If, by now, Americans are suffering from “election fatigue” one week before the November 3 elections, now is not the time to relax.
Yes, there are indications of a massive voter turnout, and yes, the people of Bolivia have dramatically proven how voter determination can defeat a right wing regime. But President Donald Trump’s own determination to stay in power cannot be ignored, including his intended reliance on conservative justices in the U.S. Supreme Court –if necessary –to sway election results in his favor. It seems as though Republican operatives have considered every angle to steal the 2020 election (See below excerpts of my interviews with investigative journalist and inveterate election protector, Greg Palast, author of How Trump Stole 2020.)
In the battleground state of Wisconsin, for instance, voters just learned that their mail-in ballots will not be counted if they arrive after November 3rd , even if postmarked on that date. A federal district judge had approved an extension of six days to November 9th in light of the coronavirus contagion and the slowdown in mail delivery, but was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court by a vote of 5-3. The ruling came down just as the ultra-conservative judge, Amy Coney Barrett, was confirmed by the US Senate as the new Supreme Court justice replacing the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ominously, as pointed out by Harvey Wasserman, a co-convenor of the Grassroots Emergency Election Protection Coalition, Justice Barrett and fellow justices John Roberts and Brett Cavanaugh provided legal advice to George W. Bush in 2000 (when all three were in private practice) during the Florida recount debacle which resulted in the Bush v Gore decision that delivered the presidency to Bush.
Meanwhile, hardly a day goes by without a new example of Republican skullduggery coming to light. The U.S. post office may have found an antidote to President Trump’s scaremongering about mail-in-ballots by installing secure ballot drop boxes at designated locations. But voters in Los Angeles, Fresno and Orange counties in California got a scare when they learned that some of the drop boxes set up in churches, political party offices and retail locations were fake! Fortunately they were caught in time and removed. In Texas, whose Republican governor restricted ballot boxes to one per country, a state judge ordered him to end such restrictions – only to be overruled by an appeals court.
Small wonder that millions of voters are choosing to go to the polls early, even if it means spending up to 8 hours standing in line (and possibly risking getting infected by Covid-19)
Thankfully, armed militia men goaded on by President Trump have not shown up yet en masse at polling stations, although a group of armed individuals did show up outside a St. Petersburg, Florida voting station that were said to be linked with Trump campaign — despite the campaign’s denials.
For all the various forms of voter intimidation occurring now, American voters are still missing one crucial point that investigative journalist Greg Palast warns about in his new book: How Trump Stole 2020.
Most people, he tells us, don’t realize that U.S. elections are usually stolen before they occur —most effectively by purging people from computerized voter rolls. Sadly, those voters who were purged in 2016 and 2018 (something Palast considers “truly evil”) didn’t even know it happened, They simply assumed their votes were counted. And it’s likely to happen again…unless all precautions are taken.
I interviewed Palast twice for Counterpunch, once in August and again in late September. Now, in late October, Palast’s biggest piece of advice remains the same: Check Your Registration! It is still not too late, and you better do it, because voters are being scrubbed from voter rolls all over the country, and he’s got the evidence to prove it. Here is some of his evidence:
The Georgia Purge
- In 2018, just before the midterm elections in Georgia, the Republican Secretary of State (Brian Kemp, who would soon run for governor against popular legislator and Harvard graduate Stacey Abrams) had removed 347,134 voters from the rolls, — illegally — alleging that the voters had moved. Cried Abrams, “they stole our vote!” She was right. Palast, who helped Abrams and her organization, Fair Fight Georgia, figure out what happened, found out that “none of the voters moved.”
