By John F. Di Leo -
Our young campaign volunteer learns how some homeowners steal votes in Florida…
Pavel Syerov, Jr was in the dining room, playing rummy with his little brother, Paco (his real name was Peter, but everyone called him Paco), when their dad called their attention to something on the internet.
“Have you heard about Wendy Rosen?” he asked his politically-interested son. “It’s all over the news…”
Pavel said he hadn’t.
“Well, she was a Democrat candidate for Congress, and she just dropped out of the race, less than two months before the election. “ His dad was quickly scanning the news for more about her, finding little. “Jan Schakowsky just did an event for her, too. Heh, heh… serves her right. Wasted a day on somebody who dropped out within a week. Cool.”
Pavel read the article, and decided it was time to pay a visit to his old friends at 51st Ward Party Headquarters. He checked his wallet so he could pick up some snacks on the way… and then he made sure he had some antacids in his pocket, just in case.
Within half an hour, he was at the familiar haunt, bearing bags of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa for the volunteers (this time of year, there were always volunteers working on a mailing or lit drop), and of course a single bag of honey wheat pretzel braids for his mentor.
“Paully!” shouted Pockets, the old Deputy Committeeman as Pavel entered the room. “Welcome back! Been awhile!”
“Yes indeed, Pockets. Been away at college. Back for just a couple days.” Normally, Pavel didn’t like to lie, but when talking to Pockets and the rest of the denizens of the 51st Ward, he felt there were different standards in place. He was here to learn, and after all, when in Rome…
“So are ya here for awhile, Paully?” asked the old man. “Pull up a seat here; Mrs. Smithers was just on her way home, so you’ve got a station all ready for ya!”
Pavel felt guilty about helping them as much as he used to, now that he understood the party better, but he figured the education he was getting was much greater than the minimal help he was providing, so it was worthwhile.
They sat together with the ladies until the mailing was finished – a couple of them had never had chips and salsa before; they all liked it! – and then cleaned up the collating table together as the ladies departed, just like old times.
“So ya got time to stick around, Paully?” asked Pockets, gesturing toward his corner of the office.
“Sure, Pockets! Have a seat, and I’ll grab us a couple drinks!” Pavel headed to the refrigerator in the back as Pockets shuffled toward his desk. Pavel returned with a longneck for Pockets and a diet soda for himself, then revealed his bag of Pockets’ favorite snack.
“Honey wheat! Thank ya kindly, son!” The old man dove into the bowl of pretzels as Pavel chuckled and took a seat, letting a Wisconsin realtor magazine “accidentally” fall from his pocket onto the floor. He slowly bent to pick it up, after he was sure that Pockets had seen what it was. Pavel didn’t often resort to such hints, but he couldn’t think of any better way to bring up the news of the day “accidentally.”
“Whaddaya got there, Paully?”
“Oh, I’ve been helping my aunt with some research. I have relatives who sell vacation property in Wisconsin. It’s been rough lately, but they’re trying… the second home market still exists, you know, even though lots of people are in trouble on their first homes.”
Pockets took a swig of his beer and chuckled. “Well, if your folks ever buy one a dem second homes, ya just tell us about it, and we’ll see to it ya can make da most of it.” With the ladies gone for the evening, Pockets had discarded his uncomfortable front of neatness; he was now stuffing pretzels in his mouth and spraying crumbs as he spoke, as usual. Pavel moved his chair just a bit further back.
Pavel was glad he’d taken the bait. Now he could begin. “What do you mean, Pockets? Make the most of it, how?”
Pockets answered, “haven’t I ever told ya about the snowbird vote in Florida? Oh, you’ll like this, Paully.”
Pockets proceeded to explain in detail. “Here’s da ting. Most states have a law about whether ya can vote in their state or not. Usually it’s a matter of having a permanent address, and spending a certain amount of time there, over da course of a year. So for example, if you’re in one state for nine months and in another for three, ya should vote in the one you’re in for nine, usually. But some states have different rules because of college students, and military, and… well, let’s just say they aren’t enforced all that well.”
“Oh yes, Pockets, I knew that,” answered the young man. “Sometimes people choose to vote in the place where they shouldn’t because their votes will be more effective in one place than the other, right? Like in a swing state instead of a clearly blue or red state?”
