The Starting Line – Voting Rights; Don’t Take Them for Granted

In case you haven’t noticed, San Diego Free Press has a terrific story up here about local efforts at “Poll Watching” underway via the Election Integrity Project and True The Vote, organizations with connections to the Tea Party movement. Our citizen journalists have been ‘watching the watchers’ over the past few months.

It’s pretty obvious from reading their materials that the underlying idea behind these ‘watchers’ is voter intimidation of certain classes of people that they have deemed to be suspicious. In practice—despite claims to the contrary—this has generally meant people of color, students, and other groups whose voting history runs counter to the conservative cause.

Despite promises from True The Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht earlier this year to recruit and train a million volunteers to watch the polls, the group has fallen far short of that goal. For example, Election Integrity Maryland has only about 200 recruits. Nevada Clean Up the Vote has about 700. And our SDFP observers also report a sharp decline in volunteer participation in local efforts.

‘Election Protection’ to the Rescue

A coalition of civil rights, labor and other progressive groups — calling itself Election Protection — has set up a nonpartisan voter hotline in Washington, D.C. for voters to call in with their problems and questions.

Along with concerns about the potential for intimidation of voters at the polls, the group is dealing with dirty tricks like robo calls telling people they can vote by phone, and flyers in neighborhoods saying that voters from one party vote on Wednesday, while others vote on Tuesday.

Voters in Florida have reported bogus letters questioning their citizenship and eligibility to vote.  And in Arizona’s notorious Maricopa County at least two official documents created by the Recorder’s Office misinformed Spanish-speaking voters of the wrong election day.

Election Protection has about 10,000 lawyers and other volunteers lined up to help voters with any problems they encounter on Election Day.  You can reach them online at and toll free at 1-866-our vote.

International Election Observers Draw Right Wing Wrath

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a United Nations partner on democratization and human rights projects, will deploy 44 observers around the US on Election Day to monitor an array of activities, including potential disputes at polling places.  The observers are arriving at the invitation of the State Department and the behest of a number of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and the ACLU.

All you have to do is mention the words “United Nations” and right wingers start frothing at the mouth.  From The Hill in Washington DC;

The request for foreign monitoring of election sites drew a strong rebuke from Catherine Engelbrecht, founder and president of True the Vote, a conservative-leaning group seeking to crack down on election fraud.

“These activist groups sought assistance not from American sources, but from the United Nations,” she said in a statement to The Hill. “The United Nations has no jurisdiction over American elections.”

Neil Simon, director of communications for the OSCE’s parliamentary assembly, agreed the U.N. does not have jurisdiction over U.S. elections but noted all OSCE member counties, which include the United States, have committed since 1990 to hold free and democratic elections and to allow one another to observe their elections.

The OSCE has 56 participating states from EuropeCentral Asia and North America, including the United States and Canada. It has assessed elections in the United States since 2002.

So, while observers at election time are not a new phenomena, this year’s right wing paranoia is at such a high level that this story is now in full blown “conspiracy alert” mode at Fox News and other rightist media outlets.

Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard is, in protest of the monitors’ presence, preparing legislation to require all poll watchers in that state hold U.S. citizenship. “It’s bad enough that Alabama remains trapped under the provisions of the Voting Rights Act,” Hubbard said “So we certainly don’t need anyone from the United Nations coming into our state and meddling in our elections, as well.”

Greg Abbott, the Republican Attorney General of Texas, issued a stern warning to would be monitors at polling places around his state on Election Day.

“It may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance,” he writes. “Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE’s representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law.”

Bilbray No Shows at Ocean Beach Town Council

Where was Bilbray? Photo via Twitter

Presentations to the citizens of Ocean Beach by both candidates for the 52nd Congressional seat were supposed to happen last night at OB Town Council Meeting.  Democrat Scott Peters totally dominated the event. Then again, GOP candidate Brian Bilbray didn’t even show up.

LA Mass Transit Exploring San Diego Link

A staff report presented to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority board last week indicates the Metrolink system currently operating in that region is actively exploring the introduction of additional service which would go from Los Angeles Union Station beyond Oceanside to San Diego.

According to the there have been ongoing discussions with the North County Transit District (NCTD) for extension of Metrolink service into San Diego and a market analysis on prospective weekday and weekend schedules is underway.

A Power Point presentation (unfortunately, not posted online) indicates that weekday service would start mornings in downtown San Diego while making all stops to Los Angeles.  The reverse would occur for the afternoon commute, along with southbound service from Fullerton to San Diego in the morning and trains returning in the evening.

Metrolink would operate service between Los Angeles and the Oceanside Transit Center, with North County Transit District (NCTD) operating trains south of Oceanside.  There are apparently a lot of details left to be worked out, including Amtrak’s response will be to Metrolink adding this route. None-the-less, a full report on this proposal is expected by early next year.

Encinitas’ Parents Still Threatening Legal Action Over Yoga Classes

The fight over a yoga program in the Encinitas Union School District continued this week, as an attorney with Encinitas-based Coast Law Group has offered to represent the district pro bono if it’s sued by a group of parents who want the yoga lessons yanked.  The district has been threatened with legal action by Escondido attorney Dean Broyles, who represents parents who consider the lessons to be religious indoctrination and unconstitutional.

Attorneys at Coast Law Group — including four who have children attending school in the district — feel differently.  “We are very proud of EUSD and believe the yoga program is a positive addition which fosters healthy lifestyles,” attorney David Peck wrote in an email. “While we are steadfastly opposed to the promotion of any religion in EUSD schools, we believe the yoga program is objectively devoid of religious influence.”

