With Dennis J Bernstein
During an interview on Faux News, Donald Trump told Sean Hannity that the November 8th presidential election was going to be rigged. However, he conveniently forgot to mention the inconvenient truth that almost all of the rigging that’s going on is in his favor – and that much of it is being perpetrated by Republican lawmakers, who are taking advantage of a much-weakened Voting Rights Act.
While striking down one particularly onerous piece of legislation in the GOP state of North Carolina – which in addition to requiring voter ID, cut early voting, and eliminated same day registration, out of precinct voting, and pre-registration for those under 18 – the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court judge noted that the measures “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
It comes as no surprise that these GOP laws target people of color, who tend to vote overwhelmingly blue. Indeed, recent polls in Pennsylvania and Ohio have found that Trump is getting absolutely no support – zero, zip, zilch, nada – from Black Americans!
In this week’s Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Election Crimes Bulletin, the Sherlock Holmes of voting shenanigans, Greg Palast, and Flashpoints’ Dennis J. Bernstein discuss the North Carolina decision that struck down the state’s anti-voting law, alongside similar recent rulings in Texas, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. (A more temporary decision, which came down on July 29, also reversed vote suppression measures enacted by Kansas Secretary of State, and Vote-Rigger-In-Chief, Kris Kobach.) But first, Palast and Bernstein address Trump’s “concerns”.
Dennis J. Bernstein: Let’s start with Trump and his claims of potential voter fraud. Here’s what Trump said about his fears:
“I’m telling you, November 8th, we better be careful because that election is going to be rigged. And I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it’s going to be taken away from us.”
He went on to promise “a bloodbath” if the Democrats attempted to “steal the election.” Well, Greg, it looks like we’re back right in the middle of your hysteria factory.
Greg Palast: Every con man does the same thing. They tell you, “Someone’s going to steal your wallet. Look over there.” And then they pull the wallet out of your back pocket. Every single type of vote suppression technique – whether it’s photo ID or requiring you to prove you’re a US citizen – every type of voter suppression technique, which usually suppress the minority vote, are the result of the right wing screaming “voter fraud.”
Why do you need a voter ID? Because someone is going to pretend that they’re someone else and vote? That’s impersonation fraud. Indiana passed the first voter ID law and when they went to court they couldn’t name a single instance in a hundred years of record keeping. In a hundred years, they couldn’t name one single case of someone using someone else’s name to vote – not one! People don’t do it. It’s a federal crime. You go to the slammer for five years.
The same thing with citizenship. Where are these alien voters? People who are here without papers don’t exactly sign up on official documents saying here’s my name and address. We don’t catch alien voters because they don’t exist. But, for example, Kris Kobach, Secretary of State in Kansas – who is by the way Trump’s main man in Kansas and the plane states – he came up with the theory that you had to prove your citizenship. Basically, he was very effective at knocking off 36,000 young voters from the voter rolls.
Most people don’t have papers to prove they’re a citizen. We’re not the Soviet Union. A driver’s license is not a citizenship paper. Young people trying to register to vote can’t find these papers, which is either a passport or original birth certificate, that’s it. So everything is based on voter fraud, the aliens are coming, and the latest one, people double voting. This is another one from Donald Trump. On January 5th, in New Hampshire, he told a crowd there that people are voting many, many times.
This is a claim made by his old childhood friend, Dick Morris, who is kind of a looney, but that doesn’t matter, he’s very powerful. He was an advisor to the first President Clinton. Morris said that people are voting twice, but we don’t have any instances of
it. There have been about three people arrested in the last four years for that, but they are literally knocking a million people off the voter rolls as suspected double voters. So every type of technique to challenge voting – felons are voting, ghosts are voting, dead people are voting – every single claim of voter fraud is paired with a vote suppression technique to purge the voter rolls, or stop people from casting their votes, or to throw out their votes. This is how it works. Jim Crow has gone from scaring off black voters with white sheets to using spreadsheets.
DB: Here we have Trump claiming he’s the aggrieved victim.
Palast: And you know rich white guys are always the victim.
DB: Always. Now we’ve seen some fight back. We see some things happening in the South, there was a court decision in Wisconsin. Give us your sense of where the battle ground is, and what it looks like. What are people up to?
Palast: You had four states in which the federal courts said that the latest voter suppression techniques, or as they would call it, the anti-vote fraud techniques – North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and North Dakota – all had their voter ID laws thrown out. But the real swing states are Wisconsin, where the right wing is claiming that people had to have voter ID so that people wouldn’t illegally vote a second time.
I know of only one single case in Wisconsin in its entire history of someone trying to vote as someone else. The guy tried to vote as his son – he’s a Republican by the way. So the courts finally threw out the requirements for a voter ID that they had. They might bring it back in a modified form. Part of it was because they said that you could use a gun license but you couldn’t use a student ID. University of Wisconsin students couldn’t use their photo ID from the state. And poor people couldn’t use their food stamp cards, which have their photo on them and which are government issued. So poor people couldn’t use their food stamp cards, students couldn’t use their student ID, but you could use a gun ID to vote – okay? And that’s the trick. So the court finally threw it out because the ID law was clearly aimed at trying to eliminate poor and black people, and students.
