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Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) — With Newt Gingrich’s surge, the Republican presidential race is more uncertain than ever. But the party’s pick for vice president has for months seemed like a foregone conclusion.

Although he claims to have no interest in the job, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is still the most likely VP choice for any Republican nominee, especially Gingrich, who has mentioned Rubio specifically.

Rubio is young, bright, handsome and from a critical swing state that he carried in 2010 by nearly 20 points. Most important, he’s Hispanic. He doesn’t have to help Republicans win Hispanics outright, but merely cut into the Democrats’ mammoth advantage. The Obama campaign knows that if the president, who won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, can be held below 60 percent this time, he’s almost sure to lose.

But in truth, Rubio is not the ideal vice-presidential candidate to solve Republicans’ trouble with Hispanics. Cuban- Americans have a big voice in Florida politics (where they already vote Republican) but make up only 4 percent of Hispanics nationwide. Mexican-Americans make up 66 percent of Hispanics, and tapping their potential at the polls may determine the results in swing states such as Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.

There’s no evidence that a Cuban-American who opposes even the DREAM Act (which would create a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants who finish high school and join the military or attend college) will bring other Hispanics out to vote or get them to switch parties.

A better option for Republicans might be New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, but party operatives tell me that after Sarah Palin they aren’t likely to bet again on a new and obscure female governor.

So Rubio sits atop the short list. This should have Republicans worried, and not just because Rubio arrived in the Senate less than a year ago and carries the risks of any rookie. He’s been scuffed up in two flaps this year that highlight the complexities of being a minority of an ethnic minority in a party that’s shooting itself in the foot with minorities.

First, the Washington Post reported in October that he “embellished” his background by falsely claiming throughout his political career that his parents fled Cuba after Fidel Castro’s Communist takeover in 1959. The article said Rubio’s parents in fact came from Cuba to Miami in 1956. At first glance, that might not seem like a big deal. And Rubio claimed there was no “functional difference” between the two dates in his heroic family story. “The essence of the story was not the date,” he told the Miami Herald.

Except that it was. Those Cubans who came to the U.S. in 1956 when Cuba, under Fulgencio Batista, was still a close American ally were economic immigrants like the millions of others who have arrived here seeking a better material life. Those who came after the 1959 revolution were political exiles. In the context of the Cuban-American experience, the “functional difference” is huge.

Rubio placed his family among the latter group when he emotionally told their story on the stump and in his campaign literature. This narrative was false, and it raises fundamental questions about his truthfulness.

Rubio’s friends and supporters in Miami’s Little Havana don’t care about the episode. But Hispanic economic immigrants could react differently if they see him as a pull-up-the-ladder guy. They have long envied and even resented political exiles because exiles are welcomed into the U.S. with open arms and allowed to settle here permanently. To learn that Rubio’s family was actually little different than the millions of immigrants seeking economic opportunity — the same ones that Rubio and other Republicans now say deserve no “amnesty” — might not go down so well.

It doesn’t help that the senator now seems to be at war with the most powerful force in Hispanic media — Univision, which has the largest Spanish-language audience in the country. In July, Univision aired a story about the drug arrest 24 years ago of Rubio’s brother-in-law. It was a meaningless tabloid report with no impact on Rubio’s political standing. But the senator handled it badly.

His staff told reporters that Univision had offered to kill the story in exchange for Rubio appearing on the network’s Sunday show. Even if true, that hardly justified the next step. Rubio’s surrogates demanded that Univision’s president of news resign and that the Republican presidential candidates boycott the Jan. 29 Univision debate on the eve of the Florida primary. (Telemundo, owned by NBC, will sponsor a debate instead.)

The boycott will conveniently allow the presidential candidates to avoid being confronted by Univision’s lead news anchor, Jorge Ramos, a fierce advocate of immigration reform who is also wildly popular in the Hispanic community. Imagine if President Barack Obama was feuding with a combination of Bryant Gumbel, Al Sharpton and Oprah Winfrey. Might cost him a little with black voters.

None of this is likely to dissuade the eventual Republican nominee from picking Rubio if he thinks it will help him win the White House. But will it?

(Jonathan Alter is a Bloomberg View columnist and the author of “The Promise: President Obama, Year One.” The opinions expressed are his own.)

Copyright 2011 Bloomberg

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The Arizona 2020 election "audit" under way

Screenshot from azaudit.org

As ongoing threats by Trump loyalists to subvert elections have dominated the political news, other Republicans in two key states—Florida and Arizona—are taking what could be important steps to provide voters with unprecedented evidence of who won their most close and controversial elections.

In both battleground states, in differing contexts, Republicans are lifting the curtain on the data sets and procedures that accompany key stages of vetting voters, certifying their ballots, and counting votes. Whether 2020’s election-denying partisans will pay attention to the factual baselines is another matter. But the election records and explanations of their use offer a forward-looking road map for confronting the falsehoods that undermine election results, administrators, and technologies.

In Republican-run Florida, the state is finalizing rules to recount votes by incorporating digital images of every paper ballot. The images, together with the paper ballots, create a searchable library to quickly tally votes and identify sloppily marked ballots. Questionable ballots could then be retrieved and examined in public by counting boards to resolve the voter’s intent.

“The technology is so promising that it would provide the hard evidence to individuals who want to find the truth,” said Ion Sancho, former supervisor of elections in Leon County, where Tallahassee is located, who was among those on a January 4 conference call workshop led by the Division of Elections seeking comments on the draft rule and procedures manual revisions.