- On October 20, 2020 the legal counsel for Greg Palast sent a letter to the Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, demanding he obtain the list of over 198,000 voters he and his predecessor, Brian Kemp, wrongly purged from the voter rolls—and return these voters to the registration rolls before the election. Charged Palast in an accompanying letter to Raffensperger: “You have had the ACLU’s notification of this horrific violation of voters’ rights for over a month, yet your office has chosen to dodge, weave, obfuscate and prevaricate instead of acting to protect these Georgia citizens.”He added that one of Georgia’s purge victims was Martin Luther King Jr.’s elderly cousin, who “you’ve wrongly denied the right to vote on the false accusation she moved from their registration county. King’s cousin, like over 198,000 others, was still living in the home you said she left.”
The Wisconsin purge
One of the most damning cases to emerge in 2020 comes (again) from Wisconsin, where Trump edged out Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a mere 22,000 votes, landing the state’s electoral college votes in the Trump column. Now, a group called the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), funded by the wealthy Bradley family (who made millions selling their factories in Milwaukee and then poured some of their profits into supporting Trump and ultra-conservative judges like Judge Amy Coney Barrett) recently sued the state demanding it removes 153,000 voters from the rolls on the grounds these voters had moved from their registration addresses. Oral arguments were heard September 29. A decision is still pending.
Palast warned on September 30, “The Wisconsin Supreme Court may have chosen our president.” That warning came from his discovery, back in 2016, that in Wisconsin “a giant hunk of the student vote simply…vanished. And the Black vote also plummeted.”
This time around, he and his Palast Investigative Team came to Wisconsin fully prepared. He sought and received cooperation from the Wisconsin post office. Next, he secured the services of four experts who usually supply address lists for such giants as Amazon, eBay, American Express and Home Depot. He had them review the Wisconsin purge list. The Black Voters Matter Fund chipped in, knowing full well that voters of color were targeted for removal in previous elections, in Wisconsin and nationwide — part of what Palast calls “ethnic cleansing” of the voter rolls which he has documented going back to the 2000 elections in Florida that put George W. Bush in power.
Duly hired, these experts applied their skills in “Address List Hygiene” to track down the location of voters in Wisconsin. What they and team Palast discovered was that some 39,000 voters on the list had not, in fact, moved and another 58,000 had moved, but within their county.
This discovery, Palast hopes, will prove WILL’s list to be being highly suspect, and hence, worthy of being invalidated. “Under federal law,” he explained, “you cannot have an inaccurate voter roll as a basis for removing voters.”
How, you may wonder, did WILL get ahold of this inaccurate voter roll? A system called ERIC, standing for Electronic Registration Information Center, has been set up and used by 30 state officials to identify voters who have moved. Originally designed to help voters re-register after they moved into a new state, it has become a tool for Republicans to hunt down voters in order to purge them from the list. And purging can be a simple act taking only minutes.
Because of the Help America Vote Act, all voter rolls are now computerized. “But what it means,” says Palast, “is that you can wipe out voters by the tens of thousands with the flick of a button.
The Black Voter Purge
Republicans have embarked on a deliberate effort to steal the vote from voters of color, who tend to vote Democratic. “Trump didn’t start it,” Greg notes. “The first Jim Crow operation began with the 2000 election in Florida.”
Greg Palast was the reporter who broke the story of how Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris won the 2000 election in Florida for George W. Bush by knocking 58,000 African Americans off the voter rolls, branding them as felons, when in fact, “their only crime was voting while black.” It’s easy to win Florida by 537 votes, Palast wryly notes, “when you eliminate 58,000 black guys.”
How did this happen? Florida, Palast explained to me, was the first state to computerize its voter rolls. “Just by pushing a button you can eliminate thousands upon thousands of voters of color.” And “it rolls on from there. Every state is now required by law to computerize their voter rolls.”
Eighteen years later, he would see the same baseless purging of Black voters from the rolls in Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona and Wisconsin.
Palast has all sorts of tips on how to protect your vote with a clever “Ballot Condom” at the back of the book and on his website. If you are dropping off an absentee (mail-in) ballot, first, follow the instructions carefully. (Most states, I’ve since learned, will confirm that your ballot was accepted). Just remember: if you do nothing else, check your registration!