Friday, December 28, 2018

California’s late votes broke big for Democrats. Here’s why GOP was surprised

California’s late votes broke big for Democrats. Here’s why GOP was surprised

John Wildermuth and Tal Kopan Nov. 30, 2018 Updated: Nov. 30, 2018 8:55 a.m.

Paul Ryan called California’s election system “really bizarre.” Late “harvested” votes led to GOP losses around the state.Photo: Cliff Owen / Associated Press

California Democrats took advantage of seemingly minor changes in a 2016 law to score their stunningly successful midterm election results, providing a target for GOP unhappiness that is tinged with a bit of admiration.

Some Republicans have cast a skeptical eye on Democrats’ use of “ballot harvesting” to boost their support. The idea’s backers say it’s just one of several steps California has taken to enable more people to vote.

Few people noticed when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the changes in AB1921 into law two years ago. In the past, California allowed only relatives or people living in the same household to drop off mail ballots for another voter. The new law allowed anyone, even a paid political campaign worker, to collect and return ballots — “harvesting” them, in political slang.

The change was strictly a public service, said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, author of the bill. The old rules, she said, “simply provide yet another obstacle for individuals attempting to vote.”

Republicans didn’t agree, and the measure passed the Legislature on a largely party-line vote.

They felt the hit on Nov. 6 — and in the days after, as late-arriving Democratic votes were tabulated and one Republican candidate after another saw leads shrink and then evaporate. This week, a seventh GOP-held congressional seat flipped to the Democrats, leaving Republicans controlling a mere seven of California’s 53 House districts.

In Orange County alone, where every House seat went Democratic, “the number of Election Day vote-by-mail dropoffs was unprecedented — over 250,000,” Fred Whitaker, chairman of the county Republican Party, said in a note to supporters. “This is a direct result of ballot harvesting allowed under California law for the first time. That directly caused the switch from being ahead on election night to losing two weeks later.”

Some national Republicans expressed befuddlement with what was happening to their party in California. In an interview with the Washington Post, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin called California’s election system “really bizarre” and said he couldn’t even begin to understand what ballot harvesting is.

“We were only down 26 seats (nationally) the night of the election and three weeks later, we lost basically every California race,” he said. “Point being, when you have candidates that win the absentee ballot vote, win the day of the vote, and then lose three weeks later because of provisionals, that’s really bizarre.”

However, this was no spur-of-the-moment effort by the Democrats, said Shawn Steel, the California GOP’s delegate to the Republican National Committee.

“This was not done at the last minute,” he said. “It started the day after Jerry signed” the bill.

Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock (Stanislaus County), one of the House Republicans who saw victory slowly turn to defeat after election day, agreed with Ryan Thursday that California’s count should go more quickly. “Counting ballots two weeks after the vote is something that Californians shouldn’t have to put up with,” he said.

But in an earlier interview after it was clear he’d lost, Denham said the GOP had been slow to adapt to changes in California’s election system.

“One of the lessons that the GOP needs to learn out of this election cycle is how to work within all of the new rules, same-day voter registration, motor voters,” Denham said. “There have been a lot of changes in laws that I think have caught many in the Republican Party by surprise. You can’t just run a traditional campaign as you did before.”

He added, “If one party’s harvesting ballots, both parties need to do it.”

Across the state there were reports of groups collecting ballots and dropping them off at polling places and election offices.

“We certainly had that going on here, with people dropping off maybe 100 or 200 ballots,” said Neal Kelley, Orange County’s registrar of voters. “We also had voters calling and asking if it was legitimate for someone to come to their door and ask if they could take their ballot” and deliver it to the polls.

For Democrats, the ballot harvesting was all part of a greater effort to get out the vote from their supporters, particularly from occasional voters.

“We beat Republicans on the ground, fair and square,” said Katie Merrill, a Democratic consultant deeply involved in November campaigns. “Many of the field plans included (ballot harvesting) as an option to deliver voters or their ballots” to the polls.

Those efforts involved identifying voters who might support Democratic candidates and ignoring those who wouldn’t.

In one Orange County household, for example, both the husband and wife were longtime Republicans, said Dale Neugebauer, a veteran Republican consultant. Democratic volunteers came by the house four times, each time asking to speak only with their 18-year-old daughter, a no-party-preference voter, and asking if she wanted them to pick up her signed and completed ballot.

That’s a perfect example of the “thorough and disciplined” ground game the Democrats used, said Merrill.

“We were not wasting time talking to people who weren’t going to vote for Democrats,” she said.

Many of those harvested ballots arrived in the waning days of the election, adding to the flood of votes that couldn’t be counted on election day. And those late ballots broke heavily for the Democrats.

“Absolutely, ballot harvesting played a very significant role,” said Neugebauer, who worked most recently for Orange County Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, another Republican who lost his seat. Democrats had “a huge advantage by executing a plan to gather ballots from voters.”

“I have a little bit of professional admiration for how well the Democrats executed their plan,” Neugebauer admitted.

While the late vote tally typically favors Democrats, the partisan advantage this year was staggering.

Editor's Note:   Maybe this is the explanation of the weird results with late returns in Marin County elections.  If so, "voter harvesting" is a cheap trick that undermines the democratic process.

‘Ballot Harvesting’ Helped Flip Seven US House Races in California After Election Day

‘Ballot Harvesting’ Helped Flip Seven US House Races in California After Election Day

December 4, 2018 Updated: December 4, 2018
Recent changes to state election law have transformed California’s election system into one that’s no longer decided on Election Day, but in the weeks after.
The changes, specifically to mail-in ballots, led to Democrats flipping seven U.S. House seats after Nov. 6, and Republicans crying foul over the newly legalized practice of “ballot harvesting.”
Speaking to the Washington Post on Nov. 29, outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said the string of lost elections “defies logic.”
“We had a lot of wins that night, and three weeks later, we lost basically every contested California race. This election system they have, I can’t begin to understand what ballot harvesting is,” Ryan said.
In 2016, the California Legislature passed AB-1921, a measure that altered the state’s vote-by-mail procedures to allow any third party to collect and turn in another person’s completed ballot. Previously, only close relatives or someone living in the same household could collect and return someone else’s ballot.
The seemingly slight adjustment allowed for activists and political parties to deliver ballots to targeted would-be voters, solicit a completed ballot, and return it to a voting site without a secure chain of custody. While the upside is increased voter participation, the risk of fraud and coercion is more than a partisan concern.
At least 16 states expressly regulate ballot harvesting, or ballot collection, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some states limit who can turn in another person’s ballot, while others ban the practice entirely.
In 2016, Arizona passed a law making the collection of early voting ballots by political operatives a felony after it led to voter fraud. In 2012, a presidential election year, a political advocacy group—not directly affiliated with a campaign—was collecting ballots while its members were posing as election workers.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Arizona ban, but it was later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the single-party run state of California, unlimited ballot harvesting, combined with other post-Election Day ballot-counting provisions, revolutionized the state’s midterm elections with the results skewing exclusively for Democrats.
Those additional provisions included allowing mail-in ballots to be counted up to three days after Nov. 6, loose guidelines for accepting provisional ballots, and extended deadlines for absentee voters to be notified of mismatching signatures on ballots and voter-registration records so they could be fixed. Mismatching signatures also can be a telltale sign of fraud.
According to election returns, more than 40 percent of the state’s 12.5 million total votes were counted after Nov. 6—a striking development, considering mail-in ballots were once intended to assist those who couldn’t physically vote in a polling booth due to disability, infirmity, or residing out of state, such as overseas military personnel.
Ron Nehring, former chairman of the California Republican Party, characterized the development as an abuse.
“Mail voting has completely warped California elections. We don’t have Election Day. We have two election months: the month ballots are out in the field, and the month after, while they’re all sorted out. No courage to fix this,” Nehring tweeted Nov. 26.
In one case, two-term incumbent California GOP congressman David Valadao was firmly ahead of his Democratic opponent, T.J. Cox, by 6,000 votes, or 8 percent, after polls closed Nov. 6. The Associated Press declared Valadao the winner of the rural District 21 race, but later retracted the announcement. After Election Day, ballots continued pouring in for Cox until he finally defeated Valadao by 843 votes–three weeks later.
On Nov. 29, Ryan said, “when you have candidates that win the absentee-ballot vote, win the day of the vote and then lose three weeks later because of provisionals, that’s really bizarre. And so I just think that’s a very, very strange outcome.”
Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, responded on Twitter, “in California, we make sure every ballot is properly counted and accounted for. That’s not ‘bizarre,’ that’s DEMOCRACY.”
Ground zero for California was Orange County, where Republicans lost every incumbent seat in the longtime Southern California conservative stronghold.
After polls closed Nov. 6, Orange County Republican Mimi Walters was ahead of Democrat Katie Porter by 6,200 votes. But Porter ended up winning the race after a tidal wave of post-Election Day ballot-counting. The same fate befell GOP Rep. Jeff Denham in District 10. Other Republican House losses included Steve Knight, Dana Rohrabacher, and Diane Harkey.
One of the more curious results occurred in District 39, where Orange County hopeful Young Kim, who would have been the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress, saw her sizable Election Day lead morph into a 3.2 percent loss after Nov. 6.
Young Kim (R) is surrounded by supporters
Republican Congressional candidate in California’s 39th District Young Kim (R) is surrounded by supporters and media as she arrives at an election night event in Rowland Heights, Calif., on Nov. 6, 2018. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
Shawn Steel, California’s committeeman for the Republican National Committee, reacted to Kim’s stunning loss in a Nov. 27 editorial.
“How does a 14-point Republican lead disappear?” Steel asked. “Merciless and unsparing, California Democrats have systematically undermined California’s already-weak voter protection laws to guarantee permanent one-party rule.”
But ballot harvesting isn’t just a suspicious tactic for California’s Democratic political machine to use against Republicans. According to the investigative news website Washington Babylon, California Democrats have been harvesting ballots against each other in primary elections.
In a Dec. 28, 2017, interview, long before the November midterms, Democratic state assembly candidate Ron Birnbaum said he was the victim of ballot harvesting conducted by his Democratic primary opponent, Wendy Carrillo.
“Third parties, such as campaigns or paid field operations, can now bother or cajole or potentially intimidate voters into giving them their ballots. The most susceptible to this intimidation are those least likely to know how to report it or protect themselves from it. There is very little to stop tampering with ballots, vote-buying or even discarding of ballots,” Birnbaum said.
“Ultimately, this is a non-partisan issue in that it helps candidates with more resources have an easier time winning elections, regardless of affiliation. That said, the [vote-harvesting] bill was passed on virtually a party-line vote in the legislature,” he added.

More on Ballot Harvesting. How can this be legal?

How China Captures Elites like Senator Feinstein

Monday, December 24, 2018

A child calling Santa reached NORAD instead. Christmas Eve was never the same.

A child calling Santa reached NORAD instead. Christmas Eve was never the same.

The military’s famous Santa Tracker began with a wrong number

Col. Harry Shoup was a NORAD commander. (unknown)
By Steve HendrixDecember 24 at 11:50 AM

Col. Harry Shoup was a real by-the-book guy.

At home, his two daughters were limited to phone calls of no more than three minutes (monitored by an egg timer) and were automatically grounded if they missed curfew by even a minute. At work, during his 28-year Air Force career, the decorated fighter pilot was known as a no-nonsense commander and stickler for rules.

Which makes what happened that day in 1955 even more of a Christmas miracle.

It was a December day in Colorado Springs when the phone rang on Col. Shoup’s desk. Not the black phone, the red phone.

“When that phone rang, it was a big deal,” said Shoup’s daughter, Terri Van Keuren, 69, a retiree in Castle Rock, Colo. “It was the middle of the Cold War and that phone meant bad news.”

Shoup was a commander of the Continental Air Defense Command, CONAD, the early iteration of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Then, as now, the joint U.S.-Canadian operation was the tense nerve center of America’s defensive shield against a sneak air attack. In 1955, the command center was filled with a massive map of North America on plexiglass, behind which backward-writing technicians on scaffolds marked every suspect radar blip in grease pencil.

It was not a place of fun and games. And when that red phone rang — it was wired directly to a four-star general at the Pentagon — things got real. All eyes would have been on Shoup when he answered.

“Col. Shoup,” he barked. But there was silence.

Until finally, a small voice said, “Is this Santa Claus?”

Shoup, by all accounts, was briefly confused and then fully annoyed. “Is this a joke?” Glaring at the wide-eyed staff for any sign of a smile, he let the caller have it with all the indignity of a bird-colonel who brooked no nonsense on this most vital of all phone lines.

