FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

On the Stealing of U.S. Elections

The theft of elections is typically thought of as referring to corruption of the voting process. This is indeed a major issue, but it is only the culmination of a much broader set of restrictions on the power of citizens to choose their leaders.

An extraordinary feature of the U.S. electoral process is that the two dominant parties collude to dictate – via their own bipartisan “commission” – who is allowed to participate in the officially recognized presidential debates. Needless to say, the two parties set impossible barriers to the participation of any candidates other than their own. Most potential voters are thereby prevented from acquainting themselves with alternatives to the dominant consensus.

This practice has taken on glaring proportions in the 2016 campaign, which has been marked by justified public distrust of both the dominant-party tickets. Preventing election-theft would initially require breaking up the bipartisan stranglehold over who can access the tens of millions of voters.

Another distinctive U.S. trait is the absence of any constitutional guarantee of the right to vote. Instead, a multiplicity of state laws govern voter-eligibility, as well as ballot-access. A few states set ballot-access requirements so high as to effectively disqualify their residents from supporting otherwise viable national candidacies. As for voter-eligibility, it is deliberately narrowed through the time-honored practice of using “states’ rights” to impose racist agendas. Most states deny voting rights to ex-convicts, a practice that currently disenfranchises some 6 million citizens, disproportionately from communities of color. More recently, targeting the same constituencies, many states have passed onerous and unnecessary voter-ID laws.

The role of money in filtering out viable candidacies is well known. It was reinforced by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010, which opened the gate to unlimited corporate contributions.

The priorities of corporate media point in a similar direction. Even apart from their taste for campaign-advertising, their orientation toward celebrity and sensationalism prompts them to give far more air-time to well known figures – the more outrageous, the better – than to even the most viable candidates who present serious alternatives. Trump’s candidacy was thus “made” by the media, even as they kept the Sanders challenge to Clinton as deep in the shadows as possible.

The corporate media moreover collaborate directly with the dominant parties in framing the questions that are posed in the debates. And they explicitly maintain the fiction that the “commission” running the debates is “non-partisan” when in fact it is bipartisan.

Turning finally to the voting process itself, the longest-running scandal is the holding of elections on a workday. In recent years, the resulting inconvenience has been partially offset by the institution of early voting, which however has the disadvantage of facilitating premature choices and of being subject to varied and volatile rules set by state legislatures.

The actual casting of votes on Election Day is further subject to a number of possible abuses. These include: 1) insufficient polling places in poor neighborhoods, sometimes resulting in waiting periods so long that individuals no longer have the time to vote; 2) the sometimes aggressive challenging of voters’ eligibility by interested parties; 3) the use of provisional ballots which may easily end up not being counted; and 4), perhaps most significantly, the increasingly complete reliance on computerized voting, which allows for manipulation of the results (via “proprietary” programs) in a manner that cannot be detected. (The probability of such manipulation – based on discrepancies between exit-polls and official tallies – was documented by Marc Crispin Miller in his book on the 2004 election.

The corporate media add a final abuse in their rush – in presidential races – to announce results in some states before the voting process has been completed throughout the country.

All these violations of voters’ rights are possible in any election. They disproportionately affect citizens who, being ill-served by the social-economic system, have the greatest interest in supporting progressive candidacies.

SOURCES & UPDATES: For more thorough treatment of this problem, see the books and the ongoing reporting of journalists Ari Berman and Greg Palast. In a Democracy Now interview on October 19, 2016, Berman responds to Donald Trump’s allegations about the 2016 election. Berman shows the pattern of widespread voter-suppression by Republican state governments, dwarfing any possible incidence of the kind of multiple voting that Trump, without evidence, alleges. See also “Rigged” by David Swanson.

ACTION: To take action against genuine election theft, sign the pledge of action at No More Stolen Elections! (sponsored by the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution) and prepare to defend voting rights and democracy on Election Day and beyond.

Victor Wallis is managing editor of the journal Socialism and Democracy.

More articles by:
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
Marilyn Garson
If the Gaza Blockade is Bad, Does That Make Hamas Good?
Sean Posey
Declinism Rising: An Interview with Morris Berman  
Jack Dresser
America’s Secret War on Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Use and Misuse of Charity: the Luck of the Draw in a Predatory System
Louis Proyect
In the Spirit of the Departed Munsees
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Alex Jones and Infowars
Mundher Al Adhami
On the Iraqi Protests, Now in Their Second Month 
Jeff Mackler
Nicaragua: Dynamics of an Interrupted Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Peter Wadhams, Professor Emeritus, Ocean Physics
David Macaray
Missouri Stands Tall on the Labor Front
Thomas Knapp
I Didn’t Join Facebook to “Feel Safe”
John Carroll Md
Are Haitian Doctors Burned Out?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail