Monday, September 13, 2004

 

Will Republicans hack Ohio GOTV?

I know a lot of discussion has started about how to protect the voting process on Nov. 2. I am glad someone is thinking about what I would term the "technical side" of the voting process, and what it will take to make sure that the polls open on time, function properly, chad problems avoided, all votes counted in a timely manner, etc.

These are serious issues, but I think there are a couple of additional - and perhaps bigger - worries that also require planning.

The first worry is that the Republicans will try to hack the Get Out the Vote effort. Everyone from the official Dems circles to the unions, to ACT to MoveOn to ACORN to Rock The Vote will be working to beat the bushes on the Nov. 2 and the immediate days before. This requires some considerable planning and coordination between a group and its volunteers, and that's not possible without good communications.

But, as this story shows, the Republicans field-tested a new and effective method in 2002 to stop these GOTV efforts:
"The Virginia-based GOP Marketplace - which links 'campaigns and committees with telephone vendors online', according to its mission statement - has been implicated in a plot to jam the phone lines of Democratic "get-out-the-vote" call centers in New Hampshire last November. Allen Raymond, a 33-year-old former New Jersey Republican State Committee staffer, heads the group. According to recent news reports, GOP Marketplace was paid $15,600 by the New Hampshire GOP on November 1, and in turn hired an Idaho telemarketing firm to clog the lines of Democratic phone banks with 'hang-ups.'" The phone lines were set up to provide voters with a ride to the polls. Raymond and another individual eventuall pleaded guilty.

Interestingly, news reports initially said that an "official in a national political organization" played a role in putting this scam together. Later, a story on this in the Union Leader (pay to see it) reported, "We can’t tell you who it is or whether he broke any laws, but we can tell you the person questioned by the feds has a significant role in the Bush-Cheney campaign."

This can and will happen in Ohio. It seems to me that the way to prevent this to to have lots of redundancy in communications systems.

The second is a coordinated smear campaign. This, of course, is not new but the technology to do it on a widespread basis is relatively new. All it takes is a automated "phone blast" system that will play a recorded message to everyone on a telephone list. Although a "false negative" telephone calls to rural areas that smear Kerry and Edwards with a lie could be easily refuted, the refutation would come to late if the calls were made Nov. 1.

It seems to me that one way to prevent this is to, have a network in place that could detect that these calls were being received also reach some agreement - well ahead of time - with the media about how they need to help if false information is distributed this way.

Finally, there will probably be more efforts to suppress voting in poor and black neighborhoods. Recent elections have several stories (not sure about in Ohio) where Republicans poll observers try to ask for identification of voters and challenge every ballot. I'm sure that this doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what could be done in these communities to decrease the vote.

The point is that the pro-Kerry forces better be prepared for the BC04 folks to open their bag of tricks quite widely.

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