Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Late Breaking: Heather Breaks With White House Over Eavesdropping Program, Plus: Paper Ballots: No Panacea Says Top Foe, It's All Up Next 

Rep. Wilson
Stop the Blog! As I was putting things to bed late Tuesday night the Alligators checked in with a big one. The New York Times reports that ABQ GOP U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson has broken ranks with the White House and is calling for a Congressional probe into the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program. Here's the lead graph from the Times report played on the front page of its Web site:

"A House Republican whose subcommittee oversees the National Security Agency broke ranks with the White House on Tuesday and called for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program."

The full Times story is here (registration required) Obviously, this has significant policy implications for the White House as well as political implications here at home where Wilson is in a stiff battle for re-election. More on this one as it develops.


After covering decades of NM Election Night fiascos, the notion of an all paper ballot system, (Senator Lopez's SB 295) counted by optical scanner has appeal. But if anyone is going to give you second thoughts it's Denise Lamb, former chief of the NM Bureau of Elections who is now a deputy with the Santa Fe County Clerk's office. Her major point: paper ballots will not guarantee headache free election counts. As part of our continuing coverage--we have already run pro-paper views--Denise blogs in with a take that will have you wondering.

"Joe, the difficulties with the 2000 election were solely due to paper ballots. The Bernalillo County Clerk's staff misprogrammed the optical scanner that counted absentee ballots so none of the 60,000 straight party votes were counted. Then, they defied the Secretary of State and ordered ballots not using the state contract, which meant that they were thin paper and could not be fed through the scanner a second time and had to be hand counted. Paper ballots caused the delay.

In the very close 2003 special election the counting of provisional ballots and absentee ballots on the constitutional amendment made the governor go ballistic. It was paper ballots that caused the delay. In 2004, again the heavy use of absentee and provisional ballots, which are all paper, caused delays. Arguing for a paper based system ignores the facts.


"As for electronic machines, we had nearly 100,000 votes on touch screen machines in the 2004 general election and the court case filed against them has managed to locate only four voters who allege they had problems," asserts Denise. "Where are the other voters? If the machines were as error prone as the paper ballot activists claim, there would be tens of thousands of voters who had experienced anomalies."

"The governor's mandate is for only one type of machine statewide. That means that we will use a paper based system that is only certified to 1990 optical scanning standards. We're going to spend $20 million to throw away perfectly good machines."

Thanks, Denise. Human error has indeed been the main factor in our election messes, especially in Bernalillo County. That can only be solved with proper funding for training election workers and now under consideration in Santa Fe.

And then there's the "voter verifiable, auditable paper trail" controversy. The paper ballot measure provides for one, and with the various unfounded conspiracy theories going around that could be one problem finally laid to rest under the all-paper solution. Wall-leaners think the all paper system stands a better than good chance of winning approval. We'll keep you posted.

Rep. Silva
How do you know when a state rep is in a district as safe as they get. How about when that rep proposes a two cent a gallon increase in the state gas tax as prices hover around $2.50 a gallon and the state is awash in a half billion dollar plus surplus? Our lawmaker in question is ABQ Dem State Rep. Dan Silva, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, who drew guffaws around our Enchanted Land when he put this one on the table saying the increase could be used to help finance improvements to roads used by school buses.

Of course, it was Bruce King's advocacy of an increased gas tax back in 94' that helped set the stage for his defeat by Gary Johnson so don't count on Big Bill signing on to this one anytime soon. His seat is not quite as safe as Daring Dan's.

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