Cheney ensnared by election debate

Plus, it’s Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday!

Axios’ excellent reporter and interviewer Jonathan Swan tried pulling a gotcha on Liz Cheney. She didn’t take the bait, gave the correct response, and is getting grief for it.

In the weekly Axios on HBO program, Swan invited the Wyoming congresswoman and former House GOP conference chair to directly link every GOP-sponsored election reform law in every state to Donald Trump’s continuing attempts to rewrite history and steal the 2020 election.

Swan asked Cheney what emergency was necessitating these changes. Cheney said, “you have to look at each state.” Swan insisted that you couldn’t separate the context of these changes from the dangers Trump poses — which may be true.

But, as this space has noted regularly, the laws as introduced are irrelevant. All sorts of nonsense is introduced in legislatures (including Congress) daily. The final product matters. Laws and rules were relaxed in 2020 to allow easier voting during a pandemic. Keeping them in place during normal elections might invite lax oversight. Take out the slack without placing barriers on people who are casting ballots under regular circumstances. 

Make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. 

Cheney indeed considered the context.

I think about 2000. I think about sitting on the inaugural platform in January of 2001 watching Al Gore. ... I'm sure he didn't think he had lost. We had fought this politically very, very intense battle. And he conceded. He did the right thing for this nation.

And that is one of the big differences between that and what we're dealing with now and the danger of Donald Trump today.

Swan’s one of the best interviewers around, but he whiffed this time.

How many observers are enough?

I let this slip. My bad. My former John Locke Foundation colleague Andy Jackson, the elections guru there, highlighted a new spat between the Democrat-run State Board of Elections and the Republican-led General Assembly over election watchers at polling places.

State law allows no more than two election observers from each party (plus an alternate) per precinct at polling sites, including early voting locations. The law also says each poll watcher must work at least a four-hour shift before being relieved. Between six and eight people can observe voters during the course of a full voting day.

The observers aren’t paid. They come from a list the local parties provide. Some vetting takes place, including proof of residence.

The SBE has proposed a rule change (page 10) limiting each party to two observers daily. No alternates. No relief.

Andy points out this not only would likely reduce the number of observers who would volunteer for 13-hour shifts during elections; but it’s also certain to make voting less transparent. Observers who get tired, or may not feel great, would be less … observant.

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House Bill 819, now in the House Rules Committee, would allow the parties to have observers work as much or as little as they’d like on a given day. Each party could still have no more than two at the polling place at one time. The observers also would have to come from those lists submitted to the county elections boards beforehand.

But, as Andy says, the bill envisions “a theoretically unlimited number of observers per day, but practically limited by the number of volunteers county parties can recruit.”

It’s a good move for transparency. Since it’s in an election bill, the legislature could take it up at any time.

Bob’s 80th

Still kicking. Still a treasure. 

Thursday, we Raleigh Uke Jammers enjoyed our first fully unmasked indoor meeting since the pandemic. We played about a dozen Dylan songs. Fortunately, no known video record survived. But I will say our singing was at least as melodic as Mr. Zimmerman’s most of the time.

Old Crow Medicine Show recorded their interpretation of “Blonde on Blonde” for the album’s 50th anniversary, played the whole thing at the Country Music Hall of Fame, released an album of it, and then made the show the centerpiece of a tour. We saw the Raleigh stop. It remains one of my favorite live shows ever. Here’s how it opened:

Adele, of course.

Roger McGuinn and Marty Stuart’s Fabulous Superlatives (Marty playing the B-bender guitar Clarence White used on the Byrds’ “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” album).

Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas, on eTown, a public radio show Nick Forster of Hot Rize has produced for decades in Colorado.

The man himself, when he won an Oscar 20 years ago, is fantastic. As are his remarks after he learns he’s won.