16.7 million men and women have been purged from the US voter rolls in an act which may well decide the 2020 general election for the incumbent US President Donald Trump, according to research and analysis conducted by award-winning investigative journalist Greg Palast.
Mr Palast has covered voter disenfranchisement for many years and his latest book How Trump Stole 2020: The Hunt For America’s Vanished Voters examines the myriad of methods being used to deprive millions of US citizens from exercising their franchise.
Mohamed Elmaazi: What exactly does it mean to be “purged from the voter rolls”?
Greg Palast: “Purge” – remove, erase, disappear, vanish or otherwise screw a voter out of their registration. It’s the main, stealth means of fixing elections.
Example: in 2000, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida ordered the purge of 94,000 voters from Florida rolls, calling them “felons” barred from voting. I obtained the purge list for the BBC and The Guardian. What I found is that not one voter purged was illegally registered but most were Black. The result, Jeb’s brother George Bush was elected President by 537 votes in Florida. In other words, without the illegal purge, Bush would not have been elected.
And today, the story is worse as The Purge has spread to pandemic proportions nationwide…
Elmaazi: According to your new book How Trump Stole 2020 you write, “Between 2014 and 2016, the number of voters purged for moving their residence had soared to 16,696,470 — one in 12 registered Americans”. That’s a shockingly high number.
Palast: Thank you for being shocked. I’m also shocked though I’ve been in the vote-thief-hunting biz for two decades.
Elmaazi: How do we know for a fact this many people have been purged from the voter rolls? And how do we know for a fact that the vast majority have been purged wrongly?
Palast: You think I just make this up? Nope. The number of purged, 16,696,470, is from the US Elections Assistance Commission the agency which tracks votes— and non-votes. It’s hidden in plain sight. I realise it’s a lot to ask a US reporter to look up facts in source documents — but I consider myself a British journalist, born in the USA.
And my team of 15 has done something no other journalist, oddly, has thought of: Have experts go over every single name on a purge list to determine who has been wrongly tagged for losing their vote. Technically, governments claim these voters have moved out of their state or county — so they can’t vote in that county. But have these voters actually moved?
I got the experts who verify addresses for Amazon and EBay to work with me, going over every single name of those purged in Georgia and Wisconsin — and we’re doing more states. We’re doing all the swing states with major purges… Wisconsin, Georgia, Ohio, Michigan, others. In Georgia, we found that the GOP Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, wrongly purged exactly 340,134 Georgians (most Democrats, of course) just before his run for Governor. The wrongful purge elected Kemp over Stacey Abrams. In Atlanta, I filmed Ms. Christine Jordan as she was booted from the polling station. This is Martin Luther King’s 94-year-old cousin — wrongly purged. She’s never moved from the house where, 50 years ago, King would join her for Sunday dinner.
Palast: Jeez, then you won’t read the book! I’ve identified 12 key ways they steal the vote. (If you want a summary, check out the 48-page comic by Ted Rall I’ve inserted in middle of the book.)
The dirty little secret of American elections is that we don’t count all the ballots — and we sure as hell don’t allow every citizen to vote. In total, no less than 5,872,857 ballots were cast and never counted in 2016. In addition, a minimum of 1,982,071 voters were blocked from casting their ballots.
That is a total of 7,854,928 votes and voters left uncounted in 2016. 2020 will be worse.
Example: Besides the millions who lose their vote to The Purge, officials simply don’t count all the ballots. They call this “spoilage” or “undervotes” or “overvotes.” It’s an extra mark on your ballot. They disqualified and rejected 1,913,369 ballots. Most likely to be rejected: mail-in ballots. An MIT study [from 2010] says my estimated is way low: MIT says a mind-blowing 22 percent of all mail-in ballots never get counted.
Then there are the “provisional” ballots. If you’re White, you’re probably never seen one of these. In 2016, 925,973 of these provisional ballots were cast then rejected.
Elmaazi: Why will 2020 be worse? Because there will be more mail in ballots?
Palast: Two reasons: First, the purges have accelerated: 16.7 million in the last two years — and a million more expected this year.
Second, 22 percent of mail-in ballots, according to MIT, are never counted. Therefore, the massive increase in mail-in votes will mean massive number of uncounted ballots. The big losses: low-income and young voters (i.e. Democrats).
Elmaazi: Who does this hurt and who does this benefit and why?
Palast: Now you’re asking the right question. If the number of ballots and voters disqualified were random, we wouldn’t care. But it’s not random: Voters of colour, young voters, low-income voters and renters — Democrats mostly — find their registrations or ballots voided, disqualified, not counted.
Check this out from the book [How Trump Stole 2020]:
Forced to use provisional ballots
African-Americans vs. White 282%
Asian-Americans vs. White 284%
Hispanic vs. White 300%
Also, your genitalia may also determine if you get shoved to the provisional ballot:
Women vs. Men 152%
And that’s why I confronted that faux redneck Brian Kemp — this is in the book with photos — ”Are you purging Black voters to steal this election?”
Kemp refused to answer, so I guess we’ll never know.
Elmaazi: Is this legal? Have there been any court cases over this issue?
Palast: No, it’s not legal, at least according to my lawyers and the lawyers I work with at the ACLU and at Stacey Abrams’ [voting rights organization] Fair Fight. But “illegal” is not a bar to the crime of vote manipulation: because, if you steal an election, you take control of the vote police. Who is going to bust Trump’s Purge’n Generals… his dissolute Attorney General Barr?
Elmaazi: Why do you think the Democratic Party has not made a massive deal out of this, especially given the fact that it appears to damage their political party’s chance of success?
Palast: I have a chapter called, “Silence of the Democratic Lambs.” Maybe it’s explained by the fact that Democrats are themselves nasty practitioners of racial vote larceny. In my chapter, “California Reamin’,” I explain that, in terms of raw numbers, no Republican officials comes close to the sheer number of votes disqualified (over a million in each of the last two presidential primaries) by the California Democratic voting chief, Alex Padilla.
Elmaazi: What, if anything, can people do to address these types of mass voter disenfranchisement?
Palast: Get the book and pass it around. I’m not kidding. You have to un-stupid yourself; learn what the hell is going on; get the facts. And at the back of the book, we have a tear-out “Ballot Condom” — with instructions — “7 Ways to Protect Your Vote.” And besides, it’s a fun read… if you find the bloody death of American democracy “fun.”
I try to make the painful truth as painless as possible.
Mohamed Elmaazi is the founder and editor of The Interregnum. Based in the United Kingdom, he also contributes articles to Open Democracy UK, The Real News, and The Canary.