Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Dean talks up Dems' 'voter protection' effort"

BURLINGTON, Vt. --Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Saturday that party will launch an unprecedented "voter protection" effort to try to avoid election irregularities like those seen in Florida in 2000 and alleged in Ohio in 2004.
"We're going to spot trouble before it happens this time, instead of wait for trouble and then respond when it happens," said Dean, a former Vermont governor.

Some 200 party staffers in the various states will be surveying county election officials in the coming months to find out their rules for checking voter identification, how many voting machines they have in each precinct, and other nut-and-bolts issues related to election administration, Dean said.

The party also will have a team of 7,000 volunteer lawyers around the country ready to go to work on Election Day to defend voters who say they are being improperly barred from casting ballots.

Dean made the remarks in his adopted home town to a joint meeting of the executive committees of the DNC and the Association of State Democratic Chairs, which drew about 65 party officials to the ballroom of a hotel on the Lake Champlain waterfront.

The party faithful also heard progress reports on campaigns for governor this year in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi, and were told the Democrat has the strongest shot in Kentucky.

But much of Dean's focus was on his "50-state strategy," in which the national party has been paying state committees to hire new staff, beef up candidate recruitment and take other steps aimed at making Democrats competitive everywhere in the country.

Dean said those new staff would play a key role in trying to catch voting problems before they happen, an idea that set well with Michael Ceasar, a national committee member from Florida and former state party chairman there.

"The voter protection situation is good because it's pro-active and not reactive," said Ceasar. "It's looking at the systems themselves ... I think it's a great idea."

One place Dean's 50-state strategy still hasn't produced a gubernatorial candidate for next year is Vermont, where Republican Gov. Jim Douglas is widely favored to win easily in 2008. Responding to questions during a break in the meeting, Dean said it's early in the campaign cycle, and that he expected Democrats would have a candidate...

In the meeting, Dean also delivered a general Democratic pep talk, lauding legislation, including the first minimum wage increase in a decade, passed by the Congress this year, and taking numerous pot shots at Republicans.

When a committee member thanked him for tolerating numerous flight delays as his party chairman's job had taken him around the country this summer, Dean blamed air travelers' woes on the Bush administration.

"The reason the airline situation is so bad today ... is because the Bush administration is completely unwilling to put any kind of reasonable, thoughtful regulation on their (airlines') behavior. ... So again, for those air travelers who are upset, you better vote Democratic," he said to laughter and applause.

No comments: