Julia Harte

Writings & wanderings.

Archive for September 2020

Will your mail ballot count in the U.S. presidential election? It may depend on who’s counting and where

leave a comment »

September 25, 2020, Reuters

Two elderly women in small towns in Wisconsin voted by mail during April’s presidential nominating contests. Both were sheltering in place as coronavirus surged across their state.

Each mailed her ballot to the local election office with a note explaining why no witness had signed the envelope, as Wisconsin’s strict voting laws require. The women didn’t want to risk virus exposure, they told Reuters in telephone interviews this month.

That’s where the similarity ends. The ballot of Peggy Houglum, a 72-year-old voter in the eastern Wisconsin hamlet of Cedar Grove, was rejected due to the missing witness information. That of Judith Olson, 88, a resident of the northern town of Elk, was accepted, according to “incident” logs viewed by Reuters in which Wisconsin election offices document irregular ballots. Houglum, who plans to vote for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in November, said she was never told her ballot didn’t count. Olson wouldn’t provide her party affiliation or say whom she supports for president.

Local election officials confirmed the fate of those ballots. Cedar Grove Village Clerk Julie Brey told Reuters she had sought guidance from the Wisconsin Elections Commission on what to do. Her Elk counterpart, Suzanne Brandt, said she couldn’t recall who advised her to accept an unwitnessed ballot.

The unequal treatment in the same crucial battleground state underscores a growing worry about the general election on Nov. 3 between Biden and incumbent Republican President Donald Trump. Whether or not a mail ballot is counted could depend to a large degree on how local election workers enforce mail-in voting rules, how they notify voters who submit deficient ballots, and whether they allow them to fix such errors. Each of the 50 U.S. states has a central election authority, but ballots are processed by dozens of separate county or municipal election offices within each state.

Read the rest of this entry >>

Written by juliaharte

September 25, 2020 at 2:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Rebel with a Cause

leave a comment »

September 22, 2020, Lapham’s Quarterly

The eighty-year-old mystery of the murder of Sheldon Robert Harte, Leon Trotsky’s most controversial bodyguard.

On a sultry May night in 1940, two dozen Stalinists wearing police and army uniforms, goggles, and fake mustaches approached the villa in Mexico City where Leon Trotsky lived in exile. They disarmed several officers in a nearby police booth. One of the former Soviet leader’s bodyguards stood at the compound’s gate; the posse strode up to him and asked to enter. Once inside, they tossed a homemade bomb into the room of Trotsky’s grandson and fired submachine guns into the bedroom of Trotsky and his wife Natalia. The elderly couple dove to the floor shortly before seventy shots pockmarked their bed and walls.

After twenty minutes, the assailants withdrew. Trotsky and his entourage were virtually unharmed. But the bodyguard who had been on duty at the gate was gone. From where they had been tied up, the real police officers said they had seen him protesting as the shooters marched him to a stolen car and sped off.

Cables flew between Mexico City, Washington, DC, and Moscow in the following days. Nobody was surprised that someone was trying to kill Trotsky, who had been in exile from the Soviet Union since losing a power struggle with Joseph Stalin in 1928. But questions surrounded the missing bodyguard, known to Trotsky and his associates as Bob Shields, a twenty-five-year-old New Yorker from a bourgeois background. His disappearance triggered an investigation involving the Mexican secret police, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Soviet intelligence units.

Read the rest of this entry >>

Written by juliaharte

September 22, 2020 at 6:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized