell, Please, Run On Your Record

From the Ohio Democratic Party:

As if his infamous voter suppression antics of 2004 weren’t enough, “Longline” Ken Blackwell proposed rules Monday that significantly restrict proactive efforts to register Ohio voters.

At an 11 a.m. hearing in a Ground floor hearing room of the Rhodes State Office Tower, Blackwell’s representatives heard from lawyers, including the Ohio Democratic Party, who are trying to prevent yet another gimmicky rule change making it harder for Ohioans to register and vote.

The proposed rules reference required procedures making voter registration outreach more difficult by requiring people assisting a voter registrant to have to “directly” return the form to the Board of Elections or Secretary of State’s office. This severely hampers organized voter registration drives, and group registration drives including union or office registration efforts.

“Longline Blackwell strikes again,” said Brian Rothenberg, Communications Director of the Ohio Democratic Party. “This overly restrictive requirement is reminiscent of Secretary Blackwell’s 2004 paper-weight directive that he backed off of after national scrutiny. Ken Blackwell seems to stop at nothing to make it harder for Ohioans to vote.”

If enacted the order would require any circulator of voter registration who is paid by an entity, whether it is a private business, union, 527 organizations or non-profit organization, to personally deliver the signed registration form they assist with as opposed to allowing the collection of the organizations forms to be turned in en-masse.

“One would hope Longline Blackwell would want to erase the tarnished image of 2004 with some election integrity,” said Rothenberg. “But it appears that once again, he has chosen a divisive path of voter suppression and legal sleight of hand to disenfranchise voting opportunity in Ohio.”

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Blackwell shredded in Kennedy's Rolling Stone piece on 2004 election

In Robert Kennedy Jr.'s now famous piece in the most recent issue of Rolling Stone, Ken Blackwell is raked across the coals for his butchering of the handling of Ohio during the 2004 presidential election.

The article is long and extensive, but the excerpts most relevant to this website are as follows:

The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush's victory in the electoral college. Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency. A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count.

No state was more important in the 2004 election than Ohio. The state has been key to every Republican presidential victory since Abraham Lincoln's, and both parties overwhelmed the state with television ads, field organizers and volunteers in an effort to register new voters and energize old ones. Bush and Kerry traveled to Ohio a total of forty-nine times during the campaign -- more than to any other state.(42)

But in the battle for Ohio, Republicans had a distinct advantage: The man in charge of the counting was Kenneth Blackwell, the co-chair of President Bush's re-election committee.(43) As Ohio's secretary of state, Blackwell had broad powers to interpret and implement state and federal election laws -- setting standards for everything from the processing of voter registration to the conduct of official recounts.(44) And as Bush's re-election chair in Ohio, he had a powerful motivation to rig the rules for his candidate. Blackwell, in fact, served as the ''principal electoral system adviser'' for Bush during the 2000 recount in Florida,(45) where he witnessed firsthand the success of his counterpart Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state who co-chaired Bush's campaign there.(46)

Blackwell -- now the Republican candidate for governor of Ohio(47) -- is well-known in the state as a fierce partisan eager to rise in the GOP. An outspoken leader of Ohio's right-wing fundamentalists, he opposes abortion even in cases of rape(48) and was the chief cheerleader for the anti-gay-marriage amendment that Republicans employed to spark turnout in rural counties(49). He has openly denounced Kerry as ''an unapologetic liberal Democrat,''(50) and during the 2004 election he used his official powers to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Ohio citizens in Democratic strongholds. In a ruling issued two weeks before the election, a federal judge rebuked Blackwell for seeking to ''accomplish the same result in Ohio in 2004 that occurred in Florida in 2000.''(51)

''The secretary of state is supposed to administer elections -- not throw them,'' says Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Cleveland who has dealt with Blackwell for years. ''The election in Ohio in 2004 stands out as an example of how, under color of law, a state election official can frustrate the exercise of the right to vote.''

The most extensive investigation of what happened in Ohio was conducted by Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.(52) Frustrated by his party's failure to follow up on the widespread evidence of voter intimidation and fraud, Conyers and the committee's minority staff held public hearings in Ohio, where they looked into more than 50,000 complaints from voters.(53) In January 2005, Conyers issued a detailed report that outlined ''massive and unprecedented voter irregularities and anomalies in Ohio.'' The problems, the report concludes, were ''caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.''(54)

''Blackwell made Katherine Harris look like a cupcake,'' Conyers told me. ''He saw his role as limiting the participation of Democratic voters. We had hearings in Columbus for two days. We could have stayed two weeks, the level of fury was so high. Thousands of people wanted to testify. Nothing like this had ever happened to them before.''

When ROLLING STONE confronted Blackwell about his overtly partisan attempts to subvert the election, he dismissed any such claim as ''silly on its face.'' Ohio, he insisted in a telephone interview, set a ''gold standard'' for electoral fairness. In fact, his campaign to subvert the will of the voters had begun long before Election Day. Instead of welcoming the avalanche of citizen involvement sparked by the campaign, Blackwell permitted election officials in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo to conduct a massive purge of their voter rolls, summarily expunging the names of more than 300,000 voters who had failed to cast ballots in the previous two national elections.(55) In Cleveland, which went five-to-one for Kerry, nearly one in four voters were wiped from the rolls between 2000 and 2004.(56)

There were legitimate reasons to clean up voting lists: Many of the names undoubtedly belonged to people who had moved or died. But thousands more were duly registered voters who were deprived of their constitutional right to vote -- often without any notification -- simply because they had decided not to go to the polls in prior elections.(57) In Cleveland's precinct 6C, where more than half the voters on the rolls were deleted,(58) turnout was only 7.1 percent(59) -- the lowest in the state.

According to the Conyers report, improper purging ''likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters statewide.''(60) If only one in ten of the 300,000 purged voters showed up on Election Day -- a conservative estimate, according to election scholars -- that is 30,000 citizens who were unfairly denied the opportunity to cast ballots.