Help America not vote

You snooze, you lose: Could the Arnold Schwarzenegger administration’s freezing of election funds on Friday have been politically motivated? California Democratic spokesman Bob Mulholland thinks so. “It’s a perfect strategy by the Bush people to block HAVA funding for low-income neighborhoods,” said Mulholland, referring to the Help America Vote Act, a federal program created in the wake of the Florida election debacle. “And Schwarzenegger, on behalf of the Republicans in the White House, is more than happy to do that.” The decision by the governor’s Department of Finance to freeze $17.6 million in HAVA funds reportedly will continue until the completion of an audit that’s expected to continue past Election Day. County election officials had been counting on using those federal funds to train poll workers and carry through on voter-outreach programs, which are considered especially critical in poor and minority districts that tend to get crappy voter turnout and even crappier voting machines.

The decision to freeze the funds comes on the tail of recent controversies surrounding Secretary of State Kevin Shelley. Shelley’s been making headlines this month because of allegations of improper fund use, along with revelations that he’s a total drag to work for. Of course, you don’t have to be in his office to have your feathers ruffled by Shelley—just ask the good folks at Diebold, whose voting-machine improprieties he aggressively pursued (see “A Diebold CEO and a King get sidelined,” SN&R Bites, April 29).

“All you do is get a couple of controversial articles, and then the Republicans use the opportunity to stop money going into communities of color,” claimed Mulholland, who characterized the move as a more genteel version of “using 300-pound goons to block Latinos from voting in California” in the past.

Ironically, similar concerns were expressed by a certain presidential wannabe some 18 months ago. “Democrats need to make certain that the law that we passed on voter reform is in fact implemented,” John Kerry told Bites backstage at the state Democratic convention (see “Conventional warfare”; SN&R Bites; March 20, 2003). “I think it’s our vigilance; it’s our need to be awake. That’s the key.”

Party in pink: Unlike its New York City equivalent, Central Park in Davis is fully authorized for anti-Bush demonstrations, says Code Pink’s Natalie Wormeli. Her organization held a series of rallies this week with appearances ranging from the somber (a veteran artist who uses white crosses to commemorate the dead, and a woman who insisted her son’s coffin be photographed) to the sublime (the author of Star Trek’s “Trouble With Tribbles” episode, for which the group produced commemorative “pink peace tribbles”). But Code Pink’s, um, peace de resistance is still to come, at least for those of you who are smart enough to read Bites first thing every Thursday morning.

“I think we’re saving lives,” joked Wormeli, whose organization will host the final evening of its counter-convention tonight at Davis’ Cantina del Cabo. Instead of bursting blood vessels while watching Bush alone on television, participants will gather for music and festivities, including a group reading of My Pet Goat, the book that provided our president with solace and comfort at the time of the 9/11 attack. Wormeli believes the tale—about a pet goat whose eating habits keep getting him in trouble until he finally proves his value by head-butting a car thief—may operate on many levels. “I think that George really wanted to be that goat,” she empathized. “But then, some people think the goat represents Saddam Hussein.” In any case, said Wormeli, the book definitely takes a full seven minutes to understand.