Will Republicans try to bully black voters this November? Readers respond to "'Voter Terrorism,'" by Farhad Manjoo. Plus: Odd poll numbers, Bush's school daze, the botched battle of Fallujah, and more.

Published September 22, 2004 8:38PM (EDT)

[Read "'Voter Terrorism,'" by Farhad Manjoo.]

Though I am a registered Democrat, I worked as a Republican poll watcher in the 2003 Philadelphia mayoral election, an official position designed to ensure electoral laws are followed. Far from voter disenfranchisement by Republicans, what I observed was the Democratic Party conducting elections without any oversight whatsoever.

Among the questionable if not outright illegal activities I witnessed were busloads of elderly voters being instructed to "vote in pairs," translators denied the ability to assist voters, and Democratic Party volunteers given free rein to campaign inside the polling place. The Democratic ward chairman personally threatened me with arrest. I called the "black vans of lawyers" not to intimidate voters but to have them explain basic election law to the city officials.

Philadelphia is a Democratic town, and for the first time in decades, the Republican Katz campaign demanded that the city follow election laws. The campaign recruited teams of volunteers not to intimidate as "voter terrorists" but to present a minimal defense against entrenched, institutional voter fraud. Your article did not present any response from the Katz campaign and instead chose to unfairly lump Katz in with Bush-Cheney because it was convenient to your storyline.

I do not doubt that there are many instances of real voter intimidation targeting minorities. But based on my experiences, the 2003 Philadelphia mayoral race was not one of them.

-- Thomas Hillhouse

Farhad Manjoo's article on voter intimidation is right on target.

I'm a third-year law student at the University of Wisconsin and organizer for People for the American Way and Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Election Protection program.

In 2002 Milwaukee had its own brush with "ballot integrity" supervisors from the Republican Party, known as the Green Vests. Dressed similarly to construction workers or crossing guards, they carried clipboards and hung around polling places providing sketchy or incomplete I.D. requirements to voters.

Last week I worked the Milwaukee primary at a polling place in a housing project. My polling place was well-run and we had no problems, but the tension in the city is palpable.

Republican election-integrity programs are well worth highlighting; unfortunately, many Americans believe minority voter intimidation is a thing of the past.

-- Rob Deters

From where I sit, way over here in Australia, I look at your so-called "greatest democracy in the world" and shake my head. How can you Americans allow this home-brand terrorism aimed at the very heart of democracy -- the act of voting? You should all be ashamed. We hear so much about Americans having their "rights" enshrined in the Constitution. You must start addressing the responsibilities attached to those rights and make voting compulsory. This is the system we have here in Australia -- we support our democracy by insisting that everyone vote in local, state and federal government elections. Of course this system has its own problems which for brevity's sake I won't enumerate here, but never, ever do we have to put up with such disgusting practices as this article exposed in the name of discouraging people to vote.

-- Alison Williams

[For your daily dose of election poll coverage, visit Salon's War Room '04.]

As the assistant director of the Pace poll at Pace University, I want to address the controversy surrounding the inconsistent polls in the presidential election.

Whether a poll should be weighted for partisanship is not -- as the president's pollster Mr. Dowd claims -- an obvious question; there are good and weighty arguments on both sides. (In essence, partisanship changes, but it doesn't seem to change very much in very short periods of time; consequently, partisan weighting may miss trends in partisanship, but failing to weight may miss errors in sampling.)

That said, it's true that Democrats make up a higher percentage of the electorate on Election Day than Republicans. That fact is not controversial, and it's been true for decades. Consequently, any poll that has more Republicans than Democrats is probably overstating the president's support. To put it another way, it is possible that on this particular Election Day Republicans will outnumber Democrats for the first time in decades, but it's a very unlikely proposition.

Thus, I think it's safe to say that the president's lead is not as large as the Republicans believe. Whether or not the Pew Center is correct in surmising that his lead is nonexistent, I can't say, but I can say that pollsters accept something known as "the incumbent rule." The incumbent rule predicts that any incumbent at or below 50 percent will lose because undecided voters break toward the challenger. (In some sense, undecided voters are voters who have decided against the incumbent, but haven't yet decided for his challenger.) In other words, the president's "lead" is far less significant than his vote share. By that measure, he remains vulnerable.

-- Christopher Paige

[Read "The Dunce," by Mary Jacoby.]

Believe me, I'm no supporter of George W. Bush, but I have never been a fan of the ad hominem attacks against either candidate. I know that some people have great memories, but the specificity of the professor's recollections and their timing makes me question their veracity. From reading various (albeit biased) accounts of Bush's more recent behavior, the actions described seem in character. However, I find it quite remarkable that over 30 years later Bush's professor would remember questioning a student about how he escaped serving in Vietnam and the student's specific response about the Air National Guard.

Character is important, but I would rather stick to how the candidate's character is revealed in his political decision making rather than his attitude in graduate school over 30 years ago. I, for one, would like coverage of the presidential race to be a bit different than the reporting done by Entertainment Tonight or the National Enquirer.

-- Kris Maples

[Read "Turning Point," by David J. Morris.]

David Morris is critical of how the U.S. ended the invasion of Fallujah but fails to explain how the attempt to take the city could have reached a better conclusion. Should the Marines have been allowed to completely level the city and kill nearly all of its inhabitants?

Yeah, that would have won their hearts and minds. Most of the reports I read at the time confirmed that the majority of deaths in the attack were civilians. And that those onerous "rules of engagement" he described still permitted U.S. snipers to kill anything that moved.

Bush erred in ordering the attack but wisely backed off when he realized his mistake. Much as I dislike this man, I will give him credit for that.

-- Denny Hodges

[Read "Why Conservatives Must Not Vote for Bush," by Doug Bandow.]

I am an annoyed former RINO [Republican in name only] who will be voting against Bush in November because of his radical foreign and fiscal policies.

I am also part of that microscopic electoral demographic of Bush 41 Democrats. I agree with the authors of "Running on Empty" (Peter G. Peterson) and "America Alone" (Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke) that Bush's policies are a fiscal and foreign-policy betrayal of the conservative philosophy.

In Norman Podhoretz's Commentary article, "World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win," he accuses Brent Scowcroft of providing "aid and comfort to the hard left." Well, lock me up in one of Michelle Malkin's internment camps and call me a red-diaper doper baby, but this crop of neocons are a threat to our civil liberties and our way of life.

This administration's hubris and naiveté on foreign policy also extends to its fiscal policy, such as it is. As far as I can tell, cutting taxes is Bush's sole solution to every fiscal problem. The conventional wisdom of the Bush administration, that Reagan proved deficits don't matter, is a threat to our entire economy. It also ignores Eisenhower's admonition, cited by Halper and Clarke, that "there is no defense for any country that busts its own economy."

The most fiscally responsible presidents we've had in the last 50 years were Reagan and Clinton, who both had a Congress from the opposite party. The most fiscally disastrous administrations were those of LBJ and Bush 43. I'm casting a fiscally conservative vote for Kerry and institutional gridlock: The Republicans will filibuster Kerry's programs, and Kerry will veto any extension of the Bush tax cuts.

-- Gary Boatwright

By Salon Staff

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