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Illinois votes

"Illinois votes" Continued...

Issue: "Daniel of the Year," Dec. 18, 2010

'Tis the season

Next to the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City, American Atheists has erected a confrontational anti-Christmas billboard. It shows the three Wise Men approaching the stable with a starry sky reading, "You know it's a myth. This season, celebrate reason." David Silverman, president of American Atheists, told FOX News the organization hopes the billboard prompts atheists to "come out." The organization says Christianity "stole Christmas" by appropriating the winter solstice to celebrate Jesus' birth.

Christians are fighting back with ads of their own. One, from ChurchAds.net, drew national attention for using a sonogram image to depict Jesus as an unborn baby wearing a halo. Liberty Counsel released its "Naughty and Nice" list of retailers who "censor . . . or recognize" Christmas. Best Buy and Disney.com, according to the group, have moved to the "Nice" list by mentioning Christmas in their ads or stores.

Voting blocks

For Haitians, peace may prove elusive this Christmas: Authorities said they would announce the country's presidential election results by Dec. 20, leaving many citizens preparing for potential turmoil, and many candidates declaring they won't accept tallies they believe are unfair.

Turmoil marked the country's Nov. 28 Election Day: Voters spent hours searching for polling stations or wandered from station to station, finding that their names weren't registered on any voting lists. Some found their names on lists outside of stations, but left when poll workers said they weren't registered inside. The confusion turned violent: In one neighborhood, a group of some 30 young men raided a voting station at a local school, dumping ballots in the street. Officials canceled voting at the location, stranding at least 300 people still waiting in line. Voters charged government intimidation in some quarters, saying observers for the ruling party stood near open ballot boxes. Others reported pre-stuffed ballot boxes in other locations. By 2 p.m. that day 12 of the 19 presidential candidates gathered in a Port-au-Prince hotel ballroom to read a joint statement demanding that officials scrap the election results: "We denounce a massive fraud that is occurring across the country. . . . We demand the cancellation pure and simple of these skewed elections." The group accused outgoing President René Préval of tampering with the elections to secure victory for Jude Celestin, the president's protégé.

The electoral council immediately declared the elections successful, saying it found irregularities at only 56 of 1,500 polling stations. The council-appointed by Préval-didn't indicate how it calculated that number. UN observers pointed to "numerous incidents that marred the elections," but didn't immediately call for new contests.

Even if Haitian authorities certify election results on Dec. 20, a close contest may lead to runoffs in January for both presidential and legislative seats-just as the island nation remembers the anniversary of its earthquake. But unrest may come sooner if Haitians believe their government is trying to rig the election, especially after months of dissatisfaction with Préval's response to the January 2010 quake.

Celestin-Préval's pick for president-was the only major contender who didn't condemn the elections. But even Celestin encountered trouble voting on Election Day: When a poll worker tried to verify the candidate's identity by looking up Celestin's photo on the voting list, he said Celestin didn't match the photo-leaving the candidate to vote by provisional ballot.

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