by Greg Palast
It's November 5 and the nation is in shock. Media blame it on the "Bradley effect": Americans supposedly turned into Klansmen inside the voting booth, and Barack Obama turned up with 6 million votes less than calculated from the exit polls. Florida came in for McCain and so did Indiana. Colorado, despite the Democrats' Rocky Mountain high after the Denver convention, stayed surprisingly Red. New Mexico, a state where Anglos are a minority, went McCain by 300 votes, as did Virginia.
That's the nightmare. Here's the cold reality.
Swing state Colorado. Before this election, two Republican secretaries of state purged 19.4 percent of the entire voter roll. One in five voters. Pfft!
Swing state New Mexico. One in nine voters in this year's Democratic caucus found their names missing from the state-provided voter registries. And not just any voters. County by county, the number of voters disappeared was in direct proportion to the nonwhite population. Gore won the state by 366 votes; Kerry lost it by only 5,900. Despite reassurances that all has been fixed for Tuesday, Democrats lost from the list in February told me they're still "disappeared" from the lists this week.
Swing state Indiana. In this year's primary, ten nuns were turned away from the polls because of the state's new voter ID law. They had drivers' licenses, but being in their 80s and 90s, they'd let their licenses expire. Cute. But what isn't cute is this: 566,000 registered voters in that state don't have the ID required to vote. Most are racial minorities, the very elderly and first-time voters; that is, Obama voters. Twenty-three other states have new, vote-snatching ID requirements.
Swing state Florida. Despite a lawsuit battle waged by the Brennan Center for Justice, the state's Republican apparatchiks are attempting to block the votes of 85,000 new registrants, forcing them to pass through a new "verification" process. Funny thing: verification applies only to those who signed up in voter drives (mostly black), but not to voters registering at motor vehicle offices (mostly white).
And so on through swing states controlled by Republican secretaries of state.
The Ugly Secret
Here's an ugly little secret about American democracy: We don't count all the votes. In 2004, based on the data from the US Elections Assistance Commission, 3,006,080 votes were not counted: "spoiled," unreadable and blank ballots; "provisional" ballots rejected; mail-in ballots disqualified.
This Tuesday, it will be worse. Much worse.
That's what I found while traveling the nation over the last year for BBC Television and Rolling Stone Magazine, working with voting rights attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. This we guarantee: there will be far more votes disappeared by Tuesday night than the three million lost in 2004. A six-million vote swipe, quite likely, shifts 4 percent of the ballots, within the margin of error of the tightest polls.
Begin with this harsh statistic: since the last election, more than ten million voters have been purged from the nation's vote registries. And that's just the start of the steal.
If the noncount were random, it wouldn't matter. But it's not random. A US Civil Rights Commission analysis shows that the chance a black voter's ballot will "spoil" or be blank is 900 percent higher than a white voter's.
Does that mean the election's stolen and you should forget voting and just go back to bed for four years? Hell, no. It means you vote and vote smart, learn how to pry their filthy little hands off your ballot (there's a link at the end).
How to Steal an Election in Five Easy Steps
Here's how they can pull off the steal. Take out your calculator and add it up.
Step One: The "Dumpster" Vote - Purge Voters, Provisional Ballots
Ten million voters purged? What the hell is going on here? Why are we removing millions from the voter rolls?
The answer is the GOP's secret weapon, the Help America Vote Act, signed by George Bush in 2002. When Bush tells us he's going to help us vote, look out. But Democrats didn't. They signed on to the GOP bill, believing this "reform" law would prevent "another Florida." Instead, "Help America Vote" Floridated the entire nation.
Here's how: Help America Vote empowered secretaries of state to remove fraudulent and suspicious voters from the voter registries. It was the trick used by Katherine Harris in Florida in 2000 when she purged "felon" voters. Except they weren't felons. And now her GOP confrères are doing it in dozens of states, calling folks felon voters, "inactive" voters, suspect voters, whatever.
