Florida: Hand recount begins for tight US Senate race
By GARY FINEOUT and BRENDAN FARRINGTON
Friday, November 16
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A hand recount began Friday in Florida’s acrimonious U.S. Senate contest after an initial review by ballot-counting machines showed Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson separated by fewer than 13,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast.
Under state law, a hand review is required when the victory margin is 0.25 percentage points or less. A state website’s unofficial results show Scott ahead of Nelson by 0.15 percentage points.
A hand recount in the Senate race does not review all votes that were cast. It will involve only that fraction of ballots in which voters cast either two votes for one race, which is called an overvote, or appeared to choose no candidate, which is an undervote. The idea is to figure out a voter’s intent.
At a warehouse in Broward County — which has had numerous problems throughout the election — dozens of volunteers sitting at folding tables cheered loudly when they were told they had finished the recount Friday morning for the Senate race and could go home for the day. Results were not immediately announced.
The margin in the governor’s race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum was 0.41 percent. That means the contest for governor appeared all but over Thursday, with a machine recount showing DeSantis with a large enough advantage over Gillum to avoid a hand recount in that race.
Gillum, who conceded on Election Night only to retract his concession later, said in a statement that “it is not over until every legally casted vote is counted.”
The overall recount has been fraught with problems. One large Democratic stronghold in South Florida was unable to finish its machine recount by the Thursday deadline due to machines breaking down. A federal judge rejected a request to extend the recount deadline.
“We gave a heroic effort,” said Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. If the county had three or four more hours, it would have made the deadline to recount ballots in the Senate race, she said.
Meanwhile, election officials in another urban county in the Tampa Bay area decided against turning in the results of their machine recount, which came up with 846 fewer votes than originally counted. And news outlets in South Florida reported that Broward County finished its machine recount but missed the deadline by a few minutes.
Scott called on Nelson to end the recount battle.
It’s time for Nelson “to respect the will of the voters and graciously bring this process to an end rather than proceed with yet another count of the votes — which will yield the same result and bring more embarrassment to the state that we both love and have served,” the governor’s statement said.
The margin between Scott and Nelson had not changed much in the last few days, conceded Marc Elias, an attorney working for Nelson’s campaign. But he said he expects it to shrink due to the hand recount and the ruling on signatures.
Six election-related lawsuits are pending in federal court in Tallahassee, and at least one in state court.
The situation drew the ire of U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who slammed the state for repeatedly failing to anticipate election problems. He also said the state law on recounts appears to violate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that decided the presidency in 2000.
“We have been the laughingstock of the world, election after election, and we chose not to fix this,” Walker said at a hearing Thursday.
Late Thursday, Walker rejected a challenge by Nelson and Democrats to the rules of the hand recount in the Senate race. During the hand recount, elections officials look at just the ballots that weren’t recorded by voting machines. Walker found the state’s rules were reasonable and constitutional.
Walker also ordered that voters be given until 5 p.m. Saturday to show a valid identification and fix their ballots if they haven’t been counted due to mismatched signatures. Republicans challenged this order and were turned down by an appeals court.
State officials testified that nearly 4,000 mailed-in ballots were set aside because local officials decided the signatures on the envelopes did not match the signatures on file. If those voters can prove their identity, their votes will now be counted and included in final official returns due from each county by noon Sunday.
Walker was asked by Democrats to require local officials to provide a list of people whose ballots were rejected. But the judge refused the request as “inappropriate.”
Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg and Curt Anderson and Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale contributed to this report.
The Institute for New Economic Thinking
Partisan Frenzy Rules Washington, but Does it Have to Rule Americans?
By Lynn Parramore
Oct 22, 2018 | Institutions, Policy & Politics
To connect across difference is the only thing that will save us from rule by the privileged few.
Recently, my Facebook page featured a post by a Republican acquaintance listing reasons why Democrats are the morally degenerate enemies of America. He’s the neighbor of a relative of mine—a passionate Democrat of the sort who posts campaign signs in her yard. This is the same neighbor he treats to fresh lettuces from his garden and cherishes for her plucky personality.
How can the doting neighbor and the bitter partisan be the same person?
