Skip to content

How Safe is Vote by Mail?
America's Lawyer: Papantonio & Palast

In this interview America’s Lawyer host Mike Papantonio and Palast discuss the looming vote by mail crisis that could decide the 2020 election.

The Postal Service nearly imploded with mail in ballots in 2016; with the Forever Trumper as Postmaster General, mailing your ballot in 2020 is playing Russian Roulette with your vote.

But since voting in-person on Election Day can kill you, to avoid the pitfalls of vote by mail, get your absentee ballot from your local county Board of Elections and return it there. Or, use drop boxes in states that have them. Otherwise, ask for your ballot at least 8 weeks before the election. In most states, you can take the mail-in ballot to an early polling station—and safely drop it off.


Mike Papantonio: Voter suppression efforts have been ramping up as the 2020 election inches closer. And if they’re successful, these attempts to stop voters could definitely change the outcome of the election. Joining me to talk about that is Greg Palast. award-winning investigative journalist and author of How Trump’s Stole 2020 – interesting title.

Greg. I tell everybody, I think I’ve interviewed you for about every book you’ve written. This one, this is an important book, which tells me that mainstream media, corporate media is not paying attention to it probably. Am I right?

Greg Palast: You mean the, they see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil press? Yeah, I think so., yes. Thank you. That’s why I appreciate you on your program.

Papantonio: Let’s start with the elephant in the room, the vote by mail. A lot of developments there in the past few days. Tell us what this administration’s done and give us the whole Greg Palast vote by mail 10,000 foot, so we can move on to the next question. What’s your take?

Palast: Wow. Okay. Here’s the problem. 22% of all mail in ballots don’t get counted. That’s an MIT study. That’s not Greg Palast. A one in five ballots is junked. Now, how does that happen? One in 10 people never get their ballot who’ve asked for them. By the way, that’s why we had those long lines in Georgia, those are African Americans in Atlanta who never got their mail in ballots, but it requested them. Including, by the way, the husband of the head of the ACLU in Georgia. So people don’t get their ballot, that’s number one. And number two, once you send them in, one in 10 is junked for any type of reason. Anyone can challenge your ballot in America. They don’t like your signature, you didn’t put your middle initial when you signed and you registered with the middle initial. Postage due cost a hundred thousand votes in 2016. 3.3 million ballots in 2016 that were mailed in were never counted…

Papantonio: What we have here is an election that’s tightening up. The Democrats thought they had the leisure of Biden’s double digit lead. It’s shrinking as we speak. It’s shrinking in states that really matter, swing States. But the Democrats, I literally heard James Carville say, well, Biden can just stay down in the cellar and he’s going to win this election. Doesn’t that sound a lot like what they were talking about with Hillary Clinton? So I wonder, the vote by mail could be important. How safe is vote by mail? How safe is it?

Palast: Not in the least and this is the big problem. Because you can have all these jerks in Hawaiian shirts, the Boogaloo Boys, the Proud Boys, they’re going to go in… Trump’s calling for 50,000 volunteers. It’s not an intimidation army. People have that wrong. The real danger’s that are going to go in and say, I don’t like that signature on that ballot. That ballot was taped shut instead of a sealed shut by licking the envelope. I’m not kidding. And if you think it’s just Republicans who do that, in New York this past last week the Democratic Party challenged the counting of 28,000 mail-in ballots, — the Democratic Party. Once they established that precedent, how many ballots do you think Trump’s people will challenge? How many millions I should say. So it’s not safe to mail in your ballot.

Papantonio: Where do we get this idea? You’re a great investigative journalist. I got to tell you, I follow your stuff. When you say something and put it down on paper, I can count on it. But what I always have wondered is where do we get this idea that the Democrats are going to be better on this than the Republicans? Because I’m hearing these spots of what you’re describing, like what took place in New York, what took place in the primary elections, where there was a Democratic hustle on trying to get rid of Bernie. What makes you think there’s going to be any difference here?

Palast: Well, two things.. Number one, yeah, the Democrats do it too. In fact, in my book, I have a chapter called “California Reamin’” and for The Guardian I uncovered, are you ready for this? Bernie Sanders was shafted out of 553,000 votes in the March primary here where I’m speaking from in California. That’s what Democratic Party did. But nationwide, what you have is a mass wipe out of voters by the Republicans. We’ve had a big purge of the voter list. 16.7 million people, according to the federal government, have been erased from the voter rolls. They’re going to have a tough time getting their mail-in ballots if you’re not on the voter rolls. And the Republicans have learned from the Democrats in New York and the Democrats in California and throughout the nation they’re going to be challenging every single mail-in ballot that comes in.

Papantonio: You’ve been at this for years. I remember talking to you about this four years ago, but in your investigation, what you’re finding is even though those votes are cast, they’re going to be invalidated. Depending on who’s in charge, they’re going to be invalidated according to need of who do you want to win the election? And is that it? Did I state that right? Or is it an overstatement?

Palast: That’s correct. You know, the nasty little secret of America’s democracy is that we don’t count all the ballots. For example, 935,000 people who cast what we call provisional ballots had their ballots rejected, never counted — about a million.

1.9 million ballots that were cast in-precinct were disqualified. Someone said, no, I don’t like that, said there’s a miss marking, the machine can’t read it. By the way, the chance that your ballot will be invalidated is 900% higher if you’re black than if you’re white. And now mail-in balloting, they get challenged all over the place.

Papantonio: Your book, it’s the same quality. You don’t just say it, you’ve investigated it. You put it out there. You say, here is what the issues are. I’m wondering why I’m not seeing more of this discussion on corporate media. I have a theory and my theory is that corporate media goes after low hanging fruit. And if a producer, can’t put a story together that the on air talent can deliver, they don’t do the story. I think you’ve said something similar to that to me in the past. What’s your take on that? Why is this whole issue disappearing? This book should be a national bestseller. Cause it’s getting ready to happen. Your title is Trump is gonna win this election and here’s why, basically that’s what you’re saying in your title isn’t it?

Palast: Well, I’m saying with the title, How Trump Stole 2020, that he’s already stolen it, that is we’ve wiped out 17 million voters off the voter rolls — overwhelmingly African-American and young, that is the bluish voters. But we can’t steal it back. That is we can bust the burglary, people who’ve been wiped off the voter rolls can reregister. And that’s why I encourage everyone to check their registration now. It’s not a done deal.

But you’re right about investigations of these matters. Number one, it’s very uncomfortable to talk about the deficit of American democracy, that what we have is a mockery of democracy, it’s not exactly a democracy when you don’t count 5.8 million ballots. And by the way, that’s the official number from the Elections Assistance Commission, the federal government. We don’t count those votes. So we don’t like to talk about that on national TV and you brought up something else: investigative reporting. I have a foundation, my own foundation to back this work. My discovery of the millions of voters wrongly removed from the voter rolls, that was a 7-year investigation that cost several hundred thousand dollars. If you think that there’s any American commercial outlet that’s going to pay for that and stick with that, that doesn’t happen. We are going to get some big coverage, it’s coming up in the mainstream, but basically we had to pay and conduct the entire investigations ourselves. But it’s a very uncomfortable subject for America commercial television and print.

Papantonio: It’s uncomfortable for corporate TV to do this, so they don’t do it. It’s probably one of the most important issues we have out there. Because if I read you right, and if we see the history… For example, Detroit, I remember what happened in Detroit, it was like almost 6 million votes that just disappeared in Detroit.

Palast: In the book, I explain that while Trump officially won Detroit by 10,700 votes… 75,355 ballots to be exact were never counted in Detroit because 87 counting machines, that is the scanners, broke down so the ballots simply weren’t counted. So whose votes were those? That’s Motown. So who really won Michigan? Why weren’t we covering big time the fact that 75,000 ballots were not counted?

Papantonio: Both you and I have done corporate media over the years… actually a lot. And we know the inside of what happens. And it’s always the low hanging fruit stories. It’s easy to get on and just attack Trump or attack Biden… This food fight mentality in corporate media is preventing you, real investigative journalists, from actually telling stories like this. And it’s going to get you worse before it gets better. Let me ask you this. There’s a hot button issue now, and it’s the longevity of the U.S. Postal Service, which was already struggling financially before this pandemic. What’s the impact on mail-in ballots if we’ve got problems with the Postal Service. Or maybe that predicate isn’t correct. What’s your take?

Palast: We’ve already had a disaster with mail-in ballots. Like I said, one in five aren’t counted now. The biggest problem is you don’t get them — sometimes that’s the government slow walking it, especially in the communities of color, which is what I saw in Georgia in June.

The other problem is that the Post Office has imploded with mail-in balloting that we’ve had before. So this is a huge, huge problem. And, by the way, the corporate media doesn’t really like talking about it because they want to encourage people to vote by mail — as I do to stay safe. I don’t want you to die to vote, but you have to understand how difficult this is and how we have to correct this system.

Papantonio: Greg, I’m out of time. I want to have you back about this book. It’s an important book. But God, I wish corporate media would do their job and get this out there. I’ve got to go right now, but thanks for joining me. Okay.

Palast: Thank you for doing your job.

Mike Papantonio is a senior partner with the law firm of Levin Papantonio. He has received numerous multi-million dollar verdicts on behalf of victims of corporate malfeasance.

He is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame and is listed in the publications Best Lawyers in America and Leading American Attorney.

He is the host of the international television show America’s Lawyer, where he provides in-depth investigations into major corporate and government corruption. He is also the founder and former host of the nationally syndicated radio program Ring of Fire, along with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.

Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, Armed Madhouse, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits and the book and documentary, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
His latest film is Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman

Palast is currently working on a new documentary Long Knife, exposing the Koch Brothers' theft of Osage oil, to be released in 2024.

Support The Palast Investigative Fund and keep our work alive.
Become a monthly Contributor.

Subscribe to Palast's Newsletter

Support the Palast Fund and keep our work alive!
Send this to a friend