The 2018 Gubernatorial election in Georgia became ground-zero for Republican-led vote suppression when then Secretary of State Brian Kemp ran against Democrat Stacey Abrams. As State Secretary, Kemp had unique access to the state’s voting systems in the same election in which he ran for higher office. Now, a lawsuit filed by investigative reporter Greg Palast over voting shenanigans in Georgia has won a victory. A federal judge just declared the case against Kemp. Joining me to tell us all about it is Greg Palast himself.
Sonali Kolhatkar: This story is not getting very much attention. When the election happened in 2018 there was a lot of news about it, a lot of news coverage, a lot of people concerned that Kemp had used his power to illegally suppress votes. The lawsuit that you filed has now come to fruition. First, tell us what the original complaint was based on.
Greg Palast: I’ve been chasing Brian Kemp, the Republican Secretary of State and now Governor of Georgia for six years for Rolling Stone, Al-Jazeera, and Democracy Now. I knew he was mass purging voters of color in the year before he ran for Governor. He bleached the rolls whiter than white, removing over half a million voters — that’s one in eight voters in Georgia. One in eight voters in Georgia was flushed off the voter rolls. I wanted the inside information. I wanted the names and addresses of everyone he’d purged. When I filed the lawsuit, he turned over those names and addresses. But now I want all of the background.
He was in a conspiracy, and I use that word very carefully. I used to work in the Justice Department on conspiracy issues. He worked with Kris Kobach of Kansas, the white supremacist Secretary of State of Kansas, Trump’s buddy. I call him Trump’s Vote-Thief-in-Chief. [Kemp worked with Kobach] to remove not only voters in Georgia, but with Kobach’s so-called Interstate Crosscheck system, which targeted 7 million voters of color in 30 states.
Brian Kemp was deep in that. I wanted all that information, so I sued him, and a judge this week in the federal court in Atlanta suddenly did something that lawyers listening to this will be astonished [to hear]. The judge acted in what is called “sua sponte” — did something on her own. Brian Kemp tried to dismiss my suit. She not only said, Mr. Kemp, I’m not dismissing journalist Greg Palast’s suit against you. In fact, I’m declaring him the winner by summary judgment. There will not even be a trial. She basically decided that Brian Kemp lied about the files he had, was trying to hide the information from me… And so this is absolutely astonishing and has national implications.
Number one, it says Brian Kemp has to open up his files, not only on Georgia, he has to open up his files on the vote thieving he was involved with with Kris Kobach around the nation, removing voters of color… For example, in this Crosscheck program that he was working on with Kris Kobach, they were looking for people who had voted in two States in the same election — that’s a crime. That’s a crime. And there’s been maybe four people in the last four years convicted of that.
They had 7 million suspects. Who are these suspects? There were over 500 guys named James Brown in Georgia that they said were also voting in Michigan. They found a James Brown in Michigan and a James Brown in Arizona, a James Brown in Indiana, believe it or not, and they said that they were the same voter. That the guy’s the same voter, even though it’s James Brown, Jr. and James Brown, Sr. — it’s supposed to be the same voter? James Thomas Brown and James Edward Brown were supposed to be the same voters. But the name Brown, it’s a black thing, and so they were using common names to remove voters with just the first and last name match. Can you believe that? And so I’m getting all that information. They removed about a million voters, that’s what flipped Michigan to the Trump column. That was one of the key items that flipped Michigan.
Sonali Kolhatkar: So this was being implemented as early as 2016
Greg Palast: Yes, in fact, as early as 2013. Michigan was flipped for sure, and then also Georgia itself… Brian Kemp, the Republican Secretary of State, who’s now governor, he’s done something that even the Wall Street Journal editorialized saying that it was immoral, for Brian Kemp to be in charge of the voter rolls while he’s running for governor — even the Wall Street Journal.
I’m the only reporter, working with Rolling Stone and Democracy Now, that actually got those lists. I turned them over to a team of experts and they were able to go through the list name by name, obviously with a sophisticated computer operation, and they determined that 340,134 voters were illegally removed. I want to repeat that. That’s a third of a million voters in just the state of Georgia we can say with absolute certainty were illegally removed from the voter rolls.
Sonali Kolhatkar: And he won that state. He beat Stacey Abrams b, what, 50,000 votes?
Greg Palast: Yeah, 50,000 votes after removing a third of a million voters of color. Go to GregPalast.com and type in Christine Ford. I was there in Atlanta filming for Salon and Democracy Now, and Christine Ford is the 92 year old cousin of Martin Luther King, Jr. She was thrown out of the polling station in Atlanta because she’d been flushed off the voter rolls by Brian Kemp. They had no record of her voting.
