Digger Tidbits: Got ID? O’Keefe seems to be missing his; House to take up brokers’ fees

Got ID? That was the probing question the “investigative” camera crew led by James O’Keefe wanted polling officials to ask. When local town clerks didn’t pose THE question, O’Keefe and crew tried to prove, on video, that voter fraud is rampant in Vermont.

Trouble is, voting without ID is perfectly legal in the Green Mountain State. Voters simply turn up at the polls, tell election officials who they are, get checked off the voter list and proceed to the ballot box.

In a video posted on YouTube titled, “Caught on Tape: Dead People and Clones Offered Ballots in Vermont Primary,” O’Keefe’s attempts to demonize unwitting female election officials don’t acknowledge that fact. The filmmakers spent 10 minutes raking officials over the coals, then compared their experience at the polls with ID checks for people who go to bars, make hotel reservation payments and apply for gay marriage certificates. The inference was, how could Vermont ask for ID at the local watering hole and not at the polls?

This is the second time in a week the voter fraud card has been pulled against the Vermont Secretary of State’s office. The day after Town Meeting Day, Jack Lindley, chair of the Vermont GOP, insisted that Romney should have won 50 percent of the vote (and taken all the state’s ballots). Read the VTDigger.org report.

Lindley blamed “irregularities” in Burlington for Romney’s capture of 40 percent of Vermont ballots, and he wondered whether voters, about 7,000 of whom he claimed hadn’t been purged from the Burlington checklist, were Americans.

The great unwashed in Vermont — with voter ID in hand, or not — however, had their say, and the only party guilty of fraud, it turns out, is O’Keefe. It’s illegal in Vermont to pose as a voter.

You remember O’Keefe, right? He’s the one who gave us the gotcha 2009 video that led to a freeze on funding for Association for Community Organization for Reform Now, a group that serves low-income Americans. O’Keefe posed in the video as a “pimp” and appeared with a “prostitute” at six ACORN locations. The couple asked ACORN employees for advice on tax evasion, human smuggling and child prostitution. In another hidden camera stunt, O’Keefe discredited National Public Radio development officials.

Now he’s launched “Project Veritas,” and he’s going after poll workers across the nation.

Secretary of State Jim Condos says O’Keefe’s tactics to undermine the credibility of poll workers in Vermont is similar. “It’s much ado about nothing,” Condos said. “It’s like he’s try to incite a riot when there is no riot. This guy is on a mission to expose voter fraud across the country, but he’s the one who’s committing it.”

Condos filed a formal complaint with the Vermont attorney general on Tuesday, asking the state’s chief prosecutor to investigate O’Keefe.

Voter ID requirements disenfranchise about 10 percent of voters, most of whom are the citizens who are old, poor and from diverse racial backgrounds, and face barriers at the polls, according the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. These voters also tend to trend Democratic. A report from the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that 29 states required some kind of identification as of last November.

Redistricting: It’s not over until it’s over

Politics never stop. Not even in Vermont. A week after Democrat Miro Weinberger won his bid for mayor of Burlington, the Queen City’s pols are embroiled in a dust-up over a redistricting plan for state rep seats.

The House of Representatives approved a redistricting plan last month that kept the status quo in place and managed to be about as noncontroversial as a reapportionment plan can be. The map was then sent to the Boards of Civil Authority around the state for approval.

In Burlington, the BCA is the City Council and on Monday night council members approved a new version of the House map that includes a swap out of three neighborhoods that Jason Lorber, Jean O’Sullivan and Kesha Ram represent.

The plan was approved 9-6 after seven of the nine reps for the city sent a formal letter of complaint to the Board of Civil Authority subcommittee, which was comprised of two Progressives, two Republicans and one Democrat. The letter from Burlington Democrats accuses the BCA of significantly altering Chittenden 3-1, 3-2 and 3-3.

Democrats say the Progressives and Republicans on the council cooked up a plan to erode Democratic power in an important area of the city. A Progressive proponent of the new plan says it was the only way to make the Roosevelt Park neighborhood contiguous.

The upshot is, Jean O’Sullivan, who was appointed by Gov. Peter Shumlin to replace Rachel Weston, will lose Roosevelt Park to Chittenden 3-3 and Sandra Circle neighborhood to Republican Kurt Wright’s conservative stronghold in Chittenden 3-1. In exchange, O’Sullivan will represent Lakeview Terrace and Lake Street.