“Just what do you think you’re doing," he began.

But then the techno-military might of the United States was brought up short by the sound of sniffles. Whoever was on the phone was crying, and Shoup suddenly realized it really was a child who was trying to reach Santa Claus.

The colonel paused, considered and then responded:

“Ho, ho, ho!” he said as his crew looked on astonished. “Of course this is Santa Claus. Have you been a good boy?”

He talked to the local youngster for several minutes, hearing his wishes for toys and treats and assuring him he would be there on Christmas Eve. Then the boy asked Santa to bring something nice for his mommy.

“I will, I will,” Santa-Shoup said. “In fact, could I speak to your mommy now?”

The boy put his mother on the phone, and Shoup went back to business, crisply explaining to the woman just what facility their call had reached.

“He said later he thought she must have been a military wife,” said Van Keuren. “She was properly cowed.”

But she also had an explanation. The woman asked Shoup to look at that day’s local newspaper. Specifically, at a Sears ad emblazoned with a big picture of Santa that invited kids to “Call me on my private phone, and I will talk to you personally any time day or night.”

The number provided, ME 2-6681, went right to one of the most secure phones in the country.

“They were off by one digit,” said Van Keuren. “It was a typo.”

When Shoup hung up, the phone rang again. He ordered his staff to answer each Santa call while he got on the (black) phone with AT&T to set up a new link to Washington. Let Sears have the old number, he told them.

That might have been the end of it. But a few nights later, Shoup, as was his tradition, took his family to have Christmas Eve dinner with his on-duty troops. When they walked into the control center, he spotted a little image of a sleigh pulled by eight unregistered reindeer, coming over the top of the world.

Van Keuren was only 6 at the time, but the exchange that followed became stuff of both family and Air Force legend.

“What’s that,” the commanding officer asked.

“Just having a little fun Colonel,” they answered, waiting for the blowup.

Shoup pondered the offense as the team waited. Then he ordered someone to get the community relations officer. And soon Shoup was on the phone to a local radio station. CONAD had picked up unidentified incoming, possible North Pole origin, distinctly sleigh-shaped.

The radio station ate it up, the networks got involved and an enduring tradition was born. This Christmas Eve will mark the 63rd straight year that NORAD will publicly track Santa’s sleigh on its global rounds.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump talk to kids as they track Santa Claus's movements with the NORAD Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve in 2017. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

“This is our most feel-good mission,” said Maj. Andrew Hennessy, a Canadian Army officer posted at NORAD headquarters in Colorado. “We know Santa brings lasting joy to kids around the world and we’re glad to have that as our fourth mission one day out of the year.” (On the other 364 days, NORAD’s three-pronged mandate is to oversee air threats, general aerospace control and, in recent years, maritime warnings for potential threats from sea.)

In good military fashion, the Santa tracking command has grown terrifically complex. NORAD deploys satellites, radar, jet fighters and Santa cams to feed its website, apps and social media accounts used by more than 2 million followers. Naughty and nice alike can follow Santa’s movement on 3-D maps in eight languages. Last year, when Alexa was asked “Where’s Santa?” more than 1.5 million times, it was NORAD that fed her the answer.

But the real emotional outlay comes in the Colorado Springs live call center, staffed for 20 hours on Dec. 24 by more than 1,500 volunteers (many of them local service members and their families). With a nine-page Santa Tracker manual in hand, they fielded more than 126,000 calls in 2017.

“As soon as you put the phone down, it rings again,” said Hennessy, who has done duty in the call center. He remembers telling one young Boston caller that Santa had been confirmed over Maine heading south but — and this is a primary NORAD message — the sleigh wouldn’t stop unless the boy was in bed.

“The next thing I heard was the phone hitting the floor,” he said. “Mom picked it up and said, ‘Can I call you back, he’s never done that before.’ ”

Shoup went on to ever-higher ranks in the Air Force, retiring as a wing commander. When his kids were old enough, he told them why so many of his colleagues called him the “Santa colonel,” but it was a quiet kind of legacy until the 25th anniversary of Santa tracking and TV news crews sought him out.

After that, he looked forward to getting the media calls each December, even carrying special business cards with the story typed on the back. He was buried at 91 in 2009 with a flyover of F-16 fighters, under a gravestone that notes his service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The last line reads: “Santa Colonel.”

“I want his message to be ‘Do the nice thing,’ ” said Van Keuren. “A lot of people would have hung up on that kid.”

He Saved West Marin from a Highway and Suburban Sprawl.

Former Marin supervisor Peter Arrigoni dies at 87

Peter Arrigoni, who died this month at age 87, was named to the College of Marin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011. (Frankie Frost - IJ archive)

PUBLISHED: December 19, 2018 at 2:38 pm | UPDATED: December 20, 2018 at 5:08 am

Former Marin County supervisor Peter Arrigoni, who championed the fight against plans to extend Highway 17 through the Ross Valley to Point Reyes National Seashore — saving West Marin from suburban sprawl — died Tuesday morning after a long illness. He was 87.

The longtime Fairfax resident, former town mayor and political force in Marin County politics died at his home with his wife of 62 years, Pat, at his side.

Mr. Arrigoni was born on July 10, 1931 in San Francisco. His father, Peter S. Arrigoni, was the founder of and longtime partner in New Joe’s restaurant on Broadway Street in San Francisco.

His family had lived in Fairfax for more than 100 years.

Mr. Arrigoni was a graduate of St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco, where he was an all-city athlete. He was an all-conference halfback on College of Marin’s football team before graduating in 1951.

He served for two years in the Coast Guard, reaching the rank of second class petty officer while serving in the Pacific during the Korean War.

After the service, he continued his studies at the University of Arizona, where he was an honor roll student and played football; he was named as an honorable mention member of the all-conference gridiron team. He was also on the college’s baseball team, which played in the College World Series.

He graduated in 1957 with a degree in business and economics.

He was twice drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, but a baseball injury put an end to his hopes to play in the NFL.

He started out as a stockbroker, working on Montgomery Street in San Francisco. He got involved in local activities, coaching in the local Little League and joining the Fairfax Park and Recreation Commission and serving on the then-Fairfax School District’s school site selection committee.

He was elected to the Fairfax council in 1964 and served as mayor in 1966.

Two years later, he decided to run for county supervisor, building his campaign on fighting plans to build a “parkway” stretching from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to the national seashore. He unseated incumbent Ernest Kettenhofen and held the seat until 1976.

Mr. Arrigoni’s campaign and victory set the stage for the county’s adoption of historic planning policies that have for decades protected West Marin’s open ranchlands from suburban sprawl.

“If we are not wise in our actions now, Marin County will suffer the same dreary fate of so much of the Bay Area and Southern California: urban sprawl at its worst,” Mr. Arrigoni wrote in 1968.

“Without Pete, we would have a four-way ‘parkway’ from San Anselmo to Olema,” said former IJ editor and reporter Nels Johnson, who covered Mr. Arrigoni and credited him for his “pioneering” leadership in re-shaping the county’s governmental structure. “Even Gary (the late supervisor Gary Giacomini) said if hadn’t been for Pete, there would have been nothing left to save.”  See full article HERE

Why don't perpetual motion machines ever work?

Sunday, December 23, 2018


THE TORTOISE, you know, carries his house on his back. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot leave home. They say that Jupiter punished him so, because he was such a lazy stay-at-home that he would not go to Jupiter's wedding, even when especially invited.

After many years, Tortoise began to wish he had gone to that wedding. When he saw how gaily the birds flew about and how the Hare and the Chipmunk and all the other animals ran nimbly by, always eager to see everything there was to be seen, the Tortoise felt very sad and discontented. He wanted to see the world too, and there he was with a house on his back and little short legs that could hardly drag him along.

One day he met a pair of Ducks and told them all his trouble.
"We can help you to see the world," said the Ducks. "Take hold of this stick with your teeth and we will carry you far up in the air where you can see the whole countryside. But keep quiet or you will be sorry."

The Tortoise was very glad indeed. He seized the stick firmly with his teeth, the two Ducks took hold of it one at each end, and away they sailed up toward the clouds.


Just then a Crow flew by. He was very much astonished at the strange sight and cried:

"This must surely be the King of Tortoises!"

"Why certainly—" began the Tortoise.

But as he opened his mouth to say these foolish words he lost his hold on the stick, and down he fell to the ground, where he was dashed to pieces on a rock.

Foolish curiosity and vanity often lead to misfortune.