Voter Fraud and the Myth of E Pluribus Unum

Arizona and Georgia have been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. Each state is engaged in electoral fraud-making for the future — in full view of the nation.  They both want to ensure that voting in their states, especially for future presidential elections, is manipulable, that ways and means to recalculate votes is left to the discretion of the secretary of state, most likely to be Republican.

Until recently, the power of the secretary of state had eluded me.  Like most American voters, I had simply assumed that the system had two parts: popular vote and Electoral College.  They don’t necessarily work together. For instance, in 2000, Al Gore won the national popular vote against GW Bush, but he lost the Electoral College vote. (Had he won his home state of Tennessee, the Electoral College votes there would have gone to him instead of Bush and he’d have won the presidency.) On election night, the MSM, though it tallies individual state popular and electoral college voting, rarely provides insight into how individual states handle votes, of what counts as a valid vote, who determines validity, and what the number of votes tossed away are. Turns out this individual determination of vote validity is crucial in presidential elections.

I didn’t fully understand or appreciate the full significance of such state-by-state determination of vote counts until I read Greg Palast’s How Trump Stole 2020, which I reviewed several months before the election. Palast lays bare the What and How of voter disenfranchisement, and shows specifically how states have manipulated votes and helped determine who would win the presidential election since at least 2000.  How do they manipulate? By tossing votes away — literally and by “technicalities” that hardly ever hold up to scrutiny. During the 2016 presidential election, Palast reckons that, despite all the distractions about DNC hacking and FBI interference, Hillary Clinton won the election — not only the popular vote, but also the Electoral College vote had all the tossed votes, in swing states, been counted.

Palast has delineated the four key ways that votes get de-validated and not counted: stop registration; if they cancel anyway, then cancel their rego; prevent voters from getting to the polls; and, if all fails, then find a way to invalidate their vote (hanging chads, smudges, various anomalies). Palast says a favorite way of manipulating an election is dumping mail-in votes. In 2016, he says, more than 500,000 mail-in votes were tossed, overwhelmingly Democratic. Add in provisional votes lost, and millions of votes get tossed away by Republican-controlled states.

Some people will now disregard Palast’s findings because his prediction that Trump would steal the 2020 election didn’t come to pass.  But such reasoning is unsound.  If the Covid-19 pandemic hadn’t led to a massive move toward mail-in ballots, Trump would have won again, by the same purges. Because there was such MSM attention paid to mail-in votes this time around, watchful eyes were on those votes like never before. This vigilance intensified in August when Trump was accused of trying to use the US Postal service as a means to losing votes.  It’s almost ironic, but more pathetically dishonest, that the MSM almost universally declared the 2020 presidential election ‘the fairest, securest election ever.’  (Maybe they were just fucking with Trump and the language he uses.)  If it was fairer, it;s because they counted all the votes this time.

Despite the extra vigilance — incredibly! — Trump almost won the election anyway. He was within a couple of percentage points in four states — Georgia (.2%), Pennsylvania (1.2%), Wisconsin (.7%), and Arizona (.3%), and even Michigan (2.8% is recountable). See below:

Trump lost the recounts in these states.  But I can still recall sitting before the TV on election night watching with a grin as Trump’s leads in Georgia and Pennsylvania evaporated once votes from the counties around Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia came in. Places that ordinarily see votes (8-2 Blacks, as the networks reported) disappeared. Had it not been “the most secure, fairest election ever,” as Trump might have said had he won, many thousands of votes — mail-in and provisional — would not have been counted,  as usual, and Trump would have won re-election. This “usual” scenario is what helps explain why Trump was so upset with the results of some of these states. He thought that he had Georgia in the bag, which partially explains his call to the secretary of state after the election to have the state disqualify enough mail-in votes (11.7 thousand) to give him the edge.

