Author Archives: Leonid Balaban

Stop piling up on Obama

By Leonid Balaban

I made a comment yesterday in class and I wanted to reiterate this point in the blog: Lay off Obama – HE IS NOT THE PRESIDENT YET!!!

Only a month ago, Obama was elected to be the next President of the U.S. and there are still more than two months before he gets officially gets sworn in. Yet, there are pundits and ideologues from the Left and the Right who are already complaining about Obama, in terms of his government appointees and overall handling of the transition.

Here’s an article on the Huffington Post, in which the editorial writer wonders whether Obama has already broken his first campaign promise.

The Obama team’s decision to drop the idea of forcing oil and natural gas companies to pay a tax on their windfall profits has caused a firestorm among liberals and small business coalitions.

As first reported in the Houston Chronicle, Obama’s reference to a windfall profits tax, which he articulated during the campaign at a time of skyrocketing gas prices, had been removed from the transition team’s Website, change.gov

Jim Kuhnhen, an AP staff reporter, writes how some some Democrats are growing inpatient with Obama and his transition approach:

Democrats are growing impatient with President-elect Barack Obama’s refusal to inject himself in the major economic crises confronting the country. Obama has sidestepped some policy questions by saying there is only one president at a time. But the dodge is wearing thin. “He’s going to have to be more assertive than he’s been,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told consumer advocates Thursday.

Kuhnhen continues that two Democratic senators who are desperately trying to salvage the domestic auto companies have said Obama could help move the process along and should become more engaged.

“The Obama team has to step up,” Sen. Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and one of the lead negotiators, said Nov. 21 in Hartford, Conn. “In the minds of the people, this is the Obama administration. I don’t think we can wait until January 20.”

David Sirota, a columnist for the Denver Post and other progressive/liberal sites, also complained about this apparent campaign broken promise

Between this move and the move to wait to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, it seems like the Obama team is buying into the right-wing frame that raising any taxes – even those on the richest citizens and wealthiest corporations – is bad for the economy. Of course, that frame is debunked by history. And while sure, it’s OK to rack up deficits so as to spend our way out of the economic crisis, it’s sorta silly to ignore the tax moves that could be implemented to limit those deficits where possible.

Matthew Rothschild, of Progressive.com, asks when is Obama going to appoint people who reflects progressive ideas and progressive base that overwhelmingly voted for him?

He won the crucial Iowa caucuses on the strength of his anti-Iraq War stance, and many progressive peace and justice activists worked hard for him against John McCain.

So why in the world is he choosing Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State when she was one of the loudest hawks on Iraq and threatened to obliterate 75 million Iranians?

And it’s not just Hillary.

Obama’s OMB pick, Peter Orzag, is a Clintonite disciple of Robert Rubin.

Obama’s AG pick, Eric Holder, is a Clintonite who represented Chiquita Bananas.

And Larry Summers’s name is still being bandied about for Treasury, even though Summers, while Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, forced the deregulation of our financial markets and imposed disaster capitalism on Russia.

I think the Left is going way overboard on this. Obama, in one of his press conferences, said that the change will come from him, he is the man in charge.

So before everybody jumps on his picks, I believe people should give him time to fail. And if he does, than there’s nothing wrong with criticizing him and asking for his head. But, jumping the gun and attacking the person who is not even on the job yet, is utterly unfair.

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The case for uniform election laws

by Leonid Balaban

Despite the electoral victory by Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election and the fact that the overall turnout has increased modestly by over 4 million people comparing to 2004 election, there were still plenty of reports of people having trouble voting. Long lines at the election precincts, thousands of voters purged from voting rolls, electronic voting machines breaking down or too few of them provided to large populated districts, not enough ballots printed and etc. – all these issues have reappeared during the 2008 elections despite promises by local, state and federal government officials that these kinds of problems will be resolved by the time voting takes place this year.

Truth be told, the type of voting meltdown that many voting experts have expected did not happen, partly due to the fact that the results of the 2008 Presidential election were not as close as they were 4 and 8 years ago . Seth Borenstein, a reporter for AP, documented fairly uneventful voting process, considering a fairly substantial increase in the number of new voters. He quoted Doug Chapin, a director of electionline.org at the Pew Center on the States: “For those of us who care about the American [voting] process, this was a good day,” said Chapin. “It was a massive undertaking with staggering levels of turnout.” Furthermore, Stephen Ansolabehere, a political science professor at Harvard and MIT said that voting troubles in 2008 were a lot like the Y2K bug in 2000 — greatly feared and anticipated, but not realized. That’s because election officials and monitors were, like companies in 2000, prepared.