It was going to be her 50th year of voting at the same voting station. You have to understand, she voted the first time in 1968, the year her cousin Martin Luther King was murdered. It was going to be her 50th year of voting and they removed her from the voter rolls.
You’re talking about a mass ethnic cleansing in Georgia. But understand that Brian Kemp and this lawsuit opens up access to his internal files because he’s deep involved in removing voters of color nationwide.
Sonali Kolhatkar: So together with Kris Kobach, Brian Kemp, basically tried and succeeded, until your lawsuit in Georgia, we don’t even necessarily know what they’ve done in other States with this Crosscheck list yet.
Greg Palast: Well, luckily… those who know me know I’m an old-fashioned investigative reporter. You can tell by the hat I’m wearing if you’re watching this on TV. One thing we did is we got some of the lists from Brian Kemp’s office out of the back door. So we ended up actually knowing that, for example, in Michigan, Brian Kemp and Kris Kobach actually organized the removal of probably around 60,000 voters.
Remember Donald Trump won Michigan in 2016 by supposedly only 10,700 votes, but they removed all these black voters. I flew to Michigan for Democracy Now and confronted the Secretary of State who got the lists from Kemp and from Kobach. And I said, look at this, you’re removing Michael Anthony Brown supposedly cause he’s the same voter who voted another state as Michael Johnny Brown. I said, are you aware that Michael Brown is kind of a common name for black people? He said, oh, I don’t know that, there’s a lot of white guy’s named Brown…
They were using this last name match in Michigan and in other States to remove voters of color. You have 835,000 people named Garcia in the United States according to the census. They were removing Jose Garcias and Joe Garcias all over America. And who’s going to defend them? One place there’s no defense is the Democratic party. They haven’t done anything. I will say this, Stacey Abrams, who ran against Kemp, took my evidence and declared — the first time I’ve ever heard of Democratic party candidate say this — I won this race, but I won’t be inaugurated. They used Jim Crow tricks and here’s Greg Palast’s investigative material. We have 340,134 people removed illegally in Georgia.
She is going into federal court separately from me, but using the data that we uncovered, she’s going to federal court to have that law changed. As a journalist, I don’t change laws. I expose the bad stuff, but I left it to Stacey Abrams to actually try to get a federal court ruling that this type of racist tactic is in direct violation of the National Voter Registration Act. So it’s astonishing to actually have a politician — well, now she’s running an not-for-profit group called Fair Fight — pick up these stories and run with them and try to get the law fixed.
But I appreciate the opportunity here on Rising Up to tell this story so that people will understand we still have an apartheid voting system in America.
Sonali Kolhatkar: So if this lawsuit has now resulted in Kemp having to turn over his information, what’s the next legal step? If it can be proven, which I imagine would be fairly easy, that Kemp himself won by cheating it calls into question his entire position.
Greg Palast: Well, here’s the thing, as Stacy Abrams says… And by the way, it’s not a minor thing, that she’s the very first African-American woman to run for governor in the United States. I’m not just talking about Georgia, I’m talking about New York, California. We never had a black woman run for governor in America. And she said, look, I won. I just won’t be inaugurated. And, a big problem that we have in the United States, except in rare cases, if you win an election, even by stealing it, it doesn’t get overturned. Basically because the guy who steals the election becomes the election cop. This is the problem. You have Donald Trump’s Justice Department, which is supposed to protect us from this type of Jim Crow vote thievery. But you have to understand it’s happening not just in Georgia and Michigan and Kansas, but it’s happening in Ohio…
And I just came back from Wisconsin, I should tell you, where a right wing group is suing the state to force them to purge a quarter million people off the voter rolls. Almost all of them Black folk in Milwaukee. And talk about an unusual situation for Greg Palast, the state of Wisconsin has actually asked me for help in protecting themselves. Cause I have the information… They don’t have the technical capabilities of my investigative group. We have 15 experts who work with Amazon, work with eBay. Amazon, by the way, I hate to say it, knows exactly where you are at any minute. They never send the wrong tighty whities to the wrong address. They always get it exactly right. So Amazon’s experts volunteered and I use their computer methods and systems to go through these purge lists name by name…
For example, in Georgia, Brian Kemp said these third of a million people had moved out of the state. The people who work with Amazon and eBay said, no, no, no, we have exact proof that these people live exactly at the place they registered. They never moved away. Christine Jordan, Martin Luther King’s cousin had never moved from her house in her entire life. She’s 92. She was born there. She’s still there. She’s never moved. But Amazon’s people were able to prove it going name by name.
They know where your pizza was delivered last week. They know what cable shows you watched last night. They know what credit card purchases you just made. They know exactly where you are. I hate to say it, there’s no privacy here anymore. But it also means that Brian Kemp ignored this evidence. We presented this evidence to Kemp and said you are removing people illegally. And he said: Sue me. And we did.
