Obama has already beaten Clinton, so why isn't it over?

Returns are coming in on election night; the race has been close and polls show either candidate could win.  Now, with 83% of precincts reporting, candidate A is leading 53% to 47% over B.  It's an insurmountable lead, and the race is called for candidate A.  That's where the Democratic primaries are: Of the 3253 pledged delegates available, about 83% have already been voted on, and Obama is leading Clinton by about 53% to 47%.  We can call the race now.

Look at it another way: There are 566 pledged delegates left from states that haven't voted yet.  To catch up with Obama, Clinton needs to win about 65% of those, which means she needs to average about 65% of the vote in the remaining states.  She doesn't win by such margins: So far, Clinton has received more than 60% of the vote in exactly one state: Arkansas.  Her second-best result was 58% in Rhode Island.  Her other home state, New York, gave her 57%.

If every state from now on goes as well for Clinton as her home state of New York did, she'll still lose.

[ MyDD readers already know this stuff.  I wrote this as an overview you can point people to. ]

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Progressives beat the party in CT

(I am the campaign blogger for John Bonifaz, running for secretary of state in Massachusetts)

    "DLC got crunched!"
That's how someone here just summed up Connecticut's Democratic primary results.  He wasn't just talking about the Lamont-Lieberman race.

Dan Malloy, four term mayor of Stamford, CT, and John DeStefano, sixth-term mayor of New Haven, were competing for the Democratic nomination for governor.  This afternoon at the polling place, I chatted with a couple of union folk from SEIU/CEUI who were there in support of DeStefano.  They talked about his support for working people, but clearly they were most excited by his advocacy for better health care - indeed, the DeStefano signs and banners sported the slogan "Universal Health Care Now!"

Back at the Lamont event, I asked a friend who knows CT politics about Malloy, who won the state party's endorsement.  He's a good mayor, a very competent administrator, my friend said... but he'd voted for DeStefano.  Malloy's liability was being seen as part of the party establishment, the corportate/DLC wing of the party.  With support from progressives, DeStefano won 51% to Malloy's 49%.

 ... but something quite interesting happened.  Malloy's Lieutenant Governor running mate, Mary Glassman, whomped DeStefano's running mate, mayor Scott Slifka of West Hartford, 57% to 43%.  Repeatedly I heard that "Slifka is a DLCer".  "Yeah, I'm not surprised," remarked one person, "I voted for DeStefano and Glassman." Across the board, grassroots-supported populists beat the establishment candidates for Democratic nominations for statewide office.

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At the polling place

I spent 8am-noon this morning at a polling place in eastern Connecticut, where turnout was steady through the morning.  It felt more like general election level turnout than a primary.  My job: hand Ned Lamont palm cards to voters approaching the polling place.

"Why are you doing this today?" asked one voter, "everybody's already decided!" A half hour later, another voter glanced at the card and answered, "I ain't makin' up my mind 'til I get into the poll." Another voter at first declined to look at a card, remarking, "I'll do my own thinking." I pointed to the bold text and replied, "this is to let people know what Lamont is about, then you can make up your mind what you think of it." The bold rext on the card reads:

Vote for a Democratic Senator who will finally stand up to Bush!
One man declined my card on the grounds that he's a Republican, but on the way back, he remarked to me, "I was a Democrat for 25 years, and I think Joe's got a problem today."

There were no Joe Lieberman signs or volunteers at this polling place, or at another one I passed on the way.  In fact, I only saw one Lieberman sign driving in this morning, randomly placed by the side of the road.  Luis, a poll worker who came out for some fresh air, said "lots of Democrats today!" - the polling place had separate doors for the Republican and Democratic primaries, and I could see fewer than 1 out of 10 voters were going in the Republican door.  Luis said he's seen a lot of new voters and young voters today.  "They want change."

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(I am campaign blogger for John Bonifaz, running for secretary of state of Massachusetts)

I'm at the bloggers' breakfast at DemocracyFest 2006, the annual conference of Democracy for America.  Charlie Grapski just told us the story of Darryl's first blogger's breakfast in Iowa.

