When my wife and I early-voted on Monday here in Lewisville (Denton County), we chose to use our drivers licenses rather than to go home and fish out our voter cards. At the check in counter, I noticed the clerk scan the magnetic stripe on the drivers license. It did not occur to me at the time that this time-saving step might look to some like voter-intimidation.
Yesterday, in Clear Lake (Near Houston in Harris County), we got reports that election workers were requiring drivers licenses in addition to the voter cards or other acceptable ID.
State law requires that a voter who is on the rolls be allowed to vote with any acceptable ID. On a voter's first vote with a new registration, proof of residence may be required.
When Clear Lake attorney Amy Corron Power went to vote at the Freeman Library in Clear Lake yesterday, she witnessed poll workers telling potential voters to have their drivers license ready:
I witnessed all of this today, between 10:45 and 11:20 am. at the Freeman Library in Clear Lake, Houston, Texas
At the Freeman Library, in Clear Lake City, there is a poll worker outside where folks are waiting in line, telling everyone "to get out their driver's license, and their voter's registration "if they have it" but the most important thing is their driver's license, because it will need to be scanned to verify their age, name and address." A white older lady asked her, "Do I need my driver's license?" and the poll worker told her no. I said loud enough for the people around me to hear, "there is no law in Texas requiring a driver's license to be scanned to vote."
I went in and deliberately withheld my driver's license, but handed them my voter's registration. No one asked for my driver's license. I am white and 46. They were scanning in driver's licenses of African Americans. However, I did not see them specifically ASK for it once we got into the voting area. But I believe in telling people OUTSIDE they needed it, they may be suppressing the vote, for people who do not have a driver's license and only their voter's registration.
Also, there is a sign that says there can be no cell phones, cameras or any recording devices within 100 feet of the polling place. Which means no one can capture any of this funny business. I did not turn over my cell phone, but I did put it on "silent" No one said anything to me.
Martha Cottingham of the Harris County Democratic Party responded with this:
Just to clarify, this is the first year Harris County is using scanners to ready VR cards and drivers licenses to check in voters. The intent is to speed up the check in. Drivers Licenses are not required. None of the early voting clerks have used this system before this year, so they may not be explaining the process as well as they could to the voters.
However, racial profiling or the appearance of racial profiling is not allowed. I'll pass Amy's report on to the county for follow-up.
We are still trying to confirm with the Secretary of State's office just what the rules are with regard to asking for a Drivers License.
Democrats in South Denton County gathered last night at Cristina’s Mexican Restaurant (1171 at Shiloh Rd.) for an early vote rally and dinner. Susan Johnson, Precinct 417 Chair, welcomed the overflow crowd on Cristina’s patio and commented that this was the second time in recent history when Democratic turnout exceeded expectations. The first such gathering was held at the Double Oak Town Hall on September 10th. News Story... (pdf)
As Precinct 419 Chair, I reminded everyone about the importance of early voting and voting a STRAIGHT DEMOCRATIC TICKET. Sample Ballots for the three precincts and Early Vote information cards were made available to guests. I was also able to discuss the difference between--and the pros and cons of--the paper ballot versus the electronic ballot with voters who were concerned about either format. [I will post a separate blog entry about the merits and problems of each format tomorrow.]
Mary Infante, Precinct 422 Chair, reminded everyone about election protocol. Voters cannot bring political paraphernalia into the voting area—this is considered electioneering under the Texas Election Code and can only be displayed outside the 100 foot marker. Before you go vote, be sure to remove your buttons, pins, t-shirts, etc. and stash any informational material in a pocket or purse, out of plain view.
Ian Cleghorn, our media liaison, covered the basics of submitting letters to the editor to the major D/FW media outlets, as well as our neighborhood papers. Cleghorn emphasized the importance of news cycles and the temporal relevance of most letters. He explained that sometimes the best letters will not get published, because the public’s attention has moved on to a new story. He also stressed the importance of brevity and humor. A short, funny, relevant letter has the best chance of display on the editorial pages.
After the initial presentation, guests enjoyed delicious Mexican dinners, prepared in Cristina’s expert kitchen. Obama/Biden yard signs and Democratic paraphernalia served as door prizes throughout the evening.
Precincts 417, 419, and 422 intend to continue these periodic precinct meetings after the November 4th election with dinner meetings, book discussions, and movie nights. Our goal is to make Democratic activism a full time effort--not just spurts of frantic activity during election cycles. If Denton County is going to turn blue in 2010, it will require a concerted effort throughout 2009.
So, if you take this change at face value - that Obama has 17 points more than Kerry had, that represents a major shift. Of course, there are some problems with the methodology here, so this analysis is just an intellectual curiosity.
First, kids may in fact vote differently from their parents. My oldest son reported that being a Republican (ARGH!), he felt duty-bound to vote for John McCain. I ate lunch with him at school yesterday and he had asked me about Bob Barr and who that was - presumably he wasn't that crazy about his choices? So, always trying to spare my kids from partisan rhetoric at their ages, I told him about Bob Barr - "He's a crazy idiot who wants to ban public schools.". ;)
Second, parents of elementary-aged children are a demographic that tend to be in their twenties and thirties. This leaves out the universe of both younger college-age voters, and older and middle-aged voters. I tend to think it favors Obama.
