Political And Other Miscellany From A Stout Democrat In Dallas Texas.
"Politics is the only game for adults." --from Robert A. Heinlein's Double Star

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


On Tuesday, November 8, 2005, Dallas County joined the whole state of Texas (except the university town of Austin) in voting overwhelmingly for Constitutional Amendment 2. That triumph of incoherent bigotry not only entrenched the current state law banning same-sex marriages, but also prohibited the government from recognizing anything like a marriage. This piece of poor drafting will result in lawsuits from several cities that currently recognize same-sex partnerships for employee benefits, and may adversely affect common law marriages as well.

It was put on the ballot just to frighten theocratic homophobes to come out and vote. This plan worked even better than its Republican sponsors hoped. Although the precinct where I worked the polls rejected Prop. 2, it was a rare exception. Even there, I saw several people who came out in response to heavy phone-banking by the reactionaries or their puppet preachers. In some cases, the plotters failed to foresee the consequences of their scheme, and got electoral chaos as a result.

The "Park Cities" are two enclaves of mostly-wealthy and Republican hermits living in separately-incorporated civic donut holes in the middle of north Dallas. That way they keep lower taxes, and separate almost all-white schools. They include the Dallas Country Club, and the homes of many Republican bigwigs, such as Bush and Cheney, and a disproportionate number of our county elected officials. Their voter turnout is, like most wealthy Republican areas, higher than average.

This time, it was gigantic, and utterly unprepared for. The dozen precincts there usually vote in almost that many polling places. This time, since only amendments were on the ballot, someone decided to save money by consolidating those precincts to vote at one place. When the voting officials were swamped by the massive outpouring of frightened puppets coming out to vote against those evil homos, a disaster resulted. It had no effect on the statewide results, of course, but there were massive violations of state election laws.

There are some Democrats who live in the Park Cities. One of them, Tom Blackwell, is a longtime Precinct Chair and party activist, who has been involved with our Platform all the way up to the national convention level, and is one of our few experts on election procedures. I have known him for years, and would take his word without question. When he went to vote on Tuesday, he witnessed the nightmare. Here is the email he sent about this the next day:

What a mess. It was Election Day in Dallas County in Precinct 1206.

I spoke before the University Park City Council on the issue of Municipal Wi-Fi, which had been posted on the agenda of their public meeting.

I left the City Hall about 6:30 p.m. and proceeded to the Highland Park Middle School, 3555 Granada, where voting for my precinct was taking place. I arrived about 6:40 p.m. I found long lines in the halls leading to the 7th and 8th grade multi-purpose room, which was the polling place for my precinct and 11 other precincts.

On getting in line in the hallway of the building I noticed a sign that was marked "M-Z." My last name begins with the letter B. Understanding I was in the wrong line I looked for the right line.

I observed a woman with blond hair wearing a short skirt with a stack of ballots in hand. She was walking along the line of voters in the hall of the building, outside the polling place. She was handing ballots to the people who were in line. She did not appear to have a name tag. One woman she handed a ballot to said "That's against the law."

I asked the woman with the ballots in hand if there was another line for voters with last names beginning with "B." She said all the lines were together.

When she got to me she asked if I had a voter registration card. I said yes. She handed me a ballot without reading anything on the card, or even asking me for my name. I never took my voter registration card out of my wallet - - where it remained folded up.

Those who told her they did not have voter registration cards were being sent to another line.

I asked her - - Where was the combination form, where I was to sign in. She didn't know the answer. She replied that the Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher was there and had told them to run the election this way. I told her the election was illegal.

She found Jim Hairston, who I presume was the Election Judge. He has previously served on the Platform Committee of the Republican National Convention. I told him that he had been around a long time and knew better than to run an election this way. He replied with something about the large number of people that showed up. I asked him about the combination form that voters are required to sign before picking up a ballot. He took me in the room, ahead of other voters in line, and offered me a combination form to sign, which I signed. He put me in line ahead of a number of other people. No one ever examined my voter registration card. Someone wrote my name in the clerk's column of the combination form after I had signed my name in the voter column.

