Friday, October 15, 2021

"Who's That Knocking At My Door?"

Alright, first thing:  "audit" no longer sounds serious enough, so we have to intensify it.  "Forensic audit" is the phrase of choice. But what does it mean?

But in the push for forensic audits across the state, not one person has given a clear description of what they mean and want, said Lake County’s Republican supervisor of elections, Alan Hays.

“There’s no such thing I’ve found in Florida election code,” Hays said. “We have and always will continue to administer elections in this office in complete compliance with Florida statutes and the rules of the Division of Elections of the Department of State.”

Here's the other thing, peculiar to Florida, but then every state is peculiar in its own way:

Mark Andersen, the Republican elections supervisor in Bay County in the Florida Panhandle, said he spent two hours on a Zoom call with representatives from Defend Florida explaining how his office makes sure vote counts are accurate. He said the group didn’t know that his county already audits every ballot. 

I've seen the same thing at school board hearings.  School boards don't set school curriculum (it's not their job, and most of that is set by the Texas Education Agency), and they don't decide what books wind up in the school libraries (challenged books are reviewed by an ad hoc committee, established by the district administration staff).  But people come to school board meetings now to rail against books and "CRT," which it is illegal to teach in Texas now.  One notable event was the woman recently who ranted for her three minutes, then declared she would be a candidate for the board in the next election, where presumably she would straighten things out.  Most of what school boards do is approve budgets, approve bonds for new school buildings, and recognize staff and students in the district.  It's partly dull work about finances, or ceremonial work honoring students, teachers, etc.  It's also all in the open; by the actions of the Texas Open Meetings Act, the board has a "meeting" whenever more than three members are talking together, and only personnel matters and things allowed as exemptions under that law, can be discussed in closed meetings.  So everything the board does, it does in a public meeting.  But school board meetings are notoriously dull, so nobody attends them.

Like the lady who declared herself a candidate, and then left.  She'd come to rant; she did; she went home. What the board does, is doing, has done, needs to do?  She doesn't care.  She wants to get on the board so she can rant freely.  She doesn't know what the board does; she doesn't want to know.  If she gets elected, she's going to be very bored.  This is one reason all this brouhaha is going to fizzle out, sooner or later. Reality doesn't bend to somebody's will, no matter how much they want it to.

So what's going on in Florida?

 Debbie Horgan, 64, approached the beige house and rapped her knuckles against the door.

A few minutes later, she returned to an SUV idling in the street.

“Another no answer,” she said to the driver, 61-year-old Kevin May. “I’m willing to bet not everyone lives here.”

Yup; Boomers with too much time on their hands, too much Facebook in their lives, driving door to door seeking out "voters" to see if they still live there.  If no one answers, it's presumptive proof they don't; right? If these clowns came to my door, I probably wouldn't answer.  Is that proof I don't live there?  Or does it mean I'm at the grocery store with my wife?

Here’s how it works: Volunteers, like Horgan or Jordan, visit an address on a list. (They weren’t sure how the homes were picked, saying Defend Florida [the group conducted this snipe hunt] may have an algorithm.) They’re trained to ask the names of the residents and whether they voted. They cross-reference that information against voter records. They don’t ask who anyone voted for.

May said people seem to be blowing off real concerns about bloated voter rolls and other anomalies discovered by canvassers and number crunchers. They’re not looking to undo the results of 2020, he said, but ensure future elections are secure.

In recent weeks, Pasco is one of the locales they’ve searched for fraud, even though this mid-sized county of 550,000 has become the cradle of Republican power in Florida. The state’s Senate President Wilton Simpson hails from Trilby. Three of the Legislature’s last five House speakers called Pasco County home at one time. Its sheriff, Chris Nocco, is one of the most politically connected law enforcement officials in the state.

It’s here, a county Trump won by a wider margin than any presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan, that Jordan said he’s found his “fair share of ghost voters” — a term he uses to describe people who do not appear to live at the address at which they’re registered. They’re also looking for people who say they didn’t vote when records indicate they did, a sign, they believe, that someone may have filled out a mail-in ballot for them.

If they find a discrepancy, they’ll pass it along and someone may write up an “affidavit.” Defend Florida says it has collected thousands so far. Election supervisors say they haven’t seen the evidence. The leader of Defend Florida, Caroline Wetherington, didn’t respond to a voicemail and text message from the Times.

 I do wonder what the problem with "bloated voter rolls" is, actually.  If those people aren't voting (and many a registered voter seldom does vote), so what?  Hard to commit fraud if you don't do anything at all with the franchise.  But these efforts, and the affidavits they produce (another conjuring word; it sounds official, so it must be powerful!), are a joke, because:

These canvassing efforts fail to consider that people change addresses all the time, said Gary King, a political science professor and director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. They move for jobs, go to college, transfer assisted living facilities, leave their parents’ home, get evicted, become homeless, retire to live with their kids or die. Voter rolls don’t always keep up, King said, but it doesn’t suggest anything nefarious.

“Voter rolls definitely have mistakes,” King said. “It’s human beings collecting data.”

King said there are serious efforts to study voter fraud, which does happen occasionally on a small scale. But fraud to the degree being alleged would mean a massive conspiracy involving hundreds of elections workers across the state’s decentralized election system. There’s no reason to believe that sending amateur surveyors to check voter addresses is a way to root it out, he said.

“If you have chest pains, you don’t just grab a butter knife,” King said. “You need experts to do survey research just as much as heart surgery. It’s really hard to get it right, and it’s so easy to completely mess it up.”

My parents moved from their house of 50+ years to an assisted living facility; and then moved to Houston.  So far as I know, they never changed their voter registration.  But if they had, I don't know what the process is for the next county to notify the old county of the change (registration is handled by county clerks). Maybe there is one, maybe there isn't.  My daughter's voter registration finally lapsed because she doesn't live in Texas anymore.  Probably theirs did, too, after a time.  But it would have been conceivable that they were registered in two counties at once, for a time.  I mention this also because I still occassionally get letters from people wondering if my father, now dead 5 years, wants to sell the property at the address of the facility they moved to before moving to Houston.  I don't expect government record keeping to be much better than what private businesses come up with.

So was that evidence of fraud?  Of course not.  Indeed, imagining a vote fraud conspiracy across all 254 Texas counties (or even five of them) is ludicrous in the extreme.  But this goes back to the previous post about conspiracy theorists:  these people are, at least slightly, psycopathic and narcisisstic.  If anything they've been given license by the Pscyopath and Narcisssist in chief we put in the Oval Office for four years.

But that doesn't mean they know what they're talking about, or that they're taking over the country.  Even Florida isn't interested in a "forensic audit."  Even the Texas Legislature is not jumping at the chance to give Greg Abbott an audit of five counties.  I'm not sure this tactic is going anywhere, really.

When Pinellas County lawmakers gathered at St. Petersburg College’s Seminole Campus on Sept. 9, Defend Florida was there. A speaker from the group, Cathi Chamberlain, asserted that their members had been canvassing and identified suspicious voters. Chamberlain said it was evidence the state needed a forensic audit, and she called out Speaker Sprowls for saying that the election went well.

“The (Republican National Committee) wants us to ignore what we have seen,” Chamberlain said. “We will not.”

But when the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office asked in an email to see evidence of these suspicious voters, Chamberlain didn’t reply to the email. She told the Times it’s because she wanted a personal meeting with the supervisor’s office.

Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, attended the Sept. 9 meeting. This month, at a Senate committee hearing, Hooper told Lee, the secretary of state, he was hearing from a lot of constituents “certain that our election process needs a forensic audit and that elections were in turmoil.”

Lawmakers could debate the need for an audit when they convene for their annual 60-day legislative session in January. It’s unclear if they will. The sponsor of the bill ordering an audit, State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican, was relegated by Sprowls to an office in the Capitol’s basement.

Even the most conservative lawmakers are unwilling to support an audit. Sen. Dennis Baxley, the chairman of the Senate elections committee, said he has had conversations with people concerned about the 2020 election but wasn’t sure it would lead to any changes in state law.

“We take what they tell us and put it in the pot, and we’ll stir it around and look through all of it and see what comes out,” Baxley said.

A Defend Florida leader boasted in Telegram that the group had a two-hour meeting with Republican Rep. Erin Grall of Vero Beach, the chairwoman of the House judiciary committee and a member of the elections committee. They called Grall an “ally of the people” and speculated she would connect them to other influential lawmakers.

Grall confirmed that she met with the group and took interest in their concerns. But a forensic audit, “that’s not something I’m pursuing with them at all,” she said.

Asked his thoughts on the calls for an audit, Sen. Doug Broxson, a Pensacola Republican on the elections committee, sighed deeply and paused for a solid 10 seconds.

“If there was a problem, we’re 10 months past the election,” Broxson said. “Don’t you think some of that would have seeped out by now?”

That's the litmus test of a conspiracy:  three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

So how are these conspiracies so successful in their secrecy? 

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