This week on The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Election Crimes Bulletin we revisit the California primary crime scene and attempt to count the votes – something election officials in the state have failed to do. Officially, there are nearly 2 million votes that remain uncounted, and statistics show that the vast majority of these are favoring Bernie. If all votes were created equal and actually tallied, the Golden State would most likely be in Bernie’s pocket. Professional vote sleuth Greg Palast breaks down the numbers with Dennis J. Bernstein.
Dennis J. Bernstein: Greg Palast, great to have you back. Are we talking millions of votes not counted? What is this?
Greg Palast: Are you ready for this?
DB: I don’t know.
Palast: Okay, take out a pencil and paper…
DB: I’m afraid.
Palast: The mail-in ballots: 1,173,943 uncounted. Provisional “placebo” ballots – when they don’t want you to vote, they give you pretend ballots – there are 712,849 uncounted. This is two weeks after the election! Even Iran counts the votes within two weeks. And we’re not done, 73,116 “other” votes have not been counted.
The other secret of American elections, that we’re not supposed to tell anyone, is that we don’t count all the ballots. We have ballots which are called “spoiled.” You’ve got some fly poop on the ballot so the computer kicks it out. There’s all kinds of reasons why your ballot would spoil. We’re looking at maybe 1 million in California – that’s a million “spoiled” that will never be counted. Not including those spoiled ones that are already thrown out, of the almost 2 million ballots officially uncounted (it may be closer to 3 million, but officially 2 million), at least 1 million will never be counted. Of the 2 million remaining, I would suspect that half will never, ever be counted – especially those provisional ballots. And the late mail-in ballots will not be counted. So you have 3 million votes out there and probably 2 million won’t be counted. Hey, it’s democracy-flavored, but it’s not real, organic democracy.
DB: Do we know who would be hurt most and who would be helped most by this lack of counting? Is there anyway to gauge that?
Palast: We know who’s hurt most. That is the public and the voters. Cause you just stood in line to vote and the guy or the woman who got the most votes doesn’t win. In terms of the politics. I’m a reporter. It’s not my business who should win or shouldn’t, but I can tell you this: Senator Sanders won California.
Let me do the math for you. Most of those late mailed-in ballots were what are called NPP, No Party Preference. These independent ballots were the ones that came in late because people had to switch their ballots. It’s a complex process, in California, that’s all I can tell you. The late ballots are Sanders ballots.
How do I know that NPP ballots are Sanders ballots? Because Golden State Polling, which is the gold standard in the Golden State for polling, put Sanders about 3 to 1 among No Party Preference, that is independent voters. The provisional ballots were almost entirely No Party Preference voters who did things like the woman in front of me who burst into tears at the polling station because she brought in her Independent Party ballot, and has the right under California law to vote in the Democratic primary. She turned in her ballot, as she’s supposed to, but she forgot to bring the blank envelope that comes with it. So they gave her a provisional ballot, and she burst into tears, cause she knew that it wouldn’t be counted.
Let’s not take 3 to 1, the California poll numbers. Let’s just call it 2 to 1, in which case Hillary has in that pile about three-quarters of a million votes; Sanders has in that pile about 1.25 million votes. That would give Sanders a plurality among uncounted votes, and I’m not talking spoiled votes, which is probably the same breakdown. But, if you do the arithmetic, Sanders gains out of that uncounted and spoiled pile, about 500,000-plus votes, which puts him over the top to win California. By next week I’ll have more numbers for you, but Sanders won.
DB: There was clearly a full press court going on, which began with the declaring of Hillary as the presumptive nominee on the eve of the California election. This was incredibly suspicious in the context of who would be hurt. What’s the Secretary of State saying about all this?
Palast: I’m horrified. We’ve been on the phone with the Secretary of State’s office, Alex Padilla. And, number one, he has no count. He’s the Secretary of State, he’s in charge of the election, he has no count. No count of the number of ballots which have been rejected already. It’s about 1 million, give or take. So here you have a guy in charge of the election who can’t tell you what happened to 1 million ballots. It’s 2 weeks after the election, there are 2 million ballots still uncounted.
DB: How does he explain this? How does the Secretary of State explain not knowing?
Palast: You’ll love this answer. He said, “Well, it’s no worse than any of the other elections we’ve had.” Like, what?!? That’s like saying, “Well, you know, we were in Vietnam, hey, Iraq wasn’t that bad.” This guy’s, like, it’s okay because it’s always been this horrific in California. But because we’ve had a one party state here, in the Golden State it was basically just the Democratic Party, no one cared. But now that you have a primary, a fight between two Democrats, someone is actually saying, “What happened to the 1 million ballots? How come there are 2 million ballots still uncounted after 2 weeks? What’s the rule for counting them or not counting them?”
