Election Connection

November 2008 Archives


Pardons, of All Kinds

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The Election Connection blog will be on hiatus for the next two weeks, as we take a break for the holidays and get ready for the inauguration and transition.


As we ask for your pardon on taking a short break, it's fun to take a look at the notion of the presidential pardon. Today, President Bush pardoned the Thanksgiving turkey - two turkeys this year, in fact, named Pumpkin and Pecan. You can watch the ceremony here.


The tradition of pardoning a turkey has only been going on for 61 years, since the first national turkey was given to President Harry S Truman in 1947. But allowing the outgoing president to pardon criminals - that's been going on since George Washington's presidency. This piece from NPR, produced after Scooter Libby's conviction last year, looks at some of the most famous presidential pardons, including President Ford pardoning President Nixon after Watergate and President Clinton pardoning financier Mark Rich. But pardons can also show progress--President Clinton pardoned Freddie Meeks, a sailor in World War II who was convicted in a mutiny case that challenged segregation in the armed forces.


But the pardon allowance does makes you wonder... what did the turkeys do that they needed pardoning?


Have a very happy Thanksgiving from the Vote 2008 team. Watch this space for more updates in the coming weeks.



Getting the Band Together

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President-elect Barack Obama is beginning to create his cabinet and assess roles within the upcoming administration.


While some familiar faces from his campaign are certainly popping up, everyone else interested in working for the new president will have a pretty hefty vetting process. Who are the latest picks? Why did Obama choose them and who is likely to fill the remaining openings?

Back in October, attorney general pick Eric Holder spoke with NPR about what he sees as priorities for the new administration.

"'When you look at the other issues that I think the next president is going to have to deal with, chief among them is going to be trying to revitalize and remake a Justice Department that has been really sullied in the last four, eight years or so by people who tried to politicize.'"


But Holder's pardon of financier Marc Rich during his years with the Clinton administration may be a sore spot. In February 2001, NewsHour talked to experts about Holder's controversial decision.

Obama's pick for Health and Human Services secretary is a familiar face -Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Daschle was front and center for most of Obama's campaign, and Frontline's The Choice portrayed him as having a major role in placing Obama in the position to run for president after he arrived in the Senate in 2004.

"I argued that windows of opportunity for running for the presidency close quickly. And that he shouldn't assume, if he passes up this window, that there will be another," Daschle said.


Will Sen. Hillary Clinton be tapped for Secretary of State? What would your Obama administration dream team look like?


(White) House Hunting

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Did you know that Teddy Roosevelt built the White House tennis court in 1902? Or that Jackie Kennedy's efforts made the White House a public museum with a permanent collection?


While the joke of 'measuring the drapes' is one that comes up often in transition time, watching President Bush and President-elect Obama's meeting at the White House Monday had me wondering what really does change about the house itself.

Starting off at the source itself, you can take a 'virtual tour' of the current conditions at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

 But to get a sense of how the White House has changed since it first opened its doors to John Adams in 1800, the 2001 documentary Echoes From the White House on WNET created a timeline, showing the "Changing White House."

The BBC provides a good look at what has gone on in previous handover meetings at the White House - particularly when a new party is arriving in Washington. The Nixon-Johnson handover in 1968 is one that stands out:

"As we stood together in the Oval Office, he welcomed me into a club of very exclusive membership, and he made a promise to adhere to the cardinal rule of that membership: stand behind those who succeed you," Mr. Nixon said.

Some bloggers have creative ideas of what the Obamas should change to the house's physical structure. Environmental blog treehugger.com suggests solar panels be installed. And Internet advocates are far more concerned with the President-elect's home online, rooting for a blogger on the administration's team and more openness about how things work in government.

What would you change at the White House, the building?


Transition, Transition

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With unemployment at a record high and the economic crisis only growing in America, the end of the 2008 campaign and election leaves a huge amount of work ahead for President-Elect Barack Obama.

Transition is a challenge with every new president. American Experience recalls George H.W. Bush's transition team and how even though he followed another Republican, Reagan, into the White House, he still made some drastic changes when entering office.

Speculating about who will serve in the new administration has quickly become the new favorite pastime of much of the media. Newsweek's Transition Toteboard keeps tabs on the top positions. The magazine also takes an in-depth look at some of the most difficult presidential transitions in history.

Already, the Obama campaign is putting the immense online community it created to work on the transition.

Just hours after Obama's win, the campaign launched Change.gov, a site for news about the transition, but also a place to share memories of the campaign and Election Day, learn who's who on the transition team, and even express interest in a job with the new administration.

