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Photograph by Sarah Phelan

Something's Fishy: News flash: You can't be both partisan and parked in front of a polling place.


Honk if You Love Local Election Irregularities

In Santa Cruz County we were mostly spared the election snafus that have triggered the biggest web of web conspiracy theories since 9/11. But in Watsonville, two voters did file complaints of people coming to their house as part of an election campaign--and taking their voters' absentee ballots with them when they left, which is a definite no-no.

In Santa Cruz itself, Nüz got the first true inkling of how nasty the abortion issue could get over the next four years when someone called us on election day to complain that electioneering was going on in the parking lot outside the Shrine of St. Joseph's, Guardian of the Redeemer, which happened to be serving as a polling station on Nov. 2.

Apparently, when our tipster pulled into St. Joseph's parking lot that morning to drop off her kid at Gateway School, a red van plastered with stickers saying "Abortion Stops a Beating Heart" and "U Can't B Both Catholic & Pro-Choice" was parked slap bang in front of the polling station's entrance. That put the van in strict violation of the federal "No electioneering within 100 feet of a polling station" rule.

Now, by the time Nüz hotfooted it over to said polling station in the afternoon, the van had been moved outside the 100-foot limit, and parked so its stickers were no longer visible to the voting public. But inside the polling station, volunteer inspector Maree Creed told Nüz that if people came in wearing political buttons or T-shirts, she'd ask them to cover themselves with a blanket or turn their T-shirt inside out. That said, Creed pointed out that it was difficult to monitor the outside of the polling station throughout the day. She also mentioned that St. Joseph's Rev. Brian Crawford had told her that the van in question belonged to a homeless man who attended morning mass each day at St. Joseph's and that it wasn't her personal impression that the van's driver was trying to make a political statement.

Reached by phone, Crawford confirmed the van driver's status and said, "If people on election day object to the people who park in the lot every day, then they can have the election somewhere else. It's insulting and I resent the fact that people would think I'd do something like this, and I don't need it."

Bottoming Out

Before we left the polling station, Creed also recommended that we not leave the area before trying to catch a glimpse of a woman who apparently had been walking up and down West Cliff Avenue all day in what Creed described as a "very provocative cheerleaderlike outfit," which reportedly had "Kerry" emblazoned inside a heart strategically placed on her backside. Believe us, Maree, when we say that we spent the next half-hour driving around in search of a Kerry bottom sighting--but, alas, in vain.

Meanwhile, over at the county building, chief elections official Gail Pellerin said many people aren't aware of the 100-foot limit on electioneering, and that, in fact, it isn't that large of a distance.

"Someone could be parked outside the county building in a van covered with stickers and not be in violation," said Pellerin. "And it's a matter of strategy for many campaigns to find polling stations, count out the 100-foot limit and set up their signs."

She recalls that in one polling station in Chico, a woman wearing a political T-shirt, after being advised of the electioneering law, chose to take off her top and vote in her bra. Now that's democracy in action.

They Never Came Back

On what turned out to be a very rainy Veteran's Day, Nüz headed down to, where else, the Vets Hall, where we encountered Marvin Shaw, commander of the local American Legion post, who showed us a newly installed glass case that lists the name of every Santa Cruz County resident who has died in service, from the Civil War down through the Iraq war. The list is titled "They Never Came Back."

Fellow veteran Robert Nelson, who gathered all the information and names for this project, spoke to Nüz after returning from marching in a Vet's Day parade in San Jose, which had what he called a "significant turnout "in spite of the rain."

Nelson said his starting point for establishing the list was searching local high school plaques and county memorials.

"Then I did a long search of local newspapers, because many people didn't go to high school at all, or at least not here. Some simply moved here, deposited their spouse, then went away and never came back," said Nelson, whose search has so far unearthed some 375 names, dating back to the Civil War. As Nelson explained, "Santa Cruz County didn't become an official American community until after the Mexican War, so the list begins with the Civil War, and though we participated in the Spanish Civil War, we had no losses. Similarly, we had no losses in Afghanistan, and we hope no more will be added to list of casualties in Iraq, which at present stands at three: Morgan Jacobs, Victor A. Gonzales and Kylan Alexander J. Huffman."

Mandate This

Forget about Bush's so-called mandate, which he so rapidly invoked, but which like most of his claims is nothing short of delusional. For some realistic insights into how the country voted, visit www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election. Amongst other maps, you'll find some cartograms of the election results, which rescale the size of states according to their populations (meaning, for instance, that Rhode Island appears twice the size of Wyoming, which has 60 times the acreage of Rhode Island). Other maps we've seen show the blue states as narrow but skyscraper-tall voting blocks compared to mostly red flatlands. (Consider that in Manhattan Kerry won 82 percent of the vote to Bush's 17 percent and Nader's 1 percent and you begin to see that city dwellers have gotten the point that the Bush crusades haven't made them or the rest of the world any safer. (Now, if we can only work out a way for the population centers to start flexing their economic muscles ...) Meanwhile, if you want the election to be investigated, visit www.blackboxvoting.com or see www.moveon.org/investigatethevote. And for a good time? Pray to your own personal Jesus, then party like it's 1972.

Nüz just loves juicy tips: Drop a line to 115 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, 95060, email us at , or call our hotline at 457.9000, ext 214.

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From the November 17-24, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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