image00121Libertarian Crusader Diaryimage00319

2000 Presidential Election Era

Published by Gary L. Fincher

Volume IV, Edition I – February 13, 1999

Montgomery, Alabama

  

 

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Gary and Kay Become Nonvoters

 

It’s hard to believe, but the above headline isn’t a made-up farce.  It’s unfortunately the truth.  The only thing is, that status – that of non-voter – is something that was forced upon us by the same folks who always preach to us that our vote really counts and that if you don’t vote, you can’t complain: the bureaucrats over at the county board of elections.  If you somehow see the bureaucratic actions speaking louder than the bureaucratic words and think that officials who administer elections in this country like to set standards for hypocrisy instead of simply maintaining standards, then congratulations.  I’d like to welcome you to the libertarian realist way of looking at the world.

 

Our headache began on November 3, in the afternoon, as the last issue of Libertarian Crusader Diary had practically gone to press (which is why no mention of the ballot box rebuff appeared in its pages – its composition and layout was in too advanced a stage for me to rewrite the lead story at great time and expense.   While the election day troubles for Kay and me were overshadowed by the New Mexico LP gaining first- ever major party status in the state, they nevertheless have taken center stage in our lives and are becoming an ever-increasing focus for our time, attention and money.

 

In order to explain just what happened, I’m reproducing a press release I wrote two days after the election, on the next two pages.

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TWO KEY MEMBERS OF MCDONALD CAMPAIGN STAFF PREVENTED FROM CASTING BALLOTS

 

Civil Rights Case Being Built Against Santa Fe County Board of Elections

 

Santa Fe, N.M. November 5, 1998- As the only Libertarian candidate on the statewide ballot in Tuesday’s election, Maurice McDonald earned the Libertarian Party major party status and captured 36,056 votes. But strangely absent from that figure were the votes of two key members of his campaign staff.  That’s because workers from the Santa Fe County Board of Elections decided to violate their civil rights and block their access to the ballot box.

 

Gary L. Fincher, McDonald’s campaign manager, and Karen Fincher. McDonald’s fundraising director, were standing in line at the polls at Sweeney Elementary School in Santa Fe when election workers approached Karen and asked her to cover a statue-of-liberty logo on her jacket.  When she obliged, the worker then turned to Gary and made the bizarre demand to “take off [his] shirt”.  When Gary bristled, the workers stepped up their assault and he was accosted by two more election workers.  Both Gary and Karen were then accused of “campaigning” at the polling place, even though neither Gary nor Karen brought any of their campaign materials or signs to the polling place.  In fact, they both were standing in line, waiting to vote, holding their respective voting cards.  When Gary and Karen tried to explain that they were not “campaigning” in any way, the election workers began to “browbeat” and intimidate the two voters.  One of the workers brought over a copy of the Election Code Section 1-20-16. which prohibits the “.. display of signs or distribution of campaign literature”.  When Gary and Karen tried to convince the election workers that they were not guilty of displaying signs or distribution of campaign literature, a sheriff’s deputy who had arrived on the scene grabbed Karen by the arm, inflicting bruises, and pulled her outside the polling place.  Both Gary and Karen were then arrested, removed from the polling place and detained until after the polls closed.

 

As of yet, according to the McDonald campaign, the sheriff’s department has not released any official details of any charges.

 

Members of McDonald’s campaign committee and staff have expressed outrage over what is being described as civil rights infractions by members of the Santa Fe County Board of Elections.

 

“Such blatant disregard for my Constitutional right to vote enrages me, saddens me and strengthens my resolve to not only hold accountable the contentious poll workers who committed this egregious act hut also to seek to ensure that all parties are represented amongst poll workers so these injustices cease,” said Karen Fincher on Wednesday, alluding to the very real possibility that election workers acted out of anti-Libertarian bias when they identified the couple as Libertarians.

 

“Discrimination should never be tolerated at the polling place”, said Gary.  Unfortunately, we will never get our 1998 election vote back.”

