The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Every day, as the novel coronavirus spreads lethally across the nation, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is conducting a televised master class in government that has drawn a wide and admiring audience. Lauded for his elevated and candid leadership, he is underlining the absence of any such qualities in the president of the United States right when they are needed most.

Where President Donald Trump so often sounds feckless, egomaniacal and terribly uninformed, Cuomo appears serious, determined and fully in command of the facts. While Trump dithers and tries to escape responsibility, Cuomo asserts his authority and then accepts the inevitable blame for wrenching decisions. It is all too obvious which one is the adult in the room. Trump boasts of his phony greatness, while Cuomo can rattle off a long list of real achievements.

But the stark contrast between these politicians goes beyond their personalities.

Trump personifies the right-wing Republican revulsion of government, which is why he enjoys the unquestioning loyalty of his own party’s most extreme elements. Under his father’s tutelage, Trump came to see government as a cynical game that rewarded corruption. If government demanded to collect taxes owed, the Trump Organization found brazen ways to avoid paying. If government enforced an end to housing discrimination, the Trumps fought in court to preserve their racial preferences. And if government forbade the self-serving misuse of the Trump Foundation or the defrauding of Trump University enrollees, then the Trumps would look for a way around those rules, too.

The family that Cuomo grew up in regarded government as an instrument to improve society and, for those who served in office, a public trust. His late father, Mario Cuomo, who ran New York as governor for three terms, became one of the most eloquent advocates of Democratic Party principles. Mario’s rhetoric depicted the state as a family, with mutual support as its watchword and pragmatic progressivism as its guiding philosophy. The point of government was not to grab for oneself — as the Trumps did incessantly — but to achieve betterment for all.

It was a compelling vision, even if his own government sometimes fell short of those aspirations. And his decision not to seek the presidency disappointed an entire generation of admiring liberals.

While Andrew Cuomo too admired his father and reveres his memory, he has never enjoyed the same reputation for intellect and charm. From the time he ran his father’s early campaigns, he seemed to be little more than a tough kid from Queens, smart and effective but more ruthless and less compassionate than his father.

The kinder way to describe him in those days was “an operations guy,” less interested in liberal ideals or the fine points of Catholic social ethics than in getting the job done. Many people disliked him, especially if they got in his way.

Beneath the abrasive exterior, however, there was always something else that only those closest to him would glimpse. He has his father’s buoyant confidence and dry sense of humor — and a surprising capacity to comfort the grieving that emerges on private occasions. Those qualities make a difference now, at a frightening moment when the country needs reassurance so badly.

Andrew Cuomo is still an old-fashioned operations guy, which means that as governor, he insists on science, metrics, data and systems that work. In an era when the news cycle has been dominated by Trump’s lies, fabrications and illusions, Cuomo’s refusal to sugarcoat a dire reality is refreshing. So is his capacity to grapple with the details of governance, which have always been part of his life. These are the time-honored virtues of liberalism. And his service in federal and state positions has trained him for this hour in a way that is true of few other public officials.

We can only hope that his sane and sound approach to the crisis will prevail (and that he continues to succeed in mostly suppressing his true feelings about Trump). We can also hope that even at his age, with all his experience, he is still learning — not only about the world but about himself.

What he has showed us lately is a capacity to transcend his perceived limitations and display the decency, strength, humor and inspiration missing from our government. No matter what happens in this year’s election, a rebuilding America will need such leaders badly. If we still have a bigger and brighter future, then this Andrew Cuomo does, too.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

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.

Keep reading... Show less

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.

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}