Students at half of the Encinitas district’s nine schools started the yoga exercises last month, and the other campuses will get the classes beginning in January. All grade levels participate in the lessons twice a week for 30 minutes at a time.  The effort is being paid for with a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes Ashtanga yoga across the world.

CNN Again Shows Why It’s a Failing Organization

It’s not that I need to remind anybody of about the decline of CNN as a news media outlet.  Viewers have been leaving the cable network in droves. But in case you haven’t been watching this train wreck happen, there’s this bit of ‘news’ posted yesterday at

While the campaigns eagerly pursue female voters, there’s something that may raise the chances for both presidential candidates that’s totally out of their control: women’s ovulation cycles.

You read that right. New research suggest that hormones may influence female voting choices differently, depending on whether a woman is single or in a committed relationship.

Only the new research didn’t actually say anything like that. So a couple of hours later this notice went up in the story’s place:

A post previously published in this space regarding a study about how hormones may influence voting choices has been removed.

After further review it was determined that some elements of the story did not meet the editorial standards of CNN.

Irvine Hearing on San Onofre Nukes to Probe Costs

The California Public Utilities Commission plans to vote today on whether to open a financial probe into rising costs tied to the damaged San Onofre nuclear power plant.  A rare meeting of the full Commission in Irvine will draw plenty of fire as a coalition of community advocacy groups will rally and sponsor a press conference in opposition to the continued operation of the San Onofre nuclear plant outside.

A spokesperson for the coalition explained their position:

“It’s time to cut our losses and permanently shut down the defective San Onofre nuclear reactors.  Edison’s plan to restart (even at partial power) defective and damaged equipment is unacceptable. This is not a prudent or reasonable plan for ensuring cost effective and reliable power.

Forcing customers to pay potentially billions of dollars for Edison’s aging and crippled nuclear reactors is unacceptable.  Edison and SDG&E customers already have some of the highest electricity rates in California and the nation.”

Opponents to continued operations include The Citizens’ Oversight Committee, Peace Resource Center of San Diego, Residents Organizing for a Safe Environment (ROSE), and San Clemente Green.

So far, the bill has reached at least $165 million for repairs, inspection and replacement electricity for the California plant with crippled steam generators that hasn’t produced power since Jan .31.  It’s not clear when, or if, the twin reactors will return to service.

The commission determines how much utilities can charge homeowners and businesses for electricity.

Feed Your Mind: Monsters and Tyrants

 So Say We All is a group that offers San Diego artists opportunities to share their works with the public in a variety of conventional and unconventional settings.  I attended a program/reading put on by the group last month at the City Heights Library and was simply blown away by the energy and raw talent on display.  From their website:

Since it’s conception in February 2009, SSWA has collaborated with local organizations such as Writers’ Ink, UCSD, Evoke and the American Civil Liberties Union to bring artists into cultural and political discussions.

Why San Diego? We grew up here. We watched incredibly talented artists lose faith in themselves and their craft or move away in order to survive. We got sick of hearing people say, “that’s a good idea, but it’ll never work here.” We were angry that our home town named it’s music festival after Austin’s, it’s theater scene after New York’s, and spent millions of our tax dollars on a stadium for a football team that’s constantly threatening to leave us. We didn’t share the inferiority complex. We were bored and decided we wanted to declare a jihad on mediocrity. Self-expression is the new entertainment.

Tonite (Thursday) starting at 8:30pm they are presenting VAMP: “Monsters and Tyrants” at South Park’s Whistle Stop, 2236 Fern Street [619-284-6784].

Here’s how they are describing the evening:

To have power is to abuse it so they say, and every relationship between two people boils down to how that power works out between them. October is for stories about the real monsters out there, those who wielded their privilege of place upon the weaker among them. Their strength comes from secrecy; let us drag them into the light

Tonite’s performances will include readings/spoken word/ poetry by: Hanna Tawater, Craig Oliver, Blair Overstreet, David Lin, Laura Condi, Rory Kelly, Dave Maass, Holland Holzer,and  Tosan Bayo. There is a  $5 suggested donation and a special after party dance set by DJ Ill Spectre.

On This Day: In 1955 the microwave oven for home use was introduced by The Tappan Company. In 1960 Mick Jagger and Keith Richards accidentally met on a train. In 1971 the U.N. General Assembly voted to expel Taiwan and admit mainland China.

 Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmer’s Markets: Carmel Valley (Canyon Crest Academy 5951 Village Center Loop Road) 3:30 – 7:00 pm, Chula Vista(Downtown, Center St. & Third Ave.) 3 –7 pm, Linda Vista  (6900 Linda Vista Road Between Comstock & Ulric) 2 – 7 pm, North Park (CVSPharmacy parking lot 3151 University & 32nd St.) 3 – 7 pm, Oceanside Market & Faire (Pier View Way & Coast Hwy. 101) 9 am – 1 pm,Oceanside Sunset (Tremont & Pier View Way) 5 –9 pm, San Carlos (Pershing Middle School 8204 San Carlos Drive) 4 – 7 pm, SDSU Farmers’ Market (Campanile Walkway btw Hepner Hall & Love Library) 10 – 3 pm, University Town Center  (Genesee Ave. at UTC Westfield Shopping Plaza) 3 – 7 pm.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!

I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org    Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.


Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35 year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He's won awards for 'Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial' from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.
Subscribe to "The Starting Line" and get an email every time a new article is posted!