Take Colorado. The GOP didn't exactly trumpet it's erasing 19.4 percent of voters' names. It was, as detectives say, "hidden in plain sight," buried deep inside a US Elections Assistance Commission administrative report, among tables of mind-numbing stats through which I was trawling some months ago. (I used to teach statistics at Indiana University, so I enjoy reading matrices like others enjoy novels.)
For BBC TV and Rolling Stone, I asked the current Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman, "Why all the purging?" No answer, not a word, stonewalled even when I flew into Denver and stood outside his door. He was, I guess, too busy preparing to count his own votes as Republican candidate for Congress.
So, where are the Democrats? That's the really scary part. I spoke with Paul Hultin, appointed by Colorado's Democratic governor to the state's Election Reform Commission. Hultin's a terrific attorney. He knows, and says, that Help America Vote was a law "born in corruption," but he's spent his time on Colorado's voting machines, which he knows are busted. He's the Democrats' expert, and he didn't know that a fifth of his state's voters had vanished from the voter rolls.
Well, don't worry. Hultin's official committee will be holding hearings on the voting debacle in Colorado ... on November 19.
Then there's New Mexico, with those one in nine Democrats missing. I spoke with San Miguel County elections supervisor, Democrat Pecos Paul Maez, who was none too happy that 20 percent of his voters, the majority poor and Hispanic, were not on the voter rolls, especially because he was one of the missing. He blamed the state for using a suspect contractor to tag names for the Big Purge, as required by the Help America Vote Act. The contractor that conducted the New Mexico purge, Electronic Systems and Software (ES&S), was founded by Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.
The company and state choose the purging "algorithms," those mathematical formulae that, depending on how you tweak them, can go through a voter roll like a hot knife through cream cheese.
So, what happens to the purged voters? They're told to scram when they arrive to vote or, if they squawk, they get a "provisional" ballot on which they can pretend to vote.
Now, here are the facts about provisionals: they don't get counted. And there are lots of them. The great unreported story of the 2004 election was that there were more than three million voters shunted to provisional ballots. Over a million (1,090,000) were never counted, just chucked in the dumpster. That's what caused Kerry to lose New Mexico, Iowa and Ohio. This time, because of Help America Vote and a Republican campaign to challenge voters, the number of provisionals will rise, as will rejections.
Whatever keeps you from getting a real ballot - purged name, for example - keeps you from having the provisional counted as well. That's because Democrats won the right of every voter to get a provisional ballot, but not the right to have that ballot counted. And how many will go uncounted? Double the 1.1 million loss in 2004 - not just because of the GOP's purge-mania, but because of a vicious little codicil in Help America Vote that went into effect since the last election ...
Step Two: "Verification" (and Elimination) of New Voters
For the first time in US history, new voters will face special new obstacles to voting. When we say "new" voters, let's be clear - we mean Obama voters. A Wall Street Journal poll shows new voters prefer Obama by an eye-popping three to one (69 percent to 20 percent).
So, the Republican game plan is simple: don't let new voters vote. There are three steps to this block-and-steal tactic. First, under the new law, states can deny new voters registration on the grounds their names can't be verified against government data files. Sounds reasonable, but it's not, because we don't have Soviet-style citizenship files in the US. The Social Security Administration is rejecting nearly half of the names submitted because there is no multi-state compatible tracking system. Of course, the Republicans know that.
New voter verification losses are huge. In California, a Republican secretary of state rejected 42 percent of new registrations, a trick discovered by his Democratic successor, Debra Bowen. She told me most of the rejected vote applicants had Hispanic, Vietnamese, Islamic and other "odd" names - odd, that is, for Republicans.
It used to be that you filled out a registration card and, bingo, you were registered. Not any more. That's also what happened in Florida to the 85,000 new registrants. They were victims of strict "matching" algorithms. Other states are also playing the "match" game. The result is voters will find themselves simply missing (or in some states, required to show extra ID - another horror show we'll discuss below). But don't worry, a of couple million new voters will get provisional ballots. That way, they can practice filling out their ballots for the day when democracy returns to America.