However, various reports about early voting from states like Florida, Virginia and West Virginia painted a different story. CNN reported that due to the recent problems with its touch screen electronic voting machines, Florida switched to using a paper oriented system in 2008. As with any new systems, they tend to cause trouble, which was the case in several counties in Florida.

“We’re having problems with the poll machines,” a voter in Jacksonville, Florida, told the CNN Voter Hotline. “They’re not aligned correctly, so you’re not sure about which candidate you’re voting for, so they said they brought in 10 new machines as backup machines, but they’ve corrected the issue.”

Part of the trouble stems from having to train election workers for the new system, said Buddy Johnson, the elections supervisor for Florida’s Hillsborough County.

“When you’ve got brand new equipment and you’re shifting from a touch screen, a digital system, to a more paper-oriented system, as we are this year, it’s a familiarization process,” he said.

Early voters are waiting for hours to cast their ballots as a result of the transition.

In Broward County, 17 of approximately 300 polling places are open for early voting, which ends November 2.

“Total disaster,” said a voter in Florida’s Broward County. “You get up there, and you waited three hours, and then the line totally stops. It’s very frustrating.”

High turnout was causing long lines in other states, including North Carolina, Ohio and Nevada, states.

On Monday night [October 27], one Broward County polling site closed at 10:30 p.m., three hours past the scheduled time, reported CNN’s Sean Callebs.


In West Virginia, there were some reports that voting machines were inaccurately recording the wrong vote. CNN’s Brian Todd reported that at least several voters in various West Virginia counties had encountered vote flipping problem.

The state’s and local precinct officials said that these problems were isolated and that poll workers fixed the problems so the correct vote was cast.

The West Virginia secretary of state’s office said most of the problems occur because the machines are not calibrated properly. Jeff Waybright, the Jackson County clerk, disagreed and said the problems reported there were probably the result of voter error.

“There are no problems with the machines as recalibrated,” West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland said Wednesday, according to an Associated Press report. “Touch-screen voting in West Virginia is accurate and secure.”

Ireland directed the state’s county clerks to recalibrate their machines each morning during the early voting period and on Election Day.

Aside from these voting irregularities, we had a issue of nonuniform availability of early voting throughout the country. According to Early Voting information center website, only 32 states have implemented and used an early voting process during the 2008 elections. Of the 32 states, 28 do not require voters to state a reason or an excuse for voting absentee or early. However, 22 states and the District of Columbia require an excuse to vote absentee by mail. Oregon, is still the only state that conducts their elections by mail only.

Moreover, poll closing times poll-closings(not counting the time zone difference) differ from state to state. As we can see in the following graphic, various states on the East Coast have different poll closing times. So, in North Carolina, polls close at 7.30pm EST, but in Virginia at 7pm EST, even though they are in the same time zone. Iowa, on the other hand, has poll closings at 10pm EST, which corresponds to several extra hours of voting for residents of Iowa as oppose to residents of Virginia. Thus we have an inconsistency from state to state in terms of how many total hours of voting are provided to respective state residents.

To summarize, since the enactment of Help American Vote Act in 2002, which was suppose to improve voting process throughout the country by establishing election standards, computerizing voting registrations, provide poll worker training and etc, we continue to have various election day (early voting included) problems associated with various issues. Therefore, I propose that a new federal law to be written which will accomplish the following:

  • Establish uniform voting practice for all 50 States and District of Columbia
  • Each state has to provide early voting opportunities, including mail-in ballots or in person voting
  • Electronic voting machines in all states have to have verifiable paper ballot printout
  • Electronic voting machines must have Open Source software
  • Polls on the Election day have to be open for at least 14 hours long in each state
  • Require no excuse for voters requesting absentee ballots
  • Allow same day voting registration, providing that they have proper identification
  • Increase criminal and civil penalties for such practices of voter caging and intimidation by any person or an organization.
  • Establish a non-partisan Department of Elections, independent of Department of Justice, which only job would be to continuously improve voting practices throughout the country.
  • Make Election day a national holiday



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Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State?

by Leonid Balaban

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

According to reputable news organizations, Hillary Clinton is under serious considerations by Barack Obama for the position of Secretary of State. In fact, per Huffington Post, “President-elect Barack Obama offered Sen. Hillary Clinton the position of Secretary of State during their meeting Thursday in Chicago, according to two senior Democratic officials. She requested time to consider the offer, the officials said.”

