It's not even Election Day yet, and the Kerry-Edwards campaign is already down
by a almost a million votes. That's because, in important states like Ohio, Florida
and New Mexico, voter names have been systematically removed from the rolls and
absentee ballots have been overlooked—overwhelmingly in minority areas,
like Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, where Hispanic voters have a 500 percent greater
chance of their vote being "spoiled." Investigative journalist Greg
Palast reports on the trashing of the election.
John Kerry is down by several thousand votes in New Mexico, though not one
ballot has yet been counted. He's also losing big time in Colorado and Ohio;
and he's way down in Florida, though the votes won't be totaled until Tuesday
Through a combination of sophisticated vote rustling—ethnic cleansing
of voter rolls, absentee ballots gone AWOL, machines that "spoil"
votes—John Kerry begins with a nationwide deficit that could easily exceed
one million votes.
The Urge To Purge
Colorado Secretary of State Donetta Davidson just weeks ago removed several
thousand voters from the state's voter rolls. She tagged felons as barred from
voting. What makes this particularly noteworthy is that, unlike like Florida
and a handful of other Deep South states, Colorado does not bar ex-cons from
voting. Only those actually serving their sentence lose their rights.
There's no known, verified case of a Colorado convict voting illegally from
the big house. Because previous purges have wiped away the rights of innocents,
federal law now bars purges within 90 days of a presidential election to allow
a voter to challenge their loss of civil rights.
To exempt her action from the federal rule, Secretary Davidson declared an
"emergency." However, the only "emergency" in Colorado seems
to be President Bush's running dead, even with John Kerry in the polls.
Why the sudden urge to purge? Davidson's chief of voting law enforcement is
Drew Durham, who previously worked for the attorney general of Texas. This is
what the Lone Star State's current attorney general says of Mr. Durham: He is,
"unfit for public office... a man with a history of racism and ideological
zealotry." Sounds just right for a purge that affects, in the majority,
From my own and government investigations of such purge lists, it is unlikely
that this one contains many, if any, illegal voters.
But it does contain Democrats. The Dems may not like to shout about this,
but studies indicate that 90-some percent of people who have served time for
felonies will, after prison, vote Democratic. One suspects Colorado's Republican
secretary of state knows that.
Ethnic Cleansing Of The Voter Rolls
We can't leave the topic of ethnically cleansing the voter rolls without a
stop in Ohio, where a Republican secretary of state appears to be running to
replace Katherine Harris.
In Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), some citizens have been caught Registering
While Black. A statistical analysis of would-be voters in Southern states by
the watchdog group Democracy South indicates that black voters are three times
as likely as white voters to have their registration requests "returned"
(i.e., subject to rejection).
And to give a boost to this whitening of the voter rolls, for the first time
since the days of Jim Crow, the Republicans are planning mass challenges of
voters on Election Day. The GOP's announced plan to block 35,000 voters in Ohio
ran up against the wrath of federal judges; so, in Florida, what appear to be
similar plans had been kept under wraps until the discovery of documents called
"caging" lists. The voters on the “caging” lists, disclosed
last week by BBC Television London, are, almost exclusively, residents of African-American
Such racial profiling as part of a plan to block voters is, under the Voting
Rights Act, illegal. Nevertheless, neither the Act nor federal judges have persuaded
the party of Lincoln to join the Democratic Party in pledging not to distribute
blacklists to block voters on Tuesday.
Absentee Ballots Go AWOL
It's 10pm: Do you know where your absentee ballot is? Voters wary about computer
balloting are going postal: in some states, mail-in ballot requests are up 500
percent. The probability that all those votes—up to 15 million—will
be counted is zip.
Those who mail in ballots are very trusting souls. Here's how your trust is
used. In the August 31 primaries in Florida, Palm Beach Elections Supervisor
Theresa LePore (a.k.a. Madame Butterfly Ballot) counted 37,839 absentee votes.
But days before, her office told me only 29,000 ballots had been received. When
this loaves-and-fishes miracle was disclosed, she was forced to recount, cutting
the tally to 31,138.
Had she worked it the other way, disappearing a few thousand votes instead
of adding additional ones, there would be almost no way to figure out the fix
(or was it a mistake?). Mail-in voter registration forms are protected by federal
law. Local government must acknowledge receiving your registration and must
let you know if there's a problem (say, with signature or address) that invalidates
your registration. But your mail-in vote is an unprotected crapshoot. How do
you know if your ballot was received? Was it tossed behind a file cabinet—or
tossed out because you did not include your middle initial? In many counties,
you won't know.
And not every official is happy to have your vote. It is well-reported that
Broward County, Fla., failed to send out nearly 60,000 absentee ballots. What
has not been nationally reported is that Broward's elections supervisor is a
Jeb Bush appointee who took the post only after the governor took the unprecedented
step of removing the prior elected supervisor who happened be a Democrat.
A Million Votes In The Electoral Trash Can
"If the vote is stolen here, it will be stolen in Rio Arriba County,"
a New Mexico politician told me. That's a reasoned surmise: in 2000, one in
10 votes simply weren't counted—chucked out, erased, discarded. In the
voting biz, the technical term for these vanishing votes is "spoilage."
Citizens cast ballots, but the machines don't notice. In one Rio Arriba precinct
in the last go-'round, not one single vote was cast for president—or,
at least, none showed up on the machines.
Not everyone's vote spoils equally. Rio Arriba is 73 percent Hispanic. I asked
nationally recognized vote statistician Dr. Philip Klinkner of Hamilton College
to run a "regression" analysis of the Hispanic ballot spoilage in
the Enchanted State. He calculated that a brown voter is 500 percent more likely
to have their vote spoiled than a white voter. And It's worse for Native Americans.
Vote spoilage is epidemic near Indian reservations.
Votes don't spoil because they're left out of the fridge. It comes down to
the machines. Just as poor people get the crap schools and crap hospitals, they
get the crap voting machines.
It's bad for Hispanics; but for African Americans, it's a ballot-box holocaust.
An embarrassing little fact of American democracy is that, typically, two million
votes are spoiled in national elections, registering no vote or invalidated.
Based on studies by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and the Harvard Law School
Civil Rights project, about 54 percent of those ballots are cast by African
Americans. One million black votes vanished—phffft!
There's a lot of politicians in both parties that like it that way; suppression
of the minority is the way they get elected. Whoever is to blame, on Tuesday,
the Kerry-Edwards ticket will take the hit. In Rio Arriba, Democrats have an
eight-to-one registration edge over Republicans. Among African American voters...well,
you can do the arithmetic yourself.
The total number of votes siphoned out of America's voting booths is so large,
you won't find the issue reported in our self-glorifying news media. The one
million missing black, brown and red votes spoiled, plus the hundreds of thousands
flushed from voter registries, is our nation's dark secret: an apartheid democracy
in which wealthy white votes almost always count, but minorities are often purged
or challenged or simply not recorded. In effect, Kerry is down by a million
votes before one lever is pulled, card punched or touch-screen touched.
Greg Palast, contributing editor to Harper's magazine, investigated the manipulation
of the vote for BBC Television's Newsnight. The documentary, "Bush Family
Fortunes," based on his New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money
Can Buy, has been released this month on DVD (www.gregpalast.com/bff-dvd.htm).