Republicans Crossing Over to Vote in Democratic Contests
    By Larry Rohter
    The New York Times

    Saturday 03 May 2008

    Indianapolis – Until now, Shirley Morgan had always been the kind of voter the Republican Party thought it could count on. She comes from a family of staunch Republicans, has a son in the military and has supported Republican presidential candidates ever since she cast her first ballot, for Richard M. Nixon in 1972.

    But this year Mrs. Morgan exemplifies a different breed: the Republican crossing over to vote in the Democratic primary. Not only will she mark her ballot for Senator Barack Obama in the May 6 primary here, but she has also been canvassing for him in the heavily Republican suburbs of Hamilton County, just north of Indianapolis – the first time she has ever actively campaigned for a candidate.

    “I used to like John McCain, but he’s aligning himself too closely with what Bush did, and that’s just not what I want for this country,” Mrs. Morgan, who is 56, said when asked to explain her rejection of the presumptive Republican nominee.

    Since the start of the primary and caucus season in January, Republican voters have been crossing over in increasing numbers to vote in Democratic contests – supplying up to 10 percent of the vote in states that allow such crossover voting – and they are expected to play a pivotal role in the fiercely contested primary here. What is less clear, however, is the motivation for their behavior: are they genuinely attracted by the two Democratic candidates? Or are they mischief-making spoilers, looking to prolong a divisive Democratic fight or support a candidate Mr. McCain can beat in November?

    Local Republican Party leaders in Indiana concede the attraction of the Democratic candidates to some of their party members. And interviews with roughly a dozen Republican voters in central Indiana suggest that they are driven mainly by concerns about the economy, with discontent over Bush administration policies driving their involvement in the Democratic race.

    “Much as I like John McCain as a war hero, I am fearful he does not have the depth of experience to fix the economy,” said Darlene Boatman, 62, a just-retired sales clerk who favors Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. “We’re all struggling here to make ends meet. I haven’t had health care coverage in about 10 years and jobs are fewer and farther between. The economy is my biggest concern, and I think Hillary has the best understanding of how to pull off the recovery we need.”

    The drift has given some comfort to Democrats worried about the searing divisions in their party. Surveys of voters leaving the polls and official vote tabulations indicate that both Mr. Obama, of Illinois, and Mrs. Clinton, of New York, have benefited from the Republican crossover vote, though to different degrees and in patterns that vary by state.

    Initially, Mr. Obama seemed to be getting the bulk of the vote, attracting moderate Republicans who quickly came to be known as Obamacans and lacing his stump speech with references to them. But more recently, Mrs. Clinton’s share of the crossover vote has grown.

    In Wisconsin’s Feb. 19 contest, for example, Mr. Obama got about three-quarters of the votes cast by those identifying themselves as Republicans. In Texas’ March 4 primary, though, he and Mrs. Clinton split the Republican vote almost evenly, while in Mississippi on March 11, she outpolled him among Republicans by a three-to-one margin.

    Even some states without open primaries seem to have experienced crossover voting. In the Pennsylvania vote on April 22, voter surveys indicated that about 5 percent of those voting in the Democratic primary were Republicans who switched their party registration; they split their vote almost evenly between the two candidates.

    Here in Indiana, both Democratic candidates are sending surrogates to campaign in traditionally Republican areas they might have ignored in years past, including in Hamilton County, Indiana’s fastest-growing and most affluent county.

    “We’re getting a lot of inquiries from Republicans asking how do you do it, how do you cross over,” Dan Parker, the Democratic Party state chairman, said in an interview here. “It’s been our No. 1 request for the past two months.”

    Clouding the picture, however, is a campaign by Rush Limbaugh, the radio talk show host, urging his listeners to cast their ballots for Mrs. Clinton “if they can stomach it,” in order to prolong the Democratic race and weaken the eventual winner.

    “They’re in the midst of tearing themselves apart right now,” Mr. Limbaugh said in an interview with Fox News just before the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4. “It’s fascinating to watch, and it’s all going to stop if Hillary loses.”

    But Republican voters interviewed here said that Mr. Limbaugh was not a factor in their decision to vote in the Democratic primary, and that it was the issues that propelled them.

    “I disagree with the Democrats on things like abortion and immigration, but I feel that the Republican Party I grew up in is out of touch with the middle-class family,” said Dave Nichols, 40, the owner of a small memorabilia business in Fort Wayne, who has heard of Mr. Limbaugh’s effort and is supporting Mrs. Clinton.