Step Three: New ID Laws
Karl Rove said, "I go to the grocery store and I wanna cash a check to pay for my groceries I gotta show a little bit of ID. Why should it not be reasonable ... at the voting place they ought to be able to prove who they are by showing some form of ID." And so, while buying his Pampers, Rove came up with a game-winner for the GOP.
Karl, let me answer your question. The reason, according to several studies by the Bush administration itself, is that lots of folks don't have government ID. Some are nuns, some are poor, lots are brown or old. I was on Fox TV with Lady Rothschild a couple of weeks ago. The lady, a McCain supporter, approved of the ID requirement - and was truly surprised to find out that some poorer Americans don't have passports. "Why don't they?" her Fox-mates asked, incredulous. Well, not every barrio kid has just returned from his estate outside London.
Rove knows that. He certainly knows that, for example, Professor Matthew Barreto of the University of Washington found that 10 percent of white voters in Indiana don't have the needed ID. And, for blacks, it's about double - 19 percent lack the ID required to vote. New ID laws will add to the turn-aways, provisionals and rejecteds on Tuesday by at least two million - and that's way conservative, assuming the new laws in swing states are only one-fourth as restrictive as Indiana's.
Step Four: Spoiling Ballots
Your chad gets hung. The touch screen doesn't like your touch. Or, your paper ballot had that extra mark that made the machine spit out your ballot like day-old beer with a cigarette floating in it.
In the last election, 1,389,231 ballots were zeroed-out, "spoiled," because the machines lost them, couldn't read them, mangled them or simply didn't register them. But it's not random, not by a long shot. In New Mexico in 2004, I found that 89 percent of blank and spoiled ballots were cast in minority precincts - a sum of uncounted ballots way over the Republican "victory" margin in that state.
Another study shows that Hispanics' vote choices are six times as likely to fail to be recorded when they vote on computers versus paper ballots.
In the primaries and in 2006, the "spoilage" and blank ("undervote") totals were horrific. There is every reason to believe the "spoilage" total will be as high as in the 2004 election. That is, no less than one million votes, overwhelmingly in minority districts, will just vanish. ("Spoilage" is not the same as vote tampering. There is the concern that "black-box" computers will switch your vote via an evil software hack job. That's another matter completely - and more votes lost if it happens, a sum I'm not including here.)
Step Five: Rejecting Mail-In Ballots
You've mailed in your ballot. Last time around, over half a million mail-in ballots were junked: everything from postage due to not liking your signature to a circle checked, not filled in. Mailing in a ballot is playing Russian roulette with it. About a tenth get junked.
This time, the GOP has a new game for trashing your absentee vote. In states like Florida, some FTFs (First-Time Federal voters) will have to include a photocopy of their ID in with the absentee ballot. Bet you didn't know that. They're counting on you not knowing that. In Florida, for example, you have to place the ID photocopy outside the inner envelope, but inside the outer envelope - Got that? - or your vote is toast. I've spoken to one student voter, who lost his vote for failing to use the two envelopes - though he only received one. (Have a mail-in ballot in hand? Then, for God's sake, walk it in to the polling place or local board of elections. Sign, seal and deliver it in person.)
You may get it right, but historic data suggest that, when combining the FTF games with the usual mail-in cock-ups, Obama will lose another million votes to mail-in disqualifications.
Exit Polls and Exit Stratagems
These millions of uncounted ballots - spoiled ballots, provisional ballots rejected, absentee ballots disqualified - fully explain the difference between exit polls (which, for example, gave Kerry Ohio in 2004 and Gore a win in Florida in 2000) and the official count. Exit pollsters ask, "Who did you vote for?" They never ask, and can't know, "Did your vote count?"
