with Dennis J Bernstein
If you believe the Republican hysteria machine, there’s an unprecedented election crime wave sweeping America involving a staggering 7.2 million suspected double voters. Thousands of these supposed criminals – who, if found guilty, have committed a felony punishable by 5-years in the slammer – have already lost their right to vote, with 41,000 people in Virginia alone being struck off voter roles. Statistical analysis of the evidence uncovered by investigative reporter Greg Palast shows that one million Americans may lose their vote by November. It also shows that a high proportion of these black, white, and brown voters have one thing in common: they tend to vote blue. In this week’s Best Democracy Money Can Buy: Election Crimes Bulletin, Palast gives Flashpoints’ Dennis J. Bernstein the skinny on this election crime wave, which in reality is little more than a GOP-generated racist sham designed to filter the blue out of the votes at the polls.
Dennis J. Bernstein: Greg Palast has got an article that just went up on Rolling Stone. Will an anti-voter fraud program designed by one of Trump’s advisors deny tens of thousands their right to vote in November?
Greg Palast: This week Rolling Stone has a tremendous investigative report, “The GOP’s Secret War Against Voters.” I know about it because I wrote it. This is an investigation I’ve now been on – I say one year in the article, but it’s really been two and a half years – uncovering a system by which the GOP has already removed tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of voters from the voter rolls – and it’s probably going to hit a million by November.
DB: The 21st century version of Jim Crow, the electronic Jim Crow. Talk a little bit about it.
Palast: Here’s the deal: 29 Republican Secretaries of State have given their voter rolls over to the Republican Secretary of State for Kansas, Kris Kobach. He’s a right-winger who was just slapped down by the Supreme Court for his racially biased voting tricks. And now he has every Republican state’s voter rolls, including the swing states of Ohio, North Carolina and Arizona.
What is he doing with these? He is cross-checking the list. What does that mean? He has a system called Crosscheck, where he’s looking for people who are voting in two states at once. For example – and this is a real example – Maria Christina Hernandez he says has voted in Virginia and she’s also voted in Georgia. I want to warn Maria Hernandez, that’s a go-to-jail, five-year felony to vote twice. Except in Georgia she’s voting as Maria Isabel Hernandez, so Maria Christina Hernandez is supposed to be the same voter as Maria Isabel Hernandez.
Now, believe it or not, the people in Kansas and this Kris Kobach – who by the way is the guy who devised the plan for Donald Trump to force Mexico to pay for his wall. According to Kobach, Maria Hernandez is not a common name, at least not common for Republicans. He can’t imagine why those are two different people, Maria Christina Hernandez and Maria Isabel Hernandez. That’s not an odd example.
DB: Other than they have different names.
Palast: They have different names, right? And both Maria Christina Hernandez and Maria Isabel Hernandez stand to lose their votes.
Palast: Both. Why hasn’t this story been all over the press before? The reason it hasn’t been public is because no one has gotten the list. In fact, as far as I know, I’m the only journalist who asked for the list. And they told me flat out, you can’t get them. Because, think about it. If you vote twice, that’s committing a felony crime. So these are lists of the criminal suspects, which of course are police confidential.
The thing is, you know how many people are on the suspect list ? 7.2 million people. Now, I wasn’t supposed to get the list, but, if you know me, I do investigative reporting. That means “no” is not an answer we appreciate. No is where we begin. When they said it was confidential, we worked until we got the first list, which was out of Virginia, which immediately sent us a letter saying, “We sent you this list by mistake”.
DB: Who is on these lists? How did they come about? Who controls them?
Palast: Kobach takes the list of 29 states’ voter lists, compares the names, and when he finds two names that are the same, those people are put on the Crosscheck list sent back to their state. They then are reviewed to have their vote taken away. Now, not everyone on the list will have their vote taken away. They make it a little complex process, frankly, to hide their steps.
Here’s how it works. For example, obviously, there’s a lot of people called Maria Hernandez in this country, and a lot of people called David Lee and David Kim, who are almost all Asian-American, and a lot of people named Mohammed Mohammed – the most common name on the planet. They are claiming publicly that they checked the first name, middle name, last name, junior, senior, address history, social security number, date of birth – they’ve got to get the right guys. But, in fact, when we got the instructions, it said, if the social security numbers don’t match don’t worry about it. And, by the way, out of 7 million, roughly none of them do.
DB: Roughly none?
Palast: Roughly none. So, yes, they have the information, but they ignore it. The middle name mismatches, out of 7 million names they’ve collected, 2 million of the voters are mismatched by middle name. We have several hundred thousand which are mismatched by a suffix such as junior, senior, or III. In other words, they have listed fathers and sons as the same person, the same voter illegally voting twice or registering twice. Both lose their vote.
Now, what is so dangerous about this? And why would Republicans be doing this? Do the Republicans have something against people with common names? Here’s the trick. This is where I got into my own background in statistics and brought in a whole team of experts who do the database management for eBay and for American Express, etc. They were horrified. They said this is just a list of first and last name matches. It’s childish. It’s dangerous. Then they did a statistical run and said it’s racially biased. Massively racially biased. Because 85 out of the 100 most common names in America are overweighed with minorities: Black-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans – who, by the way, vote nearly as Democratic as Black-Americans. People don’t realize that. It’s looking like over 80% of Asian-Americans are going to vote Democratic this year…
Yes, there are a few white names, like John Smith. But even the names like Smith – like the African-American actor Will Smith – I mean, it’s a very common name. So even the white-sounding names are substantially black, but the black and Hispanic names, like Garcia, for example, is 94% Hispanic.
DB: There are five Dennis Bernsteins. At least three of them are writers. Actually one of them is down there with you in LA. He writes on hockey.
Palast: There’s another ethnic group, by the way, the Jewish population. You have a lot of Levys. And you have a lot of ethnic groups that are not in the top 100. For example, a lot of Nepali-Tibetans have the last name Sherpa, a lot of Indians are named Singh. You have these commonalities in ethnic names, which are Democrats, which you don’t have in [Republicans]. For example, Kris Kobach, there’s one. Charles Koch, there’s two. I looked it up. David Koch, there’s three.
DB: There you go.
Palast: And, believe me, they’re not on these lists. So what’s happening is you end up with basically a hit list of ethnics. They’ve got a list of 7 million, they’re not removing all 7 million. There’s two ways that they bias the program. It’s already racially poisonous, the list. On top of this, they send out postcards to people that look like junk mail.
The junk mail experts we spoke to said this postcard is meant not to be returned. It’s inscrutable small print, doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t even say you’re accused of voting twice. It just says, please confirm your voting address. Now, most people say, well it’s confirmed, you just mailed this to me, schmuck. So people throw it away. But, which people throw it away?
According to the experts, the chance of someone under 25 (in other words, likely to vote Democratic) throwing away their card is 900% higher than someone over 65. White people respond to threatening government notices at twice the rate of African-Americans and Hispanics. So you have an ethnic difference, you have an age difference – all, again, prejudicing towards the Republican voter. So, if a few Republicans get caught, they’re probably elderly, white suburbanites who will return their card and save their vote.
Now, here’s the other trick, as our experts told us: The post office doesn’t like to tell you this but they don’t deliver all the mail in low income areas. You just don’t get it. Or, if it’s in a building with a bunch of boxes, they don’t care which box they put it in. People who have low incomes, the unemployed, and young people like students move around. They may be legal voters, but they’re not at their mailing address when these cards come in. Like students, who are legally registered, get these cards in the summer and they’ve lost their chance to vote.
And you don’t know you’ve lost your chance to vote until you show up and find out. They don’t even tell you that you’re listed as a double voter. They say you’re inactive, whatever that means. Sorry, you can’t vote.
Like I say, they were hiding the names from us. I got 2 million out of the 7 million names anyway. They will not tell us the names of the people they’ve actually finally removed, though Virginia told us they eliminated 41,000 people already.
Palast: And listen to this! Kris Kobach, who came up with this system, when I said, “Look at your list that you sent to Virginia, these aren’t matches, they’re different people, different middle names.” First he said, “Those names weren’t on the list.” I said, “Sorry, but we got this list from your computer, try again.”
The other day, when I told him Rolling Stone was rolling with this, he called me up actually and said, “Yeah, that’s our list.” And he said, “But people don’t have to use the list.” I said, “Virginia used your list. 41,000 names were removed.” He said, “They can’t have removed them, that’s a violation of federal law.” He said that!!! He’s a law professor, right? Because he told them they had to go through a procedure, and they said, ah, skip it, just write the names off.
Palast: That’s what most states are doing. They’re not going through some fancy procedure, they’re just writing the names off. Even if they go through a fancy procedure, these are not double voters. This is just a racist call.
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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 and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, which will be released as a feature documentary movie this fall.
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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.