Sonali Kolhatkar: That’s so cute. So Greg, now the big question is, we are back again in a very critical election year, this time a general election. Trump is seeking any means to win reelection, from trying to dig up dirt on the person that he thought was his political rival, Joe Biden, to seeking his supporters in New Hampshire to vote in the open primary that the Democrats are holding so that he can pick the weakest candidate for him to beat. I mean, there’s even news on Tuesday morning, the Associated Press found that Trump’s secret service was essentially meant to stymie the movements of Democratic candidates throughout the state. He will stop at nothing to get reelected. What are you most worried about, both in the primary and the general races this year?
Greg Palast: Well, let’s start with the general. If Donald Trump’s elected by the people, well that’s democracy. I’ll live with it. But if he’s elected by Jim Crow tactics, which is what happened in 2016. And by the way, if you watched my film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Case of the Stolen Election, the latest version, which is free on Prime, that really tells you how he stole the election by removing voters of color on a mass basis. And I’m worried about this again. We’re talking a third of a million voters in Georgia, absolutely. By the way, it’s not a scientific sample. We went through every single name, name by name, to determine where people were, legally, whether they’d actually voted twice or not. No one did that. No one. And then they removed 60,000 in Michigan, they’re trying to remove a quarter million now in Wisconsin. A quarter million voters! This is where the state’s asking for my help because it’s a new Democratic administration. I don’t help politicians, but I do get the information.
A quarter million voters, black voters, mostly out of Milwaukee and Madison, they’re gonna remove them. Trump only won that state by 22,000 votes. So this is 10 times as large as his margin. They do not want people to vote. Ohio’s removed half a million people. We have a mass purge that’s about to occur in Florida, another swing state. Arizona. Why is Arizona a red state? It is a minority-majority state, but they are blocking Hispanics from voting, so you’re seeing a mass purge of voters. I know some people are concerned about Russians, but it’s not Russians that are purging the voter rolls of Arizona and Wisconsin.
It’s right-wing groups and right-wing politicians, which are removing voters of color because voters of color vote blue. That’s their color. And young people… we are finding, for example, that one of the groups that’s targeted heavily are voters 18 to 24. They’re saying, well, we can’t confirm their addresses — they’re students, they move around.
My daughter was a Georgia resident in the Stacey Abrams election. She went through hell to be able to vote because she moved rooms. They know that. But the federal law is supposed to protect you. The problem is that the federal kind of voting police, the civil rights division, is under the control of Donald Trump.
Sonali Kolhatkar: What about California, Greg?
Greg Palast: Oh boy… Now close your ears if you’re a Democrat and you are just a true believer because unfortunately the Democrats do it too. But Democrats do it against each other. So in California, are you ready for this? There were officially 3 million what are called provisional ballots cast in 2016. 3 million people went in and found their names missing from the voter rolls in some way, and they canceled [their vote]. They gave them provisional ballots, and almost 2 million of those ballots were thrown in the garbage. You thought you voted, you didn’t if you voted on a provisional ballot.
No one was arrested as being an illegal voter. Why didn’t they count those ballots? These are people illegally removed from the voter rolls, given these fake provisional ballots, they’re thrown away. Half of the provisional ballots in the United States, over a million, were thrown away in the state of California. I hate to say this, but by the raw numbers, there is no state which is more expert and more vicious at vote suppression than the state of California. Alex Padilla, the so-called Democratic Hispanic Secretary of State, has been an absolute pro. He’s been the Brian Kemp and the Katherine Harris of California.
Sonali Kolhatkar: And the vote suppression that the Democrats might be engaged in in California is what? To keep Independents from voting in Democratic primaries?
Greg Palast: Absolutely. What happens is that almost everyone in California votes Democratic. And by the way, if you’re a Californian and you’re Independent, that is you’re what they call in California a no-party preference, NPP voter, cut it out already. You’re a Democrat. If you want to vote the Democratic primary, you better register as a Democratic cause it’s hellacious to try to vote [if you’re not]. It’s possible, but they make it hellacious to try to vote in the Democratic primary unless you’re registered as a Democrat. For good reason. The California Roper poll, which is the gold standard here in California, says that three quarters of Independent voters who want to vote Democratic — three quarters — support Bernie Sanders.
They know that if the Independent voters are allowed to vote in the Democratic primary, Sanders walks away with it. So what they’ve done is, in California, yes, you can technically vote in the Democratic primary, but you have to know the magic word. If you’re an Independent voter, you have to go to the polling station with your ballot — and the envelope. A woman in front of me showed up with her ballot to turn it in to ask for Democratic party ballot. They said, where’s your envelope? They wouldn’t let her vote. So you have to go through this procedure and if you ask for a Democratic party ballot, your vote will be disqualified. Disqualified! Okay? Because it has to say “crossover democratic party ballot”.
