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.