KU Polling Place Change Stirs Controversy

Kutztown University isn’t actually in Kutztown but Maxatawny Township and students there have been voting on campus for a number of years.  The poll has been in the lobby and hallway of an athletic building with ample parking just outside.  It seems numerous complaints over the years from voters and poll workers prompted the Berks County Elections Commissioner Deb Olivieri to finally move the precinct four miles away to the Township building.  This happened when a suitable polling place became available for Maxatawny 1 which had been in the township building (out of the precinct) and now is in a church within its precinct.

Olivieri notified Tom Herman, Chair of the Berks County Democratic Committee, of the proposed switch on July 19th and on August 8th the County Commissioners (two Republicans and a Democrat often referred to as “the third Republican”) sitting as the Board of Elections approved the change.  Since then allegations of voter suppression arose as local Democrats saw the switch as an attempt to limit voter participation by KU students.

On the surface that might appear so as registered voters in Maxatawny 3 are comprised of 72% students at the University.  However when one looks at actual voter turnout it is abysmal except in presidential years.  In 2010 227 voters turned out but only 3 in that year’s primary.   2011 had 2 primary voters and 5 in the general.  2012 had 10 primary voters and 943 for the presidential general election.  This spring just one voter turned out for the primary.

As Commissioners Chair Christian Leinbach correctly pointed out college students generally have no interest in local municipal elections so those turnouts are very bad.  They do have interest in presidential races however and that is when KU students do turn out in large numbers.  Moving the precinct off campus and four miles away will have an effect in those races.  KU President Javier Cevallos has promised the Board the University will provide shuttle service to the polling place.  As long as the students are adequately informed about that availability I don’t this being a huge issue.

I’ve known Olivieri for years and she is a thorough and capable elections director and doesn’t do things on a partisan basis.   The thought that a Democrat would decide to disenfranchise fellow Democratic voters doesn’t make sense.  Berks County Democratic Chair Tom Herman had ample notice of the proposed change and had no reaction until after the fact and then shamelessly accused Olivieri of voter suppression.

The facts show that over eight years only 33% of the voter turnout in Max 3 were KU students.  If they really want a campus polling place perhaps they should vote more often and be more involved in the process.  I visit this polling place on election days because a local GOP committee person is known to practice active voter suppression there (like telling students if they vote they’ll lose their student aid) and I want to report on it if and when it occurs.  I never have trouble finding parking but have no personal knowledge of the physical facility because I don’t enter it.  I do know a lot of foot traffic into and out of the building are football players reporting for practice and other normal student activity not related to voting.  If this presents problems for poll workers moving the poll might make sense.  Olivieri obviously sincerely thought this change would be good.  Time will tell.

Update:  The numbers provided by Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach, which I quoted here, are NOT accurate according to the County’s own website.  For example, in the 2011 primary election Leinbach himself garnered 94 votes at Maxatawny 3.  I am trying to contact him for an explanation.

Update II:  Leinbach is claiming his numbers were for registered students on campus only.  He presented them as voter turnout figures.  I will check the video for exact quotes.  If he intentionally misrepresented these numbers at a public, televised meeting to justify previous actions this is a serious matter.

Why I Won’t Be Coverin the PA Dems This Week

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party is convening Friday and Saturday in nearby Lancaster but I won’t be covering their activities.  A lot of resolutions and business are on the agenda but the powers that be (primarily the corrupt Bob Brady) will block everything once again.  I won’t be there however.  I’m fed up with Democrats violating their national charter by closing public meetings.  I’ve now been kicked out four times including at the last meeting when Fadia Halma evicted me from a By Laws Committee meeting.

In previous Party meetings Jack Hanna has thrown me out of the Southwest Caucus twice and Berks County Chair illegally closed a County Committee meeting and I was told I had to leave.

The DNC national Charter says that ALL Democratic Party meetings are open to the public.  That includes the press.  Closing these meetings tot he press or kicking me out of them is direct violation of their national Party rules.  I’ll no longer spend my time and money going to their meetings simply to be tossed out.  No more.

The By Laws Committee meeting at the last Party conference was very important.  The Progressive Caucus had proposed a by laws change prohibiting County Chairs from unilaterally dismissing duly elected committee people because they don’t agree with their politics, the Democratic candidates they choose to support (in unendorsed campaigns) or because they simply don’t want them.  Philadelphia County Chair Bob Brady and Berks County Chair Tom Herman have both been guilty of such actions.  I left the Democratic Party five years ago because of Herman’s actions against me when I chose to support Mike Morrill for the 126th State House seat against turncoat Tom Caltagirone.

So this by laws change was personal for me and I went to the By Laws Committee to witness and report on what transpired.  Ms. Halma told me the meeting would be closed and I had to leave.  Then Bob Brady killed the proposal behind closed doors.  I presume there was smoke leaking from under that closed doorway.  Doing business in smoke filled rooms continues in today’s Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Blog Update

I apologize for the lack of posting the past three weeks.  Our old house went under contract a month ago and the last weeks were hectic and frenetic going through all the hassles and wrinkles of preparing to close.  The deal did finally close last Friday so my time will begin reverting back to normal.

Things have been rather quiet on the state level with only one statewide race so there hasn’t been a lot about which to write and comment.  Since I no longer interview or cover Democratic candidates thanks to that undemocratic Party constantly throwing me out of their required “open” meetings things have quieted down considerably.   If you’re wondering why I’m not attending and covering your events ask Fadia Halma why she chose to block me from the By Laws Committee meeting at the last Democratic State Committee meeting.  Jack Hanna has kicked me out of two of his Southwest Caucus meetings and Berks County Chair Tom Herman tossed me out of one of his “open to the public” meetings.

The DNC Charter requires that ALL Party meetings be open to the public.

News & Notes June 13, 2012

I have yet to receive an explanation or apology for being summarily dismissed from a Pennsylvania Democratic Party meeting again Saturday.  Until I get an apology I will discontinue covering the campaigns of Democratic candidates.  This includes Barack Obama’s re-election.  It is a violation of the DNC charter to close Party meetings and this is three times it has happened in a short period.  My Campaign 2012 columns will cease until the DNC responds.

Tom Corbett’s poll numbers continue sinking like a stone.  Pennsylvanians now support him by only 36%.  This was before the Shell Oil giveaway which would hire 30,000 teachers.  What’s more important, 30,000 teachers or one more dirty energy plant?

Commerce Secretary John Bryson has taken a leave of absence after seizures caused him to be involved in hit and run accidents recently.  

A Navy drone crashed on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  President Obama is now using these unmanned planes to spy on us at home.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, closet queen, has broken with Grover Norquist.  As more and more cracks dent the adolescent idea of no new revenues ever his Americans For Tax Reform loses power.

Of course Tea Party extremists like Keith Rothfus are still stupid enough to put extreme politics ahead of the public welfare.  He has signed Norquists idiotic pledge along with others from Club For Growth (Pat Toomey’s organization) and the American Family Business Institute.  He’d rather you pay taxes than people like Alice Walton who is worth $21 billion.

American servicewomen are being raped in alarming numbers.  Even more alarming is the fact that not much is done to those who assault them and abortions for pregnancies resulting from sexual assaults is not readily available.  Sen. Jean Shaheen is proposing a bill guaranteeing abortion coverage for women service members who are raped.  Will Pat Toomey and Bob Casey step forward and protect our fighting women?  Will our Teapublicans in the House also do so?

North Dakota rejected a very radical law which could have restored slavery.  The religious freedom law would have allowed anyone in that deeply red state to disobey any law based on their religious beliefs.  Since the Bible condones slavery…

Arizona also had an election yesterday replacing Congresswoman Gabby Giffords with her former staffer Ron Barber.  Hers was a swing district so this could be a harbinger for the fall.  Of course Wisconsin also could be if you’re into reading political tea leaves.