How would they get away with it? Well, they begin explaining away how the "pollsters" get it wrong, how pollsters didn't figure the "Bradley Effect" of lying, racist voters. They'll tell us the new, young and Black Obamaniacs gave money, went to rallies - but never bothered to vote. But the real reason will never be whispered: They cast votes that just weren't counted.
Will the election be stolen on Tuesday? No, it's already been stolen. That is, several million voters are doomed to lose their ballots; most won't even know it. Overwhelmingly, they are the poor, minorities, new voters - Obama voters. Does that mean McCain's got it in the bag and you're helpless? Not at all.
Don't Steal Your Own Vote
In 2004, I and other investigators wrote, long before Election Day, "Ohio's stolen." We were deadly right.
It's happening again. For six years, the Democratic Party has been snoozing through a quiet, brilliantly executed Republican operation to block, stop and purge voters by the millions. As New Mexico voting rights attorney John Boyd put it, "I don't think the Democrats get it. All these new rules and games are turning voting into an obstacle course that could flip the vote to the GOP in half a dozen states."
Karl Rove once said, "We have elections like those run in countries where the guys in charge are, you know, colonels in mirrored glasses." He wasn't complaining; he was boasting.
I know that the Obama campaign is not happy that I bring up the issue of a possible theft of the election. They fear voters will be "discouraged" by the possibility that the election is fixed.
Well, frankly, if you're too bummed out by this recitation of facts and statistics to vote, then maybe you don't deserve to vote, or to drive or to reproduce. Did Martin Luther King say, "I have a dream ... so I'm going back to sleep"?
Votes can't be saved by "hope" alone. There are simple ways to protect your own vote, from walking in your "mail-in" to refusing a provisional ballot. (You can download the list at StealBackYourVote.org, written with Bobby Kennedy, a professor of law.)
It comes down to this: Can the margin of trickery, vote suppression and ballot destruction - three to six million votes - be overcome? Yes. Because they can't steal all the votes all the time. Two days before the election, John McCain is down by only 4 percent in some polls. But these are polls of "likely" voters. They exclude first-time and many low-income voters.
So, the answer to vote suppression is for something unlikely to happen - for the "unlikely" voters to simply overwhelm the statistical assumption of their laziness. As I'm sure Mr. Obama, a professor of constitutional law, could tell you: the best legal response to systematic vote suppression is to get off yo' ass!
Greg Palast is the co-author of "Block the Vote," in this month's Rolling Stone Magazine, with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Palast and Kennedy are also co-authors of the investigative comic book, "Steal Back Your Vote." Palast, who reports on election fraud for BBC Television, is a Nation Institute/Puffin Foundation fellow for investigative reporting. Prior to his becoming a journalist, Palast was a forensic economist, fraud investigator and taught economics and statistics at Indiana University. firstname.lastname@example.org
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* Katrina displacement: People who moved out of their damaged homes after hurricane Katrina are reporting confusion about their registration status and voting precinct to Election Protection's 866-OUR-VOTE hotline. Voting rights experts are working to resolve these questions to ensure that all eligible voters from the New Orleans area can exercise their right to vote in this historic election.To search Election Protection?s voter database, visit www.ourvotelive.org.
* Absentee voting problems are being widely reported, with particularly high rates in Virginia, Ohio and Florida. In one example, a caller from Florida had requested absentee ballots for herself and her husband, a stroke survivor who is unable to go to the polls. Neither ballot has arrived and if they don?t, she will be unable to vote as she is unable to leave her husband?s side to go to the polls.
* Polling place problems ? such as extremely long lines ? are of great concern to voters in Florida and Georgia, particularly in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in Florida, and Fulton County in Georgia.
I don't know about you, but I'm not sure calling the United States a "second-rate power" is a good way to win over voters. And calling Colin Powell a "coward"? Of course, this is the same nutjob who compared Obama to Osama bin Laden. He made these comments a bit over a week ago, but I only just saw them (thanks to reader Rick). It's important to see the Republican party for what it is, what is has become. The hate, the extremism, the anger, the intolerance. And they wonder why Americans are leaving them in droves.
