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Tilting at Windmills

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February 8, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

NEW MEXICO....It's now Friday. So who won Tuesday's election in New Mexico? Answer: there are 16,000 provisional ballots left to count, so we still don't know:

With all votes counted Thursday except the provisionals, preliminary results showed U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton holding a lead of 1,123 votes — 68,654 votes compared with 67,531 for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.

....Party rules allow provisional ballots to be cast so voters in the wrong place — such as state lawmakers in Santa Fe for the legislative session instead of their home towns, for example — could cast a ballot....As the questions pile up — along with reports of would-be voters who were discouraged by long, slow-moving lines and other problems at various polling sites — discontent with the party is growing.

My understanding is that the delegate count is unlikely to be affected regardless of how this turns out, but apparently New Mexico Democrats are pretty pissed off at the party for this mess. Bill Richardson's VP odds just took a tumble.

Kevin Drum 11:34 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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That's not exactly true, Kevin. Delegates in NM will *absolutely* be effected by the outcome if only slightly. They have an odd number of delegates to be awarded by statewide vote. Whichever candidate win will get the extra. Every delegate counts...

Posted by: Don on February 8, 2008 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

It would amaze me if this would make the difference. He was such a terrible candidate before he dropped out, I can't believe HRC or Obama would consider him. He should just run for Senate and give up this VP dream.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on February 8, 2008 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Atrios posted this little nugget on his website:

"If your opposition to war is based on the idea that Saddam does indeed possess illegal weapons but it's best to leave him alone anyway, well and good. But if it's based on the idea that the administration is lying and none of this stuff exists, you should tread carefully. I think it's pretty likely you will be proven wrong shortly."

Any thoughts on this Kevin????

Posted by: el loco on February 8, 2008 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

In other news:
AP-PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. - An explosion rocked a sugar dust refinery, injuring dozens and setting the waterfront facility aglow with flames against the night sky. Firefighters still were fighting the fire Friday morning, and six people were missing.

Officials had not determined what caused the explosion Thursday night but said they suspect sugar dust, which can be volatile.

Federal investigators have also released results of their investigation into last year's explosion and fires at a Houston petroleum refinery. It was discovered the facility was processing and storing some highly volatile liquids, namely gasoline, kerosene and benzene, along with a little naptha. Who knew?! It is suspected these products may have contributed to the inferno.

Posted by: steve duncan on February 8, 2008 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

I am not in New Mexico, but I had to wait two hours to vote Tuesday. Elections in my state are run by the Sec. of State, who happens to be a W. Bush Republican. While waiting in line, I mentioned that to all of the other Democrats waiting to vote.

Posted by: Brojo on February 8, 2008 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

New Mexico Dems are REALLY pissed at our party apparatus. I moved out here four months ago and have been involved in Dem politics. I worked one of the "caucus" sites (uh, couldn't they have called it what it really was, an ELECTION?") The polling place was an out-building at the Santa Fe Fair Grounds. The building was unheated and seemed to be last used for judging farm animals at the State Fair. There was NO marking by the party on the building the polling was in, other than a small black and white sign on the door. There were no signs on the streets leading into the Fairgrounds, either, indicating it was an election site.

Inside the unheated building, there were not enough supplies, and, evidently, they ran out of ballots at many of the other sites, giving voters a blank piece of paper and telling them to write the name of their choice.

And, yet, despite the long lines and general incompetence, the voters kept coming. Everybody in my polling place were very nice and many thanked me for working at the poll. I thanked them for coming out and voting. It was a mutual-admiration society!

In one of the articles in our local rag, the Santa Fe New Mexican, either Governor Bill or Brian Colon, our state party chief, was quoted as saying that they had no idea there was going to be this large a turnout. Where had they been the last month - Mars???

It was really pretty shameful.

Posted by: phoebes on February 8, 2008 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Here's an insider secret - some of the nicest firework bursts are produced by powdered coffee creamers.

Posted by: Tripp on February 8, 2008 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Will Rogers said something like - I don't belong to an organized political party; I'm a Democrat. NM shows how true that is.

And we really to need to get rid of the state party chairman. Given evidence from Dem primaries earlier this year, how could he have expected turnout to be low. He says he takes responsibility so kick him out.

Posted by: Marty on February 8, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Kevin, I had almost forgotten about this crappy blog until Atrios posted your 2003 warning that I should "tread carefully" because I would likely be proven wrong in my belief that Bush, Cheney and Powell were lying. It served to remind me why I pushed your blog off my reading list.

Well they were lying then and still are now. Their lies and corruption are responsible for hundreds of thousand dead and our dying economy.

Any comments today about your 2003 warning?

Posted by: notanumber on February 8, 2008 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

"Bill Richardson's VP odds just took a tumble."

Why? How is this his fault??