I wish that we had some historical data on voting at this elementary school to compare.
Just now on Meet The Press, Former Secretary of State Colin Powell - Republican - explained why he is going to vote for Barack Obama for President. Powell thinks Obama is more qualified to handle the economy, and shows better judgment.
This morning I went out to the Lewisville Police Department's shooting range, as part of my participation in the Citizens Police Academy. I had really been looking forward to it because it's been a long time since I've been shooting.
It was sort of a blast from the past for me to hear the firearms instructors talk about guns. You could see their eyes light up. I used to read all of the gun magazines and such like that, but unlike our police, I had no real reason to obsess.
So basically they had a smörgåsbord of handguns for us to try. The first one I picked up was a Sig .40, but it had a laser sight, and I'm just not into those fancy-schmancy "cheats". Nope - just plain black open-sights. So I chose a Springfield .40 cal automatic.
As I stepped to the firing line, the instructor familiarized me with the weapon and checked my stance and hand placement. He instructed me to aim at the bottom of a circle center-mast in a man-sized target. I would have thought to aim at the center, but I went ahead and aimed where he told me, and squeezed one off, but from where I was I couldn't see where it hit. I have to admit, I was a little concerned I may have missed.
I went ahead and took 9 more shots, aiming at the same place. When we went to check the targets, I saw that I had 7 shots inside the circle, within about a 5 inch group, and dropped 3 down below, but all-in-all probably pretty decent for just walking up.
Next up were the shotguns.. meh... They were ok, but there's not much sport in it. I've got to say that the Mossberg I shot was much better than the piece of crap I have. Mine is a sawed-off - just barely legal, meant more for home protection.
Finally, they brought out what I had been waiting for, the Rock Ridge M-4 style carbine rifles that our officers now carry in their cars. These rifles are sort of a shorter version of the AR-15, and very similar to the M-4 carried by our troops now in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What was interesting is that when I got my turn to shoulder the M-4, muscle memory took over, and I suddenly remembered details about the rifle that I had not remembered in quite a while. When I looked through the rear peep sight, it didnt' feel right until I adjusted the stock back a bit. Now it felt good. Now, the instructors had mentioned that they didn't adjust these rifles for elevation or windage, since basically if you need windage or elevation, you're too far away.
Anyhow, I say all of that because the five shots I took ended up way low, but tightly grouped, I thought. I was pretty proud of myself, and thought it was good for the standing position. What I really wanted to do was go prone and try to nail the small blue target in the upper left hand corner of the big target.
Here's another weird thing I have to admit. Even though we had been shooting in this range for awhile, the specific smell of the powder they use for these FMJ .556 NATO rounds was like an instant rush of endorphins to my body when it washed back on me. Understand that when I was in the Marines, I wasn't in combat, so that smell for me is associated with good times. (The smell of diesel smoke, on the other hand reminds me of some of the worse times...)
All in all, it was a good experience, and it really drives home for me how fortunate our city is to have such well-equipped and trained police. If something ever happens in our city like that bank robbery they had in LA some years ago, I'm pretty sure that our first responders will be well-equipped to deal with it.
Tonight, for some dumb-ass reason, I went to Walmart. I needed a new toothbrush and basically to get the hell out of the house. I remembered that I needed some plastic sheeting for a project I'm doing, so I wandered over to hardware and found Husky brand plastic sheeting.
As I looked at this Husky plastic sheeting, something on the label caught my eye: The label basically said that by buying and using their product, you agree that to binding arbitration if a "dispute" should arise! What the hell man? You mean if I line my baby's crib with this plastic, and something bad happens, I can't sue? More seriously though, what if the plastic was spontaneously combustible, or contained carcinogens or poisons? What if it melts on contact with paint, so that if I splatter paint on it (it's intended purpose), it leaks through and fuses to the carpet? Not that any of that shit is likely to happen, but still...
I was puzzled. Was this some Walmart thing, or just this manufacturer? Was it on all products? Does buying anything at Walmart strip you of your right to sue in a court of law? What in the hell could be Husky's legal costs? Seriously, what the fudge?
I picked up other products and didn't see anything. I wondered what else might be so "dangerous" as to require more than a stern warning on the label. So I wandered over to the plastic gas cans. Lots of warnings, but no arbitration agreement. (By the way, if you haven't bought a plastic gas can in awhile, they look quite different now.)
I even wandered over to sporting goods and looked at ammunition. Surely if there was an industry that doesn't want to get sued, it's got to be ammunition. Nope. Some lead warnings and such. Then I got distracted and started looking for non-leaded shotshells for my 12 gauge. Then I remembered that my 12 gauge is a sawed-off piece of junk that I only use for home protection.
Anyhow, I got to thinking about this arbitration thing more.
I have decided to add an arbitration clause to this blog:
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