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Di Leo: Little Pavel Puts Things Off

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By John F. Di Leo -  Running late

Join us, as our fictional young campaign volunteer learns the “benefits” of postponement… to a party that practices vote fraud…

Pavel Syerov, Jr. was home from college, doing errands, when he found himself in the old neighborhood, about to pass by the old 51st Ward Party Headquarters where he had spent so much time as a youth.

When he was a teenager, unable to get a summer job in Obama’s  “summer of recovery,” his parents encouraged him to volunteer at the local party office. “It would be a learning experience,” Mr. and Mrs. Syerov had told him.  And was it ever.

Now it had been a while since he’d been back; the folks moved out of the ward, and he’d gone away to college… but he still stopped by occasionally to talk with his old friends, Committeeman Bill Marcy (The Boss) and his trusted deputy committeeman, Pockets, who fancied themselves the boy’s mentors, and predicted that he’d be Alderman someday… until his parents had the poor judgment to move out of the ward.

He’d been reading something online, just the other day, about a vote fraud case in Minnesota, and as long as it was on his mind, he thought he might stop by and see if he could gain some insight from his old friends.

So he parked the car and headed straight to the packaged goods store to bring his goodwill gift – a six-pack of beer and a big bag of pretzels…  Honey-wheat, Pockets’ favorite.  Between his old Chicago accent and the sputter of crumbs, Pocket was sometimes harder to understand than his well-spoken boss, but it was worth it.  And Pockets wasn’t quite as guarded as the professional old pol he worked for.

As Pavel walked in the door, ringing the little bell on the string, he marveled once again at how everything at headquarters was still so old-fashioned.  A little bell attached to the door chain, a couple of beat-up old collating tables, surrounded by beat-up old chairs for the old ladies to use when seated around it for collating literature, even the old ladies themselves were old-fashioned, with their shabby old clothes, two of them still with yesterday’s racing form sticking out of their purses (should have thought to bring a snack for the ladies too, darn it…), old metal bookshelves, full to overflowing with old literature, boxes of buttons and pins and children’s toys, boxes of those door-hanger plastic bags to fill with literature for when the final General Election arrives…  Boy, what a shabby joint.

But there’s something new, off to the left: in Pockets’ corner, amidst the stacks of papers and binders and reports that surround his old desk and credenza, there were several brand new shiny electronics…

He was brought back to the business at hand as Pockets shouted out from the back “Pauly!  Izzat you?  Long time no see, college boy!  Lemme look at ya!”

The old man shuffled to the front, and his eyes lit up even more as he saw the goodwill offering.  “A beer? For me? Thank ya kindly, Paully, I don’t mind if I do!”

Pavel chuckled and said “Here, have a seat, and let me put the rest of them in the fridge.  Be back in a minute. Here, have a grenade!”  Pavel set down the bag of pretzels, handed Pockets a bottle, and headed to the back of the office to put the rest of the six-pack in the refrigerator. 

By the time Pavel returned, Pockets was already a third through with his beer already, munching on the open bag of pretzels.  What had it been, 45 seconds?!

“So how’s college, Paully?  Ya learnin’ stuff?  Gettin’ your money’s worth up there?”

“Yes indeed, Pockets,” Pavel replied. “Double major, and I’m working on two minors, two.  They keep me busy!”

“Wow.  So ya don’t come home much, huh?”

“No, not much, Pockets.  Once in a while, maybe once every month and a half, if that.  Working through my vacations and breaks whenever I can get hours.  But it’ll all be worth it in the end, when I get that degree and head into the real world!”

“Ah, Paully, I hope so.  I hear it’s tough out there, nowadays.” Pockets shrugged his shoulders. “I got a great-nephew, he graduated a couple years ago, couldn’t find a full-time job for a year.  I offered to help, ya know, get him a job with the city, but his grandma, she said no.”

Pockets looked down, especially sad, for a moment, and took a swig. “She wouldn’t even let me see what I could do for him.”

Pavel remembered… Pockets’ sister-in-law disapproved of how Pockets earned his living.  The idea of taking a patronage job from the party would hardly have appealed to her!  Pavel quickly changed the subject to spare him further reflection on the mater.

“Yeah, well, I was kind of in the neighborhood this morning, running a few errands, and I just read a story online this morning that politics on my mind, so I figured I’d stop by in case you were in the office!  Glad I did!”

“Oh yeah, Paully, I’m always here on Saturdays, ya know, ‘specially in an election year!  Glad ya stopped by!”  Pockets shoveled another pretzel in his mouth, then asked “Hey, ya notice anything different around here?”

Pavel paused to consider.  It’s still the same place, evoking a classic episode of “Hoarders” that it always had… and then he remembered the electronics he’d noticed when he walked in.  “You have some new electronics on your desk… is that it?”

“Got it one, Paully!”  Pockets beamed with pride at his pupil.  “Nothin’ gets past you, does it?  Yup, we got some new stuff.  All a dis talk about identity theft got us nervous, so da Boss and I, we got ta thinkin’, and we decided it was time.”  Pockets took a long swig of his drink, and continued.  “So we went out an’ bought our own detachable hard drive.  It’s a stand-alone thing so ya can back up everything on a separate device.  If some hacker in India or China or Kenilworth or somethin’ decides ta pull our data offa da Cloud, we’ll still have it right here!”

Pockets patted his new toy proudly, then pointed to another unit on the floor, between his desk and the wall.  “Ya know what dat is, Paully?  It’s a server!”

“A server?”

“Yup, it’s our own email server!  We figured, if Hillary can get her own private server, so can we, eh, Paully?!”  Pockets polished off his beer, and held it up as if in a toast: “After all, anything Hillary can do, we can do too!  We’re both from Chicago, ya know!”

“Umm… it didn’t really end all that well for Hillary, though, did it, Pockets?  I mean, she was investigated by the FBI for it!”

The old pol laughed… a good old belly laugh.  “Sure she was investigated! But she beat da rap, Paully, and dat’s what counts! Haven’t you been paying attention to me all deze years?”

Pavel forced himself to chuckle along with him… it just wouldn’t do to let Pockets see any disapproval in his eyes.   He stood up and said “Here, let me get you a refill!”  

As Pavel walked back to the refrigerator for another beer, he remembered a famous scene from “Guys and Dolls”… the scene where Big Jule, the gangster from Chicago, says “I used ta be a bad kid, but I went straight, as is proven by my record: 32 arrests, no convictions…”   Frank Loesser and Damon Runyan sure understood Chicago well…

“Here you go, Pockets, have another grenade!” said Pavel, as he handed him the beer.

“Tank ya kindly, Paully!” he responded, beaming as he opened what was probably already his fourth beer that morning.  “So hey, ya said something caught your eye online, huh? What didja see?”

Excellent.  Pavel had hoped to be able to get to it quickly.  If the Boss got in before he was done, that would add another half hour, and the Boss was sometimes less careless in these discussions than his hard-drinking deputy.

“Well, I saw this piece about a vote fraud trial in Minnesota.”  He’d actually read several columns and news articles, but he wasn’t about to admit to Pockets that he’d been reading PowerLine Blog and the American Thinker… “It said that one of the things the plaintiffs are claiming is that onsite registration is basically a fast track to vote fraud.  Is that true?”

“Well, now, Paully, dat’s a good question,” Pockets replied, as he leaned forward to grab a fistful of honey-wheat pretzel braids… “Man, I love dese things… thanks for bringin’ ‘em in. I might polish off da whole bag!”  And it certainly wouldn’t be the first time, thought Pavel.

“So let’s see now,” Pockets paused for a moment, and asked, “Why might ya think that onsite registration would be a good thing, in the first place, Paully?”

Pavel replied “Well, I guess because people put things off, just generally.  Who doesn’t procrastinate, right?  Nobody wants to go out of their way to head to city hall or a township office to register, so they put it off when they turn eighteen, or when they move, and they keep planning on doing it as part of their errands, but they never get around to it… and then before ya know it, the registration period is over.  But you have a Constitutional right to vote, so onsite registration allows it.  Makes sense, right?

“Exactly our point, Paully!  Exactly our point.” Pockets assumed his best, ‘good-government look’ pose, and said “Onsite Registration is necessary to enable our busy citizens to practice their patriotic duty!”

…and with that, Pockets collapsed back into his overstuffed leather office chair, shoveled a pretzel and his mouth, and cackled until he took his next swig of beer.

“But it makes sense, doesn’t it, Pockets?” Pavel asked.  “If the government has to allow people to vote, why should the date of registration matter? It’s the vote that counts, and you’re only letting them vote once, anyway.  So can there really BE any vote fraud, if, by definition, they’re just showing up at the polling place and casting that one vote?”

Pockets sat back and picked up a pretzel, this time to use as a pointer in the air, as he often did.

“First, let’s think about what ya need to register to vote.  Whaddaya need, Paully?”

“Well… some mixture of birth certificate, state ID, drivers license, college student ID, a utility bill, an apartment lease… varies from state to state, I suppose.”

“Right.  And when ya register a month in advance, what does da election office have time ta do?”

“Ummm…  OMIGOSH!  A month gives the election board time to CHECK all that stuff.  If it’s on election day, there’s no time to check the person’s paperwork! Good fakes will get through! Or legitimate IDs that have problems, like if the person is a felon or a non-citizen!”