Cuts to higher education didn’t begin with Tom Corbett though he has taken them to unprecedented levels..  Pennsylvania’s share of operating expenses for our state related universities has been declining for decades.  Toxic Tom’s actions have accelerated the decline dramatically.  We now have the distinction of having the top two most expensive in state tuitions in the country for state related universities.  Penn State is first and Pitt second.  This is a dubious and shameful distinction.

On Thursday the President will make an address at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland if you’re in that area.  He was in Philadelphia last night for a fundraiser at The Franklin Institute.  It was a pool reporter situation so I didn’t have access.  Tom Fitzgerald of The Inquirer was the pool reporter.  Supporters paid up to $40,000 for the privilege of meeting the President.

The Department of Energy has awarded grants to Air Products and Chemicals of Allentown and Lyondell Chemicals of Newtown Square.  13 projects received a total of $54 million to increase energy efficiency.

Citizens of the 8th Congressional District are giving Mike Fitzpatrick fits over recent news he gave federal earmarks to a campaign contributor.  This is called “pay to play.”  Another name for it is corruption.

Constituent Ginny Hoffman of Levittown said it’s time that elected officials get their priorities straight and help people who actually need it. Hoffman attempted to ask Congressman Fitzpatrick about his recent legislation benefiting his donors.

“When I open the newspaper I see that he is giving out a lot of pork to his donors instead of helping middle class people. I tried to tell him to help us, the people that are losing our homes and our jobs, instead of his wealthy donors. But I was blocked by his staff before I could ask my question,” she said.

Berks County Democrats Have Lost Their Minds

Four years ago the Berks County Democratic Committee drew over 400 people for their Spring Fling dinner.  Now they’re desperately trying to beg enough people to get 100.  What happened?  Power mad Chair Tom Herman has totally destroyed a Party which once actually elected actual Democrats.  The few they have now tend to win in spte of everything the Party does against them, the Chair goes on rants telling progressives to leave the Party, the Secretary writes bizarre letters to the editor and the Vice Chair spreads unsubstantiated rumors against a fellow Democrat.

Tom Herman, infamous for coming after me for having the temerity to support a challenger to his puppet master Tom Caltagirone(D-Allentown Diocese) and costing me thousand sin legal fees while violating my civil rights, may be the worst Party Chair in Pennsylvania.  Last fall he went on this rant (the entire speech went on for 23 minutes):

No wonder no one is willing to pay good  money to hear more of that!

Then there’s Joanne Brancadora who wrote this in a letter to the Reading Eagle:

The only reason women take the pill is so they and their men can have the pleasure sex has to offer without the responsibility of children.

Therefore it is immoral to use it unless a woman is married and has given the world at least two children or the woman has a serious medical condition in which pregnancy would risk her life.

The true purpose of sex is primarily for procreation, not recreation.

A society based on contraception, abortion and sterilization has no future. The church has every right to teach the truth.

Then there’s Vice Chair Ernie Schlegel who has been revealing his true self as “crucible.”  No wonder these folks can’t recruit candidates, groom young people or win elections.  They can’t even keep Committee people.  

News & Notes December 11, 2011

Berks Democrats held a no confidence vote against Chair Tom Herman yesterday which was defeated by one vote.  Apparently many of those in attendance abstained in a show of apathy.  You get what you deserve now, an even more arrogant abuser of power.

The GOP presidential field put on another comedy show last night in Iowa.  Mitt Romney tried to bet $10,000, proof solid he’s a 1%’er.  How many of you make ten grand bets?  Michelle Bachmann proved she still talks in nonsense and Rick Santorum kept bragging about his support in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state.  Hey Rick, remember 2006 when you only got 42%?

While riot police were disrupting Occupy Boston the State Department was warning Russia not to interfere with peaceful protesters.  If only we could force this sort of policy right here:

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the United States supported the right to peaceful protest in Russia as it does “anywhere in the world.”

“We expect that those demonstrations will remain peaceful on behalf of all parties, whether they’re the demonstrators or whether they are those keeping social order,” she said.

“So our expectation is that if there are protests, that they will be peaceful and that they will be allowed to proceed peacefully,” Nuland said.

