UPI's Capital Comment for Nov. 6, 2002

By United Press International  |  Nov. 6, 2002 at 6:54 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Oops -- Alabama elected a new governor Tuesday, although no one knew it until Wednesday afternoon. Election night figures showed incumbent Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat, eking out a narrow victory of about 7,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast. On Wednesday election officials in the GOP stronghold of Baldwin County, Ala., revised their numbers and dropped Siegelman's total to 12,736 from the unofficial total of 19,070 reported on election night. The change erased Siegelman's margin and made Riley the winner by 3,195 votes. County Probate Judge Adrian Jones said a glitch in the election software was responsible for the earlier error. Siegelman is charging fraud and vows to challenge the results. He is currently moving ahead with plans to call a special session of the legislature to raise taxes. Riley denies fraud occurred and has named a leader for his transition. This one will likely be decided in the courts.

Fraud against a fraud watch -- Last week, in an effort "to ensure the integrity of our democratic election process," the American Conservative Union turned on a voter fraud hotline and opened an online communications portal for voters to report instances of voter fraud and illegal electioneering activities they encountered on Tuesday. Not long after the project was announced, Rush Limbaugh mentioned the project on his radio show. Then, the ACU says, the real fun began.

The group says it was hit with "a malicious and targeted 'denial of service attack' on its e-mail server that caused the main computer server to go offline for almost an hour."

In spite of that, the ACU's David Keene says the program "continues with over 200 reports of incidents throughout the country that we are currently reviewing and forwarding to the Department of Justice, relevant state attorney general, and the local U.S. Attorney's office." They say they lost no e-mails due to pre-planning but they consider the outage to be suspicious. The American Conservative Union's Web hosting company immediately notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation and all relevant information regarding the attack has been handed over to the Cyber Crimes Division of the FBI. "This particular attempt to sink our tech-based efforts reflects the intention of what is, hopefully, a small contingent of exceedingly tech-savvy people who seek to subvert our democratic process," Keene said.

Rushmore to recount -- Now that the initial round of counting the votes in South Dakota's U.S. Senate race have been completed, incumbent Democrat Sen. Tim Johnson appears to be on top by only 528 votes. The pressure is mounting for a full investigation into the state's voting and registration records. Prior to the election a contract worker for the state Democrat's coordinated campaign was forced to resign after it became apparent that her efforts to register Indian voters living on reservations in the state had resulted in at least 400 fraudulent filings.

On Election Day South Dakota Democrats prevailed on local judges to increase the hours during which some polling places near Indian reservations were open. At the same time, GOP poll watchers reported that activists working on behalf of Johnson were asking election judges to provide them with "the names of the Indians who had not voted," one attorney on the ground in the state said. For his part, Republican U.S. Rep. John Thune is taking his time in making a final decision about what to do. On Wednesday Thune said, "After a long night and a long morning, the preliminary results of last night's election show Senator Tim Johnson with a 528 vote advantage. The next step in the process is the official canvass of the election results. A canvass is done after each election, and the results will be released as soon as that process is finished. Essentially, the canvass is our election system's process for checking everyone's math."

"If there is a change in the numbers or evidence of irregularities after the official election canvass," Thune said, "I will look at pursuing the next step in the process, which is a formal recount. However, I do not wish to put the people of South Dakota through this process unless it is absolutely necessary. Therefore, if there is no change in the vote totals or any irregularities after the official canvass, we will pursue no further action and the results will stand."

Leader leaders -- Now that the GOP has regained control of the Senate, the jockeying has begun for the different leadership posts. The conference will elect them next week and early betting has it that Senate Republican leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., will be unopposed for majority leader. This is a stunning reversal, after a rather stunning election. Many people in Washington believed that the knives were out for Lott after Vermont's Jim Jeffords left the GOP and threw in with the Democrats in early 2001.

The rest of Lott's new leadership team will, according to GOP sources on Capitol Hill, be composed of tough-minded pols who will not shy away from a fight over important matters. According to one person familiar with the races, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, who easily won a fourth term Tuesday, will become the new GOP whip, replacing Don Nickles who is term limited in the post. Nickles will take over for New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici as head of the Senate Budget Committee. Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum remains conference chairman, the No. 3 spot. The vice-chairman will be Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. Arizona's Jon Kyl will run the GOP policy committee and Alabama's Jeff Sessions, fresh off his re-election, will take over as head of the Senate steering committee, an informal caucus of GOP conservatives.

Things on the Democrat side of the aisle do not look so placid. A number of sources are speculating that Senate Democrat Leader Tom Daschle has lost the confidence of the liberal wing of his conference and may be replaced. The name most folks are floating is Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who has a reputation for being much more liberal than Daschle.

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