Viewpoint: Chad leaves us hanging

Viewpoint: Chad leaves us hanging

By Joe Baker

Chad leaves us hanging

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

Was all that business about chad–hanging, dimpled, pregnant or swinging–down in Florida, just coincidence? Some people think it was part of a careful plan.

World Net recently put an article on the Internet in which they interviewed two veterans of hand recounts. They asked Jon Dougherty and David Kupelian, authors of the article, what they learned. Here is some of what they had to say:

“The manual vote recounts being insisted on by Democratic operatives in Palm Beach County, Florida, have been used for more than 20 years to steal elections from Republicans. So claim several GOP veterans of hand-recount election upsets.” [Democrats have no monopoly on these methods; Republicans are equally devious].

“Bob Haueter, chief of staff to the California Assembly Republican Caucus, who is an expert on hand-recounts, said, ‘a Democrat lawyer closely involved in “stealing” elections from Republicans through recounts, admitted to the process and shared the techniques involved.’ California Assemblyman Pat Nolan told World Net: “What’s happening in Florida is exactly the game plan laid out to me by an attorney who represented the Democrats in a recount in California where they stole a seat from us.”

Nolan was referring to a 1980 California Assembly race between Republican Adrian Fondse and Democrat Pat Johnston. Fondse won by about 54 votes. When the election ended, the Democrats “brought in their junkyard dog lawyers from around the country,” Nolan said.

He said they harassed the local registrar and demanded to handle the ballots—the same kind used at Palm Beach. Nolan said the identical issue of “hanging chads—the little squares in the punch cards—was also an issue in Stockton.”

The Democrats’ strategy, Nolan said, was to handle the ballots as often as possible,

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perhaps bending, crinkling or otherwise altering them, so additional chads would become displaced, thereby disqualifying the ballot.

The result? In the 1980 election, Democrats were successful in reversing the outcome from a 54 vote win to a loss by 17 votes.

Nolan vowed never to let that happen again. He had his staff track down attorney Tim Downs, who admitted the Democrats’ tactics and described them for Nolan.

Downs told Haueter: “You get me within 100 votes, and I can steal any election.” Nolan said he hired Downs and had him train the Nolan staff in the techniques that had been used against them.

Nolan and Haueter said Downs outlined three basic methods.

First, keep counting until you’re ahead. “And if that doesn’t put you ahead, you recount, re-recount…you keep counting until you’re ahead. If you’re behind, then you’ve got nothing to lose,” Downs said.

Second, he told Nolan, “the more times those ballots are handled, the more chance there is that chads will break loose,” causing the ballot to be disqualified.

The third step, he said, is: “The minute you’re ahead, you stop and declare yourself the victor.” Downs told Nolan you don’t want the ballots handled anymore after that point because you might lose some votes for your candidate. “While you’re behind, it doesn’t matter, but if you’re ahead and more break off or become disqualified for your candidate, that’s a bad thing.”

Nolan said a pet tactic is to ask for ballots and then covertly bend or crinkle them in an effort to dislodge another chad or two and get the ballot thrown out.

“This whole process sounds exactly like what is going on in Florida,” Nolan said. “And the more times those ballots are handled, the more chances are you’ll break some of them (chads) loose.”

Nolan said, “The tactics fit what (Downs) told me back in 1982 and 1983.” He added he did not know who Downs may have worked with recently.

Arnold Steinberg, a Los Angeles political strategist, said the current election between Bush and Gore will be decided by “hanging chads.”

He also described a 1980 California election, a congressional race between James Corman, long-time Democrat incumbent, and Steinberg’s client, Republican Bobbi Fiedler. Fiedler won by a very slim margin, and the Democrats called for a recount.

As in the previously described contest, Democrat officials and recount experts converged on the county registrar’s office. Steinberg said the Democrats’ objective was to reverse the election outcome, and they proceeded systematically. Similarly, in Florida today, he said, the Gore people are demanding hand recounts in their favored counties where they would most stand to gain.

Steinberg said the Democrats tried lots of tricks on Corman’s behalf, but he most remembers the hanging chad. “What my lawyers soon discovered,” he said, “was that the opposition would eyeball a disputed ballot before picking it up to officially inspect it. If the hanging chad indicated a vote for Fiedler, the lawyer for Corman picked up the ballot ever so carefully, so he could argue the voter never really intended to vote for Fiedler. If the hanging chad was a Corman vote, the lawyer picked up the ballot quite vigorously, so that the chad soon was no longer hanging.”

The lawyer would then declare the voter intended to vote for Corman.

“Luckily,” Steinberg said, “it didn’t take long to figure out all the opposition’s tricks. I added more lawyers, more observers, and the bad guys eventually caved. The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

What’s different in this one is the high probability of monkey business on both sides of the question—Democrat and Republican. It would require the wisdom of Solomon to salvage this one.

One of the Wit Brothers will get the prize, but the question is: who really won, Dim or Half?

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