There have been dozens of response videos to Rick Perry’s homophobic “Strong” ad.  Here’s one of the best:

After Perry released his ad his pollster was outed by fellow Republicans.  Ouch.

Rick Perry thinks we have just eight Supreme Court Justices.  At least he can finally count past two.

Newt still backed his statement that Palestinians are “an invented people.”  At last night’s debate all we heard about were rocket attacks on Israelis.  Not one candidate spoke about the inhumane blockade against those “invented people” and the thousands of lives being destroyed by Israel.  There are logical reasons rockets are launched across the border.

Now for a bit of Christmas cheer:

If you’re going shopping for other Christmas cheer this season the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board wants you to know that if you got raped because you were drinking it was your own fault.

Berks County Democrats Close Meeting, For Some

Berks County Chair Tom Herman opened this morning’s meeting of the County Democratic Party by declaring a closed Executive Session and ordered all non Committee members from the room, specifically the press.  While I and a few others departed others did not.  Others, like Tim Smith of Congressman Holden’s office, entered and were allowed to remain.  It is a violation of the DNC charter to close Party meetings.  It’s especially bad form after people are charged for admittance.  Declaring a closed meeting then allowing people to enter and/or remain in violation of Executive Session rules is not only an affront but perhaps a violation of law.  

Tom Herman keeps digging himself a deeper hole and cannot comprehend why others dislike him so fervently.

Candy Stitzman of State Committee got all in my face before the meeting upset about the palace revolt going public, blaming me.  I had nothing to do with what happened inside the Party, she was complaining to the wrong person.  I didn’t make this news I simply reported this.  That’s my job.  She did apologize.  She also explained that Tim Smith was allowed to be in the meeting as an elected official.  I asked her to which office he has been elected (he hasn’t).  This is yet another black eye for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Update:  Tim Smith reminds he is a sitting Committee person for Muhlenberg 1.  He isn’t listed on such on the Berks Dems website.  It was nice of him to drive all the way from his home in Cumberland County to be at the meeting.  Still, there were three others who remained in the meeting who weren’t eligible in an Executive Session.

Dem Chair: “Go Form Your Own Party!”

SEIU contract negotiator and Berks County Chair Tom Herman went on a 23 minute rant at the Democratic Party’s Fall dinner in October.  He was livid at criticism of President Barack Obama and told progressives and bloggers to leave the Party if they don’t like the President.  

Interestingly Democrats repeatedly reminded people from 2001-2009 that dissent was patriotic.  Now it’s treason.  I wish they’d make up their minds.

Herman, of course, is the Chair responsible for my leaving the Democratic Party after he willfully violated my civil rights under Pennsylvania election law.  Because I chose to support a candidate different from his in an unendorsed Democratic primary election (in which the Party serves as an agent of the State) he had me suspended as a Committee person.  He then created a Judiciary Committee and forced me to hire a civil rights attorney to defend my actions.

The election involved Rep. Thomas Caltagirone who had recently voted for Republican John Perzel for Pennsylvania House Speaker after Democrats finally gained a one vote advantage in the State House.  Michael Morrill, now Executive Director of Keystone Progress, chose to challenge him in the Democratic primary because of that vote.  I supported Morrill and joined his campaign committee.  Tom Herman took great offense to my criticism of Caltagirone and suspended me, an elected official, with no basis in law, by laws or rules.  He should have been impeached then by his Berks County Democratic Committee.

Now, as you can see, he’s at it again.  He brooks no criticism of the President, even when he is slashing programs for the poor, cutting hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs (many of which unions like his represent), and trying to cut Social Security and Medicare.  Heaven help any Democrat who isn’t a loyal, blind faith Party hack and dares to criticize the President for pushing a conservative, Republican agenda.  Herman won’t tolerate them in his Party and demanded they leave it and form their own.