I have to be honest, I just did not see this one coming. Mrs. Clinton does not strike me as a great diplomat. While she visited a lot of countries as a First Lady, and as a Senator from New York, she was not involved in many negotiations. We know that she’s very passionate about health care and at least I assumed that this is what she was going to concentrate on as a legislator. There were also rumors flying around that Obama would appoint her to the Supreme Court, but these have died down. Is President-elect taking a page from Abraham Lincoln and assembling his own Team of Rivals by drafting his biggest opponent to this high government position? We shall see…

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Election day photos

Hi all,

I’ve uploaded election day/night photos on my website. I haven’t edited them yet, so if you want to get a certain photo, let me know and I’ll make sure it’s suitable for printing.

Also, feel free to visit Hillary Clinton for Obama Rally gallery, which took place a few weeks ago here in Aurora.

Here’s one photo from the gallery:

Victory celebration

Victory celebration

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How wierd is this???

By Leonid Balaban

Courtesy of Ben Smith of Politico…

A house in Martinsville, Indiana, a town once famous as a Klan stronghold.

Confederate battle flag, Obama yard sign

Confederate battle flag, Obama yard sign

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Filed under Obama, Voter Demographics

Voting fraud?? – you betcha…

By Leonid Balaban

Here’s an example of real voting fraud, not the one drummed up by the Republican party and the GOP presidential ticket.

Courtesy of Huffington Post and Video the Vote, we’re presented with a clip of what appears to be a technician trying to illustrate vote flipping on one of the electronic voting machines in West Virginia.

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What a heck happened with CD-7

by Leonid Balaban

Colorado CD-7 map

When Colorado 7th Congressional District (CD-7) was created after census in the year 2000, it was drawn up by courts in such a way that there was no clear advantage for either major political party. In fact, at the time when the first ever contest was held in that district in 2002, the party affiliation was almost evenly split between Democrats, Republicans and Independents. In that midterm election, Republican Bob Beauprez beat his Democratic challenger Mike Feeley by the slimmest margin of 122 votes out of over 172 thousand votes that were cast during that election day. In 2004, Beauprez

Bob Beauprez

ran already as an incumbent and his winning margin was a lot bigger than in his first contest. He beat his Democratic opponent Dave Thomas 55% to 43%, even though John Kerry beat President Bush in that district 51% to 48%. It is worth noting that the voter turnout in CD-7 during that election was almost 247 thousand, an increase of over 30%.

Yet, in 2006, Congressman Beauprez decided to run for the Governor of Colorado against the former Denver District attorney Bill Ritter. Initially, the district was still considered a lean-Republican, especially considering the fact that Republican Rick O’Donnell sailed through the primaries of his party without a real challenge, while Democrat Ed Perlmutter had a tough primary fight with 2 other contenders. However, the overall political environment was different from two years ago. Congressional Republicans were embroiled in multiple corruption scandals. The American electorate was generally unhappy with the Republican party and with the direction of the country as a whole. In fact, according to Real Clear Politics, as the 2006 midterm elections were approaching, Democrats were preferred over Republicans by an average of 11.5%, when it came to the general preference of control over Congress. Ironically, that was almost exactly the margin by which Perlmutter

Ed Perlmutter

Ed Perlmutter

beat O’Donnell, with the final result showing 54.9% for the Democrat and 42.1% for the Republican. Thus, we can see that this district has swung almost 180 degrees from the Republican control to the Democratic control.

Fast forwarding to 2008 Congressional race, this district is now listed as safe-Democratic by CQ politics. Perlmutter’s opponent, John Lerew, is virtually an unknown in the world of politics and is given 50-1 odds of winning this race. So what was before considered a balanced seat, is now trending heavily Democrat. Some attribute this to the increase of the Hispanic population in Commerce City and Aurora in Adams County, as well as a slight leftward lean in the Jefferson County portion of the seat. Others believe that the Democratic wave which began in 2006 is continuing in 2008 is the most contributing factor that causes this district to lean left on the political scale.

Could this Congressional seat become competitive, as it once was? Perhaps, but if the population change was in fact the most decisive factor, then this district might be in the Democratic hands for quite some time.

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Filed under Colorado, Democratic Party, Republican, Uncategorized, Voter Demographics