Steve Tingley-Hock is a Voting Rights Hero

New Orleans    Hey, let’s give three cheers for a peoples’ hero today in these dark times.  I’m raising my voice for Steve Tingley-Hock who has been a central figure in calling foul in Ohio to voting purges that have led to more than 40,000 people of 235,000 on the Secretary of State’s list being found to still be eligible voters.

I found Tingley-Hock’s story deep in a piece in the New York Times by reporter Nicholas Casey, so I’ll let him tell Steve’s great story, before I add to it.  Here’s what he says, beginning with a quote from Steve.

“If you look at the numbers, it’s hard not to be jaded by this,” said Steve Tingley-Hock, who runs a watchdog group called the Ohio Voter Project and initially discovered the error.

How Mr. Tingley-Hock, a volunteer who doesn’t work for the government, chanced upon such a big mistake shows the kind of unusual backstop the state now depends on to carry out its work correctly.

A database consultant by trade, Mr. Tingley-Hock in recent years developed a hobby of spending his weekends downloading the state’s voter data onto his own laptop where he manages a database that keeps track of every voter in Ohio.

“Someone needed to keep a record of what’s happening in the voter population,” said Mr. Tingley-Hock, who thinks the purges are targeting certain demographic groups, especially young voters. “If you want to know what I’m doing on a Saturday morning, it’s downloading these files from the state.”

Working on a shoestring budget and donations from relatives, he keeps track of similar data from six other states, including North Carolina and Florida, which have both been criticized for voter restrictions.

When Mr. LaRose’s office released the spreadsheet with the list of about 235,000 names to be purged, Mr. Tingley-Hock ran them through his own database and found thousands of names matching active voters.

“It’s a simple query if you have a database management system,” he said. “A guy at his dining room table can figure this stuff out. It’s not rocket science.”

I love this guy!  Shoestring.  Volunteer.  Donations from his family.  You look at his website and it seems to still be talking about 2016-17.  But, he’s not jaded.  He’s determined!  Hunkering down on Saturdays at local cafes or his own dining room table, he just saved 40,000 votes.  That’s not all.  Another half-dozen states benefit from his democratic obsession, including the battlegrounds of Florida and North Carolina, where hanky-panky might have free rein.

Not as many, but some props go to Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose for making this not only transparent, but in his words “crowdsourcing” the list before people were purged so that super-citizens like Steve and regular citizens can make sure they are squared away as voters and eliminate mistakes on the front-end.

Now once we finish praising Brother Steve and giving at least an attaboy to LaRose, we have to ask the “simple query” to use Steve’s words, why isn’t every state taking the time with their resources to create similar databases and making the lists available on the front end so that a voter purge is really a weeding out of the deceased and wrong addresses, rather than a political tool of voter suppression?


The Permanent Partnership of War and Media

New Orleans        An interesting conversation with University of Houston professor, author, and poet, Roberto Tejada, on Wade’s World, about his new book, Still Nowhere in an Empty Vastness, got me thinking a lot about the fact that the manipulation of media of all kinds is anything but new.  What triggered our speculation was not the constant barrage of Trump-time, but Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary, and Cabeza de Vaca, the woebegone and hapless explorer of sorts of much of the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas.

Tejada made the often-forgotten observation in one of his essays that the Mexican Revolution in 1910 was the first area of combat in history that was widely photographed for print and filmed for cinema newscasts.  It was big news for a new media.  As Trump has also reminded us, access was all important.  Francisco “Pancho” Villa amazingly signed an agreement with a film company.  Tejada includes a section of the agreement where Villa  essentially offered the filmmakers exclusive access to his battlefields.  Amazingly, one of the provisos in the agreement encumbered Villa to reenact battles, if the live footage was inadequate or unavailable.  This is stunning to me.  Are you with me?  This is a general in the middle of a revolution with his rebel armies both agreeing and then actually going into the field with their soldiers playacting the previous battle scenes.  Unbelievable!

Tejada and I discussed whether this was “fake news” or not.  He argued that it wasn’t really fake, because it had happened, but since the footage would be presented as if real, to me at least it was artificial news.  I would like to say it would have been beneath modern standards, but all of us have read of TV reporters “manufacturing” settings, scenes, and interviews to give impressions that were equally fabricated.

How incredibly shrewd – and contemporary – was Villa to understand how he could easily manipulate the media?  Taking it one step farther, Villa also agreed and starred in a movie about his own life in order to gain support for his cause by going 100% Hollywood.  For a time, it even worked, changing the global impression of the Revolution and Villa as one of the leaders in attempting to overthrow the government of Porfirio Diaz.

Tejada writes in the title essay, De Vaca’s contribution hundreds of years earlier after having sailed to Florida and later been captured for years, losing almost all of his men in his wanderings, before he escaped, was also something Trump-like folks would have understood.  He wrote of his journeys in a politician’s exercise of spin and rehabilitation.  He likely invented a tale of being treated better as a captive because of a wham-bang piece of field surgery he performed in removing an arrowhead that few imagined possible.  Anticipating future charges of genocide, he even offers some defense for his native American capturers and their situation despite his captivity.

These are all good reminders that all reading, listening, and viewing of media has required a good dose of salt and skepticism forever and always, not just today.