They should.  If this is the attitude of Party leaders such as Tom Herman there’s no place for dissent and constructive criticism within a Party of jackasses.  Of course Obama isn’t compromising.  Compromising involves a negotiation where both sides give something in exchange for an agreement.  Since the President continually caves in to the other side while getting nothing in return people, including Democrats, are upset.  He is refusing to uphold and preserve core Democratic values and so is being justifiably criticized.  What once was dissent is now disloyalty.  It is a shame Democrats have sunk to this level.  Under Chair Herman the Berks County Party has shrunk to a fraction of its former effectiveness and membership.  Although having a substantial voter registration edge it cannot even field candidates much less win elections.

News & Notes December 3, 2011

Channel 69 News picked up my story about Tom Herman.  No one will yet comment about their resignation.  I’ve downloaded the fall dinner video done by Mr. Herman to pull out the section where he rants against blogs, email listers and progressives.  This is someone who co-founded a “progressive PAC (which gives to non-progressives) and who calls himself a progressive when it’s in his interest.  BS as we saw in his rant.

Donald Trump will moderate a GOP debate.  This is now, officially, a reality show combined with book tours.  At the end of the debate he should fire one of the candidates.  You cannot take seriously anything in which The Donald is involved.

Newt Gingrich claims people use their food stamp card to go to Hawaii.  This is shocking in that it illustrates the disconnect the 1% have with poor people.  Newt doesn’t have a clue how food stamps work.

The Milton S. Hershey School barred a boy from enrolling because he has HIV.  It’s been a long time since we witnessed HIV hysteria.  I thought the Ryan White days were passed us.  The only potential threat from others is the slight chance the boy would be subjected to a predatory sex offender hiring Hershey boys out for sex to older men.  Since the Hershey School has actually had that happen recently with one of its adult employees perhaps they shouldn’t be trusted with any children.

Michele Bachmann says she’d close the American embassy in Iran.  There hasn’t been a U.S. embassy in Tehran since 1979.  Shouldn’t candidates for president have some minimum sense of history and information?   Maybe, at a minimum, pass a basic civics test?

House Speaker John Boehner says the middle class payroll tax cut is “chicken shit.”  I think he has this confused with the way Republicans view the entire 99%.  Perhaps he should spend less time protecting billionaires’ incomes and rolled around in some chicken shit.  It’s right there in the GOP caucus room.

Penn State isn’t subject to the state Open Records Act and is using that shield to suppress requests for information about the Sandusky scandal.  They also used it to fight grand jury subpoenas.  As I recall the original controversy was around disclosing JoePa’s salary.  Penn State is just making itself look worse and worse by concealing what should be public information.  This is yet another disgrace.

Gov. Corbett ordered DPW to cut $470 million from its budget and social workers are now telling tales about poor women and children being cut from Medicaid.  All this, of course, is to fund tax breaks for corporations and allow energy drillers to NOT pay for extracting OUR natural gas.

Congressman Mike Kelly (PA-03) lambasted Obama for not taking responsibility for Republican failures.  It sounds like something you’d hear from a car salesman.  Kelly is a car dealer in Erie.

Rick Santorum says you shouldn’t get health insurance if you have pre-existing conditions.  It’s an excellent argument for single payer.

Berks Dems Revolting Against Chair Herman

Berks County Democrats began a palace revolt against County Chair Tom Herman this week.  Tuesday evening’s Executive Committee session saw officers demand his resignation.  When Tom Herman refused three of them resigned.  They were Charles Corbit, Barry Groebel and Dick Horton.  Herman went on a mad rant at the fall dinner and even was stupid enough to upload it to YouTube:

The low point was when the County Chair told Democrats they should simply leave the Party.  Of course many have since he became Chair and began wielding power irresponsibly.  As the number of active Committee persons declined so did Democratic performance in elections.  This year, again, several Republican row officers went unopposed and the turnout was pitiful.  The incumbent Commissioner came in third even though one of the Republicans was laid up and couldn’t campaign.  No matter though as his nickname is “The Third Republican.”  Under Tom Herman there hasn’t been a real Democrat on the County Commissioners Board.

His lust for power meant he preferred presiding over a diminished and ineffective County Committee rather than have a large and diverse one he couldn’t control.  This finally has come home to roost as his fellow Dems have finally seen the error of their ways and are planning to impeach him at the December 10th meeting.