Monday, November 3, 2008


Some Georgians Suspected Of Voting Twice

Georgia's Secretary of State has launched a full investigation and may seek criminal charges against three Georgia men who appear to have early-voted twice.

"This is extraordinarily disturbing," said Secretary of State Karen Handel.

A team of investigative journalists from WSB-TV in Atlanta, WFTV in Orlando and WFTS in Tampa and WCPO in Cincinnati compared Georgia's voter rolls with those in Florida and Ohio and found more than 100,000 people who appear to be registered to vote in more than one state, with no government oversight to catch it.

WSB-TV tried to find Thomas Habel at the home where he's registered to vote in Hartwell, Georgia, but was unable to locate him. That's because he was spending time at his other home in Marco Island, Florida. Before he left for the Sunshine State, according Georgia's Secretary of State, Habel early-voted at the Hart County elections office.

Chief registrar Elizabeth Forbes says she knows Habel and saw him cast his ballot. She even gave him a sticker. State records confirm Habel voting on October 1, 2008, but Florida records show him voting there on October 25.

"Oh, then that's not good," said Forbes when she saw both voting records with Habel's name on them.

Contacted at his Florida home Habel admitted voting in Florida at the Marco Island library, but says he doesn't recall voting in Georgia.

"Somebody would remember if they voted twice," Habel insisted. "I went and got a ballot for my wife she called me and said she forgot to vote, she was down there and I went in there and I signed for it." The registrar confirms Habel did that, too. His wife has already mailed in her Georgia absentee vote.

A check of Georgia's master voter rolls revealed more than 42,000 people who also appear to be registered in Florida. WSB-TV found three who appear to have double voted, which is a felony.

"Shocking, it's really shocking," said voter Kelley Johnson. "I wouldn't think to do something like that."

But Johnson could vote in two states. The college student has an absentee ballot from DeKalb County, even though she voted in Daytona Beach, Florida.

"Two days after I voted, my absentee ballot came in the mail," explained Johnson. "I was just shocked, it had my little sticker, ‘I'm a Georgia voter' on there."

WSB-TV found eight people who voted in Florida and received absentee ballots from Georgia. Another three voters who cast ballots in Ohio could have voted in Georgia.

"Because Ohio's a swing state, I'm not from here, I'm from Atlanta, so I re-registered in Ohio so we could possibly have a chance," admitted Lauren Arnone.

Arnone received her Cobb County ballot by mail, but vowed not to use it, even though she could.

"Something should be fixed about this because this can sway an election," said Arnone.

Haven't Made Up Your Mind? You're Not Alone

A new poll suggests one of the deciding factors in Tuesday's presidential election could be the undecideds. An Associated Press-Yahoo News poll said one in seven voters, or 14 percent, can't decide, or they back a candidate but might still switch.

Overall, the share of these voters, sometimes referred to as "persuadables," has barely budged from levels measured in June and September AP-Yahoo News polls, conducted online by Knowledge Networks. Of those now changeable, nearly three-quarters said in June their minds were made up, and half said so just last month.

The survey found Obama leading McCain among all likely voters, 51 percent to 43 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The AP-Yahoo News poll of 1,040 likely voters was conducted Oct. 17-27. It included interviews with 147 likely voters considered persuadable, meaning they're either undecided or back a candidate but say they might change their mind, and 893 likely voters considered not persuadable. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 8.1 percentage points for persuadable likely voters and 3.3 points for those considered not persuadable.

The poll was conducted over the Internet by Knowledge Networks, which initially contacted people using traditional telephone polling methods and followed with online interviews. People chosen for the study who had no Internet access were given it for free.

Cities Readying For Election Night Security

Chicago authorities are bracing for as many as a million people in downtown Grant Park Tuesday night to cheer on Sen. Barack Obama as election returns come in, a potential celebration and security headache.

Police in Chicago and elsewhere around the country say intense interest in the election and the possibility of large crowds in major cities are leading them to take crowd-control precautions usually seen during Super Bowls and World Series. In addition, local police will be providing security at polling stations to keep things running smoothly on Election Day.

Security preparations in Obama's hometown include orders for off-duty firefighters to haul their helmets, breathing tanks and other gear home now until after the election in case of any emergency. All Chicago officers have also had their days off canceled and are required to work Tuesday, Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis said.

Other parts of the country are thinking through security as well:

In Los Angeles, police typically deploy extra squad cars at polling places on Election Day and Tuesday will be no different, said Michael Downing, the Los Angeles Police Department's deputy chief. But he added that nothing suggests "people are going to riot or conduct themselves inappropriately depending on who gets in."

In Detroit, most of the city's 3,000 or so officers will be working Election Day, said police spokesman James Tate.

Asked if preparations are more intense than in previous years because of the heightened emotions surrounding this election, Steve Martin, chief sheriff's deputy in Franklin County, Ohio, said, "I think we take all of those into consideration."

