In this week’s Election Crimes Bulletin, Greg Palast and Flashpoints host Dennis Bernstein discuss the problems we face exercising our democratic rights during a pandemic. Voting by Mail may seem like the solution, but mail-in ballots could deliver the election to Trump.
Dennis Bernstein: People are concerned about one term of Donald Trump. If things don’t go right, and there’s this rush to vote by mail, this could turn into another tragedy and another Trump term. You want to talk a little bit about this?
Greg Palast: It’s clear that the virus has voted for Trump already. We’ve now had mail-in mania hit the Democratic party, and I agree that there may be no choice. Our choice may be vote by mail or die. But as Professor Barbara Arnwine, who is the best voting rights attorney in America, said, this will be a disaster for the Black, Hispanic, African American, Asian American community. And for young people, about only 5% of whom use mail-in voting. It’s not what they do. This is the Republican form of voting.
Here’s the deal. Amy Klobuchar, who has her bill out which has some positive things, what she doesn’t tell you is that according to the Elections Assistance Commission 512,696 mail-in ballots were rejected and were never counted. Now that’s the tip of the ballot-burg of uncounted ballots. Charles Stewart of MIT led a big investigation called “Losing Votes by Mail” by MIT and CalTech, which showed 22% of mail-in votes go astray, never get counted. That’s 22%. If we go to 80% mail-in voting, 25 million ballots will be lost, overwhelmingly young and minority ballots — overwhelmingly.
Let me give you some of the problems here… In six states, including the ultra swing state of Wisconsin, you needed to have a witness signature…who you invite into your home and break the quarantine? Can you imagine all over the country in six states you have to have a witness sign your ballot? It’s literally going to kill people to vote. They will die voting to get that witness signature.
That’s nothing compared to states like Alabama, which require you to notarize your mail-in ballot — notarize it! Though you can substitute, in Alabama, two witnesses. See where this is heading…? The whole idea of witnessing ballots is insane anyway, and most states don’t do it.
One of the reasons why Ohio flipped from Obama to Trump, went from a blue to red, is that the Republican Secretary of State refused to mail out 1,039,000 requests for mail-in ballots. He just wouldn’t. Said, you can’t get a ballot if you are on his inactive list, because you’re what he considers to be an inactive voter. The current Secretary of State admitted that it was at least 20% wrong in terms of inactive voters — and those lists are two to one Democrat!
In the state of Wisconsin and other places, especially if you’re a first time voter, you have to mail in your ID. And not only that, if you’re a University of Wisconsin student and you mail in a copy of your student ID, cause you have to have a state photo ID, well your ballot can be tossed in the garbage because Wisconsin students’ state photo ID does not count as a Wisconsin state ID for voting. The only way you can get that ID if you’re a student is go to the Dean of Students office and get a new ID. Remember, this is an ultra swing state. Trump won it by 22,000 votes.
Bernstein: And there are a lot of students.
Palast: Well, no, there are no students there. They sent all 182,000 University of Wisconsin students home. And there is no Dean of Students office to give you that new ID.
In addition there have been mass purges. 17 million people have been purged by states in the last two years. The state of Wisconsin, I was in Milwaukee just before it was shut down, they had a mass purge. The Wisconsin state legislature has ordered the purge of 232,000 voters on a list of people who supposedly moved. It includes Sequanna Taylor. She’s a black woman, so you’d expect her to be on one of these purge lists. They said she left the County of Milwaukee, which seems odd because she is a County Supervisor of Milwaukee. But she won’t be able to vote, because if she asked for a vote, they won’t send it to her if she gets purged per the legislature’s order.
If you’re wondering why Wisconsin’s going ahead with this vote, it’s because while the primary’s for the Democrats, it is the general election for the Wisconsin state Supreme Court. A cesspool of partisan hacks who are going to hear the case on whether these people, like Sequanna Taylor, should be purged. The Democrats have been trying to get real judges instead of partisan hacks onto that state Supreme Court, but the legislature is forcing this election, which is going to kill people. I mean, it’s literally going to kill people so they can keep their Republican state Supreme Court.
All over the country we’re going to have massive problems with minority voters. I could go on but I want to hit one final point, which is that in the African American communities, according to Michael Wychocki, one of the great mail-in experts of America. He said about 4% to 20% of messages to voters from the government go astray. And he said the 20% is in urban rental areas. You’re not supposed to lose your vote if you move down the street, but if you have moved, you’re not going to get that mail-in ballot. You’re not going to get the request for a mail-in ballot.
You’re going to have people who never get their ballots — millions according to MIT. A huge number of the people who request a mail-in ballot never get them or never get them in time to return them. And it’s extreme in urban areas and also among students who move dorm rooms or apartments, et cetera. So basically, Democratic voters get demolished in an all mail-in election.
Bernstein: This is an action that’s invisible and my impression is that the Democrats are really cheerleading this as a step in the right direction for democracy. But it does seem that it’s just one more layer of this attempt to discredit, undermine, and disenfranchise progressive voters and voters of color. This is layer upon layer of undermining the right to vote that many, many black people and their grandfathers died to bring about. It’s a terrible situation.
Palast: Yes. Amy Klobuchar’s bill has a few good things in it, but here’s one of the problems: She did not address this issue of needing a witness to send in your mail-in vote, even though her own state requires a witness. But she doesn’t have a problem, her ballot’s handed to her in Washington by her assistants with their gloves. They sign off as a witness. She doesn’t even think about what happens to black folk and poor folk and students. So nothing in her bill does much to help them.
She does have money in her bill that would to help the Post Office fight the Russians mailing in ballots. I’m not making that up. She’s concerned about the Russians, but not about African Americans in Minneapolis and students. She doesn’t have anything about not having to mail-in ID.
The whole voter ID thing is ridiculous to begin with. All of these things like witnessing, notarizing, sending in IDs, not sending ballots to people on the inactive list, all of this is to prevent voter fraud. That’s what the Republicans claim, and too many Democrats go along with this. But Rutgers’ Professor Lorraine Minnite checked the records for 12 years of voting — that’s over a billion ballot cast nationwide — and she found six cases of voter impersonation. That’s both by mail and in-person — six cases out of a billion ballots. In fact the Election Law Journal has a good line. They studied this and said the proportion of the population reporting voter impersonation is indistinguishable from that reporting abduction by extra terrestrials.
So nothing’s being done to protect the mail-in vote, and we may have to do it. California is a mostly mail-in state, as you know. Oregon is a completely mail-in state. The three mail in states — Oregon, Washington, and Colorado — who have some of the cleanest voting systems in America, those are also the three states with the highest number of uncounted ballots in America. Oregon, Washington, Colorado, are the only three states that to this day have been mail-in only states. And whose votes are lost according to a CalTech study? Your chance of losing your vote if you’re African American and young is about six times that if you’re an older white person, that your ballot will be disqualified for some reason.
Basically the virus is voting for Trump, unless we take steps to combat it. And some of it, frankly, may be as simple as understanding how this system will be working and doing our best to organize and fight against it. For example, obviously we lose Souls to the Polls Day, where the African American community goes from the church to the polls, because they can’t go to the church. But in Atlanta I found one church where they’re doing Souls to the Post, where they would all fill out their mail-in ballots.
And you have to understand with mail-in ballots you have to fill out all kinds of stuff on the outside. In Ohio, you have to have a request for a mail-in ballot, which asks for your drivers’ license number. Now, if you don’t have a drivers’ license and you leave that blank, you lose your ballot. You lose your ballot. You have to put “no driver’s license”.