DB: And they directly called it intentional racial discrimination, the judge didn’t mince words there.
Palast: That’s right. Because under the Voting Rights Act you have to prove that there was an intent to discriminate. And the judge noted that the North Carolina legislature actually asked their Secretary of State for a racial break down of the votes – you like that?
For example, North Carolina reduced early voting, so they asked that the Elections Chief, who is essentially non-partisan but her husband is a general counsel for the Republican party. They said, could you tell us the race of the people that are voting early? Oh, it’s black people. Oh, well, then we’ll eliminate early voting. So the judge said, wait a minute, you asked what the race was, you find out it’s black people, and then you shut it down? You’re telling me that’s not intent?
These terrible laws came in because the Supreme Court ripped up most of the Voting Rights Act back in 2013, which said that before you came up with these cockamamy things like voter ID, those states had to get them pre-cleared by the Justice Department. You couldn’t get away with this stuff. You couldn’t shut down early voting and say there’s no affect on black people. You wouldn’t get away with it.
When that protection went away they just went wild. Literally, Alabama changed its voting laws two hours after the Supreme Court decision. Texas and others, these states changed their laws in 24 hours after the Supreme Court decision. Knowing that a day before they could never get this stuff through, because it just smelled of racism. Now you can still go to court and challenge it, and these judges just stepped forward and said, no, you’re kidding!
North Carolina is absolutely the worst and it is the real battleground state. We’ve talked about these placebo ballots; when your name’s missing they give you this thing called a provision ballot, and then they can easily throw it out. The judge said it’s overwhelming that back people in North Carolina have been given provisional ballots, which are then disqualified. So the judge said you have to stop giving black people these ballots by changing the rules which made it easy for the local officials. As soon as a black person walked in, they don’t get a real ballot, they get the black ballot, the provisional ballot, the placebo ballot. And so the judge ordered an end to that. It was quite amazing and these judges were really harsh. One judge said it was just absolutely, clearly, strategically targeted, because these laws only affect black people.
DB: This is North Carolina, right?
Palast: North Carolina.
DB: And this is an important state. It has the possibility of going to the Democrats. It can go back and forth?
Palast: Yes. See, people think of Florida as a swing state, which it really isn’t anymore because of the vast influx of Puerto Ricans in the last couple of years. It’s now very much a Democratic stronghold. People think of North Carolina as a Republican state, cause it’s Southern, but it is not. It has the research triangle. Obama won it in 2008, lost it in 2012, because of the purge of the voter rolls. The most vicious vote suppression techniques have been implemented there. They haven’t all been thrown out by the courts, but I have hopes they’ll go after the rest. Simple things like they used to give high school students voter registration forms when they graduated. Like, hey, you’re an adult now, please register to vote. Now, not only don’t they give them to students, it is against the law. A teacher could go to jail for giving a student a voter registration form. Can you believe it?
DB: What’s the charge?
Palast: Encouraging a minor to vote. And if you’re a minor, you can’t register to vote now. In other words, if you know the federal election’s right after your birthday, but the close off for voting is 2 months earlier, you used to be able to register to vote, and then if you were 18 by the time the election came, you could cast your vote. The idea is that they are literally trying to take that 17-year old vote, those kids just graduating high school. And they know how they vote, right? It’s not exactly a big group of Trump voters.
Understand, people say, “Well, the Republicans aren’t all that interested in Trump – so why are they doing this?” The answer is, ladies and gentlemen, there is more than one name on the ballot. North Carolina is in a blood battle for who’s going to be the US Senator, Ohio is in a blood battle between Portman and Strickland. So these games are worse in those states where the Senate seat is at stake. It’s the Senate seats that are driving this voter fraud hysteria.
Remember, it’s not just Donald Trump. You have to be sympathetic for him. I’m looking at a picture of him while he’s talking to Sean Hannity, and he clearly fell asleep on his tanning bed. He has really burnt cheeks and really white eyes, he’s totally raccooned! But not everyone’s had their brains fried on a tanning bed that long. You’ve got a guy named Hans von Spakovsky and another guy named John Fund, these guys work with the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation – that’s Koch money, that’s Mellon Scaife money, that’s Coors’ money, all the ultra-right wing billionaires. They are funding this hysteria about vote fraud. That’s why I call the Heritage Foundation, the Hysteria Factory, because they manufacture all these so-called expert papers. They had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about how if you eliminated ID requirements it wouldn’t help black voters. Well, I’m very glad to hear that these very rich, middle-aged, white guys are saying to black people, “Oh, don’t worry about those voter ID laws.” Are they going to drive them to the DMV to get their ID? Maybe they should help out there.
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Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, which will be released as a feature documentary movie this fall. Get your name in the movie credits! The Deadline has been extended to the 30th of July 2016.
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Dennis J. Bernstein is the executive producer of Flashpoints, syndicated on Pacifica Radio, and is the recipient of a 2015 Pillar Award for his work as a journalist whistleblower. He is most recently the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.
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