Who knows, but maybe Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove put him up to it (he was with the Trump re-election campaign) and, according to Palast, back in 2012, Rove, a Fox analyst on election night, had been so indignant that Obama was about to win Ohio that he put in a call to the secretary of state’s office to throw votes. As Palast puts it in How Trump Stole 2020,

About 70% of Black voters in Ohio had cast their ballots on early voting days…Rove knew that these hundreds of thousands of Black early voters were not given regular ballots. Instead, they were all given ballots that could be disqualified. (p.158)

Mail-in ballots were handed to them, right there at the polling station in front of the voting machines (hooded). They were dumbfounded, but had to go on with it.

Palast heard about this ploy at the last moment and ran to a law professor he knew who immediately went to court to stop the disqualification of votes:

Turdblossom Rove knew…that if [Ohio secretary of state] Rusted disqualified about 20% of the early-voting “absentee” Black ballots on technical grounds, Rove would realize his last, best hope of defeating Obama …(Fritakis went to court, I went on air, and the mass disqualification of Ohio votes—which worked the trick in 2004—failed in 2012. (p. 164)

That’s right, 2004. Palast proved that John Kerry was robbed — of Ohio and the presidency — this same way in 2004. All Donald was doing in Georgia was asking for more of the same ol’ same thing. Back when the MSM couldn’t say it was “the most secure, fairest election ever.”

Given how close the Georgia count was in the 2020 presidential election, and the speed with which Trump’s request to find winning votes was leaked to the MSM, you might have thought the state would finally get its act together and legislate an end to the last minute manipulation of votes by Republican Machiavellian operatives. After all, Georgia was a laughing stock after governor Brian Kemp changed the rules for vote counting while he was still the secretary of state during the gubernatorial race. Kemp’s half-million voter purge not only benefited him, but also helped get Trump elected president in 2016. The pure chutzpah of Kemp’s purges was well-received:

And spread it did. Swing states that would decide the 2020 election—Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin— had done a “Kemp job” on their voter rolls. (p.23)

Hundreds of thousands of voters were purged from the rolls.

Recently, Georgia passed legislation (Senate Bill 202) that tightens, rather than loosens, restrictions on voting that, once again, affect Black voters far more than others.  New ID laws will make it more difficult for voters to register. Voting buses that helped alleviate the pressure of long lines will be reduced to emergency use only.  The so-called “souls to the polls” early voting scheme is reduced, leaving fewer hours of voting open.  All of the changes disproportionately affect poor, rural and minority voters. This is a form of doubling down on disenfranchisement. In addition, Bill 202 eliminates the secretary of state as overseer of the Election Board, a “move seen as revenge for Georgia Republicans against the current secretary of state, Mr. Raffensperger, who would not capitulate to Mr. Trump’s demands to overturn the results under a false banner of fraud.” And losing two Republican Senate seats to Democrats in run-offs in Georgia meant the loss of that chamber’s control.

Similar to Georgia’s reactionary response to Trump’s loss Arizona legislators have been finding it impossible to get through their stages of grief and move on.  A few days ago they ordered an audit of the November election results.  This audit goes around the Democrat secretary of state who oversees the state’s election board. They hired right-wingers from Florida, home of the rigged election, to oversee the recount. It’ll be costly and pointless, except to further erode confidence in the US electoral system. Almost certainly the recount is rigged — something awry will be found that will add weight to Trump’s charges that he was robbed, a feeling that could prove useful during next year’s  midterms and if Trump should decide to run again.

Arizona state senator Martin Quezada probably has it nailed when he tells the Guardian that the likely motivation for the limited audit (Maricopa county only) is to keep pressure up on pending legislation restricting mail-in ballots and requiring voter ID documents. Quezada says,

They want to justify all of the changes that they are already proposing to election laws because they need to have some sort of legitimacy behind it to justify the severe restrictions they’re hoping to put in place here. Every element of this audit, from the beginning, to the end, it just stinks to high hell.

The fight for the state’s 11 Electoral College votes has begun.

Another state that has been critical in the selection of president in the last few cycles is Wisconsin. Like Georgia and Ohio and other states following the Kemp Purge Scheme, the Republican-controlled Electoral Commission tried to have 69,000 voter registrations purged from the rolls, asserting that they had moved. But the Wisconsin Supreme Court nixed the idea. Though none of the 69. 000 voted in the recent presidential election, won by Joe Biden by 21,000 votes in Wisconsin, giving the commission the right to purge might have proved useful in the next election.

