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Apr 102013
 

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul conceded he had a “daunting task” Wednesday when he set out to woo black students at Howard University, and proceeded to tell them that the Republican Party was the party of the civil rights movement.

He won few converts, but he won some respect.

“How did the party that elected the first black U.S. senator, the party that elected the first 20 African-American congressmen become a party that now loses 95 percent of the black vote?” Paul asked the Howard students. “How did the Republican Party, the party of the Great Emancipator, lose the trust and faith of an entire race?  From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, for a century, most black Americans voted Republican. How did we lose that vote?”

Paul said the story of the “modern civil rights era” is the “history of the Republican Party,” launching into the history of the Republican Party and African-Americans, something specifically suggested in last month’s Republican National Committee “autopsy” report.

Paul is widely believed to be eying a presidential run in 2016. Outreach like the speech at Howard, as well as his embrace of comprehensive immigration reform, only fuels the speculation. He acknowledged that many believe “Republicans are somehow inherently insensitive to minority rights” and he wants to change that.

The last Republican to speak at the school, according to the university, was former RNC chairman Michael Steele in 2009, and before that, in 2004, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist received an honorary degree. In 1994, Colin Powell gave Howard University’s commencement address. In 2000 George W. Bush declined the invitation to speak and Al Gore spoke instead.

Although the crowd was mostly respectful, with almost everyone thanking Paul for coming during the question-and-answer portion, they were clearly resistant to Paul’s message. Toward the beginning of his remarks, a protester tried to unfurl a banner that read “Howard University Doesn’t Support White Supremacy,” and an awkward moment ensued during the question-and-answer portion when the senator seemed to be giving a history lesson to the students. He asked the group if they knew that the founders of the NAACP were Republicans. The crowd seemed taken aback, with one student even yelling, “We know our history.”

Paul said he didn’t “mean to be insulting,” adding, “I don’t know what you know” and “I’m trying to find out.”

He said he still didn’t think the “general public” knew that fact, and it was up to the GOP to make that argument. Paul noted that it is an “uphill battle for me to try and convince you that we have changed,” but said that’s what he is “trying to do.”

Paul acknowledged his own history with the Civil Rights Act, saying, “Here I am, a guy who once presumed to discuss a section of the Civil Rights Act.” He appeared to be referring to comments he made when he was running for Senate in 2010. During that campaign he did at least two interviews where he said he was against discrimination, but suggested that private businesses should not be forced to abide by the Civil Rights Act. He clarified afterwards that he would not want the act repealed, but he was heavily criticized at the time  and the issue would definitely come up again if he were to run in 2016.

Paul emphasized Thursday that, “No Republican questions or disputes civil rights,” adding, “I have never wavered in my support for civil rights or the Civil Rights Act.”

Paul continued his push to broaden his party, telling the audience that the difference between the two parties is, “Democrats promise equalizing outcomes through unlimited federal assistance,” while his party offers “something that seemed less tangible, the promise of equalizing opportunity through free markets.”

“The Democrat promise is tangible and puts food on the table, but too often doesn’t lead to jobs or meaningful success,” Paul said. He said the country’s current economic troubles including gas prices and the national debt is disproportionately hurting minorities and the poor.

Mitt Romney only received 6 percent of the African-American vote, but he too tried to reach out to black voters, although unsuccessfully. During the 2012 campaign he spoke at the NAACP convention, but he was booed when he said he wanted to repeal President Obama’s health care law.

Paul got a better reception when he spoke about school choice and repealing mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

He said “there are countless examples of the benefits of school choice” where children have been able to turn “their lives completely around.”

“Maybe it’s about time we all reassess blind allegiance to ideas that are failing our children,” Paul said. “Republicans are often miscast as uncaring or condemning of kids who make bad choices.  I, for one, plan to change that.”

He noted his work on the issue of drug sentences, saying, “We should not take away anyone’s future over one mistake.”

Paul told a “tale of two young men” from different economic and racial background who both used drugs, before revealing that the story was about former president George W. Bush and President Obama.

“Barack Obama and George Bush were lucky,” Paul said, adding that if either of them had been arrested “neither one of them would have been employable, much less electable.”

He ended his address with a pitch saying he hopes some in the audience “will be open to the Republican message.”

Talking to students after the event revealed some audience members who were pleased that he came to Howard, but reflected the steep climb Rand Paul and the GOP has with African-Americans and other minority voters.

