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TX Democrats Cry Foul Over Suspicious E-mail
AUSTIN — An e-mail circulating throughout Texas and apparently targeting supporters of Democrat Barack Obama falsely warns voters that casting a straight-ticket Democratic ballot won't register a vote for Obama.
Democratic leaders are crying foul. First, it's not true, they say.
Second, they think it could cause people using the eSlate electronic voting machines to inadvertently cancel out their downballot straight-ticket voters, eliminating potentially millions of votes for Democratic candidates in state and county races.
"For those who normally vote 'Straight Democratic', please pay close attention!!!!!" states the e-mail, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.
"I was informed this weekend by a group of Obama volunteers that when voting for the presidential candidate this November, you have to make sure you punch Barack's name first, then proceed to punch 'Straight Democratic' or else the vote for the president won't count," the e-mail says.
Quite the opposite, says Texas Democratic Party spokesman Hector Nieto said.
With eSlate, punching the button for presidential candidate Obama after punching the straight-ticket button will actually cancel the straight-ticket vote, Nieto said.
State party officials have posted a warning message on their Web site and encourage straight-party voting as a way to ensure Obama and other Democrats on the ballot get a vote.
Harris County Democratic Chairman Gerry Birnberg sent out a warning e-mail of his own. Harris County uses eSlate equipment and includes Houston, the state's largest and generally Democratic city.
"THIS IS FALSE INFORMATION probably initiated by Republican dirty tricksters, but now being spread by well-meaning Barack Obama supporters," Birnberg's e-mail says.
A spokesman for the Texas Republican Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Democratic Party doesn't know who originated the e-mail, but Nieto says it appears to be targeted to Obama supporters.
"The main purpose of this e-mail is to cause confusion and to affect the outcome of elections," he said. "It's important that this malicious e-mail be stopped."
The message has been spotted statewide for about two weeks, but it became more pervasive this week in Houston and Dallas, Nieto said. Early voting begins Monday.
"When things go viral, it can spread like wildfire," he said.
The e-mail underscores the state Democratic Party's issue with the eSlate electronic voting equipment, over which it filed a federal lawsuit last year.
Democrats contend the equipment won't properly record straight-party votes if a voter marks an individual candidate's name as well. In those cases, a straight-party vote wouldn't be fully tabulated, party officials say.
The Democrats say the machine tells voters their straight-party vote is being cast, even if it isn't because they've also punched an individual candidate's name.
A federal judge sided with the state, which argued that eSlate caused no voter disenfranchisement nor violated any constitutional rights.
The Texas Democrats appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and lost. They are considering a Supreme Court appeal.