The swap also leaves two other Dems out in the cold. Lorber and newly appointed Rep. Jill Krowinski, who share the 3-3 district, will lose Lakeview Terrace and Lake Street and will serve the Roosevelt Park neighborhood instead.

Nick Charyk, head of the Vermont Democratic House Campaign, sees it as a triple whammy. He suspects the Progressives have one or two candidates from Roosevelt Park that want to run for the House.

“There’s a pattern of Republicans and Progressives teaming up,” Charyk said. “It’s a tactical decision. This way they have much better chance of getting Jill Krowinski or Jason Lorber out of there.” The move also leaves O’Sullivan potentially vulnerable.

Progressive Emma Mulvaney Stanak says the redistricting changes were not about politics, they were about geography. Roosevelt Park, she says, is not contiguous with the rest of its existing district. The neighborhood became part of 3-2 for the first time in 2002 in a bizarre cutout. “There’s no physical connectivity to the rest of 3-2,” she said. “The commonsense around that was obvious. Why not have the whole section be contiguous.”

City Council member Ed Adrian, a Democrat, says the swap will solidify Wright’s base and potentially set the table for a new Republican in the House when Rep. Bill Aswad, 90, a Democrat, retires.

“Three neighborhoods are being swapped out for the sake of being swapped out,” Adrian said. “If they were left where they were, the numbers would be OK.”

Adrian says the current configuration meets the standard deviation requirements. He questions the necessity of the changes. “I think it’s doing a disservice to people in neighborhood when they’ve gotten used to voting in a certain place, and they know who their reps are.”

Mulvaney-Stanak accused the Democrats of being unwilling to negotiate on the issue. Progressive Rep. Chris Pearson, on the other hand, she said, was willing to engage in a give-and-take in his district located near UVM. “The big idea is you have to compromise on these maps,” Mulvaney Stanak said. “There wasn’t much compromise going on with the Dems.”

Fees for health insurance brokers on the docket for House floor on Wednesday

On Wednesday the House will debate a bill that would require more transparency in the fees consumers pay for brokers in their health insurance premiums.

A bill from the House Committee on Health Care would require insurance companies to list in a policy contract how much people are paying for brokers’ fees.

Brokers help people pick the right insurance plans for themselves or their employees. In the individual and small group market, these fees are “baked in” to the premiums. Consumers pay between 3 and 4 percent of their monthly health insurance premium to pay the fee, regardless whether they use the service. The fee currently does not show up on the agreement with the insurance company.

The bill would not prohibit the billing practice in July when it goes into effect, said Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, vice chair of the health care committee. It would only require insurance companies to itemize the costs for brokers.

Starting in 2014, however, when the state implements a health benefit exchange or insurance marketplace, brokers’ fees can’t be baked into the rates per requirements in the federal health care law, Copeland-Hanzas said.

~Alan Panebaker

Anne Galloway

Comments

  1. Patrick Cashman :

    It would be sufficient to decry the tactics and the individual applying them without editorializing on the issue itself within what purports to be a news article.

    The rigor of the Brennan Center study cited as evidence has been questioned (“Without Proof : The Unpersuasive Case Against Voter Identification”, by Hans von Spakovsky and Alex Ingram of the Heritage Foundation), and two other studies appear to show either no or positive impact to turnout, ( “The Empirical Effects of Voter-ID
    Laws: Present or Absent”, University of Delaware’s Jason Mycoff and David C. Wilson and University of Nebraska’s Michael W. Wagner / “The Effects of Photographic Indentification on Voter Turnout in Indiana: A County-Level Analysis” by Jeffrey Milyo of the Institute of Public Policy at the University of Missouri).

    If this story is meant as an editorial, then it should be clearly labelled as such. If, however, it was meant to provide a “fact driven report” per this site’s “About” page, it falls well short.

  2. Alan Sexton :

    I am puzzled by your overt subjectivity, Ms. Galloway.

    Your obvious disdain for the messenger aside, the message itself should alarm anyone sincerely interested in assuring the integrity of democratic process.

    Consider that what you seem to be angrily defending, if not unwittingly advocating is: regardless of whether one is a Democrat, Republican, Independent, of legal age, legal status, whatever, one is currently able to travel town to town on election day and having done minimal research, such as reviewing published obituaries, real estate transactions, etc., vote.

    So, I am I to surmise that you are fine with the hypothetical of a person enlisting 10, 20, 100, or whatever number of their friends and going town to town in November and casting potentially hundreds, perhaps even thousands of illegitimate votes for the Republican candidate?

    Clearly, you are subjective. However, understand that democracy is analogous to two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner, and the political affiliations of the wolves and the lamb change as frequently as does the direction of the blowing winds.

    Yes, the messenger may have his flaws–as do we all, however, the message should nonetheless alarm anyone who is sincerely interested in assuring integrity of the democratic process.

    It is reasonable to conclude that we are very susceptible to partisan inspired fraud and it would be far more responsible to acknowledge this reality and address the problem, rather than unproductively attack the messenger.

  3. Regarding O’Keefe: one of the totally misrepresented ACORN videos was of O’Keefe and Giles and a conversation with an innocent ACORN worker in Brooklyn, NYC, NY. Giles was posing as a prostitute, and O’Keefe was posing as her boyfriend (by the way – not pimp and that pimp fur jacket was never worn in any of the ACORN videos by O’Keefe – that was more BS). O’Keefe and Giles’ cover story? That Giles was a prostitute trying to evade a violent pimp, and O’Keefe wanted to help the poor victim of a violent pimp.

    O’Keefe and Giles hit the talk circuit to over and over tell us all how the ACORN worker they talked to advised them to hide Giles’ cash from her prostitution buisness in a coffee can and bury that can in the back yard – so the IRS won’t find it (one the lies regarding ACORN that Vermont’s own radical right wing ally Welch apparently still buys into).

    Funny thing – the full video shows a story of an ACORN worker trying to help Giles hide her money FROM HER VIOLENT PIMP! The video further reveals that the ACORN worker was telling Giles and O’Keefe that for Giles to purchase a house (another part of the cover), she would need legally declared income. THAT’S RIGHT: THE ACORN WORKER WAS TRYING TO HELP GILES EVADE A VIOLENT PIMP!

    Nope – no intent to hide from the IRS.

    The historical evidence is complete: the radical right wing attacks supported by Welch that were leveled against ACORN were based entirely on lies. Video segments played without context, costumes worn in publicity appearances that had nothing to do with the ACORN videos and more all were used as evidence that somehow somewhere ACORN had done something wrong.

    None of it was true!

    Yet Welch insisted on voting to attack and destroy the low income advocacy group ACORN … and he doubled down on his lie based attacks in ensuing years.

    Welch on Mark Johnson Show 07/12/2010 – http://ramabahama.com/public/welch_acorn_mjshow_100712.mp3

    Welch on Mark Johnson Show – (where I mistakenly call Welch a Senator) http://ramabahama.com/public/welch_acorn_mjshow_110502.mp3

    This is how Welch treats true progressive causes. A vote for Welch is just a vote for yet more radical right wing appeasement and failure.

    O’Keefe is determined to undermine our open and public voting system, and he seems determined to do it by violating the law: O’Keefe deserves to be in jail, and Welch does NOT deserve re-election.

  4. james rice :

    Gentlemen:

    A couple of things.

    I might have my decimal in the wrong place, but voter fraud in America constitutes 0.0001% of all ballots cast. The solution — poll taxes masquerading as voter ID laws — being adopted by GOP-dominated statehouses is hardly a threat to democracy or a widespread “problem.”

    The real threat to democracy are the redistricting plans that disenfranchise voters of color by gerrymandering districts to ensure minority candidates — Democrats — can’t win, or by drawing districts that make no logical sense to get the same result. Often this is purely partisan, without racial politics. And yes, Democrats also play this game, but to a much, much smaller extent.

    The real threat to the integrity of voting? A growing lack of transparency in how votes are now counted by third party vendors who are being allowed to hide behind a curtain of secrecy. O’Keefe and his right-wing counterparts should be fighting the use of voting technology with no paper trail and fighting third party voting machine vendors — and their GOP statehouse friends — who don’t have to answer to the public.

    As far as poor O’Keefe, he’s already been discredited. He’s the fraud.

    • Alan Sexton :

      Mr Rice, as you have failed to do so, please cite a specific and credible nonpartisan source for your interesting assertion that voter fraud accounts for “0.0001% of all ballots cast”

      Also, the movement to require ID — made readily attainable and at no costs to people legally entitled to vote obviously is not a poll tax because, well, these would be free and readily attainable for people legally entitled to vote.