“Nah, that’s not what I mean, Paully,” said Pockets, taking a long drink of beer. “When ya own two houses, ya pay taxes in both states, right? So it’s not fair to only vote in one. Lots of our people vote in both states, wherever dey got homes.”
“In the same election, Pockets? Not the party voting an unvoted registration as a favor, but the same person intentionally voting under his own name in two different states? Isn’t that dangerous?”
Pockets nearly spit out the pretzel braid he’d just munched. “Ha! Dangerous? It’s never enforced! Ya run more of a chance bein’ arrested for jaywalking.”
“So, does it happen a lot, Pockets?”
Pockets sat back a moment in thought. “Well, we don’t know, for sure. But it certainly can. Lots of people with winter homes, timeshares, condos and such in Florida, for example, are registered in both places. Both Chicago and Miami. Both New York and Miami. Both Boston and Miami. So they can show up in person ta vote in one, and cast an absentee ballot to vote in da other. Easy.”
Pavel muttered “Maryland too, I guess,” almost under his breath, but Pockets heard.
“Oh yeah, so ya heard about Wendy Rosen, huh?” Pockets shook his head. “Yeah, dat was unfortunate.” He set down his empty bottle, and Pavel took the hint. He got up to get themselves fresh drinks, and Pockets continued.
“Yeah, so dis Wendy Rosen lives in Maryland and Florida, and she’s voted in both, at least a coupla times. Today’s newspaper confirmed both 2006 and 2008, and she didn’t deny it. Da embarrassin’ think is dat she’s our nominee for Congress in Maryland’s 1st District. Now she’s dropped outa da race, which pretty much kills our ability to claim dat it was a Republican lie. It’s an admission uh guilt, sure enough. Darn it. Awful embarrassing. Shouldn’t a happened. Party was awful clumsy on dat one…”
Pockets’ pretzels and dry mouth had started to render his words almost unintelligible. Pavel delivered his longneck just in time.
“Thank ya kindly, Paully!” said the old man, taking a swig. “Yup, she shoulda known better. Ya vote other people’s names multiple times, not your own, ya know? Not if ya plan ta be a candidate yerself one day. Luckily, it’s not getting much press, so dat’s something.”
Pavel shook his head. “The story’s in the Washington Post today, and Yahoo News featured it on their main page. I’m afraid it’s all over the internet, Pockets.”
“Ah, dat’s not so bad, Paully,” answered Pockets. “Who reads news on the computer anyway….” Pockets turned to his computer and chuckled.
Pavel decided to press on. “Besides our primary nominee, Democrat Wendy Rosen of Maryland, do you know of other examples?”
“Well…” Pockets started to answer, “yes and no.” To Pavel’s quizzical expression, he continued to explain. “I don’t know of any dat have been stupid enough to admit to it, besides her, ya understand… but it’s certainly likely dat lotsa people register in both places specifically for da purpose of votin’ twice.” At this point, the old man gestured with a pretzel braid as if he was using it like a stylus to pop out a chad. The old gentleman was always entertaining.
“Ya remember when all da newspapers did their own recounts of Florida after 2000 to see if Bush or Gore really did win?” Pavel nodded, though he only knew it from later reading; he was pretty young in 2000. “Well, the papers said dat they found something like 46,000 snowbirds double registered in New York and the Miami-area counties alone. “
Pavel nearly dropped his soda. “46,000? I had no idea that many were double voting!”
“I didn’t say they were, Paully,” corrected the Deputy Committeman. “I said they were double registered. I dunno how many actually double voted. I remember a news story – duh New York Daily News, I think – that talked about how they studied and compared everything, and they were sure that of the 46,000 double registered folks they found, around a thousand definitely voted twice. Maybe more. They were just sure of about a thousand of ‘em. Since da 2000 election was decided by just a few hundred votes, even those numbers can make a difference, ya know.”
“Wow.” Pavel shook his head. “I wonder if it happens anywhere else, or if it’s just an east coast thing.”
Pockets chuckled and took a gulp of his beer, then answered “Ah, it happens everywhere, Paully, as ya might expect. Our people always manage to dismiss da concern when they’re interviewed, so they win the reporter over into thinking it’s not a big deal.”