Other voters who were originally in line with me, who did not ask about signing the combination form, received ballots and were permitted to vote without signing the form, or having their registrations checked in a poll book.

While using the felt tip pin to fill out my ballot, I noticed Lester Keliher in the room. I got his attention and he walked over to me. I told him I had been involved with elections for a long time but had never seen a mess like this before, and that we would have to visit about it later. He did not have a name tag on, and was in the polling place without a ballot in hand. It was unclear what he was doing in the polling place at that time.

Next I noticed his wife, the Dallas County Judge, Margaret Keliher, seated at a table on the other side of the room talking to a clerk. She did not have a name tag on. I watched as she proceeded to go in and out of the room, and did not appear to be filling out a ballot.

On finishing filling out my ballot, I saw a clerk (with a name tag) directing people to place their ballots in the scanning machine. He asked me for my precinct number. I told him 1206. He told me to put my ballot in the machine on the left.

On doing this, the ballot was rejected by the machine. The clerk at the machine said I was trying to put a ballot for another precinct in the machine. I found that the ballot was marked at the bottom for precinct 1227. I told him I wanted a ballot for precinct 1206. He took my ballot and looked in a stack of ballots on a table in the center of the room, and handed me another blank ballot. I looked at it and found it also was marked for precinct 1227. I told him my precinct no. was 1206. He took this ballot back and handed me a blank ballot for 1206.

(While he was doing this, a voter approached me and asked me a question. I told the voter that I was not a clerk, and pointed to the clerk with the name tag who was looking for the ballot.)

At no time was I, as the voter, able to select the ballot that I used to vote. Each was selected by, and handed to me, by a clerk. If I had been able to choose the ballot, I would not have picked up one marked for precinct 1227.

At no time was my voter registration card read or stamped by any of the election clerks. At no time did anyone look up my name in a poll book. I understand the poll book that lists all the eligible voters in my precinct was not marked to indicate that I had voted.

I filled out the ballot that was marked for precinct 1206 at the bottom. I proceeded to the scanning machine on the left, and it accepted the ballot.

On the way out I found long lines of voters down two halls of the building.

The Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher was walking in the hall as I was walking in the opposite direction. As I passed her I said "Hey County Judge - I've never seen a mess like this before in my life." She proceeded on, declining to acknowledge me.

The long lines of voters in the hall, outside the polling place, had ballots in hand, but had not come to the part of the line where they could be checked with the poll books or sign a combination form.

With these comings and goings, I understand that there was no way the election clerks, or election judge could know whether the persons who received and filled out ballots were registered to vote in any of the 12 precincts that were located at this polling place. Also it appears there was nothing in place to insure that a person did not vote twice, or even multiple times.

I drove home and made some phone calls. One of them was to the 800 number for the Secretary of State in Austin. I asked that they send Election Inspectors to the Highland Park Middle School. I was advised they were going to call someone in Dallas County. I gave the Secretary of State's office permission to use my name and phone number when dealing with this further.

I looked on the web page of the Dallas County Elections Department to see if there was a phone number to call for emergencies, or a way to enter a complaint. I called the main telephone number that was listed, but only got a recording. I did not find a way to enter a complaint on the web page, or by using the telephone system.

I believe that with all these comings and goings it would be improper for the Dallas County Judge, Margaret Keliher, to participate to approve the canvass of the votes for this polling place, or for the canvass to be approved by County or State officials.

The Dallas County Judge is in charge of Emergency Management in the County. Imagine what would happen if we had an emergency, such as a terrorist attack, and not just an Election Day.

When we have the election for Governor and County Judge in 2006, will any of this be repeated? Will a self-appointed 'one person State Government' again proceed to re-write the Election Code on Election Day, usurping the authority of the House, Senate and Governor to do this? What will be done to 'right' the 'wrongs' that took place with this 2005 election? Inquiring minds want to know.

--Regards, TOM BLACKWELL, PO Box 25403, Dallas, Texas 75225


Post a Comment

<< Home