      My greater concern is the concerted effort against assuring integrity in elections by Progressives and Dems. Integrity is not (or at least should not be) a pratisan issue.

  5. Meg Streeter :

    This is very interesting indeed and several questions come to mind – doesn’t Vermont law require that the voter be known to the election official with the voter checklist and, if not, show an ID? If not, why not? This just seems reasonable to me and I’m surprised our Secretary of State isn’t more concerned.

  6. Karl Riemer :

    Say something bad about cholera and someone will jump up and cry foul. This is a report on fraudulent fraud, that is, a report in which the only fraud is committed by the reporter. What’s more heinous and corrosive than deliberately inventing rancor and suspicion for political gain by lying about good people? What’s more reprehensible? At least cholera doesn’t pretend to have a conscience.
    In most Vermont towns, most list-checkers are personally familiar with most voters. Vermont has a long proud tradition of minimal interference, resisting adding laws until there’s a demonstrated need; there is no evidence of voter fraud in Vermont. The scenario cited above and the conclusion drawn are farcically unlikely under the current system and I have to wonder what goes on in a mind so conversant with tactics of and impetus for cheating.

  7. Kristin Sohlstrom :

    Okeefe is not the problem

    • james rice :

      Oh Ms. Sohlstrom, yes he is.

  8. O’Keefe and company proved nothing more than something we already knew: a determined criminal conspiracy will succeed at least in the initial phases. Problem is we already knew this, and this is the reason for criminal laws dealing with conspiracies.

    It is important to note the whole misdirection of “voter fraud” is based upon a false premise that we have some epidemic of voter fraud occuring in the US and Vermont. This premise, like the infamouse ACORN videos that Welch still uses as an excuse for his assault on that organization, is entirely and proven false.

    Final point: if I’m given the choice between stringent voter ID laws that disenfranchise thousands or millions of legitamite voters and more open voting laws that result in a miniscule amount of fraudulant voting – I’ll take the latter every day.

    The worst kind of voter fraud is that which fraudulantly keeps a person from voting.

  9. Stan Hopson :

    Anne,

    I’m disapointed in your glaring lack of objectivity in this story. Your “shoot the messanger” angle could be taken verbatium from the far leftie progressive site Green Mountain Daily. For someone who has done a tremendous job being fair to all parties usually, you definately stepped in it here.

    Now your future pieces will be under undue scrunity with people like myself wondering if you’re in cohootz with the rest of the left leaning mainstream media in this state.

    Let’s hope not, huh?

    • O’Keefe uses racism as a propaganda tool in this video. The poll workers, hotel workers, town clerks and bartenders respond to his questions with forbearance and integrity. They’re the ones I admire.

      • Patrick Cashman :

        Ms. Galloway,
        What an odd response. Instead of denying that you used the story to advance your own agenda, you appear to be justifying why you did so.

  10. Neil Mortensen :

    All the above comments seem to ignore the fact that I have a constitutional right to vote. There are laws in place to penalize people who attempt voter fraud, as I suspect Mr. Okeefe is about to find out. Voting is a right. It is not like buying a bottle of booze or renting a car. Poll taxes, of which the “voter id” laws are just a modern version, were ruled unconstitutional for a reason.

    Ladies and gentlemen, “I’ll give you my right to vote when you pry it from my cold dead hands.”

  11. Gary Murphy :

    There is a blog post on CrooksAndLiars that questions whether these videos were even actually made in VT. The post notes that none of the dates on the videos coincides with the date of the primary election
    http://crooksandliars.com/karoli/james-okeefe-takes-voter-id-clown-show-verm

  12. Dan Barlow :

    Kudos to Anne for calling James O’Keefe what he is – a hollow provocateur who uses deceit, racism, sexism, homophobia and other deplorable tactics to get his story (even if that story doesn’t exist).

    I watched the video. And what I saw (aside from an amateur production that most documentary filmmakers would cringe at) is municipal officials, election poll workers and staff at Vermont bars and restuarants following the law. James O’Keefe and his crew were the ones committing voter fraud.

  13. Gary Murphy :

    Look at the time stamps on the video, 2/27, 3/8 & 3/9. What voting was being held in VT on those dates?

    • Gary Murphy :

      Actually, I missed that the 3/8 & 3/9 dates were in 2009. March 8 & 9, 2009 were a Sunday and Monday.

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