And I got another one: You are supposed to, by California law, check the voting machines in the precincts. One percent of all precincts, you have to literally check the machine count versus the actual little punch cards that you get. By law the precincts must be chosen randomly. There used to be someone who would stick their hand in a bucket with all the precinct numbers, in LA it’s 4,000 precincts, and you pull out a number. In LA you’d pull out 40 numbers and those are the precincts you would audit. Well, guess what? Mimi Kennedy just found out that they pre-designated the random precincts to audit. So, in other words, they randomly pre-selected. The reason you can’t do that guys, if you’re not a professor of statistics, is that it ain’t random if you’ve pre-selected.
DB: The closer the election gets, the more crucial these things are. If we have a landslide, there’s not as much concern about what’s going on. But say, for instance, you have a very close election between Clinton and Trump, if they are the ones, really it can be fixed easily in this context.
Palast: It’s easy to hold honest elections. It’s not that difficult. There’s no reason for California to have lost track of 2 million ballots. There’s just no reason. I mean in Kazakstan they don’t count the ballots either, but I thought California was not Kazakstan. I’ve just been educated.
Now, here’s the problem: Hillary Clinton was declared the landslide victor in California, which was an extreme oddity given that the polls taken days before showed her in a dead heat with Sanders. It just evaporated? Because Sanders people are not as enthusiastic as Clinton people for voting? No, it’s the games with the registrations and with the mail-in ballots, and the so-called provisional ballots, what I call the placebo ballots. That problem is going to haunt Hillary. And by the way, I want to emphasize, I have no information that she’s behind this. The California Democratic Party machine runs the operation. They backed her. It’s not like she had to give the word to these guys to keep the system a mess so that she could win it. I’m not accusing her of that, that’s ridiculous. But I am saying that she will be the victim of the games with provisional ballots.
In the last elections, in 2008 and 2012, there were 2 million provisional ballots thrown in the garbage. That’s the official number from the United States Elections Assistance Commission. Two million provisional ballots were rejected. There’s no reason to believe that these were wrongful voters or illegal voters, because if they were, you’d arrest them. There were just gimmicks as a way to throw away people’s ballots.
DB: Maybe we have to invent a voter dumpster diving movement to pull the ballots back out of the garbage and figure out a way to count them.
Palast: Well, I’m sorry, I’m going to have to blame a little bit on Senator Sanders and his campaign. Right now they are counting some of those provisional ballots, there should be Sanders people at every one of those precincts to say, “Count that ballot, don’t throw that away”. The Sanders’ campaign should have been aware of this from the front end. Besides having get-out-the vote volunteers, what he needed was count-the-vote volunteers. I know Senator Sanders, and I know he’s been concerned about vote suppression techniques aimed at minorities. That’s been a very big issue with him. We’ve talked about it together over the years. But I guess he didn’t expect it to happen to white people, his voters. Basically, you have a lot of middle-class voters in California that just found out what it is to vote like they’ve turned black, with provisional ballots or the ballots they throw in the garbage. We’re not used to it.
DB: And this will be the same system for the presidential vote, right? Nothings going to change here.
Palast: I think it will be worse. I think we’re going to see something worse going across the country. I was just in Ohio. If you think it was bad in California. It’s a blood sport there. Jon Husted, who is the Secretary State of Ohio, makes Katherine Harris look like Thomas Jefferson with make-up. This guy is rabid. The courts have just slapped down some of his most recent stuff – literally saying his activities were effectively racist But you take away one trick through court action, he’s got another. And the problem we’re running into without the Voting Rights Act in full force, since 2013, is that a guy like Husted can put in all kinds of new, crazy rules and impediments to voting.
The second worst state after Ohio is North Carolina, another swing state. Obama won it one time and then lost it the second time. I can tell you why he lost it the second time, the games that were being played with the voter registration there. Hillary might be laughing and giggling at the foolishness of the Sanders people not watching the vote in California. But I’m going to tell you right now, what goes around, comes around. Every vote stolen in California, will be stolen back double in Ohio and North Carolina, and Florida, and in New Mexico, and Arizona. Look out Hillary, this is no joke.
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Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, which will be released as a feature documentary movie this fall. Get your name in the movie credits! The deadline to do so is 4th of July 2016.
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Dennis J. Bernstein is the executive producer of Flashpoints, syndicated on Pacifica Radio, and is the recipient of a 2015 Pillar Award for his work as a journalist whistleblower. He is most recently the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.
Nation of Change is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Nation of Change.