Women's Voices. Women Vote.

by: Mike Lux

Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 15:50

I have been working at home today, completely focused on a May 1 deadline, but was just made aware of the controversy regarding Women's Voices. Women Vote.  (Disclosure: I am on their board.) I called Page Gardner and have had a quick conversation with her as well as seen the statement that she released.  I am completely confident that this was an accident. As far as I can tell, I think it was more a consequence of trying to move on 24 states in a short amount of time, and having nothing to do with the upcoming primary.

I have known Page Gardner for 16 years.  She has dedicated her life to trying to get folks to register to vote, and would never do anything to deter anyone from voting.

I am still gathering facts, as to what happened and as to what the exact sequence of events was.  As soon as I know more details I will do another post on what I learn.

In the meantime, I think that it's entirely possible that busy folks were a little bit asleep at the switch in this situation, but I really don't think there was any bad intent here.  

Mike Lux :: Women's Voices. Women Vote.

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Not an isolated "accident" (4.00 / 7)
She has some explaining to do!

This is OVERT SHENANIGANS (0.00 / 0)
I don't care HOW they try and spin this, the Clintons and surrogates are involved, and IT SMELL ROTTEN. This is NOT an isolated incident.

[ Parent ]
Let's not wait until we have more info on this, (0.00 / 0)
let's start the finger pointing NOW!

[ Parent ]
It certainly doesn't seem like "just a mistake" (4.00 / 3)
When a spokesperson is "confused by the confusion"

in multiple states before multiple primaries.
And using a fake name?
I certainly hope you are going to continue to follow up on this.

Bullshit. (4.00 / 5)
It's one thing to screw up a voter reg. deadline.  It's another to use an untraceable phone number, not identify your group, and use a guy with a black-sounding name to call black voters.

Please stop making excuses for your friends and get to the bottom of this.

This is the part that makes me suspicious (4.00 / 4)
The calls by Lamont Cranston err, Williams are REALLY suspicious, because why would a group wanting to register unmarried women use a black-sounding man to do robocalls?

That and the fact that the group seems to have made the same mistake over and over, that is, sending out information that confuses right before a primary.  Why couldn't they do all this in July and August?

It seems to me that a once-ok group is either being run by people who are at one and the same time experienced and incompetent (suspicious in itself) or it has been hijacked.

I just don't see how an experienced group repeatedly antagonizes state election officials and confuses the public "inadvertently."  I'd look into this much harder if my name were associated with it and was being used to prove the group's bona fides.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
It makes me wonder (0.00 / 0)
Did they contract out the operation of a legitimate plan to someone?

Did they contract out the operation of a legitimate plan to someone who they didn't investigate and monitor well enough?

Did they contract out the operation of a legitimate plan to someone who used it as a vehicle for their own dirty trick?

I speak only for myself, not for those voices in the next room that won't leave me alone.

[ Parent ]
thanks for posting this (4.00 / 4)
I hope you are right but there appears to be a pattern of this in a number of states, not just NC.  And there are many valid questions and concerns that Ms. Gardner's explanation at HuffPo don't cover.

Thanks for looking into this.

Ask her who "Lamont Williams" is... (4.00 / 8)
... and why this fictional "man" is trying to register single women in households where no single women live.

There are other questions about Women's Voices' outreach efforts. Although the group purports to be targeting "unmarried women," their calls and mailings don't fit the profile. Kevin Farmer in Durham, who first recorded the call, is a white male. Many of the recipients are African-American; Rev. Nelson Johnson, who is a married, male and African-American, reported that his house was called four times by the mysterious "Lamont Williams."

Yes (4.00 / 1)
Please, someone call "Lamont Williams" and see what he has to say.

It is very difficult to believe all of this is accidental.

[ Parent ]
Curious (4.00 / 2)
Mike, I'm wondering if you think that there's any possibility someone further down the organization's chain-of-command could have meddled with this registration drive for nefarious reasons? Also, do you think that there's any possibility someone like Page Gardner could have been so overzealous in her desire to see Clinton win that she would have allowed something like this to happen?

Before this was identified as the work of a Democratic non-profit, just about everyone who reported on the story agreed that it seemed an awful lot like a classic voter suppression scheme.

If it were an overzealous underling (4.00 / 1)
It doesn't make sense that Gardner herself would stick her neck out (at Huff Post) so quickly and publicly in an effort to explain it all away.

If you were the boss in this situation, would you?  Or would you, if you sincerely wanted to do the right thing, not investigate first, before trying to make it all go away?

For that matter, how could you be the boss of such an operation, and not be aware that the same thing was happening over and over again in other primary states?  