Howard student John Crawford said Paul’s explanation of why black voters historically should be Republicans was “some revisionist history going on,” but he said he does think he will be able to woo some voters “just because he had the courage and integrity to come here.”

“I just hope the next school or conference he goes to, he doesn’t pull a Mitt Romney (and say), ‘If you want free stuff or if you want makers or takers vote for Democrats,’ because I feel like that’s what Mitt Romney did ..and I hope Rand Paul doesn’t pull that because all of the good will Rand Paul got from coming here will be gone.”

Crawford is referring to Romney’s “47 percent” video where he was secretly recorded at a private fundraiser saying 47 percent of Americans are “dependent on the government,” as well as Romney blaming his loss on “gifts” President Obama and Democrats gave to minority voters on a conference call after the election.

Kwanda Trice, a Howard graduate student from Paul’s native Kentucky, asked a question during the event about drug sentences and state hemp laws. She said although she didn’t get a full answer to her question she said she has “to give him props” for coming to Howard.

“This was a hard crowd, but he decided to come here and basically bridge the gap between African Americans and the Republican Party and that says a lot,” Trice said. “To come here to Howard University where students are progressive, they are educated, they know the issues and they know the policies back and forth and to be able to actually face them head on I have to commend him for that.”

Trice added, “Going forward we will see what his actions are.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Nov 072012
 

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — When President Obama said Tuesday night in his acceptance speech, “By the way, we have to fix that,” he wasn’t referring to a specific economic, social or policy issue. He was referring to the issue of voting lines. Long, long voting lines.

Across the nation Tuesday, and then subsequently across Twitter and Facebook, U.S. citizens shared frustrations, photos and information about voting lines. The images of the long queues were a dime a dozen, especially when you looked at the #stayinline hashtag on Twitter. People in states like Florida and Ohio waited up to seven hours. In other states, there were shorter, though still-frustrating two- to three-hour waits.

 

Some experts place the blame on high turnout, but many will tell you the culprit is technology – failed and faulty e-voting machines.

Gone are the days of pulling the lever. Instead now there are two main voting systems: optical scan paper ballot systems and direct recording electronic systems (DREs). Very few jurisdictions still rely on punch cards and hand-counted paper ballots.

The optical scan paper ballot system is the most widely used. A voter fills out a paper ballot using a pen and then it is put in a scanner. The votes are tallied through a computer, similar to a Scantron, which is used to score the SATs and other standardized tests.

The second method relies completely on electronics – no paper. The direct recording electronic systems (DREs) include machines that record votes directly onto computer memory. A voter fills out a ballot on the computer directly, either using a touchscreen, button, or a dial.

“It is an electronic version of the lever,” explained Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to elections and voting. According to the organization, close to two-thirds of the population used the scanning option while one-third rely on the DRE machines.

But while the DREs and the scanners were supposed to be an improvement over the lever-based systems and hand-punched cards, breakdowns and malfunctions of the equipment have caused issues.

With the scanners, the major issue has been broken machines or paper jams. “What we saw yesterday in some jurisdictions was poll workers asking people to wait and come back because the scanner wasn’t working or they had a jam problem. In some events some were asked to fill out new ballots to see if that would go into the scanner,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, that resulted in lines because of the equipment failures.”

In those cases, Smith and other experts point out that voters can still fill out the ballot and it can then be scanned when the machines are fixed. Some poll managers might know how to repair the jams, but others won’t, according to Dominion Voting, a company that makes and provides support for the scanning systems.

With the DRE machines, there was another host of errors, the most notable being a machine in Pennsylvania that switched a vote for Barack Obama to Mitt Romney due to a touchscreen calibration error. There were other reports of similar errors due to touchscreen issues. Many of the touchscreen-equipped machines are made by ES&S, and use resistive screens, an older form of touch technology that requires a firmer press or a sharp point. That type of screen is used in many ATMs or airport kiosks.

Current smartphones and tablets use capacitive screens, which are more sensitive to taps and touches. Smith mentioned that in some centers voters were given a pencil to help make selections on the screen when they have difficulty getting touches to register. ES&S confirmed to ABC News that the systems were last manufactured in 2006.

The type of touchscreen in the systems represents the age of the machines themselves.

“The very unsexy story of this election is the machinery we are using. It is getting older and older, and some of these things are 10 to 15 years old,” Joseph Lorenzo Hall, a senior technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology, told ABC News.

But not only is the tech old, the machines simply aren’t being repaired or cared for.