Governor Howard Dean addresses DemocracyFest on Saturday night

The program here has been densely packed!  Sitting next to me here at the breakfast is Steve Ybarra of Latinos for America, who along with Arshad Hasan of DFA, has been running a 3-day campaign training track called San Diego precinct day, culminating in a canvass & visibility in San Diego this morning.  Gathered here at SDSU, we're just a few miles from California's 50th congressional district, site of the recent Busby/Bilbray special election.  A lot of people here were involved in that election and there was much praise for the DNC's recent announcement calling for a hand count of all the votes, announced in person by Brad Friedman of the Brad Blog.

This is a DemFest open thread.

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Verified Voting Needs Volunteers

(I'm the campaign blogger for John Bonifaz, a voting rights leader running for secretary of state in MA.  This is a crosspost from Bonifaz's site.)

Verified Voting, founded by Professor David Dill in 2003, was the technical backbone of the massive election protection effort in 2004.  I volunteered for them collecting signatures, organizing press conferences, lobbying, and in Florida on election day, taking phone calls from voters and poll watchers about voting machine problems.

Verified Voting did a lot of work to prepare for the election.  Among other things, they compiled an extensive database of voting technology in 2004: Want to see which counties in Florida use touchscreens?  Want to read the user manual for the voting machine used where you vote?  It's all in there.  They set up the Election Incident Reporting System, where you can see reports of voting problems reported to 866-OUR-VOTE.
(To find my reports, look for voting machine problems in Broward County, FL, in election year 2004 - and look for the ones with fewer typos :)

Verified Voting is now seeking volunteers for 2006!  read on...

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The Wealth Primary

This week's decision by the Supreme Court, striking down the spending and contribution limits in Vermont's public financing law, is a good time to reflect on why so many Americans want clean elections through public financing.  Money distorts and corrodes politics in many different ways.  Today, with June 30th filing deadlines approaching in federal and many state elecitons, one in particular is on my mind: the wealth primary.

Early in the 20th century, "white primaries" excluded black voters from determining party nominees in many states.  They were considered legal under the theory that they were not "state action" - primaries were a private function carried out by party clubs, so equal protection did not apply.  In the mid-20th century, the Supreme Court ruled "white primaries" unconstitutional, by reinterpreting "state action" to apply to processes that were clearly such a critical part of the electoral process.  Being allowed to vote in the general election, but not to select your party's nominee, was an incomplete right to vote, and equal protection did apply.

Whites-only primaries are gone, but we still have another process that excludes whole classes of people from a critical part of the electoral process: Wealth primaries.  At first, poll taxes were used to explicitly prevent the poor from voting, and these too were ruled unconstitutional.  Over the years, another process has taken their place.  Before a single vote is cast, candidates must raise money from private donors.  Party leaders, and the press, look at the numbers, and candidates who haven't raised enough are written off.  Dismissed as "not credible".  Not covered on the front page, or much at all.  In some cases, even pressured by party leaders to drop out of races.

I'm particularly sensitive to the wealth primary this year because of recent campaigns where I live (near Boston).  At the beginning of this year, we had four candidates running for District Attorney, an open seat.  One of those candidates was a state senator, and multiple candidates began running for his seat.  One of those was a state representative, as was one of the candidates for DA, opening up two seats in the House for new candidates.  And then, one by one, candidates dropped out of these races because they couldn't raise enough money to keep up with their opponents.  There is now just one candidate for DA.  The state senator decided to run for re-election, and all other candidates for his senate seat dropped out.  Both state reps are also running for re-election.  Now, I support most of these candidates.  Nevertheless, at least four elections were all decided by contributors before any votes were cast!

Unlike white primaries, wealth primaries don't keep anyone from voting to select the party nominee.  What they do is reserve the process of selecting who will run primarily for the wealthy.  A single donor who can afford to give $500 is worth as much as ten donors who can only afford $50.  A single donor who can afford to give $2,000 is worth as much as a hundred donors who can only afford $20.  In the Wealth Primary, it's one dollar, one vote.