A permit application for the Chicago event said 65,000 spectators would likely show up, but many more without tickets are expected to arrive for what Obama backers hope will be a celebration of the first black American elected to the presidency. Sen. John McCain is planning a smaller election-night party in his hometown of Phoenix, Ariz.

The huge Chicago crowd, unhappy or not, could pose usual hazards. Police have imposed sweeping street closures and parking bans that will effectively shut down the city center late Tuesday.

Mayor Richard Daley told reporters early that he would have preferred the rally at a stadium, where crowd control would be easier. Some church leaders, including the Rev. Albert Tyson, encouraged people to stay away from the event if they don't have a ticket. Faith leaders around the city, like Tyson, are hosting neighborhood viewing parties.

Daley estimated the cost to the city of helping to stage the event -- including adding more police and extra transit trains -- at around $2 million, and the Obama campaign has said it will pay all those costs.

The importance of Election Day security was driven home by the recent arrest of two white supremacists accused of plotting to kill Obama and dozens of other blacks, said Hilary Shelton, the director of the NAACP's Washington, D.C., bureau.

He added that anyone who might suggest Obama supporters in black communities might react violently if their candidate loses in a vote that is initially too close to call -- a la the 2000 presidential race -- may reveal their own racial biases.

Downing, who heads the Los Angeles department's counterterrorism bureau, put more emphasis on threats of a terrorist attack.

Palin Cleared In Troopergate Case

A report has cleared Gov. Sarah Palin of ethics violations in the firing of her public safety commissioner. The report, released today, said: "There is no probable cause to believe that the governor, or any other state official, violated the Alaska Executive Ethics Act in connection with these matters." It was prepared by Timothy Petumenos, an independent counsel for the Alaska Personnel Board.

A separate legislative investigation recently concluded that Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, abused her office by allowing her husband and staffers to pressure the public safety commissioner to fire a state trooper who went through a nasty divorce from Palin's sister. Palin fired Walter Monegan, but denies his dismissal was related to the trooper.

Alaska Personnel Board investigations are normally secret, but the three-member board decided to release this report, citing public interest in the matter given Palin's status as a candidate for national office. Election Day is Tuesday.

Palin had earlier waived her privacy rights, but others in her administration did not and Petumenos sought to keep the matter from playing out in the media. Petumenos said documents to be released Monday would not include transcripts of separate depositions given by Palin and her husband, Todd.

That deposition was the only one given by Sarah Palin. She was not subpoenaed to answer questions in the Legislature's investigation, though her husband, Todd, gave an affidavit in that probe.

Palin initially said she would cooperate with the Legislature's probe. But after she became John McCain's running mate, she said the investigation had become too partisan and filed an ethics grievance against herself with the personnel board.

Fossett's Bones Identified Near Crash Site

Authorities have positively identified two large bones found a half-mile from the crash site of Steve Fossett's plane in California's Sierra Nevada as the adventurer's remains. Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said Monday that DNA tests conducted by the state Department of Justice positively identified the bones as the remains of the millionaire aviator who disappeared last year.

Authorities found the bones last week. They also discovered Fossett's tennis shoes and Illinois driver's license, both with animal bite marks on them. Anderson said Fossett would have died on impact. It's not unusual, he said, for animals to drag away remains.

Fossett vanished in September 2007 after taking off from a Nevada ranch owned by hotel magnate Barron Hilton.

Judge Considers Dismissing MySpace Suicide Case

A federal judge wants more time to consider a defense motion to throw out a case against a woman in a MySpace hoax that allegedly led to a 13-year-old girl's suicide. U.S. District Judge George H. Wu indicated he would likely reject the motion but wanted to look at arguments more closely.

Lori Drew of O'Fallon, Mo., is accused of helping create a false-identity account on the social networking site and harassing her young neighbor with cruel messages. She has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing computers without authorization.

Megan Meier hanged herself after allegedly receiving messages saying the world would be better off without her. She was being treated for depression.

The government seeks to prosecute Drew under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which has never before been used in connection with a Web site's terms of service barring misrepresentation by users setting up new accounts. Prosecutors argue the statute can be used against cyber bullying.

Drew's defense attorneys have argued the indictment should be dismissed because it was too broad and there was a simple breach of contract not a federal crime. The case is being prosecuted in Los Angeles because MySpace computer servers are based in the area.

Cheetah Gets Loose In Cargo Hold Of Delta Flight

A Delta baggage worker got a bit of a fright the day before Halloween when she opened the door of a cargo bin to find a live cheetah running loose inside.

Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton said that two cheetahs were being transported in the cargo area of a passenger flight from Portland, Ore. to Atlanta when one escaped from its cage.

Talton said the airline contacted Zoo Atlanta, which quickly sent help. She said zoo staff tranquilized the animals and took them to the zoo, where they were still being held as of Monday afternoon. Talton said the airline was working with the owner of the cheetahs to get the big cats back to them. She declined to identify the owners, citing customer privacy rules.

Talton said the cheetah did not damage any luggage.


WSB-TV, GA Secretary of State, Delta Airlines, Associated Press, Alaska Personnel Board, Yahoo.

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