Going Postal: Excerpt from Billionaires & Ballot Bandits

Greg Palast

The following excerpt is from “Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps,” a new book on the conservative- and big money-led effort to steal elections this November, based on investigations by gumshoe journalist Greg Palast and attorney and activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. It also includes comics by Ted Rall.

“I didn’t know I had to fill in the bubble.”

That was the totally lame excuse of a voter who blew away the election of a Democrat as mayor of San Diego, California.

In 2004, the “Surfer Chick,” Donna Frye, got the most votes for mayor of the city, but was refused office. Donna runs the surf shop on the beach (husband Skip Frye was the world surfing champ) and, concerned about real estate sharks killing the beachfront and waters, decided to run for mayor as a write-in candidate.

In California, nearly a third of voters mail in their ballots. But four thousand of the folks who wrote in Donna Frye on those mail-in ballots didn’t fill in the bubble.

On the ballot, there was a choice of candidates with a bubble next to their name and a space for Write-in candidate. You had to write in Donna Frye and fill in the bubble next to it. (Completely fill it in, but not excessively: no X or check—that would disqualify you too.)

Republican election officials tossed out the four thousand ballots with Frye’s name but no bubble-blackening. Though Donna complained, she told me she conceded ballots marked Surfer Chick.

In the days when we still had a democracy, courts held that the voter’s intent should determine if a ballot gets counted. But since Bush v. Gore, what the voter clearly wants isn’t worth a bubble.

But the Rovearians insist that this is the only way to prevent wholesale fraud.

All over the nation, party hacks are playing “gotcha” with mail-in ballots. Here are some of my favorites, each one costing several thousand folks their vote:

– Wrong envelope.
– Wrong postage. Questionable signature. Stray mark (spoilage). Folded wrong.
– Lost by election officials.
– And an X instead of a dot in the bubble.

The “wrong signature” is the most suspect of all. If an election official thinks a signature has been forged, then he should call the cops. This is the serious crime of ballot fraud (filling out and mailing a ballot which is not yours). This is one of the only voting crimes that actually do occur, though it’s incredibly rare. So if there’s real evidence of a crime, the answer is not to toss out a ballot, toss out the evidence, but to jail the criminal.

So I went to visit two of the fraudsters who didn’t fill in their bubbles. Maybe I’d have them busted.

“Mom! Why didn’t you fill in the bubble?!”
“I’m sorry! I didn’t know you had to fill in the bubble! Your sister’s a lawyer and she helped us fill it out.”

In the last presidential election, over twenty-seven thousand “suspicious” (i.e., forged) signatures were detected. And yet not one of these forgers was busted. Why? Maybe because they weren’t forgeries but merely a slight change in signature (remember Melissa Tais?) or the pen used. Or the election official doesn’t like the choices of the signatory. Heavens! Could such a thing happen in America?

There is a solution: if an “absentee” ballot has an error or questionable signature, the election clerks could simply call the voter and have them come in to correct it. Oregon does that. So does . . . well, actually, no other state does that. Because Rove and his fellow tossers want it that way.

So you lose your vote. And here’s the charm: you don’t even know it! Ha ha ha!

Does it matter?

It has more than once changed “Hail to the Chief” to “Hail to the Thief.”

In 2012, it is expected that about 26 million votes will be mailed in. And, in the name of preventing voter fraud, about ONE IN FOURTEEN WILL BE TOSSED OUT. That’s nearly two million votes tossed in the gotcha! dumpster.

But don’t both parties do it, play “gotcha” with the ballots? Yes, they do. So then it all evens out, right? Wrong!

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve already guessed that the probability that a mail-in ballot will get the heave-ho is based on the color of the person whose name is on the ballot and his or her income bracket.

And just to make certain the class-biased count would pick one of their candidates, the Kochs spent at least a million on absentee ballot handling in the June 2012 Wisconsin gubernatorial recall race. Using their new monster database, Republicans received a preprinted ballot and envelope with all the personal data properly filled-in to make it reject-proof. Just sign and drop in a mailbox.

It’s legal and brilliant. What’s brilliant and possibly not so legal is that in November, the same database could be “inverted” to target the Blue-ballot absentee voters and do the same match for the purpose of pumping up rejections and challenges. They won’t? During the recall, a group called United Sportsmen of Wisconsin sent Democrats absentee ballot request forms with the wrong address and deadline. USW, which existed only during the Wisconsin recall, was created by John W. Conners—until recently, Director of the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity. That’s sportsmanship a la Koch.

Reprinted from “Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps” by Greg Palast. © 2012 by Greg Palast. Used with the permission of the publisher, Seven Stories Press.