Get A Grip Scotto

Lord Almighty, I thought I was done writing about this NVRA/DTA nonsense. I've got other nonsense to write about, people.

But no, Senator Scotto sez today that Elizabeth Warren should reimburse the Department of Transitional Assistance the quarter-mil or so it spent complying with the settlement it entered into for failing to comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

OK, let me step back and tell a little story.

Back in the summer of 2009, there was a little problem concerning polling places in South Boston for the upcoming mayoral primary. Matthew the Redeemer, which served three precincts, was going to be unavailable -- I think there were renovations going on, I forget the details now. 

The City of Boston's election department had to scout out and find new polling places for the three precincts, which is not as simple a process as you might think. The final plan wasn't made official until the beginning of August, which left only about six weeks to notify residents before the preliminary mayoral election.

This was a very, very big deal to the campaign of Michael Flaherty, which was counting on doing extremely well in Southie, and in those precincts in particular, against the guy who controls the City of Boston's election department, Tom Menino. (Flaherty's mother was a fixture at that polling place.)

So the Flaherty campaign, purely in its own self-interest, kept a very close eye on the entire process. They had meetings with the department, got a walk-through of proposed sites, and monitored the department's efforts to inform residents of the precincts about the changes. And, if they were not satisfied -- say, if the department was planning on just putting up a few signs rather than send a notice to every registered voter -- they damn sure were ready to take the city to court over it.

All of which is exactly as it should be. The city has certain obligations for making it reasonably easy for people to vote, and one of the checks on that is the self-interest of politicians who participate in the system.

I relate this tale to reiterate something I wrote yesterday: It doesn't matter whether the groups who sued the state were doing it to get Warren elected. It doesn't matter if they were co-ordinating with the Warren campaign. It doesn't matter if Warren did it herself. It doesn't matter if it was to gain votes for Democrats, or Warren specifically. IT DOESN'T MATTER.

There's nothing wrong with a candidate pushing for full election fairness out of pure self-interest. If the state somehow screws with the vote in Wrentham, I fully expect the Brown campaign to seek proper redress -- he doesn't need to sit back and hope that some disinterested, non-partisan third party steps in.

Now, in this particular case, the Warren campaign didn't need to act, because there were groups already doing it. But, as folks go sleuthing for clues of co-ordination and partisan motivation (the Brown campaign tweeted this morning an AHA! photo of E-Dubs speaking at a Demos event), step back and remind yourself that IT DOESN'T MATTER.

I suppose there could be some point to accusing the DTA and its bosses at the Patrick Administration of agreeing to do too much to help register welfare recipients, in its attempt to settle the lawsuit. That has nothing to do with the Warren campaign, and I have not yet seen where anybody who knows anything about this stuff has said so, and it's certainly seems to me awfully hard to make a case that the DTA and Patrick administration were going out of their way to get more welfare recipients registered by systematically failing to register welfare recipients for at least a year after Demos first started investigating the problem, so as to force themselves into a legal situation where they had to agree to do something to register welfare recipients.

But hey, if that's the case you want to make, knock yourselves out; let me know when you've got a shred of evidence to support this fascinating theory.

Meanwhile.... explain again exactly why the Warren campaign should pay the state a quarter-million dollars, Senator?

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