“Why, after all this time and experience, is this happening still in 2012? What we think is that in some places they were actually starting out with fewer pieces of equipment than in the past,” Smith said. Some districts reported to Verified Voting that as much as 25 percent of the equipment wasn’t working. Other experts ABC spoke to said the same. Many cited examples like, while there were eight machines in a particular poll place last year, this year there was only five.

In Lee County, Fla., where some of the longest lines were, the Supervisor of Elections said that there was not a large enough backup supply of scanning machines. Districts simply hadn’t repaired or replaced machines since past elections.

“You are going to have issues of the wear and tear over time. But everyone knows that counties and local districts have been under budgetary pressures,” Chris Riggall, a spokesperson for Dominion Voting, told ABC News. “It is always a pressure to get funding for voting systems, when you have other demands at the local level, which is where all this happens.” Dominion Voting provides in-person and help desk support for optical scanner systems.

Naturally, the proponents of online voting say that Internet voting is the right technology solution. In fact, when ABC spoke to Lori Stelle, the CEO of Everyone Counts, a company that makes online voting solutions, she pointed to these electronic voting issues and said they will be the reason people turn to voting through the Internet.

However, others don’t see the likelihood of Internet voting, due to heavy security concerns; they maintain a bigger change has to happen. “In two major jurisdictions election officials have reached out to technologists, to audit experts, to different language experts, to usability advocates in an effort to identify what they want in the next generation of voting systems,” Smith said. “Our next voting system isn’t just going to go to the current marketplace for the solution.”

Then there are those who believe the biggest fix can come from a different technology — the technology of organizing people. “It is a matter of management, not technology,” Charles Stewart, a political science professor at MIT, told ABC News. “Having too few voting centers, having too few staff and not putting the resources in the right places. Really, it is a matter of management.”

Others echoed that point, saying that much of the bottleneck of the lines happens as people check-in at the polls, not with the availability of working machines.

Whatever the solution, the experts agreed with the re-elected president of the United States: “We have to fix that.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Nov 072012
 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A coalition of women and nonwhites helped re-elect President Obama to a second term Tuesday night.

Obama has always performed better with women than with men, and with nonwhites than with whites.  But on Tuesday night, those numbers were so much in his favor that they built Obama a powerful firewall against a dropoff in support from white men and independent voters.

Nonwhite voters turned out to vote in higher numbers than ever.  They made up 21 percent of all voters.  In 1996, they were just 10 percent.

That new bloc was evident in Florida, the perennial swing state that was thought to be in Mitt Romney’s corner.  Hispanics came out in force for Obama, in greater numbers than in 2008 when Obama beat John McCain among Hispanics in Florida 57 to 42 percent.  On Tuesday, he beat Romney among Hispanics 60 to 39 percent.

And as the country tinted blue for the second presidential election in a row, it also got a little less white.

White voters made up only 72 percent of the electorate in this election, according to exit polls.  That’s still a majority, but it’s the lowest in exit polls dating from 1976.

Romney won the white vote handily, 58 to 40 percent, the biggest lead for a Republican since 1988.

Romney’s most reliant bloc the whole campaign was white men.  He led by 25 points with them on Tuesday.  But in 1976, white men were 46 percent of voters.  Today, they’re at a new low, 34 percent.

If white women had stayed in Romney’s camp, those swing states — Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire — might have moved into his column.  Instead, Obama led among women by 12 points, nearly identical to his lead among women four years ago.

In Florida, Obama led Romney by just two points among independents, according to the exit polls.  In 2008, that number was seven.

In Ohio, Romney leads Obama by 10 points among independents — a significant number considering that in 2008 Obama had an 8 point lead over McCain in Ohio among the same nonaligned voters.  But women came to Obama’s rescue, keeping him competitive.  Exit polls showed Obama with a 12 point lead among women, more than his 8 point lead in 2008.

In Wisconsin, a state that Romney needed badly, Obama’s one-time strength among independents appeared to be neutralized.  He won independents there by 19 points in 2008, but preliminary polls now show that Romney fought to a draw with them.  However, Obama prevailed among young voters, and other voters there said they favored the auto bailout by 51 to 40 percent, an issue that the president held over Romney in the Midwest.

Obama lost just a few independents in Iowa, but more than made up for it by winning over women, who picked the president over Romney by a double-digit margin.

In Virginia, Romney won independents by 53 to 41 percent.  Four years ago, Obama and McCain tied among independents in the commonwealth.

