I had been set to mark the end of the election season with a return to the Monday recipe and boy did I have a great one for you. Instead it is a sober mood around here as our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have begun the assault on Fallujah in Iraq. I wish the troops Godspeed and pray for thier safe return and ultimate victory. I am attaching a satellite photo of the battle area in case some of you are unfamiliar with the city in order that you might observe the dense nature of the urban battle unfolding.
Apparently at this time, most of the terrorists are holed up in the Jolan and Askari neighborhoods. Hopefully these will be reduced and our troops will be able to turn to the task of rebuilding soon.
Many of you have asked me about my experiences on Election Day. I had to provide a written overview of my activities that day for my Polisci class so I am including it here. The utter disregard for rules by the left should leave you aghast and hopefully determined to volunteer the next time.
I arrived at Washoe County Republican Headquarters at 0655 hrs and the shop was just being opened by Zead Haddad. I walked in with my coffee and a van pulled up disgorging teams of lawyers who have been staying at the Hilton. They came in, sat down and began discussing legal strategies should they become needed. I am waiting for my PDA so that I can be dispatched to my two polling locations. In the meantime, the phone begins ringing off the hook and I reflexively begin to answer it. Many of the calls are from poll watchers checking in and wanting to know the answers to various questions. Apparently the Kerry-Edwards team has small groups outside of most polling locations where they are set up about 2 inches from the no electioneering line, passing out donuts and coffee. Nothing illegal there I tell the poll watchers, just democrats pushing the edge of the envelope.
With nothing to do until 0800 I continue to answer phones and try my best to stay out of the way of the legal teams. There is at least a dozen lawyers and paralegals inside the headquarters with many more dispatched to watch polling locations. All of the poll watchers checking in are saying the same thing, long lines and heavy turnout. Finally at 0800 I receive my PDA from Rob Calderone who is my team leader. I will be inputting voter tallies from 7 precincts into the PDA. I can then transfer that data to the PDA maintained by Calderone which is equipped with satellite communications. The data can then be sent to the RNC War Room in Washington D.C. where they can determine what local precincts most urgently need phone calls and precinct walkers.
At 0900 I walk into the polling station at Holy Cross Church on Vista Blvd. in Sparks. As I entered, I noted that sure enough, the Kerry-Edwards people have set up a booth about 2” over the no-electioneering line. They are passing out donuts, coffee and smiles. I recognize a couple of voters entering the station and they complain to me about the Kerry booth but all I can do is shrug my shoulders. Inside the polling location are tables for each of 4 precincts. There is no central bulletin board that might be used for posting updated lists of people who have voted and the lines to vote are very long and extend well into the parking lot. I find a woman named Jennifer who seems to be in charge and ask her where I can obtain the updated voter lists. She affirms that she is in charge and tells me flatly that no updated voter lists will be posted. I explain to her that Nevada Revises Statutes dictate that the rolls be posted and she refuses. Rather than press the issue I retreat outside where I call Zead Haddad on my cell phone. Haddad asks to speak to Jennifer and so I walk back inside, explain to her that I have the Bush Cheney Field Director for Northern Nevada on the line and ask her to talk to him. After a few moments she states that she will check into it and hands me back the phone. I talk to Haddad who tells me to go to my next polling location, that he will have a legal team dispatched to Holy Cross.
At this point I have become frustrated and know that I am going to require hard evidence of the legal requirements before I make demands of precinct bureaucrats. I call my wife and provide her the number of the NRS dictating that voter rolls be updated and posted throughout the day. I ask my wife to make 6 copies for me and then I swing by her office to pick them up. Now forearmed, I head to my second polling location at North Valley’s Sports Complex arriving there shortly after 1000. My first perception is the stark differences between North Valleys and Holy Cross. Several young people are outside wearing black shirts proclaiming that they are there to protect your right to vote. Protect it from whom I wonder? Another Kerry-Edwards Booth is just outside the electioneering line. Inside the complex is a man who appears to me to be a foreign observer wearing a lime green vest stating that everyone has the right to vote. That’s true of course unless you are too young, dead, a convicted felon, illegal alien or unregistered. Overall it seems I have traded in a relatively calm and representative polling station at Holy Cross for one that is demonstrably paranoid, partisan and chaotic. I have gone from the United States to a Banana Republic.