 

End Press Release

 

 

 

 

A Second press release soon followed, that said:

 

 

MCDONALD CAMPAIGN COUPLE SEEK REDRESS FROM STATE

 

Missive to Secretary of State Office First Serious Attempt at Justice

 

Santa Fe. N.M. November 5, 1998- Gary and Karen Fincher, in a letter to Maria De Anda, legal counsel for the N.M. Secretary of State, said that “because we feel so strongly about our voting rights, and that the loss of them has injured us, our quest for justice is a serious one”, the McDonald Campaign said on Thursday.

 

In the letter, the Finchers asked the Secretary of State to reinstate their vote, halt any legal action pending against them and issue a recommendation to the attorney general that criminal charges be initiated against Santa Fe County and its Board of Elections for civil rights violations against the couple.  Gary and Karen Fincher, Maurice McDonald’s campaign manager and fundraising director, respectively, were arrested Tuesday night as they waited in line to cast their ballot.

Photos taken in New Mexico shortly after the Nov. 3 incident show Kay before covering up her logo when asked to do so (left) and after she complied with their request (right)
Before and after: Photos taken in New Mexico shortly after the Nov. 3 incident show Kay before covering up her logo when asked to do so (left) and after she complied with their request (right)

The press releases resulted in a newspaper interview which yielded an article in the November 6, 1998 Santa Fe New Mexican.

 

Aside from getting our ages wrong (I was 36 and my wife was 52 on Nov. 6). Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputies lied to the press about just who was being disruptive (it was actually the election workers who were disrupting our attempt to vote). [Late editor’s note:  I actually assisted with that getting our ages wrong issue.]

 

Eventually we were charged with “electioneering”, a gross attempt to misapply a criminal misdemeanor statute to our wearing our regular clothes while waiting in line to vote.

 

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Santa Fe County’s Weak Case Against Us

 

There arc several problems with Santa Fe County’s case against Kay and me.

 

The first and most obvious problem is that we’re both actually innocent of what we’re being charged with. We were not electioneering, nor were we engaged in any of the actions (displaying of signs or distribution of campaign literature) that the N.M. statute prohibits.  In a sane courtroom, it’s a prima facie acquittal. On the first ballot, no deliberation necessary.

 

 

 

image01314But let’s assume for a moment that even though it’s 1999, it’s also 1984, and our trial takes place in an Orwellian courtroom where the judge’s native tongue is Newspeak: “war is peace, slavery is freedom”, etc., and the court rules that the wearing of clothes is actually not the wearing of clothes hut rather the “displaying of signs or distribution of campaign literature”.   Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it’s the distribution of campaign literature.  The case against us still has holes in it.

 

The most obvious one of those is lack of intent on our part.  We came to the polling place to vote and had no intention whatsoever of distributing campaign literature.  Voting, not electioneering, was our intent and so the court, being unable to prove intent that isn’t there, will have to exonerate us.

 

But there are more holes:

 

Hole #2:  When the poll worker asked Kay to cover up the logo on her jacket, she did exactly that.   So if Kay stopped distributing campaign literature the very moment they requested her to, why did she get arrested anyway?  Bottom line: No one should be arrested for compliance.

 

Hole #3:   If the poll workers thought that we were distributing campaign literature by wearing our clothes while waiting in line to vote, couldn’t they have given us a citation, and let us vote, rather than arrest us before we got to the ballot, if their true motivation wasn‘t to prevent a couple of Libertarians from voting?

 

They could have even let us vote first, then waited on the other side to arrest us.   But no, in spite of all the crocodile tears about low voter turnout they shed each year, they took the one action that would ensure we wouldn‘t get to vote.   Heck, they didn’t even bring us a ballot to mark while we were in a holding cell, with time on our hands!  Bottom line: Short of a felony conviction, no adult over 18 should be denied the right to vote.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An internal newsletter for election precinct workers and Board of Elections supervisors instruct poll workers to NEVER try to interfere with a voter wearing a t-shirt, and that the best course is to quietly allow him/her to vote and leave the polling place without drawing attention to the t-shirt – the EXACT OPPOSITE of how New Mexico chooses to handle that situation (being confrontational with the voter).
At least Oklahoma has it right regarding elections: An internal newsletter for election precinct workers and Board of Elections supervisors instruct poll workers to NEVER try to interfere with a voter wearing a t-shirt, and that the best course is to quietly allow him/her to vote and leave the polling place without drawing attention to the t-shirt – the EXACT OPPOSITE of how New Mexico chooses to handle that situation (being confrontational with the voter).

 

Hole #4:  About the arrest.  In view of the fact that we were peacefully standing in line – armed with only our voting cards – arresting us in handcuffs is a tad bit of excessive force being used.  And especially breaking Kay’s finger and inflicting bruises are instances of police brutality, for certain.  Bottom line: Excessive force and police brutality were involved.

 

Hole #5:  I personally received the testimonial from another Libertarian who said that when he went to vote, he parked within 100 feet of the polling place, his car bearing a “McDonald for Commissioner of Public Lands” bumper sticker.  Yet he didn’t suffer admonishment, let alone arrest, for this action.  Since many parking spaces at the polling places are within the requisite 100 feet, it doesn’t require any imagination to figure that hundreds, if not thousands, of New Mexicans displayed bumper stickers soliciting the vote for various candidates on that year’s ballot.  Are we really being told that wearing our clothes, which say only ‘Libertarian Party’ more perfectly fits the definition of “electioneering” than bumper stickers which say ‘Vote for X’?  Bottom line: Arbitrary and capricious enforcement of a law should render it null and void.

 

Hole #6:  In order to fully appreciate the complete and utter irony in all this, one need to look no further than the U.S. Postal Service.  The same postal service that is so voter unfriendly that it blocks our access to “its” property at every turn when we try to engage in petitioning, voter registration, tax protests and other political and free-speech activities by invoking its stiff regulation against electioneering, even where not applicable (such as the collection of state-mandated signatures on a ballot access petition), told me that I could wear any type of clothing I wanted, even partisan or overtly campaign-related clothing, on postal property, even inside to mail a letter.  Bottom line: Branches of government can’t even agree on what constitutes “electioneering”.

 

Hole #7: In addition to the “electioneering” charge, the completely bogus, irrelevant and trumped-up charge of “disorderly conduct” was thrown in, even though the actions of the polling place officials more closely fit that definition.  Kay and I just wanted to be left alone so we could vote, had no incentive to be “disorderly”, but were instead incessantly badgered by loud and contentious poll workers.  Bottom line: For an office to add a charge against a citizen which he knows is not true simply to frustrate that citizen’s defense is unethical and has to be illegal.

 

Hole #8:  The police affidavit we received indicated that it was a report that “members of the Libertarian Party” were what the sheriff’s deputies were called upon to respond to. Given that we tried to vote in a precinct that was predominately Hispanic (in Santa Fe, that demographic group votes overwhelmingly Democrat), and the zeal in which they responded to the report and pursued our arrest, I’m convinced we were treated in an adversarial way from the very outset.  Bottom line: High probability that anti-Libertarian bias formed basis of arrest and consequential denial of our vote.

Legal Defense Fund

 

I’ve just enumerated at least eight flaws in Santa Fe County’s case against us. This makes us confident we can not only beat this rap, but actually he successful in a subsequent suit for civil rights violations, namely false arrest and deprivation of voting rights.  This would be especially so with good legal representation.  Which brings me to the good news.

 

We’re on the verge of retaining one of the best criminal/civil rights legal teams in New Mexico, Paul Kennedy and Mary Han.  They came highly recommended by Duncan Scott, former executive director of the Alaska Libertarian Party in its heyday (circa 1980s when it regularly won elections to the Alaska House) and former N.M. state representative.  Mary Han was even mentioned in USA Today late last year.

 

The attorneys, who practice in Albuquerque, need $2,500 from each of us in order to defend us.  That’s a total of $5,000.  Quite a sum, but not a whole lot of money.

 

Thus there became the necessity to establish a legal defense fund to meet these legal costs.

 

We chose as trustee for our legal defense fund Daniel Bartholomew of Los Alamos, who serves as the Libertarian Party of N.M.‘s secretary and who also served as treasurer of the McDonald for Commissioner of Public Lands campaign.  He is a vice president of Los Alamos National Bank, where the fund is being held.   Kay and I established the fund because we don’t have too much money, but while Daniel serves as trustee of the fund, the fundraising drive has fallen on our shoulders.  This means we sent a mass mailing to N.M. and U.S. Libertarian Party members, as well as a telephone campaign, a cost which we are absorbing.  As of press time, the fund has brought in over $1,700, or 1/3 of the way to our goal.  Pledgers have included Ron Paul, congressman from Texas and former LP presidential nominee; and David Bergland, LP national chairman and former LP presidential nominee.  The first $1,000 has already been sent to our counsel.

 

My trial date was originally scheduled for Feb. 17, but I’ve requested a continuance till early March.  Kay’s next appearance is set for March 12. So we need the remaining $3,300 fast.

 

If you haven’t already contributed to our legal defense, we’d like to invite you to do so now. Please send to:

 

Fincher Legal Defense Fund

Daniel Bartholomew, trustee

Los Alamos National Bank

P.O. Box 60

Los Alamos, NM 87544

 

Of course, if you have already contributed, a hearty thank-you goes out to you.  Also note that should we reach any settlement or be awarded any damages as a result of our civil rights suit, everybody gets their money hack. That’s a guarantee.

 

 


Beyond New Mexico

 

After the McDonald campaign was wrapped up in New Mexico, and we added “campaign manager” to our résumé, we scooted off to Arizona to gather a handful of Libertarian voter registrations (only about 150) for maintenance of that state party’s ballot status.  Tucson in mid-November was absolutely glorious climate-wise, with crisp balmy days and cool, comfortable nights, a far cry from the summertime scorching w experienced just 3 years earlier.

Admiring the tall plants at Saguaro Nat’l Monument near Tucson (top photo), and payin’ our respects to the departed at Boot Hill in Tombstone (bottom photo)

Arizona Swing: Admiring the tall plants at Saguaro Nat’l Monument near Tucson (top photo), and payin’ our respects to the departed at Boot Hill in Tombstone (bottom photo)

 

 

 

 

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But we were only in Arizona less than a week, and after taking in such sights as Saguaro National Park, dotted with hundreds of acres of magnificent saguaro cactuses, and the quiet little town of Tombstone, site of the 1881 gunfight at O.K. Corral, we were out of Arizona and headed to the Deep South.   The ballot drive for 2000 ballot status for the LP was underway in Alabama, so Kay and I decided to make the drive to the Gulf Coast.

 

En route, we stopped off at Texas’ Big Bend National Park, where we witnessed the grandeur of high rock formations juxtaposed against arid brush land and the strong currents of the Rio Grande River which form the boundary between the U.S. and tiny Boquillas, Mexico on the other hank.  We were even treated to the sight of a pack of javelinas (wild pigs) cross the road in front of us.

Javelinas, and Kay, at Big Bend National Park in remote West Texas in November 1998

Javelinas, and Kay, at Big Bend National Park in remote West Texas in November 1998

 

 

 

 

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Semi-arid terrain turned to coastal lowlands as we made our way from Del Rio, Tex.. on the Mexican border and San Antonio over towards the Houston area (where we visited my brother Dale and his family in Texas’ piney woods), and coastal lowland gave way to swampland as we made our way into Louisiana bayou country across Interstate 10 and into New Orleans.  Then we crossed Lake Pontchartrain and breezed along the Mississippi coast and into Alabama’s sleepy little city of Mobile on the bay, with its streets lined with antebellum homes and trees covered with Spanish moss.

 

Except for a trip to the Crescent City (see next article) and a Christmas trip to frozen Appleton, Wisc., we’ve been in Alabama since our pre-Thanksgiving arrival.

 

While Kay and Gary get ready to do battle in New Mexico over civil rights infractions, Kay poses outside the landmark Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery Ala., in February, with the State Capitol, the terminus of the Selma-to-Montgomery march that took place during the period of civil rights unrest

Civil Rights, Kay’s: While Kay and Gary get ready to do battle in New Mexico over civil rights infractions, Kay poses outside the landmark Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery Ala., in February, with the State Capitol, the terminus of the Selma-to-Montgomery march that took place during the period of civil rights unrest

 

 

 

 

We take in an NFL Saints-Falcons game at the Lousiana Superdome in New Orleans in December

We take in an NFL Saints-Falcons game at the Lousiana Superdome in New Orleans in December

Our Super Bowl Connection

 

On December 13, Kay and I secured cheap seats to see an NFL regular season game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.  The contest was between the hometown Saints who entertained faint hopes of reaching the playoffs, and the NFC West-leading Atlanta Falcons, who were 10-2 at the time.

 

Kay and I, caught up in the excitement of the Superdome which has hosted more Super Bowls than any other stadium, including the Green Bay Packers’ ‘97 triumph and the Dallas Cowboys’ ‘78 win, rooted for the Saints.  But the Falcons of Atlanta prevailed in that game, 27 17, on fine running by tailback Jamal Anderson and precision passing by quarterback Chris Chandler.  Five weeks later, those same Falcons we saw earned a berth in Super Bowl XXXIII to play the Denver Broncos.

Brother Dale with his wife Claudia, left, and daughter Audrey, center, at their home near Conroe, Tex. In Nov. 1998

Brother Dale with his wife Claudia, left, and daughter Audrey, center, at their home near Conroe, Tex. In Nov. 1998

 

Political Commentary

 

What happened in Santa Fe on election day really made me stop and think:  is voting really worth the risks?

 

On the one hand you have the media and the establishment telling us how important it is that we make the trek down to the polls and vote.  But to have those same people thwart that very action when we make that pilgrimage makes me perk up and say “Huh?”

 

One can only conclude that if it s not important for two Libertarians to cast ballots and if in fact was so imperative to prevent us from voting, then there can only he one of two possibilities:

 

1)        we’re being lied to and our vote really doesn’t count (and they know it); or

 

2)        the election officials want us to know it s only important for us to vote if – and only if – we vote Republicratic, otherwise we risk scorn or even bodily harm.

 

Either way, I have to infer that a message is being sent, a message that says to us that we Libertarians aren’t going to be able to effect change through political means via the ballot box.  There has to be another way to achieve a libertarian society, leading me to ask the following question.  In 1775 did Washington, Jefferson, Paul Revere and the gang get together and vote King George out of of office?

 

 

 

 

image0336KAY’S

O

R

N

E

R

 

by Karen “Kay” Fincher

 

 

The handcuffs were tearing into my wrists and there was no way to get comfortable with them locked behind my back and my sitting upright on the overstuffed rear seat of the cop car. My hands are very small, hut the cuffs must have been made for a doll or a baby, because they were cutting into my flesh and setting up a searing pain in my head.

 

I leaned first a little to the right and forward so as not to sit on my manacled hands.

 

Well-dressed, middle class people were coming and going out of the four sets of doors of the elementary school just 10 feet from the curb where I sat in the backseat of the parked cop car.  As they hurried by, some stared quizzically at me, sad-eyed staring hack.  The sun had melted down over the dry horizon of Santa Fe and in the dusk the strobed effect from the bubble gum light machine on the top of the cop car added eeriness to an already traumatic evening.  As night came on slowly, fear and dread rose in my stomach and swelled in my aching throat.  I wanted to cry, because that can he such a relief, but I knew it wouldn’t help anything now, so I resolved to be strong and silent.

 

One set of doors to the school was open and I could see through them the short,  stocky poll worker who had accused me and called the sheriff.  He was looking out at me, his head bowed a little, an almost sheepish, yet stubborn, expression on his solemn face.   I stared at him for an eternity until, his head bowed further so our eyes would not meet, he slowly closed the doors, cutting off my line of vision.

 

With nothing to do but agonize over my aching hands and arms and wonder where the cocky deputy sheriff who had wrestled me into these irons had disappeared, leaving the cop car running with that hideous strobe light annoying my already-frayed nerves, I began my discussion with Jesus.

 

“Jesus, please protect me and don’t let them do something horrible to me or keep me in jail.  And Jesus, please tell me how to talk to that awful deputy when he comes back.  I’d like to spit at him or swear at him, I m so angry.  If they can do this to me now I see how self righteous they are and this police state must be arresting thousands of citizens every day who are innocent.  I know you Iet this happen to me to open my eyes but what do I do now?”

 

And Jesus told me.

 

“Remember, you are the teacher here.  The deputy is young enough to be your son.  He’s leading a dangerous life, bullying citizens and using brute force on everyone.  Someday he’ll confront an evil person who will harm him severely if you don t warn him now.  Turn the other cheek.  Easier said than done.   The deputy, huffing and puffing, papers flapping, rushed out of the school. It was after 7 p.m.  I’d been left in the cop car for over an hour while he took statements from all my accusers.  He squeezed his pudgy body, uniformed all in black, into the front seat and pompously said, “Okay, Ms. Fincher, we’ll be taking you down to intake now.  I have all the statements [none, from me] and we’II be making out our report.  His aggressive tone left no question that he was in command.

 

My clenched body would have liked to pummel him and slap his mouth for talking to me that way, hut as I leaned a little to the left and forward to relieve the numbness in my hands, sharp pains went up my right arm where the deputy had dug his fingers and dragged me out of the voting line.  “Listen young man.  You have to stop approaching people and arresting them like this before you talk to them.   Don’t you realize that some person who’s having mental problems or who is stoned or drunk or is just plain evil may fight back and seriously harm you?  Doesn’t your mother worry about you that you II get killed doing this?  Isn’t she home wondering if you’re injured tonight?  I pleaded with him. 

 

“I’m just doing my job, Ma’am. Just doing it as I see it,” he spun off.

 

“Yeah, but you have to be careful.  You know you do not have to arrest me.  How many other people do you arrest before you talk to them?  I am afraid for you that you will be hurt and your mother will cry,” I adopted the sing-songy manner and inflection used by the Hispanic population, since the dark-haired, dark- eyed deputy was obviously Hispanic.

 

The deputy s voice softened, but he said again, “I’m just doing, my job, Ma’am.  That’s all there is to it,” but his body relaxed and he sighed a little.

 

My hands hurt terribly.  Is there any reason you can’t take off these cuffs?”  I winced, weary with pain.

 

All the way to the jail I admonished him, and I believe he realized I was sincere by the time we got to the jail (an enormous 2 block long brand new cement building).

 

The deputy drove in the jailhouse garage and let me out of the car.  He took off my handcuffs.  Gary was being let out of another car.  We stood around in the intake unit while the deputy wrote his report and then they put us in separate cells.  We sat there until after 9 p m and then they let us go.

 

It had been 5:45, while standing in line to vote, I was arrested for wearing my Libertarian jacket with the 2-inch Libertarian logo on the upper left lapel.  Electioneering, they called it.  I believe they’re all insane.  How will I continue to be an activist for freedom now that I know the extent to which some statists will go to repress even a hint of a new political ideal?  They’re the Elmer Fudds, blowing off their muskets at every Libertarian who pops up.  Unfortunately, this scared rabbit is really paranoid now and it’s time to find some new ways to turn the tables on Caesar.

 

 

Next Edition (October 4, 1999):

https://libertycrusader.wordpress.com/libertarian-crusader-diary/archived-back-issues/october-4-1999-lcd/

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