[ Parent ]
I have a suspicion (0.00 / 0)
that it will come out that they contracted out the job to a low bid, poorly vetted and badly supervised call shop.

Whether they have an agenda or are just bushian incompetents will be the next mystery...

[ Parent ]
Mike, it doesn't pass the smell test (4.00 / 5)
This has happened in multiple states, and it seems patently absurd to have a generic man named 'Lamont Williams' happening to disproportionately call African-American households that do not have single women.

Please get all the details first, then try and find out more. I don't think Gardner's being honest with you.

To quote Steve Martin from The Jerk (0.00 / 0)
"Okay, as long as we got a voucher!"

Thanks for acknowledging the story. (4.00 / 5)
And for promising to get to the bottom of what happened. I sincerely hope you address details of the complaints that the representatives of WVWV are ignoring today in their replies across the blogosphere.

bad intent or spectacular incompetence, same result (0.00 / 0)
Reading what Chris Kromm writes, this stinks really bad. Not, whoops, I spilled my coffee when I fell asleep at the switch bad. But these dipshits deserve criminal charges and the operation should be shut down bad.

This looks like a pattern of suppression. Ball is in your court.

On twitter: @BobBrigham

Don't you think it's worth mentioning, Mike, (4.00 / 4)
That Maggie Williams was on the board of WVWV until moving to the Clinton campaign?

And, sorry, but "busy people asleep at the switch" don't make the same mistake repeatedly (robocalls on the eve of a primary but after voter registration deadline, promising voter registration forms that may or may not arrive), then feign ignorance every time they're caught.  

This whole thing smells real bad.

agreed (0.00 / 0)
If not bad, then incompetent.  This has got to be one of the worst voter registration campaigns ever.

[ Parent ]
MAGGIE WILLIAMS!!! (0.00 / 0)
On the BOARD!!!  It's the Clinton Campaign AGAIN! AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!

[ Parent ]
Good intentions can bring really bad results. (4.00 / 1)
Good intentions do not excuse felonious behavior.

Good intentions do not excuse giving false names and false information to the people being robo-called.

Good intentions do not excuse failing to indentify the organization behind the call at the very beginning of the robocall.

The script and techniques used in this organization's robocall are confusing and fear-inducing. They are inexcusable.


Sounds like WVWV broke the law in NC.. (4.00 / 3)
and should be punished....Additionally, the list of states that have complained about their voter registration efforts  leads most of us to believe that this was either a shocking pattern of incompetence or more likely, an intentional effort to participate in bad politics...progressive infrastructures need to be held accountable to a much much higher standard than this crap. This is inexcusable.

Please keep the inquiry alive. (0.00 / 0)
Thanks Mike for posting.   I'm not quite satisfied that this is kosher, but it is of course possible that Gardner herself wasn't at fault.   It might help to give us a sense of how many staff and vendors and laywers it takes to run a national drive like this.

Please don't get burned up by the (understandable) anger here, please push to get the real answer.   Even if each state was a mistake, there is an answer to the Lamont persona, the dates, the lack of attribution, etc.  

But as far as the 'its all a mistake' answer goes, I think the multi-state pattern and all the law enforcement that came calling would have caused mistakes to stop before NC.

I remember that the person who gave us the FL butterfly ballot was a Dem, so sometimes mistakes do creep in and cause more harm than any deliberate tactic.  

Please keep digging for us.

ehhh... (0.00 / 0)
I'm with the rest of the thread: the explanation you relay from Page doesn't seem logical.

It's entirely possible that this wasn't initiated from the top, but that raises pretty real questions about oversight anyway.

More info when you have it.

Me | My Work | Future Majority

Advice (4.00 / 2)
Over on Josh's site, I posted advice I gave a caller from this organization before the 2004 election, when I got a real human being call.

The person calling clearly did not know Minnesota Election Laws regarding registration.  Because I have organized registration drives as part of Campaigns for State Representative and Senators for more than 25 years, it really bothered me that someone who didn't know the specifics of our law and process was doing the calling.  

Absolutely fundamental to any successful registration drive is to tailor the campaign to a local targeted area.  For instance, my own district includes a large part of the University of Minnesota -- the student population is highly mobile, and at least 50% of the residents move between elections.  But give me half a dozen volunteers and at least one candidate who will be on the ballot, and I can get 3-400 registration cards filled out in 2 hours -- I do it in the food line in the dorms at dinner time.  By law I can door-knock security apartment buildings as long as I have a candidate letter authorizing me to do registration -- and I know which buildings need to be done every year.  In otherwords I know my targets, my local law, and I respect volunteer time, and use it in an economical way.  Every district in the country needs to be treated this way, and each is distinctive.  It simply is a waste of time and money to do this by phone -- you can't put a card in the hands of an unregistered but qualified voter over the phone, and you can't help them fill it out so it is legal, and collect it and see that it is turned in in a timely way.  Above all, you can't answer friendly questions -- where do I vote? for instance.  And yes, you encourage voting by specifically answering that question, and adding on the date and poll opening times.  

In 2004, your caller did not know that in Minnesota one can register at the polls if you have ID or a person to vouch for you who is already a registered voter.  Any GOTV strategy in Minnesota is built around that aspect of our law.  I'd rather spend a small amount of money printing an insert quoting the law (cheap paper, quarter page sized -- I have even used Post-its) and stick it on every piece of campaign lit that goes out.  Far more valuable than a phone call.  

In otherwords, four years ago I told your caller this, that registration drives need to be designed at the local level, and need to provide specific information that reflects State Laws and Practices.  So I take this opportunity to say it again.  

Not to pile on... (4.00 / 2)
...but really, this requires a much greater explanation from WVWV, and it requires that someone's head rolls, for all the reasons given in comments.

Yeah I blog.

NC Attorney General: "robo-calls violated the law" (4.00 / 2)
Facing South follows up their investigation:

"Regardless of the motivation, the robo-calls violated the law and they needed to stop," [North Carolina Attorney General Roy] Cooper said in a statement.

Seems that WVWV will once again have to answer to legal authorities, in addition to the blogosphere.

[ Parent ]
Funny how people are so quick to condemn (0.00 / 0)
I'm going to step outside the normal orthodoxy that Project Vote uses for its postings and comments and take a minute to talk as a staff member, not as the official voice of the organization.

Voter registration is hard work, no matter what methodology one uses. There are a lot of moving parts to a national program, including voter registration deadlines that vary from state to state.

It is important to note here that WVWV is running a VR program that will last until the General Election. That's important because I believe they were capitalizing on the enthusiasm of the upcoming presidential primaries to boost the success of their program. If that was indeed the case then the fact that they missed the VR deadlines for the primaries wasn't of paramount consideration because their real goals are for the general.

However, it has obviously been extremely confusing for folks that they would take advantage of the energy of the primaries without taking into account primary registration dates or offering an explanation of the discrepancy in their robo calls. Further the robo calls themselves seem to have been fraught with some legal problems as well as targeting problems.

But I don't know the facts of the case one way or another and I am not condoning or condemning any of the actions by WVWV for the same reason. What I do want to convey is a sense that not everything related to VR and GOTV is a conspiracy and that smart people with good intentions can still make mistakes big and small.

I'm sure we'll find out what was really going on soon.

In the meantime, as an employee of an organization that has been crazed by things like the US Attorney's scandal, I plead with folks to wait a minute before the start condemning and getting out the pitchforks and torches.

We don't really know what this is yet.

Nathan Henderson-James
Project Vote Research Director

This post is ENTIRELY TOO REASONABLE (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
Circling the wagons is not good strategy, either. (4.00 / 3)
I understand that if WVWV is truly in the wrong on this, it's going to make your job that much harder; however, there are some incontrovertible facts that have been reported here that are damnable.

Also, as I see you are the nathanhj flooding the Stoller post with comments, it would help to identify yourself over there to lend credibility to your point of view. I strongly disagree with some of the defenses you've provided, particularly regarding the illegality of the robocalling campaign in NC, but will now take into consideration all of your hard work and knowledge when reading those comments.

[ Parent ]
Hi Nathan. here's another dKos (4.00 / 1)
diary, by a guy who says he's a "voter reg pro," who "once managed a California VR campaign that registered over 200,000 voters" -- you might not like the title much, but he's got an interesting list of unanswered questions.  

[ Parent ]
Hi Mike, the board didn't know there was a police (4.00 / 3)
investigation in Virginia, just two months ago, over this same issue? Unidentified robo-calls from WVWV, Caller ID blocked, calls coming right before the primary, but after voter reg deadline?

from the VA State Police press release:

The investigation was initiated Thursday (Feb. 7, 2008) after State Police was contacted by the State Board of Elections. On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, Virginia citizens began receiving recorded phone messages notifying them that a voter registration packet would be arriving in the mail. The individuals were then advised to complete, sign and mail in the application. Concerned because the messages did not specify who or where the packets were coming from, many of the citizens contacted their local registrar to find out if it was legitimate.

If you didn't know, well, no wonder we;re asking questions about what's going on. If you did know -- what made the board decide that it was OK to do it again in NC?

thanks for posting.


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