No Comment — September 18, 2007, 5:18 pm

Department of Election Frauds

It’s extremely revealing that in the area of voter’s rights, the Gonzales Justice Department (he’s gone; his ghost lingers) does not uphold the right of citizens to exercise their democratic franchise. Instead it engages with limitless energy in efforts to secure partisan advantage for the G.O.P. It has conjured up completely fraudulent threats of voter fraud in America’s inner cities, among fringe communities, among Native Americans. This threat is always supposed to exist in communities that oppose the G.O.P.; the evidence for it is spun from whole cloth.

But what about cases of genuine, honest-to-goodness voter fraud? Like the tampering with voting machines in Baldwin County, Alabama, on election night 2002, which produced a mysterious shift of ballots permitting the election of Bob Riley. DOJ did nothing to investigate this. It has adopted a similar attitude of indifference over systematic voting fraud allegations in Ohio and Florida, where the G.O.P. was the transparent beneficiary of the fraud. But out of all these cases, perhaps the New Hampshire phone fraud case is the most telling. Here’s the New York Times account of this fraud and the resulting dance of deception by the White House and the Justice Department–from today’s edition:

On Election Day in 2002, when New Hampshire voters were going to the polls in a hotly contested Senate race, the phone lines in Democratic get-out-the-vote offices were jammed. The executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party pleaded guilty to phone harassment charges, but there has never been an adequate investigation of reports that the White House may have been involved. Paul Hodes, a New Hampshire congressman, is asking the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to investigate. It should conduct the searching inquiry that the Justice Department has not.

The Bush administration has spent a lot of time talking about mythical cases of voter fraud and election improprieties, but the New Hampshire phone jamming case was the real thing. Republican operatives hired an Idaho telemarketing firm to jam the lines to prevent people who needed help in voting from getting through. The scheme was a direct attack on American democracy.

After the guilty plea from its executive director, the New Hampshire Republican Party paid to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the state’s Democrats. There is reason to believe, however, that the phone jamming ploy may have been coordinated out of the White House. Democrats say there were 22 phone calls between New Hampshire Republican officials and the White House Office of Political Affairs on election night and early the next morning.

Mr. Hodes says that rather than trying to learn the truth, the Justice Department has engaged in unlawful interference to block the investigation. He reports that according to one of the defense lawyers, the attorney general personally had to sign off on all actions in the case, an extraordinary rule that would slow things down considerably. According to Mr. Hodes, the only F.B.I. agent assigned to the case was told that she could not pursue leads to Washington.

Think about it. A clear-cut case of criminal voting fraud. It links directly to the White House. The Republican Party pays the legal bills of the convicted felon who ran it. And the Justice Department engaged in extraordinary maneuvers to obstruct criminal inquiry into what happened at every step.

This Justice Department is not engaged in the pursuit of justice when it comes to elections. It is engaged in partisan shenanigans, with a criminal twist. And as we will shortly see, its crooked schemes ranged from the snowy fields of New Hampshire to the sandy beaches of the Mississippi gulf coast.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

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Artwork by Imre Kinszki © Imre Kinszki Estate
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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Photograph (detail) by Balazs Gardi
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"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
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