Posted by: Grumpy on February 8, 2008 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Jeff Bingaman donated his own money to help fund the NM caucuses. Other top Dems were out campaigning or raising money for their own future campaigns. Phoebes, the problem was lack of money and support from the governor's office, not the hardworking Dems in the state office.

Richardson should never have insisted on holding this in the first place if he wasn't going to help it get funded.

Posted by: KathyF on February 8, 2008 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Further proof that caucuses suck. The New Mexico Democratic Party was running the caucus. They do not employ the same protocols and standards as the State does when it runs a primary election. And unlike State officials the Party is not legally accountable on how it runs a caucus. It just makes up its own rules.

Caucuses should never again be used anywhere in the nation for something as important as picking the party's nominee for President.

Posted by: ken on February 8, 2008 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Richardson's dumb as a post. A nice guy, sure, but there's more to being president than being affable. I think there are plenty of other people in the party that would better fill the spot.

And with all of the Latino hatred coming from the GOP lately, it's not like Hilary or Obama need to take on Richardson to lock up the Latino vote.

Posted by: afferent input on February 8, 2008 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Not related to New Mexico, but to the idea of computerized voting. I don't understand the problem: if we can send a person to the moon, if we can create an iPhone, just how hard is it to implement a secure and reliable voting system?

Posted by: Boorring on February 8, 2008 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

KathyF, the volunteers were very good at all the sites. I couldn't tell where the hangup in incompetence was from. The lack of funding was seen in not having polling places clearly marked, longer voting hours, i.e. shorter lines, etc.

Where in NM do you live?

Posted by: phoebes on February 8, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Yep, it was, and is a total cluster fuck!The rumor, Bill is going to take a page out of junior's and dick's play book and give Colon a bonus for his massive screw up! cleve

Posted by: cleve on February 8, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

OK, here we are three days after Super Tuesday.

Is there yet any DEFINITIVE AND FINAL count of the so-called "pledged delegates" (even excluding any depending on the exact outcome of NM) won by Obama and Hillary?

If not, WTF?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 8, 2008 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

I live in New Mexico and I was quoted about my problematic experience in Mexican article published this morning. THE PROBLEM in New Mexico, I'm told, is that the Dems used an apparently faulty, possibly 'shaped' data base (which is in the hands of the ESS voting company, which I'm told is run by a guy closely related to the notorious Diebold company) when providing the flawed registered voter lists to the various polling places. THE PROBLEM is that they didn't believe their own eyes and ears when they could see huge interest building toward the caucus, and understaffed and undersupplied the polling places. THE PROBLEM is that the mainstream media won't pick up on this mess. THE PROBLEM is that New mexico has a terrible record in qualifying provisional ballots, with up to 50% of them being disqualified. It is against election code here to place provisional ballots in the lock box without being in an envelope, and they did that to my ballot and WHO KNOWS HOW MANY OTHERS. Heck, I would have run over to Walgreens less than a mile away from my polling location and picked up as many boxes of envelopes as I could for them had I known that!

Posted by: Kim Reed-Deemer on February 8, 2008 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Yes. End the caucuses replace them with secret ballot primaries run with the level of security that a regular election gets run with. Also end the practice of manipulating voters within a caucus. What if your boss has a favorite candidate and you are in the same caucus and feel differently --will that affect your vote?

Caucuses are bogus --time to move into the 21st century.

Posted by: david in norcal on February 8, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

It was a big, big mess. It was utterly embarrassing to everyone, and everyone is pissed. I was afraid a riot was going to break out at my polling place (it's the first vote I've ever attended that featured both Albuquerque police and a local news crew). I expect the head of the NM democratic party (Mr. Colon) is probably hiding in his bathroom with the phone shut off. Bill was furious and so was Mayor Chavez.

The results I read so far has Hillary winning the Latino vote and the downstate vote, and Barack winning the upstate vote.

Results will be in before the convention. Probably.

Posted by: merciless on February 8, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

just how hard is it to implement a secure and reliable voting system?

It's not hard at all, but the Republican wingnuts who run Diebold define "secure and reliable" as "electing Republicans." That's the problem.

Posted by: tomeck on February 8, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

merciless: "The results I read so far has Hillary winning the Latino vote and the downstate vote, and Barack winning the upstate vote."

It does generally look that way, but based upon what I now know I have to conclude that any such 'results' are to be treated with great skepticism.
The truth is, we just don't know what really happened, and likely never will.

Posted by: Kim Reed-Deemer on February 8, 2008 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

'just how hard is it to implement a secure and reliable voting system?'

How hard? It is practically impossible when it is a party run caucus. Party officials who run caucuses do not have the skill set needed to run effecient honest elections. Their skills are in party building, raising money, getting out the vote, etc., but sorely lacking in areas outside their expertise.