This is also on my mind because I work for the man who developed legal theory behind the "wealth primary" argument, John Bonifaz.  He founded the National Voting Rights Institute partly to advance this in the courts, and it was largely on the basis of this work that the MacArthur Foundation awarded him a fellowship, commonly knows as a "genius award".  He was a co-counsel in the defense of Vermont's public financing law.

Ironically, Bonifaz himself is in a wealth primary right now.  As a new challenger running against a 12 year incumbent for secretary of state, it's sometimes a struggle to get the press to pay attention.  In a healthy democracy, Bonifaz's expertise in election law and long history of effective voting rights advocacy both nationally and athome would be enough to mark him a credible candidate worth serious attention.  But given his incumbent's 7-figure campaign warchest, Bonifaz's "credibility" will be determined, in the eyes of the press, by how much money people contribute before tomorrow's filing deadline.

Let's work hard to eliminate wealth primaries by instituting public financing of elections.  But in the meantime, if you can afford to participate, your favorite candidates need your support today.

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Renew the Voting Rights Act

(I am campaign blogger for John Bonifaz, a candidate for secretary of state in Massachusetts who urges Congress to renew the Voting Rights Act)

On October 4, 2004, on the day of Ohio's deadline for registering to vote in the presidential election, I was standing at a bus stop in downtown Cincinnati with a clipboard and a stack of voter registration forms.  The people I met there over the course of the day were mostly poor, or black, or both.  Among those who registered to vote when I asked were at least a few homeless folks who had to label their "home" streetcorner rather than supply an address - and didn't know they could register until I showed them how.

The previous week, in an attempt combat the massive inner city voter registration drive by ACT and other groups supporting Democrats, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell dug up an old Ohio regulation declaring that voter registration forms be printed on 80lb paper stock -- and decreed that voter registrations on ligher weight paper be rejected!  But within days, Blackwell had to relent and allow voter registrations on any paper stock to be processed, because of a federal law that states,

"No person acting under color of law shall . . . deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election."
That law is the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  I grew up thinking of the VRA as history, something done and established.  It ended a multitude of practices used to prevent black voters and other minority voters from actually voting, practices that I thought were relegated to the pre-civil rights movement past.  Then I got involved in elections.

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Kentucky Blocks Blog, Blogs Strike Back

This morning, Mark Nickolas of the Kentucky lefty blog Bluegrass Report started getting emails from employees of the State of Kentucky, telling him that they could no longer access the blog.  It turns out that Kentucky's Commonwealth Office of Technology had blocked access.  Coincidentally, BluegrassReport has been very critical of Kentucky's Republican Governor, Ernie Fletcher.

The COT may have thought this would blow over quietly.  But when people discovered that access to a number of other blogs and party web sites were not blocked, and Bluegrass Report was being specifically targeted, other blogs began covering the story: Talking Points Memo and TPM Muckraker, Daily Kos, Atrios... and Kentucky soon started blocking some of them too.

Bluegrass Report is making running commentary and updates through the day as this develops..

They've got a hell of a filter - while COT has not blocked talkingpointsmemo.com, they HAVE blocked the TPM Muckraker article talking about the governor blocking BGR.

If the cover-up is worse than the crime, how much worse is the cover-up of the cover-up?

... and just now ...
Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY), whose district includes the state capitol, has just come out firmly against the policy. "I believe the recent action of the Fletcher administration to block access to a handpicked number of blogs is a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution," Chandler said through a spokeswoman. "This flies in the face of a fundamental right of free speech."
Ben Chandler, you may recall, was Fletcher's Democratic opponent for Governor in 2003.  When Fletcher was elected Governor, Chandler ran for the Congressional seat Fletcher had to give up, and now holds it.

This won't blow over quietly.

Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Cos works for John Bonifaz for Secretary of State in Massachusetts.

