Join us this week as Little Pavel learns about vote fraud under the Arch.
by John F. Di Leo
It was closing time at headquarters, and Pockets was looking forward to shutting down the office for the night. He and his young volunteer, Pavel, had been collating literature all evening for a big mailing that the Boss had written for their best donors, and they were looking forward to their well-deserved slice of pie at the late-night “family restaurant” on the corner. But just as Pockets was turning out the lights, the phone rang.
Pavel answered promptly and professionally. “51st Ward Party Headquarters. How may we tax you today?”
“What???” came the voice of the Boss, thundering through the phone wires.
“Help… Umm… How may we help you today?” Pavel attempted to cover his freudian slip. “51st Ward Party Headquarters. We’re just closing for the evening; may I take a message?”
The Boss paused for a moment, and figured he must have heard wrong. Taxes on his mind. Taxes on everybody’s mind. Thinking about nothing but taxes all day, worrying about how the heck we can deliver the ward in November when every small businessman, big businessman, investor, oh heck, everybody on earth, is fully aware that a massive tax increase is scheduled for less than sixty days later… and if they’re not aware yet, the Republicans are bound to make sure they will be by election day. This is going to be one depressing campaign season.
“Look, this is Committeeman William Marcy. Can you put Pockets on the phone?” Famous in the neighborhood for wearing tweed sportcoats even in summer, the Boss wrote brochures, glad-handed, and raised money, but left the day-to-day operations to his trusty deputy committeeman, Pockets.
Pockets took the phone from 17-year-old Pavel once he’d gotten all his chuckling out of his system. “It’s 9pm, so we’re just closing up for the night. What’s up, Boss?”
“How far did you get? Can the mailing go out tonight?”
“No, but we’re almost done. Another hour or two in the morning, and we’ll be able to mail it tomorrow.”
“That’ll do this time, Pockets. Thanks. G’night.” Having successfully confirmed that what little is still in his control was on track, the Boss returned his phone to his holster and returned his concentration to the cards in his hands. It was poker night, after all.
Back at headquarters, Pavel and Pockets finished closing up the office, at just a minute past nine, and strolled down the block for their well-deserved pie a la mode.
“For a minute there, Pockets, I thought he was going to order us to keep working late!”
“No, Paully, not this time. Although the closer we get to the election, the more likely that’ll be. Since this’ll be your first campaign season, you may need a warning: a prompt 9pm closing is gonna get pretty rare after Labor Day, maybe even sooner.” A veteran of dozens, maybe hundreds, of elections, Pockets clearly knew what he was talking about as he continued.
“Elections are a 24 hour war, Paully. In the information age, all the more so. The bloggers, the cable news shows, even the printing presses are busy day and night; you don’t hafta wait for morning to get a new issue out. Both a surprise attack ad and a sharp response via press release and email blast can be out between close of business one day and the start of the next, if the campaigns know what they’re doing.” Pockets shook his head wistfully, missing the calmer pace of yesteryear. “Nope, it never ends.”
As they entered the pie shop, Pavel asked “So it really isn’t over until the polls close at 7pm on election day, eh, Pockets?”
“Not even then, Paully, not even then.”
They took their customary seats in the back corner, ensuring that at least a couple of empty booths separated them from the other late-evening customers, and Pockets began the night’s lecture.
“Have we ever talked about St. Louis and Kansas City, Paully? Stop me if I’ve told you about this before.”
“Nope,” said the young volunteer. He’d never heard anything odd about Missouri elections. Home of Mark Twain, Harry Truman, and Rush Limbaugh, Pavel had always assumed that it must be a normal, clean state with nothing exceptional for the old ward heeler to tell him about. He perked up his ears.
They ordered their dessert, and Pockets waited until the waitress moved on before continuing. “You know how the polls have a standard opening time of 6:00am in Illinois, and a closing time of 7:00pm?”
“Or,” added Pavel, “a few minutes later to accommodate anybody in line at 7pm, right?”
“Excellent, my boy.” His old mentor smiled. “In most states, the closing time of 6, or 7, or 8, is just when they shut the doors. Anybody in line at that time can continue to vote until they’re done, and the judges aren’t allowed to shut down the machines until every last one has voted.”
“So what, Pockets? That’s not much of a difference, is it?”
“All the difference in the world, Paully. Let’s look at Missouri.” Pockets started to draw a crude map of Missouri on the napkin, scribbling big blotches into the upper left and central right edges. “Missouri is a Republican state, right?”
“Can’t be, Pockets! They have a Democrat governor, and Senator McCaskill, and they went for Barry in ‘08, right?”