    Mr. Nichols said he had no health insurance and lived on a block where three houses were in foreclosure. “McCain doesn’t have an economic plan,” he said “We’re in a recession and need relief now, but he wants to keep spending all that money over there in Iraq when there are so many things we need here at home, from infrastructure to health care.”

    Republican officials like Murray Clark, the state party chairman in Indiana, say that the extent of the crossover phenomenon has been “greatly exaggerated” and that in any case it does not serve the party’s interests, because it draws potential Republican voters away from deciding other, more local races.

    Mr. Clark acknowledged what he called “heightened interest” in the Democratic primary, but argued that Republican-leaning independents, rather than “reliable and consistently Republican voters,” accounted for the bulk of the shift.

    “It’s probably a stretch to call it a crossover vote,” Mr. Clark said. “This is a unique situation. The circus is in town, and people want to go. This provides them an opportunity. But when the circus leaves town, we’ll have six months of opportunities to contrast their candidate with ours.”

    Indeed, some of the crossover Republicans here who back Mr. Obama said they would vote for Mr. McCain in November if Mrs. Clinton ends up getting the Democratic nomination, while some of those supporting Mrs. Clinton said the same of Mr. Obama. But others said they simply could not imagine gravitating back to the Republican camp in this election.

    “I would probably not vote, or maybe look at a third party,” said Becky Kapsalis, who lives in Carmel, Ind., and describes herself as “a 70-year-old white woman for Barack Obama.”

    “I respect McCain for what he’s done, his patriotism and devotion,” Ms. Kapsalis said, “but I just don’t think he has the heart to lead us, and he doesn’t speak to my heart the way this Barack Obama man does.”


Go to Original

    Convention Preparations Prompt Suit by ACLU
    By Kirk Johnson
    The New York Times

    Saturday 03 May 2008

    Denver – Groups planning parades or protests at the Democratic National Convention filed a lawsuit here on Friday charging that the Secret Service and the City of Denver are threatening free speech – not because of tight security rules, but by the very lack of them.

    The suit, filed in Federal District Court, says that delays in establishing legal parade routes, and unanswered questions about security arrangements around the convention center, are undermining efforts to plan for events when Democrats gather here from Aug. 25 to 28.

    Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which is representing 12 groups in the lawsuit, said they had no choice but to turn to the court. With just four months until the convention, the groups want a judge to speed the scheduling and the issuing of rules governing activities outside the Pepsi Center.

    At the Democratic convention in Boston in 2004, First Amendment challenges could not be addressed by judges, Mr. Silverstein said, because security measures were announced too late.

    “In Boston, the trial court and the court of appeals said there was not enough time for full evaluation and not enough time to carry out any orders the courts might issue,” Mr. Silverstein said. “For that reason, we are filing now and asking the court to place this case on a top-priority schedule.”

    Specifically, the suit asks the court to order the Secret Service to immediately provide information to the city that will allow Denver officials to begin considering permit requests for parades and specifying a “demonstration zone” near the convention center. The suit also asks the court to review those regulations for violations of free speech protection.

    A spokesman for the Secret Service, Ed Donovan, declined to comment on the suit or the agency’s timetable for communicating with the city on security rules.

    The attorney for the City of Denver, David Fine, said in a statement that the city was not trying to thwart free speech.

    “No one has been denied the right to protest,” Mr. Fine said. “In fact, you will see a vigorous exercise of free speech during the convention in many ways and in many places. That being said, we will review the plaintiffs’ papers and respond as necessary.”

    The groups suing include several that plan to draw attention to various issues and causes, like the Troops Out Now Coalition, which opposes the war in Iraq. Another group, Citizens for Obama, wants to march on behalf of a favored presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

    One member of the lawsuit coalition, Glenn Spagnuolo, from a group called Recreate 68, which is planning multiple demonstrations on issues including health care and the war, said at a news conference that he thought the delays had been deliberate.

    Every passing week of uncertainty, Mr. Spagnuolo said, hobbles the efforts to recruit people to come to Denver and speak their minds.

    “If they announce it very close to August that, yes, you will have your permits, these groups are now shut out of hotels, shut out of flights, buses are booked to come to Denver and it’s impossible for them to logistically come here and exercise their First Amendment right,” Mr. Spagnuolo said. “In our opinion, it’s a planned tactic.”

    The suit itself does not make that claim.

    Mr. Silverstein said, “We have to take the city at its word that it doesn’t have enough information from the Secret Service to process the permits, and that’s why we’re asking the court to get the two parties together.”