But it's not only the office of president that faces changes. NewsHour looks at how the newly-elected  Senators and Representatives are setting priorities.


Marking the Day

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It's difficult to take in the magnitude of reflections around the Web on Sen. Barack Obama's historic win of the presidency. To get a better sense, take a bird's eye look at newspapers around the world and a close up view from voters across the country.

Whenever a big news event happens, one of the best ways to understand what it means is to look at the front pages of newspapers from around the world. If you're not lucky enough to have time to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and look at the hard copies of the papers outside the Newseum, the virtual version has over 600 to view online.

Some of the striking headlines:

Arizona Daily Star: "Change Has Come to America"

Orange County Register: OH-BAMA!

Guardian UK: President Obama: Change Has Come

New Haven Register: Historic Victory

And on the ground, the thousands of videos that poured in throughout the day to the PBS/YouTube Video Your Vote project told amazing stories of people young and old excited to vote for the first African-American President.



Your Election Day

Throughout the day, people all across the country have been sharing their stories from the polls.

At 6am in Virginia Beach, YouTube user briankcallahan reported long lines in the rain:

A little later, 99-year-old Mrs. Venable talked about her experience.

She's voted in every election she could since she was 18.

And as the day went on, even Hollywood celebrities like reality star Kim Kardashian videoed their vote.

The night is still relatively young, but there is certainly a story being told in the sheer number of people sharing their stories from this November day.


The Big Day

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Whether you're looking for help with last-minute research on local races, or need help finding your polling place, read on for a guide to the best online resources available.   Plus, get information on what to do if you run into problems at the polls.

First off, do your homework - it's not too late! While your local paper is a great place to start for information on races beyond the presidential campaigns, you can also find a host of information on local races and ballot initiatives at the Project Vote Smart site. For a complete selection of newspaper endorsements big and small, check out Editor and Publisher's tally.

Second, find out where you need to go to vote. The League of Women Voters' Vote411.org  plots out polling places by zip code - just input yours and find yours on the map. If you need a ride to the polls, many cab companies are even offering free rides, so check out what's available in your area. Lines have been long for early voting, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes, and to check the weather report and dress appropriately.  And to make sure you get to the polls in time, Talking Points Memo created this handy closing times map - just roll over the times to see when the polls close in your state.

And while we all hope everything will run smoothly, if you do see a problem or have any trouble at the polls, call election protection at 1-866-our-vote and report anything out of the ordinary.

Also, bring your camera and share your experience - PBS and YouTube are taking a look at videos made on Election Day at Video Your Vote, and will be investigating issues at the polls and sharing the most compelling stories from users on the NewsHour's Election Day broadcast. If you use the mobile blogging service Twitter, you can also 'tweet' a report with the tag #votereport to submit problems.

Other ways to explore what's going on around the country include photo projects, like the Flickr Election 2008 group and The New York Times' Polling Place Project.

Then it's time to wait for the results to roll in. The NPR/NewsHour map will be updated live on PBS.org/vote2008, and you can watch the NewsHour's live broadcast here, so check back often as the polls close nationwide. Or, if you're on the go, NewsHour's new mobile site will keep you up to speed.

Happy voting!!


Early and Often

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Thousands of voters have already cast a ballot in the presidential election, as early voting is allowed in 32 states. But is early voting really such a good idea? In some states, there is still a heated debate over whether to allow voting before the first Tuesday in November.

Early voting proponents say getting voting out of the way weeks before an election will alleviate the long lines that are expected in many areas on election and help prevent some of the polling problems seen in past elections.

But a lot can happen to sway peoples' decisions in the final days of a campaign. Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher wrote that these new early voting laws put democracy itself at risk.

"Voting is a proud expression of who we are and of our belief in our system and our future. ... It is how we say, "I am part of something larger, and my voice matters, and so does yours." When we chip away at that communal experience, we diminish democracy."

With so many states allowing early voting, getting the most accurate information about laws in your area is key. Pew's Center on the States Election Online project is helping to educate people about early votingĀ and details each state's rules and regulations.

On PBS and YouTube's Video Your Vote channel, people all across the country have already shared their early voting experiences - from drive-through voting in Southern California, to mail-in ballots in Oregon, to waiting in line at early voting places for up to two hours in North Carolina and Virginia.

This woman shared her story of early voting in Georgia, on October 3.

Have you already voted? Do you think early voting take away from the tradition of going to the polls on Election Day? What's your Election Day routine?

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