“Right-O, Paully!  Gold Star.” Pockets smiled, never ceasing to be proud of his pupil. “And what do we know about da people who work at da polling places, Paully?”

Pavel wasn’t sure where he was going with this one.  “That they aren’t necessarily on our side?”

“Well, yeah, sure, but… what else?”

“Umm… that they vary considerably from precinct to precinct?”

“Bingo!  Dey vary considerably.  Dat’s a nice way to put it.”  The old man shoveled another pretzel in his mouth and continued without a break. “Dere’s precincts what got careful professionals, people who’ll look closely at the driver’s license, check da student ID ta see if it’s da current year, check da copy of da utility bill ta make sure it hasn’t been altered wid Liquid Paper… ya know, stuff like dat.”

“And there are precincts where they won’t check at all, or they won’t notice a decent fake!” 

“Right, Paully.  Dere’s all kinds.   And on top of that, dere’s da whole issue of ‘time of day,’ ya know?” 

Pockets paused for a swig of beer, and Pavel nodded his head, remembering how Pockets had told him in the past of how times of day affected vote fraud.  There are things a corrupt pollworker can get away with in slow times that he couldn’t pull in fast times, and there are things you can get away with in fast times that you could never pull during a lull.

“So you mean, even a diligent pollworker is more likely to miss a fake registration if he’s in a hurry, like during a lunch rush?”

“Oh yeah, Paully, especially then. And try it at 6:00pm in a presidential year!  Brudder, you’ll get away wid anything at 6:00pm, when dere’s a line out da door and only an hour left!“

Pavel pondered this a moment, then said “but aren’t these just provisional ballots anyway, so if they’re wrong, they’ll get found out and tossed?”

“Heh, heh.  Yeah, Paully, you keep tellin’ yourself that!” Pockets replied, almost snorting out his beer. “When I started out, 50-some years ago, dere was just ‘ballots’ and dat was dat.  Now, dere’s dis provisional ballot and dat provisional ballot, da onsite registrations and da ballots dat didn’t read right in da feeder and da envelope of absentee ballots dat came in da morning and da envelope of absentee ballots dat sometimes arrive at night as da polls close, and on and on.  At a lot of precincts, in a lot of states, it’s impossible ta keep ‘em all straight.  Dey all get mixed up together, and dey all get counted.”

Pockets munched another pretzel, and said “And den dere’s alla doze people dat get dropped from da list because dere felons, and da ones who moved away but didn’t throw away their IDs… wid same-day registration, dey all get ta register again, and vote again. And again. And again.”

Pockets took another swig, then continued: “Heck, I’ve seen precincts where a ballot didn’t feed, so we had ta make a substitute ballot (one Republican pollworker and one Democrat pollworker, cooperating, of course!) to feed through instead, copying those votes line by line….and then accidentally got them mixed up so both the original and the substitute got counted! Ya can get away wid anything if da pollworkers are newbies, or if dere in a hurry, or if it’s just a busy precinct on a high-profile presidential election!”

Pavel didn’t ask where he had seen those particular “mistakes”… or if Pockets himself had been the one to make sure that both the original spoiled ballots AND their replacements got counted… but he had a feeling.

Pockets adopted one of his thoughtful poses, and said wistfully “yeah, ya know, ya can get away wid anything in some states, on some days.  But ya never know, do ya?”… and he polished off that bottle too.

As he walked back to get Pockets another beer, Pavel made a mental note to stop bringing both beer and pretzels; it would have to be one or the other, in the future.  Between the crumbs and the slurring, Pockets was getting awfully hard to understand in his old age.

“So, what you’re saying, Pockets, is that onsite registration isn’t so much a method of vote fraud on its own, but it enables other types to work, even better, huh?”

“Exactly, Paully!” the old man said, popping the cap and diving in without delay. “Dere’s always been fake registrations, but dere easier ta get away with on election day than a month ahead.  Dere’ve always been people who move away and get dropped from da list, and it’s easier ta get away with voting in both places on a busy election day wid a long line pushin’ for speed.”

Pockets picked up another pretzel and gestured again.  “Hey, Paully, when you started at college, where did ya live?”

“In a dorm. Why?”

“Didja have a student ID wid your address on it? Some schools do, some don’t…”

“Yes, ours had our dorm address on it.”

“Didja give back your ID when ya moved?”

“No, they just issue a new one.  We keep the old ones as a spare, but I know that varies from college to college.”

Pockets smiled from ear to ear. “And how many places didja live in while in college?”

“Ummm, four, actually.  I had a different dorm freshman and sophomore years, then a different dorm for the summer I spent on campus, then the fraternity… I’m in an off-campus apartment with roommates now…  I’ve been all over the campus!”

Pockets asked “All different polling places too, then, I’ll bet, eh Paully?”

“Yes indeed, all different.”

“So wid all dose different IDs, plus your registration at your family’s old house in the city and the new one in the suburbs (ya should never have moved, Paully; ya coulda been alderman someday, ya know!)… you could easily be voting six times in every election if ya wanted to.  A few by absentee, a couple in person wid same-day registration (even if ya’d already been deleted from da rolls, as long as ya still got ID to present!!!)… dat’s how it’s done, Paully!”

No way in hell would I ever do that, thought Pavel, but he kept silent on that point, instead saying “but surely you wouldn’t always get away with it! Wouldn’t you be caught occasionally?”

“Sure, Paully, sometimes people get denied. Da pollworkers see through a bad fake ID or a doctored piece of mail, and dey send da person always.  But it’s not like dey arrest ya.  So it doesn’t hurt to try, eh Paully?!”

Pavel remembered something he’d encountered in class, and asked “In one of my Poli Sci classes on the Cold War, the professor was talking about the theory of MAD.  Mutually Assured Destruction.  He said that President Reagan’s Project High Frontier was designed to work that way, like you’ve been saying, so that we could get out of the problem of the MAD approach to the nuclear threat.”

“How’s dat again, Paully?” Pockets asked.  “Im not following ya.”

“Well, it’s like this.  Everybody was afraid that we might launch 300 nukes at Russia and they might launch 300 back at them.  MAD was the assumption that this total destruction would dissuade people from starting a nuclear war.”

“Right, yeah…. Where ya going wid dis, though? I’m lost, Paully.”

“Well, Project High Frontier was the proposal to build a missile defense that might not stop all of the incoming ICBMs, but it would stop lots of them.  The Left said it was no good because even one ICBM was too much, so it was pointless unless you could stop every nuke. The Right said it was great, because uncertainty was all we needed to further dissuade the Russians.  They would have to think, what if three quarters of our nukes are stopped? What if almost all are stopped?  What if we only wind up destroying minor cities, and the USA’s major installations and major bases escape unscathed?  Then that uncertainty would dissuade Russia from ever starting a nuclear war, just as well as MAD did, and even better, because of the lower risk if it did wind up happening!”

“Ah, I gotcha, Paully.  Dat makes sense.” Pockets nodded as he took another drink.  “So you’re sayin’ what I’m sayin’ – dat we should go ahead and try it, and we can have da same person try ten onsite registrations on election day, and den it’s fine even if a couple are stopped, ‘cause we’ll still have six or seven more votes than we would’ve if we hadn’t done it.  Yup, dat’s it in a nutshell. Dat’s how it works.”

Pavel left unmentioned his other thought: that eliminating onsite election day voter registration would make even more sense, because even though it wouldn’t stop all the vote fraud, it sure would stop a lot of it.  A heck of a lot more than we’re stopping right now. 

“So for all intents and purposes,” Pavel said in conclusion, “Same day onsite voter registration really is just a gift to the practitioners of vote fraud, so the challengers in this Minnesota case are correct after all, huh?”

“Yes indeed, Paully, yes indeed!” smiled the old man, conspiratorially. “To onsite voter registration! Here’s hoping the case fails!” he said triumphally, as he raised his glass in a toast.  Pavel joined him, raising his pretzel and jovially pretending to “clink glasses”… trying his best not to let on that the two of them were hoping for the exact opposite outcomes.

“Man, it’s getting late, Pockets,” Pavel said suddenly.  “I didn’t realize how long I’d been here.  I’ve gotta get going.  Errands to run!”

“Hey, no problem, Paully, been great talkin’ wid ya!”

“Say hello to The Boss for me, when you see him, Pockets!”

“Oh yeah, he’ll be in soon… I’ll tell’im ya said Hi!  Take care a yourself, buddy!”

As Pavel headed out, he realized – not for the first time – that things were much worse than he’d expected.  Same-day onsite voter registration is more pervasive now than ever before, and he now realized it was just a great big gift-wrapped present to whatever party wanted to practice vote fraud. 

And we all know which party that is.

He was going to have to have quite a conversation when he got home, to update his folks… and boy, was he going to have some material to discuss in class, when he gets back to college.

Copyright 2016 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade lecturer, writer, and actor.  A former area chairman of the Maine Township GOP and County Chairman of the Milwaukee County GOP, he has now been a recovering politician for over nineteen years.

This is a work of fiction.  Any similarity to any real persons, living or dead, is coincidental, though the many types of vote fraud discussed in these stories are, sadly, all too real.

Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the IR URL and byline are included.  Follow John F. Di Leo on Facebook or LinkedIn, or on Twitter at @johnfdileo.

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