Today, Hillary will be racking up some miles starting in Pittsburgh, Pa then off to the midwest in St. Charles Missouri (St. Louis burb). She will be ending her trip in Duluth, MN. It will be interesting to see where she lands tomorrow.
You can keep track of me tomorrow (your favorite Hillary supporter/delegate turned Obama fanatic) on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffstrater I will be starting the day at 5:45 am and going until noon to work for a bit. Then back doing GOTV until the polls close.
Here are the locations and events for Hillary today:
Nevada State Director for the Obama Campaign Terence Tolbert passed away last night.
The Obama Campaign released the following statement:
?The entire Obama-Biden family was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of our Nevada State Director, Terence Tolbert. Terence was a strong force in this campaign, with a positive outlook that brought people together. He was much loved by his team, who often repeated his motto of 'leave no stone unturned.' His enthusiasm, talent, and warm heart will truly be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family.?
Terence Tolbert was 44 years old when he passed of a heart attack. He is survived by his wife, Freida.
Hope And ChangeWithout FearOne More Day Monday's Headlines: Too many soldiers in new care centers Stop killing in Congo or else, leaders warned Election violence feared as ANC dissidents defect to form new party Deripaska in Montenegro - between a[...]
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Today's Daily Kos Research 2000 tracking poll has Obama leading McCain 51-45. All trackers are data from three days to five days prior to posting, with the R2K numbers from today (yesterday's numbers in parentheses) and the other trackers from yesterday (previous day's data). Data is updated as new information becomes available. Daily posting is approximately 7:30 am EST (I hope you set your clocks back.) LV=likely voter, RV=registered voter. The last R2K poll of the election will be polled Monday and published Tuesday!
Nate Silver (fivethirtyeight.com) wrote up a tracking poll primer covering the eight available trackers. It includes sample size, time of publication and quirks, as well as Nate's opinion of the trackers. Recommended.
Obama McCain MoE +/- RV/LV
Research 2000: 51 (51) 45 (44) 3 LV Final tomorrow
Reuters/Zogby: 51 (50) 44 (44) 2.9 LV Final tomorrow
USAToday/Gallup: 53 (52) 42 (45) 2 LV Final
Gallup: 53 (52) 42 (43) 2 LV Final all variations
NBC/WSJ: 51 (52) 43 (42) 3.1 LV Final
Rasmussen: 51 (51) 46 (46) 2 LV D 39.9, R 33.4
Diageo/Hotline: 50 (51) 45 (44) 3.4 LV D 42 R 36
IBD/TIPP: 47 (48) 45 (44) 3.3 LV alternate link
ABC/WaPo: 53 (53) 44 (44) 3 LV
CBS: 54 (54) 41 (41) 4 LV Daily results expected
Battleground: 49 (49) 45 (46) 3.1 LV Data from Friday
CNN: 53 (51) 46 (46) 3.5 LV
Pew: 52 (53) 46 (38) 2 LV unallocated LV 49-42
On successive individual days in the R2K poll (different than the topline, which is a combined three day sample), Obama was up +9 Fri, +4 Sat and +4 Sun, with a +8 Thurs sample rolling off (rounding can take place.) The important number is Obama's and not McCain's. At 50-51, he wins. McCain will close but he will not win, and this is why (R2K data):
Note that there's only 1% undecided (the rest are third party.)
This is the pollster.com tracker graph from this morning:
From USA Today:
Gallup says the group it surveyed is mostly made up of voters who fit its "traditional" model of those likely to show up at the polls. Also among the 2,472 are some who have already voted -- including first-timers.
The results are identical to Gallup's "expanded" pool of likely voters, which adds more first-time voters than the survey firm used in the past.
