Wrapping up Loose Election Threads

By the time this issue of CityBeat is published, the long and hard-fought presidential election will finally be over. Here are a couple of items to ponder as you're either celebrating or crying in your beer.

By the time this issue of CityBeat is published, the long and hard-fought presidential election will finally be over. Here are a couple of items to ponder as you’re either celebrating or crying in your beer. (By the way, find CityBeat's coverage of the election results and Election Night reactions here.)

First, United Dairy Farmers finally responded to inquiries about why it stopped carrying The New York Times in its stores, but the reply came too late to make it into last week’s column ( see “All the News Isn’t Fit to Sell”).

Some people had speculated that The Times’ sudden disappearance from UDF stores was due to the conservative leanings of chain founder Carl Lindner Jr. and his family. Many conservatives have been displeased by The Times’ coverage of Republican presidential nominee John McCain and alleged bias in favor of Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

Frank Cagliano, a UDF spokesman, said rising gasoline prices, and not political ideology, is the culprit.

The Times was carried in only 16 of the chain’s roughly 200 stores, Cagliano said. A decision was made recently to stop carrying the newspaper because the magazine distributor that provided it to UDF stopped making deliveries on a daily basis once fuel costs began skyrocketing.

The same distributor also provides The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s to UDF, and the convenience store chain stopped carrying the former because — like The Times — it often was out of date if delivered just once a week.

“We don’t have any way to get it in our stores other than someone who only delivers it once a week,” Cagliano said. “We’re looking at other options.”

Most people who want the out-of-town newspaper subscribe, just as UDF’s corporate offices do, he added. “We still get it here,” Cagliano said. “We read The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Whatever the true reason is, with gas prices tumbling and the election finally over, it’ll be interesting to see if The Times makes a comeback at UDF stores.

Updating yet another topic of a past column, the Hamilton County Board of Elections decided last week to quarantine just one ballot out of the 671 ballots cast during the “early voting window” of Sept. 30-Oct. 6, when state law allowed people to register to vote and cast a ballot all at the same time.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters had sought to quarantine all of the ballots, citing unspecified complaints about “voter irregularity” during the window (see “A Prosecutor’s Moment of Truth”). Pending a more thorough review, he wanted the 671 ballots kept with other provisional ballots that would be counted 10 days after the election if they’d been deemed valid. The Board of Elections didn’t file the complaints and was unaware of any problems.

Deters launched an investigation into alleged voter registration fraud two weeks ago but stepped aside amid questions about possible conflicts of interest. Deters also serves as Southwest Ohio chairman for McCain’s campaign, and many critics allege his “investigation” was a political strategy to suppress the surge in new Democratic voter registrations.

The sole ballot ultimately quarantined was cast by a Connecticut man who was visiting Cincinnati. The man, whom the board hasn’t identified, later called local elections officials and asked that his ballot be pulled.

The Republican Party also tried to raise allegations of voter registration fraud during the 2006 congressional elections, when it first began looking like Democrats would dominate at the polls. Then, as now, there was no evidence to support the claims.

When pressed last week, a top official with the McCain- Palin “Honest and Open Election Committee” couldn’t cite a single instance in which problems with fake voter registrations resulted in phony votes being cast.

Forget Joe the Plumber; the most memorable figure of the 2008 election season locally is likely to be Joe the Drama Queen, our own excitable prosecutor.

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