I approach the first precinct chairs and ask to examine the updated voter rolls and they tell me that they cannot provide them at that time because of the line but will be happy to comply as soon as the line recedes. Somewhat mollified I head to the next precinct. Once again I am confronted by a woman named Jennifer who tells me I cannot have access to the updated voter list. This time I am ready and produce a hard copy of NRS which I show to her and tell her that the law states the updated rolls must be posted. Jennifer makes some phone calls and after a few minutes comes to me and tells me that she is happy to provide me the list but will periodically require that I return it for updates. I agree and begin culling voters from the list who have already cast their ballots and inputting them into my PDA. Overall it takes me about 45 minutes to input numbers from one precinct. This convinces me that while hitech is nice, it is also cumbersome and given the time constraints, one person cannot handle 7 precincts. After completing the transfer of data for that precinct, I head to the next one where I am denied out of hand, access to the updated lists. I try explaining to the woman that the law requires that she comply but she tells me that she doesn’t care what the law says, she is not providing the list to me. When I try to tell her that she can continue to write down voter names on a separate list as they come in and update the precinct list when I am done, she begins to yell at me. At that point, several persons in line begin to jostle their way forward screaming that I am trying to suppress the vote and interfering with their right to vote so I decide to retreat until the legal teams can be directed to the malignant precinct.
A look around this polling station reveals some surprises to me that I had not noted earlier. Behind each precinct bench is a two or three person team of democrats doing the same thing I am, updating lists of voters as they cast their ballots. Of course they are logging it all on paper and are looking over the shoulders of the precinct workers in order to do so. There are poll watchers from both sides present and several AFL-CIO types lingering around the middle also armed with voter lists. Ballot receipts are scattered about the floor. I wander back to the first precinct where there is no line now and ask for the updated voter list. The ladies there provide me with the list which shows check marks for voters only on the first page. The ladies tell me that they have been too busy to update it so they are going to do it later. Dumbfounded, I decide that the only thing that will straighten this mess out is a legal team so I head to my car.
Since I did have one precinct worth of data, I head back to Republican Headquarters at about 1200 hours. I hear on the radio that the stock market is up some 65 pts which I take as a good sign of incoming election results and that the market must be feeling good about President Bush’s re-election chances. When I walk into Republican HQ it is a beehive of activity, I find Rob Calderone and we complete the data transfer. He tells me to get some lunch next door at the phone center and prepare for an updated plan. The rest of the team has apparently struck out, collecting no data on any precincts.
After lunch I am directed to select one of my polling stations to oversee and obtain data at. I select Holy Cross since we have had no data from there yet. I am told that all data collection must stop by 1730 hrs in order to get the information to D.C. in time for it to do any good. During this time I note that the stock market has plunged and is now some 100 pts down. I assume but do not know at the time that it must be related to bad election news and that the first exit polls must be showing bad news. Still I have a job to do and so I head back to Holy Cross Church. Upon arrival there at about 1400 hrs , I find Jennifer again who is much more conciliatory now and directs me to the first precinct and directs the workers there to give up the voter lists. I begin inputting data and once again, for one precinct it takes roughly 45 minutes. I head to the next precinct and they too provide their updated list. Again transfer of the data is time consuming and eats up at least an hour. I move to the next precinct and begin the process all over. Time is rapidly slipping by and when I complete the gathering of data from the 3rd precinct I determine that I will not be able to complete the fourth precinct in time to transfer the data. I do overhear that this particular precinct which I am now passing by has seen 74% turnout. I figure there is little to gain there and so I head back to Republican HQ arriving promptly at 1730 hrs. I immediately find Rob Calderone and upload my data to his PDA which he then transmits to Washington D.C.