According to social scientists, very easily. Humans have a knack for holding contradictory attitudes and shifting seamlessly among them. Social psychologist Richard E. Nisbett and others have studied the way people make judgments and form perceptions, finding that we are guided by an array of mental and emotional forces that apply depending on context and situation. Most of this is beyond our conscious awareness.
When we post on social media, we are guided by one set of forces, different from those at play when we meet a neighbor face-to-face. In one context, we are focused on what divides us, in the other on what we share.
The conventional wisdom media insists that the country is degenerating hopelessly into warring factions: blue v. red; white working class v. people of color; centrists v. insurgents; left v. right; millennials v. boomers; men v. women. While pundits proclaim America broken, we tend to forget something expressed by the poet Maya Angelou: “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
Feeling is First
Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild found evidence for this human flexibility while doing research in Louisiana bayou country. A lifelong blue-stater, she wanted to know what motivated red-state voters to reject federal solutions to serious problems that dogged their communities, a phenomenon she calls the “Great Paradox.” How, for example, could a voter be drawn to Big Oil-supported candidates when the companies that fund them turned their beloved bayous into toxic waste dumps, destroyed jobs in fishing and tourism, and drained public coffers? Why vote for what hurts you?
Unsatisfied with popular answers, she headed down to southwestern Louisiana, near the Gulf of Mexico, where from 2011 to 2016 Hochschild interviewed several dozen white, Christian, middle-aged and older people from both blue collar and white collar backgrounds, 40 of whom were Tea Party supporters. At their kitchen tables and workplaces, she learned from them what media accounts often miss.
Instead of intolerant bigots, she found people who treated her with friendly, often bemused, curiosity. Rather than caring little for the less fortunate or the environment, those she spoke to wanted good jobs, clean water, and to help those in need. They set a high store on community, fairness, resilience, and hard work—values much of the country would share.
Not that there weren’t any differences. These Louisianans tended to define community as the home and the church instead of the public square that means so much to San Franciscans. They expressed disdain for the government the way Bay Area hipsters scorn consumerism. For many, making sure that their kids attend a good church was more important than earning a spot at a fancy school. They felt pride to be rooted in a thick, stable community of relatives, co-parishioners, and friends. To them the cosmopolitan life seemed precarious and alienated.
They pointed to the failures in the public sector more readily than abuses in the private sector. When these right-leaning people thought about economic unfairness, they focused their attention down the class ladder (between the middle class and the poor), rather than up (between the top and the rest) as people on the left tend to do. “Ironically,” Hochschild notes, “both call for an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.”
Southwestern Louisianans also carried what Hochschild calls a “deep story” of their American experience that was distinct from other regions. A deep story, as she defines it, is an emotion-driven inner narrative that informs how we see the world and ourselves. For the people she got to know, that story often involved a sense of shame, betrayal, and having been cast aside.
Emotional self-interest, Hochschild found, can be a stronger motivating factor than economic self-interest. One woman told the sociologist that she liked Rush Limbaugh because he defends her from the insults of liberals. “Oh, liberals think that Bible-believing Southerners are ignorant, backward, rednecks, losers,” the woman said. “They think we’re racist, sexist, homophobic, and maybe fat.”
People naturally seek release from unpleasant emotions. Charismatic leaders who understand deep stories can offer that release. That’s why, Hochschild observes, Donald Trump acts as an “antidepressant” at rallies in a region routinely mocked by coastal city-dwellers.
In a place where the shameful history of the plantation system hovers, a Big Oil executive who promises dazzling new facilities and high-dollar jobs delivers a feeling of pride restored, of future prosperity. On the contrary, being told that they should rely on government money to alleviate problems caused by such developments triggers a sense of shame in people.
No matter what our politics, human beings seek fairness, security, and dignity. We yearn for status in our own eyes and in those of our community. We are creatures who yearn for comfort when we are hurt and someone to blame when we are angry. Most of the time we want to help our neighbors and to show kindness to strangers. We want love, whether we were the supporters of Hillary Clinton who raised “Love Trumps Hate” signs in the 2016 campaign or Trump backers who swam in the “sea of love” the president described at his inauguration.
And none of us likes it when we are told we are feeling the wrong feelings.
Climbing Over the Empathy Wall
Hochschild’s 2016 book, “Strangers in Their Own Land,” is the account of a struggle to scale what she calls the “empathy wall”—the mental and emotional blocks which prevent us from seeing through the eyes of others. Part of the challenge involves understanding the ways in which we are connected.