Lest the reader get the impression that all the bad doings are coming from the Republican side, and continuing with mini-survey of how states wield enormous power during the presidential elections that we remain largely unaware of, Palast draws our attention in How Trump Stole 2020 by providing a compelling case that California’s state secretary personally whacked Bernie’s candidacy and likely nomination for the Democratic front-runner position by arranging for the purge of thousands of young mostly Latino voters registered as independents and who preferred Tio Bernie to Joe Biden. Had Sanders won California’s primary race, he might very well have faced off against Trump, a thought that terrified more than one corporate Democrat. Palast writes,

No state—not Georgia, not Florida, not Ohio—comes even close, for sheer number of ballots disqualified, than The Golden State—thanks to the sticky fingers of its Democratic Secretary of State, Alex Padilla.

Who gets disqualified most? LatinX and university students.

During the California primary these LatinX and young voters overwhelmingly register as independent voters listed as No Party Preference (NPP). They are unwilling to join the Democratic party, writes Palast, and go along with its assigned nominee.  State Secretary Padilla  dealt with these would-be 5 million voters by sending them junk mail-looking postcards that “91% ignored.” Palast asks local official Paul Mitchell, a state statistician, who responds that it’s “Disenfranchisement by Postcard.”  Further, of those eligible NPP voters who show up at the polls to vote further shenanigans awaited. Poll workers would hand them normal ballots instead of “Crossover” ballots or give them a provisional ballot to fill in or tell them to simply write Bernie’s name in — all of these were grounds for disqualification of the ballot. In 2016, with Padilla purging the same voters, Palast estimated that 1.3 million independent voters had their ballot tossed. (p.242)

So, what does it all mean?  The Democrats will cheat to push a candidate of their corporate choice. They will never allow voters to vote truly independently or as socialists under the Democratic flag. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are private organizations with private rules, and not really beholding to public demands.  They are corporations like Coke and Pepsi, and tough doodles if you want to run as Dr. Pepper or 7 Up.  Ralph Nader and Howie Hawkins will always be seen by the Left as spoilers of votes — that should have gone thor way. The Right allowed a populist to take over the party with disastrous results. All in all, the message is that corruption abounds and there’s no apparent urgency to fix anything. We could use a Ralph Nader or even a Bernie Sanders right about now, but we seem content to stay corporate right to the cusp of Climate Change, after which they’ll never be democracy again. As it is, Freedom House, a non-profit organization that ranks the world’s democracies has the US dropping to the 83 on their list, now right there with Romania and Panama. Depressing.

E pluribus unum, out of many one, sounds good as a flute toot in a marching band, but we grow more and more fractured. California talks of seceding from itself (as only California could do). Texas is at it again with reminders of its Lone Star past and intimations of said same future. The Southern states, if the January 6th clown show is any indication, are getting ‘uppity’ again.  More like E anus plutobum these days — plutocrats talking shit out they ass.

Well, we can’t fix it if we can’t identify it. And as long as we allow the corporate MSM to massage our messaging (h/t Marshall McLuhan) we will continue to miss the reality of Coke versus Pepsi choices we make.  If activists can tune in to the problems at the state level we can address them in smaller practical steps….or we can just go the way of Estonia (ahead of us in the Freedom House rankings), which does all its voting online. Why not just throw in the towel, No Mas! and let Facebook or Twitter conduct the elections — instantaneous results for an immediate gratification society. You can vote from the toilet. It’ll be like a bowel movement.

The reader is strongly urged to read Greg Palast’s How Trump Stole 2020. The process he describes so clearly and entertainingly is on-going , and relevant to the moves legislators in Georgia and Arizona have made recently to make it easier for Republicans to steal future elections. If Palast’s easy prose is still too cumbersome for you, you can read the Ted Rall comic book inserted into How Trump, which is a graphic version of his spirited words. Both are free from the Palast site.  Here’s How Trump Stole 2020 and here’s Ted Rall’s How to Steal an Election.

John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelancer based in Australia.  He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times.