'He Shouldn't Be On the Ballot'

J$P Instant Transcript! Election Law attorney Barry Richard and Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones.

From Dayside with Linda Vester, October 7 2004:

LINDA VESTER [FOX NEWS]: Well here’s a question, does anyone out there want to see this election end up in the courts again?


VESTER: Who does? No one does. Well guess what, folks, the Kerry camp has mobilized an army of lawyers preparing for a fight. The Bush campaign is essentially doing the same thing, using the state political parties to recruit their own band of attorneys. Barry Richard will be lead counsel for the Bush/Cheney campaign if this election gets contested--that was his job during the Florida drama in 2000, so he’s ready. Speaking for the Kerry campaign is Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio--she is co-chair of the Democratic National Committee. Welcome to you both. All right, I’m going to start with you Congresswoman. Is this really necessary? We haven’t even gone to the polls.

STEPHANIE TUBBS JONES: Well you know what, what’s happening in Ohio is the Secretary of State has decided to restrict the use of a provisional ballot. Our local county board of elections said no, we’re not going to follow that. Then the Secretary of State said to them, well then I’m going to remove you from office. So this is the beginnings of the type of voter suppression that’s going on across this country, and we want to be sure that the people want to vote come out to vote, and when they come out to vote their votes are counted.


JONES: So hopefully we don’t need a bunch of lawyers but we may well.

VESTER: We got only a couple seconds into it before somebody started accusing somebody of voter suppression. Didn’t take long, did it? But the truth is, you’re talking about the provisional votes, which is a real issue. And it’s not just in Ohio, and it may not be a matter of voter suppression. It’s about, it’s Iowa, it’s Michigan, it’s Florida, it’s Nevada, it’s West Virginia, it’s Missouri. When you’re talking about people whose names don’t show up on the rolls, but they claim that they’re registered to vote, they get to cast what they call a provisional vote, which theoretically should get counted later. So Barry, should they get counted, in terms of, let’s just say it’s in the wrong precinct, and that’s one of the big battles, if they end up in the wrong precinct, should they be counted?

BARRY RICHARD: Well, the vote should be counted. The issue, we don’t believe that HAVA was ever intended to permit people to vote in any precinct that they wish.

VESTER: Can you explain what HAVA is, because for a lot of us that sounds--

RICHARD: It’s the Help America Vote Act--


RICHARD: --it’s the vote that resulted from the 2000 election, I mean the Congressional Act that requires states to take certain action. And it may be that some time in the future, when states have an adequate opportunity to prepare for it, that it might be a good idea to allow people to vote in any precinct that they want to. But states are not prepared to do that today, and it would probably wreak havoc and create exactly the type of problems we’re trying to avoid, if we try to do it with a few weeks left before the election.

JONES: Well, didn’t we anticipate four years ago problems that we’re having today, and it shouldn’t be a week or two weeks out, before that election, that a Secretary of State would be changing his position on what the voting on provisional balloting would be.

VESTER: Yeah, but here’s what sounds so insane. When you say that after there were all these disputes over the punch card ballots, well then a bunch of counties around the country got themselves paperless machines and touch screens and stuff like that. And now people are contesting that.

JONES: Well I think it comes as a result of all the shenanigans that went on in the 2000 vote in Florida, and states are trying to be prepared for some more shenanigans. And the thing is that’s most important is that people have the ability to vote, and that their vote is counted, and that is what the import of HAVA was.

VESTER: Hm, Barry, I’ll let you answer that one.

RICHARD: Well the issue here is not whether people should have their votes counted. One of the reasons that HAVA passed, and the reason for the conditional ballot which is written right into that act, was that people appeared at the precinct in which they were registered, but because the polling workers didn’t have a record of them they weren’t permitted to vote. And what the federal act said, was there had to be a provisional ballot available for people who lived at addresses within the precinct and claimed to have registered, but when the polling workers didn’t have their name. It is not--

JONES: Well what are we going to do about places, Barry, excuse me, for example in Florida, where we’ve had all these hurricanes, and people don’t know where they’re supposed to vote. And where they used to live is not where they live right now. What are we going to do about that?

VESTER: It’s a legitimate question. Go ahead, Barry.

RICHARD: It is a legitimate question, and it’s a legitimate problem. But what are we going to do if we say, several weeks before the election, that the entire voting machinery, which is based upon precincts--and keep in mind that precincts are distributed and they have voting machines according to the anticipated voter turnout--we’re now suddenly going to say anybody can vote anywhere they want to. So in precincts that are located in heavy office or business districts, or in corridors that have heavy traffic from residential areas and to office and business districts, that those precincts are going to be overwhelmed with voters. That’s one problem. The second problem is, keep in mind that the provisional ballots in Florida and I understand in Ohio don’t have local races on them because it would be impracticable.

VESTER: Right.

RICHARD: So the result of that is that you’re going to be severely, if you have a lot of these, which is the only reason we’d have a problem, you’re going to be significantly reducing the number of votes in local races, and you can be distorting the result of the local races.

VESTER: There’s another issue here, Congresswoman, that was raised by a viewer who sent in an email, Keeva Segal. She says:
Particularly odious is the Kerry campaign’s cry that “we cannot be outspent again”. If they were serious they would focus on just winning, and not suing.

JONES: Well you know what, the reality is that Kerry voters are being suppressed. And the reality is we will be prepared for that issue.

AUDIENCE: [groans, boos]

VESTER: That is, you’re talking about, you’re accusing someone of violating the law. How can you prove it?

JONES: Absolutely I’m going to accuse them of violating the law. I think in Ohio provisional ballots ought to be issued to anybody request it, and then we decide whether or not their vote should count. But in addition, millions of dollars are being spent to tell African Americans across this country that they shouldn’t vote for Democrats, and that Democrats take them for granted, and they shouldn’t be out to vote. The reality is all I’m asking for, all people are asking for, is that they be able to vote as the law requires, and that their vote counts. And you can call it anything you want to call it, but Democrats are saying to the world we’re going to stand up for our voters, and we’re going to stand up for all voters, no matter where they come from. They ought to be able to vote, and their vote should count.

VESTER: Barry, I think it’s fair to assume that she is accusing Republicans or members of the Bush campaign--

JONES: No, don’t put words in my mouth. Don’t put words in my mouth, ma’am. I’m saying whoever it is, whatever agency it is, don’t suppress my vote.

VESTER: OK, fair enough. Barry, I’m going to let you respond.

RICHARD: [laughs]

AUDIENCE: [laughter]

RICHARD: I’m just a lawyer. My only job is to represent a client, and all I can tell you is that the Bush campaign, at least to my knowledge, has no plans to use the judicial machinery as a strategic campaign weapon. Nobody’s--

JONES: Well you did it the last time. You did it the last time and the President got to be President. Give me a break. Give me a break.

RICHARD: No wait a minute--

VESTER: Wait, Congresswoman, what did the Gore campaign do exactly?

RICHARD: Now wait a minute. Wait a minute. You’re making a personal charge to me as a lawyer. I didn’t do anything last time except defend lawsuits.

JONES: The Republican Party did.

RICHARD: I defended--yes, but the judicial system is intended to resolve disputes peacefully, and it’s worked extraordinarily well in this country--

JONES: Oh you know what, actually it didn’t work very well--

RICHARD: --and it worked very well last time.

JONES: --it didn’t work very well last time. The last time, and I’m a former judge and I’m a former lawyer, and I think it’s wonderful that you view it in that fashion.

VESTER: Wait, I--

JONES: The reality is, you have to be on the offensive in this country these days, in order to make sure peoples’ votes count.

VESTER: With that point in mind I have a question for you, because some of our viewers have also said that they suspect that the Kerry campaign or Democrats are trying to suppress votes by keeping Nader off the ballot in certain states. Is that happening?

JONES: No, we are trying to keep Nader off the ballot in certain states, because he shouldn’t be on the ballot. He’s merely a spoiler.

AUDIENCE: [laughter]

JONES: But the reality is we’re not trying to suppress those votes. Those people can vote for whoever they want to.

VESTER: All right we’ve got to leave it there. Thank you both very much. Let’s hope the lawyers don’t get called in on this one.

Postscript: the newshounds are up in arms about this segment. But compare the transcript above with newspup Melanie’s description:

The tone of the segment was that nitpicking and paranoid Democrats are sue-happy and causing all the trouble and the poor Republicans are gearing up to spend precious time and energy responding...the viewer was left with the clear impression that Democrats are being unreasonable.

Melanie wraps up her summary by citing the question of Democrats keeping Nader off the ballot:

"Is that happening?" Jones answered in the affirmative, was laughed at loudly by the audience and was essentially discredited.

Melanie at least got that last part right.

posted: Thu - October 7, 2004 at 04:36 PM       j$p  send