“Nope, Missouri went for McCain in 2008… It’s a Republican state, son, make no mistake. But we manage to keep it competitive, getting almost half the Congressmen, one of two U.S. Senators, and almost half of both the state house and state senate, thanks to our strengths in Kansas City and St. Louis.”
Pavel understood. “Big cities like ours, eh, Pockets?”
“More like ours than you can imagine, son. Thanks to the best friend the Democratic Party has: the Federal Judge.”
Huh? “Which federal judge, Pockets?”
“No, not one in particular, Paully. The institution. Federal judges were invented so that we could win more elections. Wonderful folks. Couldn’t care less about the law; they’re all about paying back the Party for giving them the best job money can buy. Limited responsibilities, unlimited power. What’s not to like?”
Pavel was hooked. “So what do they do? How can federal judges help us win elections?”
“On election day in St. Louis and Kansas City, you have people start calling in complaints early in the day, saying they couldn’t get into their polling places on time. They were lost. There wasn’t parking. They were told they were at the wrong place. They were sent on a wild goose chase. The machines were broken. The judges didn’t have the boxes of ballots open in time. So they couldn’t vote when they were supposed to, and they can’t get back to the polls until after 7pm. What can they do?”
Pavel asked “How do you know which voters had those problems?”
“Doesn’t matter, Paully. Some will. Some always do. There’s always a precinct somewhere that had trouble finding a power outlet for the machine, or that hadn’t finished opening the bags of ballots by 6am, or that forgot to open the doors until 6:05 or 6:10 when the first voter knocked and they realized they were running behind.” Pockets chuckled again, a sure signal that he was proud of some larceny to follow. “Sometimes, just to be safe, we direct the odd precinct to get a late start, to make absolutely certain that there are a few such reports. It’s nice when we don’t hafta orchestrate all the calls; if a couple here and there are genuine, all the better, eh, Paully?”
Their pie a la mode was delivered, and Pockets pointed at his bowl and smiled. “See? Fruit group, bread group, dairy group. Got everything we need except the meat group.”
“You add a beef jerky to that, Pockets, and I’m never volunteering again!” said Pavel with as straight a face as he could manage.
Pockets laughed a solid guffaw and returned to his story. “So after these calls’ve been coming in all morning – at least a couple dozen for sure, plus however many are real for good measure – a coupla friendly reporters call the election commission to ask how things are going. When they hear of the widespread polling places that didn’t start on time, they make a news story out of it. ‘What will the election commission do about this? How do you intend to make sure these people are able to vote so they aren’t disenfranchised by your office’s incompetence?’ And it works like a charm. Before ya know it, Paully, there’s an outcry of the public calling for an injunction to keep the polls open late into the evening, to accommodate all the poor folks who were locked out for five minutes at dawn!”
“But they can’t, can they? I thought the 7pm close was mandated by law?!” Pavel wasn’t prepared for yet another of his blissful beliefs about honest elections to be punctured this evening.
“Mandated by law?” Pockets sprayed through a mouthful of coffee. “When has a federal judge ever cared about the law?” He dabbed his chin with a napkin and went on. “Our federal judges live to set the law aside. They are the law. They outrank everybody – or act like they do, anyway. As long as we’ve got a federal judge in the area, we can keep the polls open as long as we want.”
Pavel asked for a clarification. “So what does that do for us? If they were going to vote at all, they’ve had a hundred years prior notice of when the election was going to be, right? Everybody in America knows full well that there’s an election on the first Tuesday in November of every even year; that never changes. So if they wanted to vote, they’d be there by 7pm. Republicans all work at their real jobs on election day; one of our best advantages over them is that the polls close at 7pm, so it’s hard for working folks to finish their dinner and go out again without missing the closing time. If you hold open the polls later, you invite more legitimate GOP votes too, right?”
Pockets smiled again. “You think they can pick up as many more votes as we can steal in two or three hours? Bah. Besides, we don’t open their precincts, just ours. Look at the last few elections in Missouri. There was even an outcry from their US Senators after the 2000 election, in which a dead guy won the US Senate seat away from John Ashcroft. A dead guy! I still can’t believe we got away with that one… all over the state, Missouri polling places closed at 7pm, but not in Kansas City or St Louis! Some stayed open for 45 minutes, some for a couple of hours… You think a majority of real voters would have elected the late Mel Carnahan, three weeks after the entire state knew he was killed in a plane crash? No, only a machine could win a race like that, my boy!”