Get rid of the caucus system altogether and let the pros at the state level run secret ballot primaries instead. Everyone comes out better and we can hold elected official accountable for how the process is handled. Party officials are not going to be replaced for scewing up a caucus.

Posted by: ken on February 8, 2008 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

It should be noted that while this was called a caucus, it was not like Iowa's caucus.

Posted by: Kim Reed-Deemer on February 8, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Caucuses are bullshit. If Obama wins the nomination, he would have won on the votes of this bullshit.

If Florida and Michigan get do-overs, they better not be caucuses.

Posted by: Jonathan on February 8, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

You folks complaining about "caucuses" may be right in general, but you're wrong about the problem in NM. What we had would normally be called a "primary" -- we just lined up, marked our ballot, dropped in in a box.

The explanation for calling it a "caucus" that I heard was that it was run by the party (which had to pay for it, probably the reason for running short of everything) and not by the state.

Posted by: Bob Gaines on February 8, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK


Yeah, the same thing in Minnesota. They were 'caucuses' run by the party but it was a secret vote. The main problem was that because of years of low turnout many of the locations were consolidated and then large numbers of people showed up. The Dems had three times the normal turnout overall and ten times the norm at some locations. The Reps had twice the normal turnout, although there was one town (named Hayfield, I'm not kidding) where only one guy showed up to represent his Republican district.

Posted by: Tripp on February 8, 2008 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

You can hear Greg Palast's take on the state of the voting situation in New Mexico and other parts of the U.S. in 3 segments of 'Clout' on Air America:


Posted by: Kim Reed-Deemer on February 8, 2008 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

I have to agree that caucuses are an asinine way to gauge public sentiment. We hold our Hawaii caucuses on the evening of February 19, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. However, the "presidential preference polls" portion of that caucus will be held open for exactly 45 minutes, from 6:00 - 6:45pm.

This arbitrary rule unfairly tilts the balance toward retirees, students and AFSCME-organized government employees (who are often given a half-day off to participate -- at least, they were when a Democrat resided in the governor's mansion), and penalizes most working people, particularly those who are employed by resort complexes that are often halfway across the island from where they live and vote.

As acting Exec. Director of the Hawaii Democratic Party in 2004, it was my job to help organize the caucuses, and we not only had to deal with a four-fold increase in participation, we had to field a lot of complaints from Democrats who were unable to arrive at their respective precincts until after 7:00pm.

This is the 21st century. Primary elections are the way to go here.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 8, 2008 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

In Las Cruces, things were smooth, for the most part, on Tuesday. Polls were open from noon-7 pm. Took me 3 minutes to sign my name and mark the box. No line. Seemed like there were plenty of polling locations. Typical problems of not having the locations widely known ahead of time, though the addresses were in the local paper and anyone with internet access could find this out quickly.

That said, why is it such a big deal that it takes longer to count the votes? What is the rush? Many things are slower in NM...

Posted by: JMA on February 8, 2008 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

JMA: "That said, why is it such a big deal that it takes longer to count the votes? What is the rush? Many things are slower in NM.."

There are absolutely no established rules/protocols for dealing with them as there are in true elections run by the pros. So...they have to figure it all out as they go. It may require checking all the provisional ballot affadavits against potentially 17,000 voter registrations, and it has to be done by next Friday. It looks to be a nightmare in the making.
The NM voter database has been privatized to ESS, and there are huge questions as to what exactly has been done to that database between the time it was in the hands of the Secretary of State, then turned over to this private firm, and eventually the polling locations on Super Tuesday.

Posted by: Kim Reed-Deemer on February 9, 2008 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

Phoebes: I live in London now, but I worked on the Dem primary (it's a caucus in name only) last year. I lived (still own a house) in Abq. I'm linked on Barb's excellent blog about NM Dem politics, Democracy for New Mexico. She has a good post about the primary problems there.

Posted by: KathyF on February 9, 2008 at 5:30 AM | PERMALINK

The sad fact is, you have to have a caucus if you don't want to have your primary scheduled by your state. If they pay for it, they schedule it. Simple as that. (Of course, state legislators have the say, and the party that runs the state will pick the date, usually.)

In many cases it's not feasible to hold all the primary races (downticket) on the same day as the presidential race, in early Feb or now, January. It would force state legislature candidates to decide very early on to run.

Really, we ought to talk about getting back to a normal schedule, of holding primaries in March and April and June, but I don't see that happening either.

Posted by: KathyF on February 9, 2008 at 5:36 AM | PERMALINK

New Mexico's "caucus" was one in name only. In effect, voters showed up anytime between noon and 7pm to cast paper ballots. So, it was essentially a primary, but funded by the state Democratic Party and therefore called a caucus.

Posted by: Obama Fan on February 10, 2008 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK



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