Just like white men, independents make up less of the electorate than they did four years ago.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Oct 222012
 

Comstock/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) — Nothing in the world was going to stop 93-year-old Frank Tanabe from voting in this year’s election. With the help of his daughter Barbara, the bedridden World War II vet filled out his absentee ballot.

His grandson, Noah, posted a photo to the website Reddit of Tanabe filling out his ballot in his hospital bed in his daughter’s home in Honolulu.

“My sister just happened to be standing with her smartphone and decided to take a picture because she wanted to send it to family members on the mainland to show that my dad was still able to fully engage in activities that are very important,” Barbara Tanabe told ABC News.

Two months ago, Tanabe was diagnosed with an inoperable cancerous tumor in his liver. Because of his condition, he can’t really speak, Barbara Tanabe said, but he was adamant about getting in his vote.

“I said, ‘This is for president,’ and I read him the four names on the ballot,” Barbara Tanabe said. “Then I went back and said, ‘Okay, Dad, now nod or shake your head for each.’”

Politics has always been important to Tanabe, a father of four and grandfather of five, his daughter said. In 2008, Tanabe and his wife, Setsuko, attended a rally in Honolulu for Hillary Clinton when Chelsea Clinton came.

“He and my mom were very big fans of Hillary Clinton because there was a possibility of having a woman break the barrier,” Barbara Tanabe said.

Tanabe is originally from Seattle, where he attended the University of Washington. He was pulled from college and taken to the Tule Lake internment camp in California after the start of World War II.  There, he volunteered to join the Army.

In 2008, the University of Washington gave Tanabe and several other second-generation Japanese students honorary degrees.

The photo of Tanabe on Reddit got tons of attention, with many people commenting about his patriotism and thanking him for his dedication.

“The fact that so many people viewed it and were inspired was very, very surprising and heartwarming for us,” Barbara Tanabe said.

One of the people most moved by Tanabe’s desire to vote was his grandson, Noah.

“He said from now on for the rest of his life he’s going to think about grandpa every time he votes, and that is a wonderful legacy,” Barbara Tanabe said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Oct 152012
 

J.D. Pooley/Getty Image(CINCINNATI) — Paul Ryan made a quick stop Monday in the crucial state of Ohio to remind supporters of their “responsibility” to talk to friends who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but now “just aren’t as impressed,” and get them to turn out for Mitt Romney.

“You know, you have a big say-so,” Ryan told the crowd of several hundred at a Cincinnati air field. “You know, you’re the battleground state of battleground states. You understand your responsibility, right? You understand your opportunity, right? That means you have within your control, your ability to go find those people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 … who heard the hope and the change and loved the promises, all these great speeches, but see that this is nothing but a failed agenda of broken promises, of hollow rhetoric.”

Ryan acknowledged the massive air war going on from both sides, but said that the debates have let him and Romney “cut through the clutter.” Romney and Obama face off again Tuesday night.

“People will see through it,” Ryan said. “Look, I know what your TV screens look like these days. These debates are giving us the ability to cut through the clutter and give people a very clear choice. That’s what we are offering. And the choice is really clear.”

Ohio is seen as crucial, because no Republican has ever gotten to the White House without winning the state. The most recent poll out of Ohio, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll from last week, found President Obama with 51 percent support to Romney’s 45 percent.

As he did in Wisconsin Monday morning, Ryan urged the audience to “vote early so that on Election Day you can help get people to the polls, you can help make the phone calls, you can help give people rides.”

“This election is so important, we even need you to talk to your relatives to get them out. That’s so important,” Ryan joked.

The Obama campaign responded that the Romney campaign may be “offering new rhetoric,” but the underlying message is still the same.

“Congressman Ryan’s claim that Mitt Romney is offering actual solutions is totally disconnected from reality,” Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said in a statement. “While Romney and Ryan are certainly offering new rhetoric in the campaign’s final weeks, they can’t hide their plan to bring back the same failed policies that punished middle class families and crashed our economy in the first place.”

After his brief remarks, the GOP vice presidential nominee served Montgomery Inn barbecue to supporters waiting in line, asking over and over, “Chicken or pork?”

In between barbecue, backers congratulated him on his debate performance, while others said they are “praying for you to win.” Ryan introduced himself as “Paul,” telling those with kind or supportive words, “That’s the nicest thing you could say to me.”

Ryan later headed to New York City Monday afternoon to hold a series of fundraisers, including addressing high-level donors from all over the country who are gathering in New York for a meeting on fundraising and strategy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio