Today's Papers

Ballot Blocks

The Washington Post leads with new state voting-registration systems that may mistakenly purge thousands of voters from the rolls, provoking lawsuits and, perhaps, confusion on election day. The Wall Street Journal goes with the Supreme Court’s decision to quash Republican efforts for extra scrutiny on voter registrations in Ohio. The New York Times leads with Barack Obama’s TV-ad frenzy, reporting that the Democratic candidate is running almost as many advertisements as the Geico gecko. The top story from the Los Angeles Times is the closing of the Mervyns department-store chain, which the paper calls another in a series of casualties of the faltering economy.

The problems with state voter rolls are popping up as states comply with a federal law mandating a switch from locally managed registration records to statewide databases, says the WP. Goofups emerge when states compare local rolls to state records, such as drivers’ licenses. The size of the problem varies from state to state; in Wisconsin, officials say one out of every five registered voters is flagged as ineligible due to problems over middle initials, birthdays, and misspellings. In Alabama, the rub is for people convicted of “moral turpitude.” Congress passed the law requiring the change in 2002 after the debacle in Florida two years previously. The problems typically lead to lawsuits.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a Republican party challenge to hundreds of thousands of new voter registrations in Ohio. The WSJ says Republicans are out to portray Democrats as trying to steal the election with voter fraud, while Democrats cast the GOP as wanting to suppress the vote. The story notes that President Bush won Ohio in 2004 by only 118,000 votes.

Obama is running at least four times as many TV ads as his Republican opponent, John McCain. The key to Obama’s airtime prowess is money, of course, which, the NYT reminds readers, is more abundantly available to the Illinois senator since he broke his promise to use federal financing for his campaign as McCain does. In a few days, the Obama campaign will have spent more than the $188 million George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign did on TV spots. McCain has spent $91 million on ads since his nomination. (Inside, the LAT’s got a story on California voters saying they were tricked into registering as Republicans.)

The closing of Mervyns department stores will occasion liquidation sales just in time for the holidays, reports the LAT, but Mervyns will have competition: Firms have been contracted to help liquidate stock at Linens ‘n Things and Shoe Pavilion as well. If this is supposed to be some kind of big upheaval, though, Mervyns customers accosted by Times reporters expressed “mostly indifference” at the closing.

The WP fronts word that the federal government’s “spending surge” is pushing the federal deficit toward $1 trillion. Tax breaks and other measures to stimulate economic growth, on top of billions to bail out Wall Street, are expanding the difference between what the government spends and what it collects in taxes to the widest it’s been since the end of World War II. The Post suggests the gap may continue to grow as the presidential candidates and congressional leaders of both parties promise more and more spending increases and tax breaks.

When she first came to Washington, Cindy McCain sat at a table by herself and nobody would join her during a luncheon for congressional spouses, according to a big profile splashed on the front of today’s NYT. Despite consistently getting the rough treatment in politics, and even though they’ve spent most of their time apart, McCain has done whatever she could to advance her husband’s career and would take her cues as First Lady from Princess Di, according to the Times.

When a CIA agent in Georgia was killed in 1993, local police blamed the crime on the town drunk, and everybody was relieved. Said drunk says today that he was framed, and witnesses have retracted testimony. The WSJ revisits the matter with a front-page story that takes a look at the spy games taking place at the time.

Four of al-Qaida’s five Web sites went offline in September and haven’t returned, reports a Page One WP story. The terrorist organization is usually able to reboot its sites; it is unclear why it has failed to do so this time. An analyst says having only one site working has left al-Qaida’s propaganda arm “hanging by a thread.” What TP doesn’t understand is why news stories about these kinds of Web sites never provide addresses for the sites or, at least, explain why not. TP is just curious, is all.  

The LAT fronts a look at the deadly, deadly California pastime of diving for abalone, which so far this year has left seven people sleeping with the fishes. Among other perils in the hunt for the red mollusks, divers have to watch out for kelp, which can entangle them, and sharks, which can eat them.