Picking up a pretzel and pointing to Indiana on the wall map, Pockets said “I remember an article in some local Indiana paper in 2008 looking at duh same thing. They found about 2000 double registered people between little Allen County, Indiana and Florida. But when the election folks were interviewed, they just repeated the line about how most folks are honest, and nobody would do that, and there’s never proof that it happens, so it’s no big deal… and the reporters always carry forward that kind of spin for us, ya know? Awfully good of ‘em. We oughta send ‘em a box of chocolates, eh Paully?”
Pavel faked a chuckle, though he was getting sick to his stomach. Even in Indiana, this double voting problem still exists? Even after the Real ID efforts that Indiana put through? Wow.
“If the Republicans wanted to stop this… how would they do it, Pockets?”
Pockets chuckled again. “It ain’t easy, Paully. They’ve passed Real ID rules, in some states, darn it, but that only stops one kind of fraud, the kind where you claim to be somebody you’re not. But to control this kinda thing, you have to either have a national database or start enforcing the threat of jail and fines for the voter himself. Republicans have a fortunate hostility to the whole idea of a national ID or national database, so their own party ties their hands. And nobody wants to throw more people in jail when the jails are overcrowded as it is.”
“So what you’re saying, Pockets,” Pavel carefully formed the words… “is that Democrats with two homes have been given carte blanche to double vote if they want to, in state after state, whenever they have multiple homes, without even needing the party to help out by casting the ballots for them…?”
“Well, yeah, Paully, but remember, Republicans have been given duh same opportunity. Dey can do it too,” he mumbled, through a mouthful of pretzels.
“But Republicans never do, right?” Pavel said. “Republicans never really do commit vote fraud, so it’s all us, right?”
Pockets shook his head. “Nah, remember, there are a few corrupt Republicans here and there. Not a lot of ‘em, but there are always a few who’ll steal a ballot box in Rhode Island or somethin’, and then we can refer to them for equal time. Even though it’s probably a hundred to one, Democrats over Republicans, we just hafta cite a Republican fraudster and the reporters treat the story with moral equivalence between da two parties. Can’t beat that, Paully, ya know!”
Pavel was beginning to feel that familiar feeling in the pit of his stomach. It was time to take an antacid and go. He said his goodbyes to Pockets, having learned something, whatever the risk to his stomach lining.
Later that evening, as Pavel talked with his family before turning in for the night, he said “I just don’t get it. When it’s so obvious that there’s all this vote fraud, why don’t the Republicans make it their biggest issue? Thousands here, thousands there… maybe tens of thousands, even more, among this one group, the snowbirds, alone. That’s just one of many forms of fraud we’ve learned about. How much vote fraud is there in this country, all told?”
His parents just shook their heads. “The Republicans have tried some steps,” his mom said. “They call for Real ID, they call for purging of the voting rolls by checking against death notices and moving notices… but they sure aren’t doing everything needed, and they don’t even try to tackle a lot of the methods.”
“Wouldn’t it be interesting,” Pavel said before going up to bed, “if we could find out how much vote fraud there really is in this country, after adding up all their tactics? When you look at the fake registrations, and the double voting of the college students and snowbirds, and the felons voting, and the busloads in the New Orleans method and the on-site non-residents in the Racine County method … it’s just unimaginable. It could well be that if elections were really honest, the Democrats wouldn’t have really won a single national election in decades. The margin of fraud might be the deciding factor a lot more than we think it is.”
“All we can is concentrate on one issue at a time, son,” his dad counseled. “Alert people, call our legislators and demand that they crack down, despite their natural spinelessness on the matter… and get the word out. You could write letters to the editor, if you like. Or a blog about it.”
Pavel Syerov, Jr. chuckled at the thought. “If I ever wrote a letter to the editor telling what I know about vote fraud, then Pockets and The Boss would never let me back into headquarters.”
His little brother Paco had an answer ready. “You don’t have to write under your own name, you know. Take a page from their playbook and lie; you could blog under some unpronounceable Italian name, and they’d never suspect you at all.”
Copyright 2012 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade compliance lecturer. A former Milwaukee County Republican Party Chairman, he has now been a recovering politician for over fifteen years. The characters of Pavel and his family, Pockets and the other denizens of the 51st Ward Party HQ, are all fictional, and any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental, though the crimes against our Republic that they discuss are all, sadly, all too real.
Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the byline and IR URL are included. Follow me on Facebook or LinkedIn, or on Twitter at @johnfdileo.