One other set of numbers to consider: Gallup says that when it allocates the 4% of likely voters who either had no opinion or would not choose between Obama and McCain, it estimates the candidates' current support levels would most likely be 55% for Obama, 44% for McCain.
That 55% is the highest Obama number I can remember seeing.
Even if McCain converts the vast majority of swing voters, victory for him would be highly unlikely since 51% of likely voters say they are certain to vote for Obama compared with 39% who say they are sure they will vote for McCain.
"The poll shows some slight movement for McCain. But with just 48 hours left, it's going to be a challenge to make up the rest of the difference," said Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster who conducts the survey with Democrat Peter D. Hart.
"This poll has all the earmarkings of an electorate that has reached an opinion that Barack Obama would be a good president," Mr. Hart said. "The uncertainties [about Sen. Obama] that were so prevalent early in the year have just melted away."
From the ABC/WaPo poll:
After nearly two years of ads, rallies, debates and barnstorming, Obama is up 54 to 43 percent among likely voters, in the new Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll. And the ranks of persuadable voters has dwindled to 7 percent heading into the final day. One part of McCain's steep challenge is that more than a quarter of the probable electorate has already voted - among these early birds, 59 percent said they voted for Obama, 40 percent for McCain.
Obama has firmly reestablished his advantage on handling the economy (back up to 15 points) and beaten back a challenge on taxes (he's +11 there). On handling an unexpected major crisis, what had been a double-digit McCain lead to start the fall campaign, is now a 6-point advantage for Obama.
And on the measure that most often correlates to turnout, enthusiasm, Obama holds a massive 26-point advantage in deeply enthusiastic support. In late October of 2004, George W. Bush held a nine-point edge over John F. Kerry on this metric.
Barack Obama holds a significant lead over John McCain in the final days of Campaign 2008.
A slew of other polls joining NBC/WSJ and those above should be out today. Keep an eye out for them, but look at the Obama 50-54 numbers and the McCain 44-46 numbers. McCain will increase but not catch Obama, whose numbers are steady. And Sarah Palin will need to ponder her future in light of her heavy unfavorables. From CNN:
CNN's new poll suggests that a majority of Americans have a favorable view of both presidential candidates, with 61 percent giving a thumbs up for Obama and 56 percent for McCain.
But the same is not true of their running mates, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden and Republican Gov. Sarah Palin.
"Six in ten have a favorable view of Joe Biden, but the public is split right down the middle on Sarah Palin. And Palin's unfavorables have been growing — eight points higher than early October and more than twice as high as they were when she was first introduced to the public in late August,"Holland said.
There are a number of states out there which do not have aggressive early vote and vote-by-mail programs. As you all well know by now, the participation rate has been extremely high during this early period. We're likely to see lots of log jams in states that do not have easy access to early vote methods.
Here is a link to states and weather or not they easily allow voters to participate prior to election day (i.e. "no excuse" equates to easier access than "excuse required").
There are about a dozen states which could see problems, and about half of those have had enough problems in recent years to warrant keeping an eye on. The following is a list of states which either do not have aggressive early vote or vote-by-mail programs - or they are "excuse required" to cast ballots using such methods. Because we are seeing a lot of heightened activity due to the nature of the election in these areas, these lists particularly come to mind because they are seeing heated contests in the race for President, Governor, Senate and Congress:
Kentucky Minnesota Mississippi Missouri New Hampshire Pennsylvania Virginia
States also falling into the "excuse required" categories are: Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
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With 24 hours until the polls open here in Virginia, here are some links to posts over the last year about voting on environmental issues:
Nov. 6, 2007: Think Green, Vote Blue
June 3, 2008: Remember in November: Senate Republicans Fight Climate Action
Sept. 29, 2008: Ask The Green Miles: McCain vs. Obama on the Environment
As some of you know, ol' Crusty lives out in the wilds of rural North Carolina. Though born and bred in and around NYC, this old urban burnout has somehow found his way out to the woods, where the oak grove that surrounds my house pelts the roof[...]
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