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  • America Votes

    Election news from across the Knight Ridder network and the Web

    Saturday, October 16, 2004

    Former running mate changes sides 

    She was twice Ralph Nader's running mate - in 1996 and 2000 - but this time Winona LaDuke says she's voting for John Kerry.

    "I'm voting my conscience," said LaDuke, 44, who lives on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northwestern Minnesota.

    The longtime American Indian activist applauded Kerry's efforts in solving Indian Trust cases.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 12:01 PM

    Friday, October 15, 2004

    Second-choice candidate 

    Have a favorite candidate? If your first-choice person couldn't win, who would you want second?

    Voters in San Francisco are testing a new system, ranking their first, second and third-place choices for municipal offices. This "ranked-choice voting" system would eliminate separate run-off elections.

    If no candidate secures a majority of first-place votes outright, the results will be retabulated to include the second and third picks until a winner can be declared - a process that could take weeks.

    It's an experiment being watched by election reformers nationwide, since it also could have the less lofty effect of eliminating the "spoiler" label that has dogged third-party candidates since Ralph Nader, the Green Party's presidential candidate four years ago, was accused of snatching victory from Democrat Al Gore in Florida.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 12:29 PM

    Thursday, October 14, 2004

    More cause for concern 

    Pre-election tests of the controversial electronic voting machines were postponed on Tuesday ... because of a computer crash. This happened in Palm Beach County, Fla., home of the World Famous Pregnant Chad, but did not directly involve the touch-screen terminals on which nearly one in three U.S. voters will cast ballots on Election Day.

    Hurricane Jeane, which struck in September, may have zapped electricity and air conditioning to the room where the server was stored, county elections supervisor Theresa LePore said, causing temperatures to soar to 90 degrees or more and possibly causing the crash.

    "Heat is a very serious problem for these machines, especially in Louisiana and Florida," said Dan Spillane, former senior testing engineer of touch-screens for a small equipment manufacturer in Seattle. "Basically, these things work in the secretary of state's office. Outside of that, no one knows."

    Perhaps voting should be limited to states in the northern half of the country. Or in the secretary of state's office.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 1:15 PM

    John Kerry for Ralph Nader? 

    Mickey Mouse signed the petition to have Ralph Nader on the ballot in Pennsylvania. So did Fred Flintstone, someone who scribbled "John Kerry" and scores of more legitimately named people, many approached by homeless people hired by a campaign contractor.

    Nader needed 25,697 signatures from registered voters to secure a spot on the ballot. He submitted 51,273.

    Now he's off the state's ballot.

    Eleven Commonwealth Court judges spent 2 1/2 weeks reviewing those signatures, an effort Colins called "exhaustive and exhausting," and threw out 32,454 signatures.

    President Judge James Gardner Colins, in a harshly worded ruling, said two-thirds of the signatures on Nader's nominating petitions were bogus or flawed.

    "I am compelled to emphasize that this signature-gathering process was the most deceitful and fraudulent exercise ever perpetrated on this court," wrote Colins, adding that the case cost the state almost $250,000.

    "He's a forgery. He's a fraud," Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese responded, taking a shot at the judge's traditional black robe. "He's been in that dress too long."

    This is the second time Nader has been booted off the Pennsylvania ballot.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 12:15 PM

    Wednesday, October 13, 2004

    In e-voting we trust ... or do we? 

    The last thing we need is another hanging chad. (See also: Florida, 2000) But perhaps we have another chad-like controversy looming over us. The latest voting issue is over e-voting machines, which were billed as being safer than their manual ancestors.

    But computers and the like, or so the rumor goes, can be hacked. This may be the same for the e-voting machines. Furthermore, the machines do not leave a paper trail, so there's no way to check up on the results. Other concerns being discussed: fraud, hardware and software glitches and human error. has launched a moderated roundtable discussion on the safety and reliability of e-voting. Participants include computer experts, those concerned with election reform, technology reporters, researchers and the registrar of voters for San Bernadino County, Calif.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 2:01 PM

    So, senator, have you seen your own comments? 

    The Kerry campaign can be a finely tuned machine, reacting to the news with speed. Consider this morning. By 6:45 a.m. eastern time, the campaign had issued a statement from the candidate, critcizing Treasury Secretary John Snow for praising President Bush's economic record earlier this week. "Callous disregard," Kerry's statement said. "Outrageous slap in the face to America's middle class." Tough words.

    Later in the morning, the candidate had a chance to elaborate. He emerged from his hotel in Santa Fe, N.M., to depart for tonight's debate in Tempe, Ariz., and reporters asked him to react to Snow again. The candidate looked back blankly. Did he know what Snow said?

    "I haven't a clue," he replied.

    posted by Jim Kuhnhenn at 12:28 PM


    Who says debates aren't fun? To keep you interested, the Philadelphia Inquirer is offering a Lingo Bingo game you can play during tonight's 9 p.m. broadcast. First player to get five in a row - vertical, horizontal or diagonal - wins. There's a version you can print out and one you can play on your computer.

    For the record, buzz words and phrases we're expecting to hear include: "tax breaks for the rich," "outsourcing," "America can do better," "terrorism is a 'nuisance,' " "I have a plan" and - our personal favorite - "nukular."

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 10:29 AM

    Tuesday, October 12, 2004

    Rock or jock? 

