Stolen Election Freak-out Blues

It’s in my constitution (small “c”). I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe hidden forces, either from this world or the unseen one, control our lives. It’s also my experience — too many alleged conspiracies get debunked. Plus, it’s my sense of human nature. Nobody can keep a secret. An effective conspiracy depends on dozens, sometimes hundreds of people doing so without exception. Can’t happen.

(It’s what happens out in the open but nobody pays attention to — that’s what I think we should worry about.)

Therefore, I have tended not to buy into stories from either party that foreshadow an illegitimate vote today. Yes, on the margins, there will be fraudulent votes cast. Yes, on the margins, the ID requirements that some states have passed will turn away qualified voters. Yes, some electronic voting machines will burp and votes thus will be miscounted. But not enough of any of that will happen to change outcomes. Close votes will be recounted — they always have been. It’s interesting how, when there is a recount, the totals always change, but the result usually does not. Obviously, no matter what system we use, vote-counting is imperfect — but gets it right, usually.

Here is a piece with the opposite view. It was e-mailed to me in a version that ran on the Guardian UK, which I can’t find; but I found it here. Author Greg Palast says it’s already in the bag. The Republicans have already stolen the 2006 election by systematically disenfranchising 4.5 million mostly black and Hispanic, mostly Democratic, votes.

I invite you to read the whole thing. I’ll post one section of it here that I found particularly intriguing — especially the part I’ve put in bold letters:

On January 1, 2006, while America slept off New Year’s Eve hangovers, a new federal law crept out of the swamps that has devoured 1.9 million votes, overwhelmingly those of African-Americans and Hispanics. The vote-snatching statute is a cankerous codicil slipped into the 2002 Help America Vote Act — strategically timed to go into effect in this mid-term year. It requires every state to reject new would-be voters whose identity can’t be verified against a state verification database.

Sounds arcane and not too threatening. But look at the numbers and you won’t feel so fine. About 24.3 million Americans attempt to register or re-register each year. The New York University Law School’s Brennan Center told me that, under the new law, Republican Secretaries of State began the year by blocking about one in three new voters.

How? To begin with, Mr. Bush’s Social Security Administration has failed to verify 47% of registrants. After appeals and new attempts to register, US Elections Assistance Agency statistics indicate 1.9 million would-be voters will still find themselves barred from the ballot on Tuesday.

But don’t worry: those holding passports from their ski vacations to Switzerland are doing just fine. And that’s the point. It’s not the number of voters rejected, it’s their color. For example, California’s Republican Secretary of State Bruce McPherson figured out how to block 40% of registrants, mostly Hispanics. In a rare counter-move, Los Angeles, with a Hispanic mayor, contacted these citizens, “verified” them and got almost every single one back on the rolls. But throughout the rest of the West, new Hispanics remain victims of the “José Crow” treatment.

I cannot find any reference to this story of McPherson blocking new registrants and “Los Angeles, with a Hispanic mayor” undoing his handiwork. Palast is far away from here and is probably, and forgivably, unaware of the diffusion of responsibility in Los Angeles. The Registrar is a county, not a city office, so it’s unclear whether Villaraigosa intervened, as Palast’s wording suggests.

If you have some independent awareness of this story, or can send me a link, I would appreciate it. If this story is true and went unreported — that’s quite an indictment of the California political press. If Palast has made it up, that would be interesting too. He’s a widely-read author and commentator — and the article I’ve excerpted above is making the viral rounds today.

P.S. If you want to watch the more conventional reports of voting problems — from the media, the campaigns, the parties — the political website Hotline’s blog is issuing regular reports.   I just went there and found a link to a YouTube video about a congressional candidate in Ohio — a Republican no less — who couldn’t get her vote read by an optical scanning machine.  The story’s kicker — “the votes will be scanned later” — is not reassuring.

5 thoughts on “Stolen Election Freak-out Blues

  1. One thing I would say, though, is that voting in California where no ID is required — perhaps true of most states — does seem rather open to fraud. Who’s to say that I am who I say I am? Why couldn’t I have “friends” registered many, many times in different towns and counties, and then vote under those identities multiple times?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if an interesting freelance job is to do just that: have names registered all over the place and then your job is to vote on Tuesday as all of those people. You’d have to race around the geographical area and vote and vote and vote. Perhaps people are paid based on how many voting tabs they collect. Just a pondering, not based on evidence.

  2. Seen on the net: Ad: “100% Genuine Whole cloth available by the yard or th bolt. Tailored to fit. Contact Doug Palast.”

    What a crock of hooey. That’s one hell of a looney tunes conspiracy theory he’s pandering, John. It would invovle the active cooperation and silence of thousands of Democrats and Republicans working for dozens of different state governments. I can really imagine all the good people working in Secretary of States’ offices across the country quietly going along with this, not mentioning anything about it to outsiders.

  3. Well, perhaps I am vulnerable to conspiracy theories, but frankly, the history of voting in this country (not to mention others) sure wouldn’t discount that all sorts of shenanigans are being tried today.
    I think the uproar about electronic voting is in part due to corrupt politicians realizing that (a) fraud may be tougher, and (b) that a digital audit trail would expose fraud more easily. I know, there is the “Diebold conspiracy” that they are leaving a software back door so that electronic voting can be manipulated. But just as there are disincentives to multiple identity voting, there are pretty serious disincentives to a corporation like Diebold doing something as heinous.
    All I’m saying is that I can’t step on an airplane without an ID, but I can vote without one, and that’s interesting.

  4. When a political party does a GOTV campaign, included among the voters they are rousting up are people on the margins of society, who really might go through life without ever acquiring an ID, or who have lost theirs and have no plan to replace it.

    One theory I’ve read about what happened in Florida was that Democratic GOTV efforts brought people to the polls who were really not up to the challenge mentally of marking a ballot correctly. That’s why they insisted that undervotes and overvotes should be counted for Gore. Those voters wouldn’t have been in those polling places except to vote for Gore.

    We cosmopolitans don’t realize how many Americans never “step on an airplane,” or do any of the other things an ID is required for. The very old, the very poor, the very provincial — their lives don’t resemble the average middle-class American’s.

    Living in Los Angeles, you also learn that there’s nothing easier to fake than an ID. Not to sound like John Goodman’s character in “The Big Lebowski,” but you want a fake ID? I can get you a fake ID by this afternoon. With nail polish on it.

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