We need each other, but we often don’t see each other. Hochschild notes that blue coastal cities need red state resources, but are too distanced from what it takes to procure them. Liberals from New York might be happy to use great quantities of oil to fuel their jet-setting lives, but they don’t have to live with the pollution caused by the production of this oil: Louisianans do. Blue-staters, she finds, could do with understanding more about what community means to people in other parts of the country, while red-staters could benefit from reaching out to a larger world.
Climbing the empathy wall is challenging, but the reward is hope. On both sides, Hochschild observes, people “wrongly imagine that empathy with the ‘other’ side brings an end to clearheaded analysis when, in truth, it’s on the other side of that bridge that the most important analysis can begin.”
The sociologist found that on issue after issue, differences are real, but not immutable. Possibilities for practical cooperation become apparent once people start talking to one another. One deeply conservative woman who stressed the dignity of work expressed an idea that would have sounded right to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Dealers: “If there aren’t jobs around,” she said, “well, get people working on highways…” To such a person, solutions in the form of jobs programs or training have a stronger chance of sounding palatable than other remedies.
In an interview with the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Hochschild said that she found strong interest in renewable energy among Louisianans. However, talk tended to shut down when the suggestion of government investment came up. On a fishing trip with one of her Louisiana friends (she calls them friends in the book), a surprising path of connection came up through a discussion of fairness, namely, how it didn’t seem fair that California enjoyed relatively clean air and water and Louisiana suffered with pollution. It was the social self, not the economic self that mattered in the conversation. Once the idea of fairness was extended into the issue of pollution, people were able to shift out their default political framework.
Evidence for What Binds Us
Poll after poll reflects Americans’ common values and concerns.
Most want people to have a safety net: A 2017 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that only 12% support cuts to Medicaid, while a 2016 Public Policy Polling survey found that the majority of Americans want to expand Social Security, regardless of age, race, gender, or party affiliation. Most want more economic fairness: A 2017 Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that three quarters think the rich should pay more taxes, while a Pew survey the same year revealed that 62 percent are deeply troubled that “some corporations” don’t pay their share. Pew also reported in 2017 that a substantial majority sees economic inequality as either a very big or moderately big problem.
Americans care about nature: In 2018, Gallup showed that most want the government to do more to protect the environment. Even the most polarizing issues reveal commonalities: A 2016 Pew survey found that 69% do not want Roe v. Wade overturned.
Surveys also reveal shared frustrations, particularly when it comes to institutions. In 2017, Pew reported that only 18% of Americans say they can trust the government in Washington. 2018 polling data demonstrate that only 14 percent have a “great deal” of confidence in banks. A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll showed that Americans have limited faith in big business, the presidency, the political parties and the media. A dismal 13% were found to trust the Democratic Party, and even fewer, 10%, had faith in the GOP. Congress elicited trust among just 8% of people. We may claim strong tribal affiliations to political parties, but we are frequently exasperated and annoyed by those tribes.
Hochschild points out that even in what is commonly considered the hopeless factional realm of Congress, members across the aisle have been able to come to agreement on issues like the need to reduce the prison population—something that might have sounded impossible in the recent past. She notes that one strategy to getting past partisan blocks is what she calls a “symbol stretch”—identifying cherished symbols, like freedom or patriotism, and expanding them in such a way that you include the listener. She gives an example of one Louisiana man concerned about pollution giving a talk to conservative businessmen who expressed little interest environmental matters but deep concerns about freedom—the freedom to invest and freedom to get rich. By describing a fisherman as lacking the freedom to procure uncontaminated fish, he gained the audience’s attention.
Hochschild observes that we all live in bubbles, and that it is imperative to get out of them. Change the situation and the context and you change how people respond to matters that are not as settled as they appear. She points to efforts like Bridge Alliance, a coalition of more than 90 organizations across the country committed to figuring out how to revitalize democratic practice—an effort that requires people with different perspectives and backgrounds meeting each other, speaking to each other, and activating the processes that encourage human beings to explore what they have in common.
In the current climate, Americans across the political spectrum feel alienated from a system that fails to represent what most of us want. People intuitively understand what research by political scientists like Ben Page and Thomas Ferguson have revealed: that the system has been taken over by a privileged few and grows more rife with exploitation and unfairness.