Exhausted at that point, I take a small break and begin watching returns where I learn that I was correct in my early assumption about the stock market. Apparently early exit polling had been wildly in favor of Kerry and now the information had leveled off and both camps seemed confident. Returns out of Florida were looking particularly impressive and I hoped they continued. It was about then that our phone bank lost several callers who left in order to prepare for the Victory 2004 party at the Peppermill. Haddad is frantically searching for people to man the phones so I jump in and begin calling voters on a list provided for me. Most of them are not home, a couple hang up, one complains that he isn’t waiting in line for hours to vote and some are very pleasant. At 1900 hrs promptly, Haddad shuts down the phone bank and we celebrate having made some 10,500 phone calls that day. I head next door now to watch returns again and things are looking better in Florida where the President’s lead appears to be holding steady. Ohio is proclaimed too close to call and we all worry about that. The Bush Cheney team representatives are all watching their computers for the first returns from Nevada to be posted and when they are at about 1930 hrs, they celebrate. According to them turnout in some democrat precincts in Clark County has been light and their lead over President Bush isn’t enough to offset the expected Bush wins in the rural counties and Washoe. They are certain that Nevada is safe for the President.
The networks aren’t cooperating. They continue to call the race too close and Susan Estrich gives me heartburn with her assessment that when all the democratic counties in Ohio are counted, Kerry will be the winner. According to Estrich, she has spoken to high level operatives in the Kerry campaign and they are confident. It is beginning to look like it will all comedown to Ohio as Florida is looking more and more like a Bush victory. Although the networks refuse to call it, with some 85% of precincts in, President Bush is enjoying a large margin in the Sunshine State. Soon enough the total percentage of precincts reporting in Florida nears 100% and the networks call the state for Bush. This sets off a wild round of cheers and hugs at HQ. It is close to 2100 now and there is no news from Ohio or Nevada so we decide to shut down Republican HQ and head to the Victory 2004 party.
Once arrived, I break out a cigar that I refuse to light until the victory is assured. Inside the Peppermill, there is a crowd of a couple thousand gathered around several large projectors displaying election returns. As election results come in from Nevada there are several cheers as the original Kerry lead evaporates. The Bush Cheney representatives are telling me that Washoe County is close but thankfully, the rural counties had over performed from the projections. Still there is no news from Ohio. Finally, Fox News calls Ohio for Bush with some 83% of precincts reporting in. A wild cheer bursts forth as everyone realizes the electoral count now stands at 269 which assures the President of a tie at the worst. Such an eventuality would of course throw the election to the House of Representatives where a Republican majority would certainly re-elect him. Now it only remains for us to see if New Mexico, Iowa or Nevada will put the President over the top.
Deep into the evening there is no news. I take heart in the election gains of the Republicans in the Senate and hope that soon one of the battleground states will be awarded to the President so I can light my cigar. The pundits are all talking about the flawed exit polls and what a stunning election night this has been. None of them are confident however that a protracted fight is not in our future. Finally, at about 0200 hrs I can take no more and drive home, content that at the very least we have secured a victory the only thing to be determined is the margin.
November 3: My daughter is utterly contemptuous of my need for sleep and she wakes me at 0630. Once I get her dressed and settled, I turn on the TV and find that nothing has changed in the last few hours. Soon enough though, Fox News begins reporting that Senator Kerry is said to be prepared to concede the election and will speak at about 1000 hrs. This does not come to pass. Instead it is closer to 1130 when he does appear and mercifully concedes. Next the President speaks and I am too tired to even celebrate. Mostly I just feel relief. The pundits are all examining the first raw data from election returns and are stunned. The youth vote did not come out heavily as predicted and Hispanics improved their support of the President. This will be crucial for Republicans in future elections.
November 5: For the past couple days, I have amused myself by visiting the various leftwing websites that I have become acquainted with in the past. It is astounding to me that some of these people inhabit the same country I do. They are convinced we reside in a fascist dictatorship, that the election was stolen and the hatred of the Republicans in general and the President in particular is palpable. I hope and pray that the President can bridge some of the great divide which separates us right now but I do not want him to do so at the expense of a conservative agenda. I want strict constructionist judges on the Federal Bench. I want a reduced role for government overall except the military. I want the tax cuts he signed in his first term to be made permanent and I want him to address both social security and education reform. None of this will sit well with the left. Well we have been experimenting with the programs of the left for better than 60 years now, perhaps it is time the Republicans were given an opportunity to fix those things that are clearly broken.
Smilin' Paul Villa U.S. Senate 2004
Proud Member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and 2 SUV Family