Under the new recount process, a voter’s paper ballot would be immediately rescanned by an independent second counting system—separate from what each county uses to tally votes. The first digital file produced in that tabulation process, an image of every side of every ballot card, would then be analyzed by software that identifies sloppy ink marks as it counts votes. Several Florida counties pioneered this image-based analysis, a version of which is used by the state of Maryland to double-check its results before certifying its election winners.

“The fact that it has overcome opposition from the supervisors of elections is telling because the number one problem with the [elected county] supervisors is [acquiring and learning to use] new technology; it’s more work to do,” Sancho said. “The new technology doesn’t cost much in this case. Everyone has scanners in their offices already because every voter registration form by law must be scanned and sent to the Division of Elections.”

The appeal of using ballot images, apart from the administrative efficiencies of a searchable library of ballots and votes, is that the images allow non-technical people to “see” voters’ intent, which builds trust in the process and results, said Larry Moore, the founder and former CEO of the Clear Ballot Group, whose federally certified technology would be used in Florida recounts.

But Florida’s likely incorporation of ballot images into its recount procedures, while a step forward for transparency, is unfolding in a fraught context. In 2021, its GOP-majority state legislature passed election laws that are seen as winnowing voters and rolling back voting options. In other words, it may be offering more transparency at the finish line but is also limiting participation upstream.

The new recount rule is expected to be in place by this spring, months before Florida’s 2022 primaries and midterm elections. Among the issues to be worked out are when campaign and political party officials and the public would observe the new process, because the election administrators do not want partisans to intentionally disrupt the rescanning process. These concerns were raised by participants and observers on the teleconference.

The Arizona Template


In Arizona, Maricopa County issued a report on January 5, “Correcting the Record: Maricopa County’s In-Depth Analysis of the Senate Inquiry.” The report is its most substantive refutation of virtually all of the stolen election accusations put forth by Trump loyalists who spent months investigating the state's presidential election.

Beyond the references to the dozens of stolen election accusations put forth by pro-Trump contractors hired by the Arizona Senate’s Republicans, the report offered an unprecedented road map to understanding how elections are run by explaining the procedures and data sets involved at key stages.

The report explained how Maricopa County, the nation’s second biggest election jurisdiction (after Los Angeles County) with 2.6 million registered voters, verified that its voters and ballots were legal. It also explained key cybersecurity features, such as the correct—and incorrect—way to read computer logs that prove that its central vote-counting system was never compromised online, as Trump supporters had claimed in Arizona (and Michigan).

“I’ve never seen a single report putting all of this in one place,” said John Brakey, an Arizona-based election transparency activist, who has sued Maricopa County in the past and routinely files public records requests of election data. “Usually, it takes years to understand all this.”

Taken together, Florida’s expansion of recounts to include using digital ballot images, and Maricopa County’s compilation of the data and procedures to vet voters, ballots, and vote counts, reveal that there is more evidence than ever available to confirm and legitimize election participants and results.

For example, Maricopa County’s investigation found that of the 2,089,563 ballots cast in its 2020 general election, one batch of 50 ballots was counted twice, and that there were “37 instances where a voter may have unlawfully cast multiple ballots”—most likely a spouse’s ballot after the voter had died. Neither lapse affected any election result.

“We found fewer than 100 potentially questionable ballots cast out of 2.1 million,” the report said. “This is the very definition of exceptionally rare.”

When Maricopa County explained how it had accounted for all but 37 out of 2.1 million voters, it noted that the same data sets used to account for virtually every voter were also used by the political parties to get out the vote. Thus, the report’s discussion of these data sets—voter rolls and the list of people who voted—offered a template to debunk voter fraud allegations. This accusation has been a pillar of Trump’s false claims and is a longtime cliché among the far right.

It is significant that this methodology, indeed the full report, was produced under Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a conservative Republican who has repeatedly said that he had voted for Trump, and was fully endorsed by Maricopa County’s Board of Supervisors, which has a GOP majority and held a special hearing on January 5 to review the findings.

In other words, the report is not just a rebuttal for the Arizona Senate Republican conspiracy-laced post-2020 review. It is a road map for anyone who wants to know how modern elections are run and how to debunk disinformation, including conspiracy theories involving alleged hacking in cyberspace.

“There is not a single accurate claim contained in [Arizona Senate cybersecurity subcontractor] CyFIR’s analysis of Maricopa County’s tabulation equipment and EMS [election management system],” the reportsaid, referring to accusations that counts were altered. “This includes the allegation that county staff intentionally deleted election files and logs, which is not true.”

When you add to Maricopa County’s template the introduction of a second independent scan of every paper ballot in future Florida recounts, what emerges are concrete steps for verifying results coming from Republicans who understand how elections work and can be held accountable.

Of course, these evidence trails only matter if voters or political parties want to know the truth, as opposed to following an ex-president whose political revival is based on lying about elections. However, more moderate Republicans seem to be recognizing that Trump’s stolen election rhetoric is likely to erode their base’s turnout in 2022, as Trump keeps saying that their votes don’t matter.

“You’ve got Republican buy-in,” said Florida’s Sancho, speaking of his GOP-ruled state’s embrace of more transparent and detailed recounts. “And Republicans, more than anyone else, should be concerned about whether their votes were counted as cast and as the voter intended.”

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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Michael Carvajal

Photo by Tom Williams via Reuters

The search is on for a new director of the federal Bureau of Prisons after Michael Carvajal announced on January 5 that he’s retiring from his appointed post and will leave when the Department of Justice finds his replacement.

The Biden Administration needs to replace Carvajal with a person who knows prisons inside and out: someone who’s been incarcerated before.

When President Joe Biden announced his first round of cabinet picks just weeks after being elected in 2020, then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said: “When Joe asked me to be his running mate, he told me about his commitment to making sure we selected a cabinet that looks like America – that reflects the very best of our nation.

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