Matt and Chris have invited me to cover election reform and voting rights on MyDD - issues I have bloggedabout here already.  By way of introduction, I want to address the biggest political problem I've seen plaguing the election-reform netroots.  On Daily Kos and MyDD, on the Democratic Underground Election Reform forum, on the email lists of local and regional Democracy for America and Progressive Democrats of America groups, I see this cry repeatedly:

What good does it do to support candidates?  With those Diebold machines, they can steal any election.  It's pointless to compete in elections when the votes won't be counted.
I understand the concern.  I've been organizing and campaigning against computer voting machines for several years.  I've collected signatures for verified voting petitions and helped organize a press conference, successfully lobbied Representatives to support Rush Holt's audit bill, and seen Bev Harris' 2 hour presentation in person and stayed for the Q&A.  On election day, 2004, I was at the Election Protection coalition's call center in Broward County, Florida, as VerifiedVoting.org's TechWatch volunteer, taking calls from voters and poll watchers about touchscreen voting machine problems.  I left Fort Lauderdale that night with a queasy feeling, and no confidence that the votes would be accurately counted.  So I'm somewhat familiar with this issue, and it does concern and disturb me.

The problem I have with the attitude I see from some election reform advocates - the attitude I paraphrased above - is that, in its extreme absolutism, it is deeply cynical.  It is nihilistic.  Rather than challenge us to work to solve the problem, it calls on us to throw up our hands in despair, to eschew the most powerful tool we have, and to cry out to the wilderness, "why won't anyone pay attention?"

In the past few years, I've volunteered and worked on a number of progressive campaigns.  I've canvassed, been a poll watcher, been a precinct captain, and ran a citywide get out the vote operation.  I've participated in a hand recount, and seen an election for Democratic State Committee go to a tie because several precincts didn't count write-in votes.  In another election, college students were challenged at the polls, and the number of legitimate voters turned away were almost enough to swing the election.  And I've learned something: There is nothing, not even money, that candidates and elected officials fear or respect more than votes.

Electoral politics is the strategy through which we pursue change in this country.  Just because the voting machines being used are unreliable or buggy, doesn't mean they'll throw every election, or even most elections.  Just because they have poor security and can be hacked, doesn't mean all, or even most elections, will be stolen.  If you run for Democratic State Committee or county committee, will Republicans sweep in to steal the election?  I've seen state representative elections decided by 93 votes, by 64 votes - and it is exactly these local and state officials who can solve the sort of mundane problems I observed.

That same election day in 2004, just to the north of me, incumbent Palm Beach County supervisor of elections Therese LePore was defeated by challenger Arthur Anderson, who campaigned against paperless voting.  He won 91,134 to 85,601, a margin of victory of 5,533 votes.

If we want to reform elections, we need to elect reformers to run our elections.  John Nichols' recent article in The Nation, Fighting for a Fair Vote, highlights a new crop of "Champions of Democracy" running to do just that: Mark Ritchie in Minnesota, Debra Bowen in California, Jennifer Brunner in Ohio, and John Bonifaz in Massachusetts, all running for secretary of state.  If the state of our elections disturbs you, don't throw up your hands and cry, "what's the use?".  Support reformers like these, and get them elected.

Me?  I'm working for John Bonifaz as his campaign blogger.

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Massachusetts Democratic State Convention - Results

This should be my "Day 2" post, but I got home from the convention later and more exhaused than I'd expected, and I'm not up to the task of writing something well organized about all of the things I should write about.  So, instead, a brief summary of the how the votes played out and what they meant now, and the rest of my stories later.

I spent part of the day in the press room with fellow Massachusetts lefty bloggers who were liveblogging the convention: Charley at Blue Mass Group, Lynne at Left in Lowell, and Andy at Mass Revolution Now! (Follow those links for the day's running commentary.)

For background on the candidates, read my post on day 1.  The 1st ballot results...

    Deval Patrick: 58.0%
    Tom Reilly: 26.7%
    Chris Gabrieli: 15.4%
Lt. Governor
    Tim Murray: 49.0%
    Andrea Silbert: 28.9%
    Deb Goldberg: 22.0%
    Bill Galvin: 70.7%
    John Bonifaz: 29.3%
The expectations and the drama...

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