Early voting in the presidential election has already begun in many states, and problems are already emerging at the polls. In West Virginia, voters in at least two counties using touchscreen voting machines have claimed their votes were switched from Democrat to Republican. Six voters reported having this problem in Jackson and Putnam Counties. In both counties, Republicans are responsible for overseeing elections. One voter, a retired nurse named Shelba Ketchum, said, “I hit Obama, and it switched to McCain. I am really concerned about that. If McCain wins, there was something wrong with the machines.” Election officials blamed voters for not being more careful. Both counties use machines made by Election Systems & Software.
In North Carolina, over 200,000 residents have already cast ballots in early voting. In Fayetteville, a group of John McCain supporters heckled and harassed a group of mostly black supporters of Barack Obama as they voted on Sunday. The Washington Times reported the McCain backers shouted and mocked the voters as they walked into the voting place. The website Facing South reports the McCain supporters likely broke the Voting Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits anyone from intimidating or threatening a person for voting or attempting to vote. On that same day in Fayetteville, North Carolina, thirty people reported having their tires slashed after attending an Obama rally.
In Ohio, Democratic Governor Ted Strickland has accused Ohio Republicans of trying to scare newly registered voters by filing lawsuits that question their eligibility. The Republican Party has filed numerous legal challenges questioning the status of about 200,000 newly registered voters in Ohio, warning about the potential for voter fraud. Governor Strickland said, “In the last few days, the Republicans have tried to instill fear in Ohio voters about whether their registrations to vote will be challenged and whether they will be able to cast a ballot.”
In Caledonia, Wisconsin, a fifty-eight-year-old Obama campaign volunteer was assaulted on Saturday while canvasing. Nancy Takehara was attacked by a disgruntled homeowner who accused her of being connected to the community organizing group ACORN. Takehara said, “He grabbed me by the back of the neck. I thought he was going to rip my hair out of my head. He was pounding on my head and screaming.” Takehara said she was not seriously injured.
On the campaign trial, Senator John McCain told voters in Colorado Springs that the race is not over despite what the political pundits are saying.
John McCain: “Just the other day, Senator Obama’s campaign announced that he’s choosing his cabinet. He’s measuring the drapes and planning with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to raise taxes, increase spending and concede defeat in Iraq. My friends, I will never concede defeat. I will bring us home in honor and victory.”
At a rally in Tampa Bay, Florida, Barack Obama criticized John McCain’s plan to help homeowners facing foreclosure.
Sen. Barack Obama: “Now, the other week, Senator McCain came out with a proposal that he said would help ease the burden on homeowners by buying up bad mortgages at face value, even though they’re not worth that much anymore. So here’s the thing, Florida. His plan would amount to a $300 billion bailout for Wall Street banks. And guess what? It would be paid for by all of you, the American taxpayer. And that might sound like a good idea to the former bank lobbyists who are working on Senator McCain’s campaign, but that’s not the change America needs.”
In Grand Junction, Colorado, police tackled several protesters on Monday as they attempted to block the motorcade of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Video of the incident was filmed by the TV channel KCCO. The protesters were holding a banner that read “Direct Democracy.”
In other campaign news, the New York Times reports many wealthy supporters of both Obama and McCain have managed to skirt campaign finance laws by giving tens of thousands of dollars to joint fundraising committees that benefit the candidates as well as their respective parties. The Times analyzed donors who wrote checks of $25,000 or more to the candidates’ main joint fundraising committees. The biggest portion of money for both candidates came from the securities and investments industry, including executives at various firms embroiled in the recent financial crisis like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG. All told, each candidate has had about 2,000 people give $25,000 or more to his various joint fundraising committees. The Times reveals that in September more than 600 donors contributed $25,000 or more to Obama, roughly three times the number who did the same for McCain. Obama raised a record-shattering $150 million in September.
Political analysts say Obama’s fundraising edge has allowed him to spend record amounts of money on campaign advertising. On October 29, Obama plans to buy a half hour of air time on NBC, CBS and Fox to address the nation in prime time. John McCain has already been forced to stop buying time on national networks or national cable.
Darrell West of the Brookings Institution: “The successful fundraising allows Obama to be competitive in a much larger number of states than McCain is. McCain doesn’t have that much money. He’s had to pull out of Michigan, pull out of a few other places. Obama is able to advertise in all the places where he wants to advertise, and he also has a large number of field operations in some of those crucial battleground states, so it puts him in a very strong position to conclude this race on a very strong finish.”
In other campaign news, Senator Obama has canceled nearly all of his campaign events on Thursday and Friday in order to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii.
In economic news, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke told Congress on Monday that another economic stimulus may be needed to boost the economy.
Ben Bernanke: “Moreover, with the outlook exceptionally uncertain, the optimal timing, scale and composition of any fiscal package are unclear. All that being said, with the economy likely to be weak for several quarters and with some risk of a protracted slowdown, consideration of a fiscal package by the Congress at this juncture seems appropriate.”
This marks the first time the central bank chair had explicitly endorsed a second stimulus package. The government sent out about $100 billion in tax rebate checks over the summer to try to jump-start the economy, but consumer spending has struggled since then.
The United Nations is estimating the global financial crisis will add at least 20 million people to the world’s unemployed. The International Labor Organization reports this will bring the global total to more than 200 million for the first time in a decade.
The New York Times reports President Bush has privately decided not to close the US military prison at Guantanamo and has never even considered State Department and Pentagon proposals to transfer the prisoners elsewhere. Both of the major presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, have called for closing Guantanamo, but neither has spelled out how this would take place or what would happen to the 250 prisoners currently at Guantanamo. On Monday, a federal appeals court blocked the release of seventeen Chinese Muslims into the United States from Guantanamo. The Uyghurs have been held for seven years, even though the US acknowledges they are not enemy combatants. This comes as the Bush administration is also seeking to extend the sentence of Osama bin Laden’s former driver Salim Hamdan.
European Union environment ministers met in Luxembourg Monday to discuss how to reach targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Italy is objecting to the deal in its present form on the grounds that it would be too costly at a time of global financial turmoil. Critics are claiming the financial crisis makes it very difficult to make the necessary big investments in clean energy. Geoffroy De Schutter of the World Wildlife Fund urged the ministers to take action.
Geoffroy De Schutter: '’The climate change is faster and more important than previously thought by the IPCC. So, scientists are demonstrating it's going faster, and so there is an urgency. What we are asking the European Commission for is to drastically reduce CO2 emissions and commit to a reduction superior to 20 percent, around 30 percent, and to enter into a new economy. And you see that the financial crisis and the stakes there encourage us to change the system. Today, we have to accept the necessity to change the system and commit to CO2 emission reduction.’’
And finally, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller has a new job. Fox News has hired her to be an on-air analyst and to write stories for Fox’s website. Miller’s reporting on Iraq prior to the US invasion was widely scrutinized for helping the Bush administration make the case for war.