Now, if you’re listening in the rest of the nation, you think this is nuts. No, it’s not nuts. It’s called stopping Bernie. Last time, in the 2016 primary, are you ready for this Sonali? Three quarters of a million ballots were never counted in the 2016 primary. That’s officially, from Alex Padilla’s office. That was on their website, ‘cause they listed the voting details. Then I called Alex Padilla’s office for The Guardian… I said I want a more detailed breakdown on why these three quarters of a million votes were not counted. Almost all of them were Independent votes, that is Bernie ballots. I said, “Why weren’t they counted?” His response was simply to remove the information from his website.
So we have a big problem in California. It’s really one of the vote suppression leaders in the United States. But here, instead of aiming at Black folk, they aim at Independent voters and at young voters. So please, understand the process of how you vote. And by the way, Bernie Sanders, I’ll be very honest, did a very terrible job of explaining to people if you’re Independent, which most of his voters, how you vote in the California primary.
Sonali Kolhatkar: So let me just reiterate then. You were saying, if you are an NPP voter or No Party Preference voter, you have to bring the ballot that you might’ve received in the mail, if you get it in the mail, plus your envelope and ask for a “crossover Democratic party ballot”. Or you have until February 18th to change your official party affiliation to Democratic if you want to ensure that your vote in the Democratic primary does count.
Greg Palast: Now, understand, if you register as a Democrat it doesn’t mean you have to vote Democrat in the general or anywhere else. It just means you have the right to vote in the primary without getting hassled, without having your vote thrown out.
Just so you know, in Los Angeles in 2016 there were 66,000 ballots which were about to be disqualified because they were Independent voters who received Democratic party ballots. They didn’t say “crossover Democratic party ballots”. Cause the nice lady behind the table, she doesn’t know these wacky rules. Someone walks in and says, “I’m Independent, I want a Democratic party ballot.” She says, “Oh yeah, here’s one.” Well, it’s about to be thrown out. Only the County of Los Angeles in all of California, only the County said, you know what? Those are legitimate voters. We shouldn’t go, gotcha, and throw out their ballots. So 66,000 ballots in Los Angeles were saved for Bernie.
However, well over a quarter million — and I want to repeat that, a quarter million ballots — were thrown in the garbage because they’re Independent voters. Independent voters who got Democratic party ballots that didn’t say the word “crossover“ on them. And in some cases, like in Santa Rosa and in Orange County, they would not give you that crossover ballot, they would give you a provisional ballot. And, as you know, in California, if you’re not entitled to a provisional ballot, if you’re not a registered Democrat and you didn’t take a provisional crossover ballot, they will not count it. They don’t count it.
So Bernie won. I’m sorry Bernie won in 2016 in California. They just would not count his ballots. And it could happen again. The Sanders campaign, and I give him credit for this… This is not an endorsement of Bernie, but… finally… they heard the word from last time and they’ve now sent out this giant six page form that you fill out that will get you the requested crossover Democratic party ballot. So Bernie’s getting more sophisticated.
It’s not a matter of whether you’re for Bernie or against Bernie. Let’s count all the votes. Even Bernie ballots deserve to be shouted, don’t you think?
Sonali Kolhatkar: Well, Greg, I want to thank you so much for joining us today. And I want to mention that you and I will be appearing at a KPFK event for our Los Angeles listeners. We’re going to be hosting Laura Flanders, the incredible independent journalist, at an event on February 22nd. It’s a Saturday, from a 1:00 PM onwards at the Palos Verdes Art center, 5504 Crestridge Road. I’ll be hosting it, Greg will be our special guest. Greg, thanks for all your work and I’ll see you on the 22nd.
Greg Palast: See you there and thanks for this wonderful broadcast.
Sonali Kolhatkar and Greg Palast will be hosting Laura Flanders’ special appearance at SoCal’s Palos Verdes Art Center for KPFK’s Speaker Series on Saturday, February 22 at 1 pm. Tickets cost $20 and are available via Eventbrite. The event is a fundraiser for KPFK.
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The Palast team is completing work on our short film of how exactly Brian Kemp illegally eliminated 340,134 voters from the rolls, stealing the election from Stacey Abrams. The Palast film then takes us to Wisconsin where the “Kemp” techniques are at the center of a push to block 247,000 voters, mostly Democrats, and thereby keep Wisconsin, the swing state of swing states, in the Trump column.
Help us complete our investigation, dig into the purge lists and finish this film. It’s not about candidates, it’s about democracy. Donate $1,000 and you’ll be listed in the credits as a producer, $500 as a co-producer, $100 as a supporter or simply donate what you can and you’ll get a signed copy of the film! We have a team of 15 — there is nothing like it in US journalism — digging into the heist of 2020.