On the left and the right, Americans have become strangers in their own land. Perhaps the most radical thing we can do is to remember our shared fate and seize the possibilities of our flexible human perspectives. That’s the last thing the enemies of democracy want to see happen.
Senior Research Analyst
WikiLeaks chief could see charges, US court filing suggests
By ERIC TUCKER
Friday, November 16
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department inadvertently named Julian Assange in a court filing in an unrelated case, suggesting prosecutors have prepared charges against the WikiLeaks founder under seal.
Assange’s name appears twice in a recently-unsealed August court filing from a federal prosecutor in Virginia who was attempting to keep sealed a separate case involving a man accused of coercing a minor for sex.
In one sentence, the prosecutor wrote that the charges and arrest warrant “would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.”
In another sentence, the prosecutor said that “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”
Any charges against Assange could help illuminate whether Russia coordinated with the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election. It would also suggest that, after years of internal wrangling within the Justice Department, prosecutors have decided to take a more aggressive tact against the secret-sharing website.
It was not immediately clear why Assange’s name was included in the document, though Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the Eastern District of Virginia — which had been investigating Assange — said, “The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing.”
The Washington Post reported late Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter, that Assange had indeed been charged. The Associated Press could not immediately confirm that.
It was not immediately clear what charges Assange, who has been holed up for years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, might face.
But recently ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year declared the arrest of Assange a priority. Special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating whether Trump campaign associates had advance knowledge of Democratic emails that were published by WikiLeaks in the weeks before the 2016 election and that U.S. authorities have said were hacked by Russia.
Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Assange, told the AP earlier this week that he had no information about possible charges against Assange.
In a new statement, he said, “The news that criminal charges have apparently been filed against Mr. Assange is even more troubling than the haphazard manner in which that information has been revealed. The government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for a democracy to take.”
The filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, who posted it on Twitter hours after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange and said, “To be clear, seems Freudian, it’s for a different completely unrelated case, every other page is not related to him, EDVA just appears to have Assange on the mind when filing motions to seal and used his name.”
The case at issue concerns a defendant named Seitu Sulayman Kokayi, a 29-year-old teacher who has since been indicted in Virginia on charges of enticing a 15-year-old girl to commit sex acts and to produce child pornography.
The document, a motion filed in late August asking to keep Kokayi’s case secret, mentions Assange in two boilerplate sections, suggesting a copy-and-paste error or that his name was inadvertently left in a template used for the common filings. That document has since been unsealed.
There doesn’t appear to be any connection between Assange and Kokayi.
Assange, 47, has resided in the Ecuadorian Embassy for more than six years in a bid to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he was wanted to sex crimes, or to the United States, whose government he has repeatedly humbled with mass disclosures of classified information.
The Australian ex-hacker was once a welcome guest at the Embassy, which takes up part of the ground floor of a stucco-fronted apartment in London’s posh Knightsbridge neighborhood. But his relationship with his hosts has soured over the years amid reports of espionage, erratic behavior and diplomatic unease.
Any criminal charge is sure to further complicate the already tense relationship.
Ecuadorian officials say they have cut off the WikiLeaks founder’s internet access and will restore it only if he agrees to stop interfering in the affairs of Ecuador’s partners — such as the United States and Spain. Officials have also imposed a series of other restrictions on Assange’s activities and visitors and — notably — ordered him to clean after his cat.
With shrinking options — an Ecuadorian lawsuit seeking to reverse the restrictions was recently turned down — WikiLeaks announced in September that former spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic journalist who has long served as one of Assange’s lieutenants, would take over as editor-in-chief.
Hrafnsson did not immediately respond to calls and messages seeking comment.
WikiLeaks has attracted U.S. attention since 2010, when it published thousands of military and State Department documents from Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning. In a Twitter post early Friday, WikiLeaks said the “US case against WikiLeaks started in 2010” and expanded to include other disclosures, including by contractor Edward Snowden.
“The prosecutor on the order is not from Mr. Mueller’s team and WikiLeaks has never been contacted by anyone from his office,” WikiLeaks said.
Associated Press writer Raphael Satter in Paris and Chad Day in Washington contributed to this report.
Link to court filing: http://apne.ws/Me9YxB9
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)