Pockets signalled the waitress for another round of pie, and continued. “Gotta keep your eye on the subject at hand. This process isn’t about getting voters to vote. This is about making the most of our other opportunities, son.”
Pavel thought back on their other discussions over recent weeks, and his eyes went wide.
They had discussed how Chicago judges will quietly take advantage of lulls to cast votes on behalf of the “dead, uninterested, or moved away” names still on the rolls who were sure to be no-shows on election day. How New Orleans bus drivers ferry volunteers from precinct to precinct all day, casting dozens of votes, one per precinct, being given a new name and address to use at every polling place. How patronage workers must take their own family around to multiple precincts to vote multiple times if they want to keep their jobs.
“So the late closings are just another way to extend the time of what’s already been going on all day, then?”
Pockets beamed with pride as he saw his young acolyte catching on. “Yup, and it’s even better than that. Because after the rest of the state’s polls close, we can start getting a feeling as to how many more votes we need from these precincts. Instead of just stopping at the normal quota, we set new quotas. Another fifty, another hundred, another two hundred. Whatever it takes to bring us over the top. It’s not an exact science, of course, but we’ve come as close as we can. All thanks to our always-dependable federal judges.”
Pavel voiced his first thought – “The buses. Wow. We can just aim the buses to make a second or third trip in the evening. Another 44, then another, then another. All with marked pollsheets so they know their new assumed name!”
“You bet, Paully! There’s no limit to the number of precincts the New Orleans Method can cover, especially if you tie in the Missouri Method. If you’re not done by 7pm, you just identify which precincts still have room for more votes by 7pm, and you keep those polls open longer! You know how you kids like to use computer expressions for everything? ‘there’s an app for this, there’s an app for that.’ Well, son, in our business it’s federal judges. There’s a federal judge for this, there’s a federal judge for that!”
Pavel was beginning to think Pockets was pulling his leg, but Pockets continued. “Missouri knows which judges to turn to when an election looks close. They get some federal judge to issue an edict, requiring the polls in St. Louis, or Kansas City, or both, to stay open another two hours, or four, or six… as long as the party figures it’ll take to get all the numbers we need.”
Pavel thought back… he was only a kid during the election of 2000, but he had heard about this anomaly. “Jim Talent lost the Governor’s race, and John Ashcroft lost the Senate seat, even though George W. Bush won the state, right?”
“Exactly. It’s not so hard when we get to play with a different rule book than the GOP does, ya know? Their polls close; ours stay open. Their voters vote once; ours vote once per precinct, as many times as our bus routes allow. We’ve won at least two U.S. Senate seats in Missouri that I know of, that way… and who knows how many of our Congressmen, state legislators, and statewide officeholders down there, by extension.”
“And the GOP has to run real live candidates, while ours can be killed in a plane crash and we still keep them on the ballot, appointing whoever we want when the corpse wins.”
“What a country, eh, Paully?” Pockets paused to allow the waitress to deliver the second round of pie and to freshen his coffee, and he sat back.
“Pockets, is this the sort of thing that the Republicans could stop, or are they just totally overwhelmed in this matter because we’ve been doing it so long and we’re so good at it?”
Pockets chuckled. “All they’d need to do is support their federal Real ID bill, and mandate that a Real ID – such as a state-issued driver’s license – must be presented by the voter. That’d do it. But we’ve beaten ‘em every time they’ve attempted it. We just say that ‘the poor can’t afford driver’s licenses; they can’t even afford cars!’ That logic always does the trick.”
“But of course the poor can get a driver’s license, or another state ID,” said Pavel. “My uncle doesn’t drive, but he has a state picture ID. It only cost him about five bucks! And there’s really no good reason to ever keep a polling place open late, is there? If the Republicans wanted to stop this kind of vote fraud, they’d just make it a law that we could never hold open a polling place late, not ever, for any reason, and specifically forbid federal judges from overriding it. Congress could do that. Even if a polling place does open late in the morning, there’s twelve more hours for them to return on time. The voters hafta know they can still leave early to vote after work without fearing repercussions from their employers, right? Why on earth do the Republicans put up with our tricks?”
“Nobody knows, son, nobody knows.” Pockets just scooped up his last crumbs, took his last sip of coffee, and smiled. “We should start wrapping it up, son. You go home to your parents so we can start early tomorrow finishing up that mailing. We’ve got work to do.”
Copyright 2010 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based corporate trainer specializing in international trade. In writing these fictional accounts of Pavel and his pool-playing mentor, he reflects with sadness that he has never voted more than once on any election day, and feels rather left out.
Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the IR URL and byline are included.