    Colorado Springs, Colo. — While Bruce Springsteen was rocking the vote at Washington's MCI Center Monday for change in the White House, Mike Shanahan was busy jocking the vote on behalf of the president at Denver's gorgeous Red Rocks amphitheatre.

    Shanahan, the coach of the NFL Denver Broncos, provided his name and his regional starpower to the Bush cause by introducing Bush to the nearly 10,000 faithful who filled the seats of the outdoor venue that for decades has hosted acts ranging from The Beatles to Yanni to Eartha Kitt to the anti-Bush Springsteen.

    Shanahan, a legend in Denver for delivering two Super Bowl titles, is among a growing list of sports figures who support Bush and join him on the campaign trail. It seems like the president has cornered the market on football coaches. In addition to Shanahan, Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci, Penn State coach Joe Paterno (whose son, Scott, is a Republican candidate for a U.S. House seat in Pennsylvania), and former University of Michigan coach Bo Schembechler have joined Bush on stage in key battleground states and given him ringing endorsements. Not be outdone, golfers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have also joined the Bush bandwagon. Nicklaus, speaking at a Bush rally in Columbus, Ohio, before the first presidential debate admitted he didn't know the president, but knew his father — former President George H.W. Bush — but knew the Bush family and that was good enough for him.

    Bush campaign officials say the combination of sports heroes and politics is a win-win situation for them. Being in the same company with these figures lends credence to Bush's image as a regular guy and it helps him tap into the local fabric of the city or town where the sports legend works.

    "These are people who are very popular in their community who citizens listen to," said Scott Stanzel, a Bush campaign spokesman. "When they express their support for President Bush, it energizes our supporters and it might make people who are undecided take a second look at the president."

    Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has not matched Bush's stable of sports stars. One hindering factor could be that Kerry is a big ice hockey fan and player. Professional hockey is primarily a Canadian sport, with other players hailing from Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and a handful from the United States. It also doesn't help matters that the National Hockey League is in the grips of a fierce labor dispute that has players, coaches and owners more concerned about whether there will be a 2004-05 hockey season than the 2004 presidential election.

    posted by William Douglas at 4:07 PM

    More debate prep, or just baseball madness 

    Sen. John Kerry had initially planned to travel to Phoenix Tuesday night, but changed his mind and decided to stay in Santa Fe, N.M., where he has been huddling with his debate team.

    Why the change? Did the travel time interfere with watching his beloved Red Sox play the first game of the American League Championship series against the hated Yankees? Or did he need another evening of debate prep for what could be the most important third debate in the history of presidential politics?

    "He's really enjoying New Mexico and there was no need to rush," said spokesman David Wade. "And you better believe his Red Sox are on his mind even as he takes this debate very seriously."

    Yeah, but will he run through another 90-minute mock debate with his advisers, too?

    "He may do one more," Wade said.

    posted by Jim Kuhnhenn at 2:38 PM

    Spiders vs. turtles 

    Think the presidential race is just George W. Bush vs. John Kerry vs. Ralph Nader? On the contrary, there are dozens of candidates running (who may or may not be on your state's ballot).

    You can see a list of all the presidential and vice presidential candidates on Project Vote Smart.

    While we know very little about many of the candidates, we vote the National Barking Spider Resurgence Party the one with the best name (candidates: Michael W. "Mike" Bay and Dave Cogan).

    We also noticed three candidates from parties with Prohibition in their name (Gene Amondson, Earl F. Dodge and Thomas K. "Major Tom" Reed) and candidates from the Turtle Party, Party X, Veteran's Industrial and numerous others that we reasonably informed people have never heard of.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 2:29 PM

    All eyes on Minnesota 

    For generations, Minnesota has been known for its clean elections and its best-in-the-nation voter turnout. But you'd hardly know it this year, with suspicion lurking in every precinct and Minnesotans mobilizing by the thousands to sniff out voter fraud, voter suppression or partisan trickery.

    Blame it on Florida 2000 and the bitter aftermath. Blame it on Minnesota's role as a swing state in a deadlocked presidential race. Blame it on the hyper-partisan political climate. Blame it on Minnesota's secretary of state, blame it on Congress, blame the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Whatever you blame, Minnesota has never seen anything quite like the perfect storm rolling toward this Election Day.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 1:22 PM

    How many lawyers does it take ...? 

    The Kerry campaign and the Michigan Democratic Party announced Tuesday that they will dispatch hundreds of volunteer lawyers to polling places that have a large number of minority or student voters to ensure people are not improperly kept from voting.

    More than 400 lawyers have been recruited to volunteer in Michigan so far, and the campaign expects to have up to 700. Hundreds of non-lawyers are also expected to volunteer as poll watchers. Nationwide, the Democrats hope to recruit 60,000 lawyers.

    Volunteer lawyers? Doesn't roll off the tongue.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 12:54 PM

    This blog is compiled and edited by:

  • Ellen Dunkel, producer for Knight Ridder Digital's National Desk.
  • John Murrell, minister of information for

  •  Latest posts
       •  The party's over
       •  You might not be sorry to see it all end ...
       •  In case anyone is still counting ...
       •  Are you ready to be Canadian?
       •  Disconnection in the extreme
       •  60 percent? That's not even a passing grade
       •  Too many people, not enough machines
       •  To late for a voting controversy?
       •  Canadians speak
       •  Four more years ... until 2008

    Over the course of the campaign, this blog was titled Hot Off The Trail and featured entries from Knight Ridder reporters.

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