If we want to ensure our ballots count in November, we're going to have to learn how to take care of our own vote. In this edition of the Thom Hartmann Program, first broadcast on June 25,2020, Hartmann and Palast discuss the problems with mail-in ballots, the pitfalls of voting in the midst of a pandemic — and how you can avoid them.
Thom Hartmann: Will we even be able to vote in November? Greg Palast drops by to share some thoughts… His new book is How Trump Stole 2020: The Hunt for America's Vanishing Voters. The book will be out in a week or three but you can preorder it wherever fine books are available. Greg, first of all, welcome back my friend. And secondly, what's the latest that you're hearing about the primaries that we're seeing with these long lines? Primaries in Georgia, and yesterday we saw the same thing in Kentucky and around the country, these long line primaries will be translated into a disaster in November. What's going on?
Greg Palast: Yeah, I would say so. We had a pretty good imitation of democracy, but we're still a long way from the real thing. We had massive lines and we have to ask why. Look at the color of the people in the massive lines, Thom. In Atlanta, one of my associates actually walked along a line that was nearly a quarter mile long. Now, if you think African Americans in Atlanta just don't have enough sense to stay out of a line of sick people for hours and just enjoy standing in the sun for hours… that’s not what happened. I gotta tell you what happened, the mail in ballots.
Hartmann: I lived in Georgia for 13 years. We lived in Cobb County, one of the Northern Atlanta suburbs, and we lived for about half that time in Marietta and about half that at that time just North of Marietta — and I never waited more than 10 minutes to vote ever.
Palast: You aren’t by any chance, a white man are you? There's one set of lines for black people, and one set of lines for white… Interestingly, I've had three of the top voting rights attorneys in America say that either they or their family had trouble voting. For example, in Georgia, the head of the ACLU in Georgia, Andrea Young, put in for a mail-in ballot 45 days before the election. She got hers, but her husband got his on June 10 — in other words, a day after the election, that's when he received his ballot. So of course he had to then stand in line for hours and ended up with a provisional ballot and fight over that one.
With Stacey Abrams, now here's a good one. I think that it's a bit humid in Georgia, in June, right? So Stacey Abrams, who is Fair Fight, Georgia, she gets her ballot and the envelope that you have to return the vote in is sealed shut. Beause in Georgia they were using the regular envelopes and the humidity sealed up the envelope. You rip open that envelope, you have no choice, and you’ve just lost your vote.
Hartmann: Because you’ve tampered with the delivery system for returning it.
Palast: That's right. And this is going to be a big problem with mail-in voting. Now I want people to understand, Greg Palast is totally in favor of mail-in voting. Safe, don’t die voting. What I am concerned about is that we don't have that system developed in the United States, and in most places outside of Oregon and Washington we have tremendous problems.
Stacey got a ballot with the return envelope sealed, she breaks that, she loses her vote. Now she knows that cause she's a top voting rights attorney, so she knew that she would have to go to her County Clerk’s Office and get a new envelope, believe it or not. But there are thousands and thousands of people who will, for all kinds of reasons, they’ll lose that envelope and they'll make their own envelope — and you’re going to lose your vote. Hundreds of thousands of voters lose their mail-in votes cause they created their own envelope or they messed up the envelope in some way. You have to use that official envelope…
In New York, Neil Rosenstein, the chief voting rights attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group, his daughter, I won't mention her name on the air, she didn't get her mail in ballot. Turns out she was scrubbed from the voter rolls. Her father, the big shot lawyer went with her to try to get her a vote, and they said no, here's a provisional ballot. Go have fun with yourself.
We know what provisional ballots are. I won't say they're never counted. I want to be very careful about that. About one in three or so of the provisional ballots are never counted. But there were 3 million provisional ballots cast in 2016, a million weren’t counted. And I'm telling you, Hillary Clinton's victory was in that pile of a million ballots thrown out. Because young voters and voters of color get provisional ballots about 300% or more often than older white people. So you've got a big problem here with the mail-in, but we can figure out how to do, we can figure out how to fix it.
Hartmann: Well, we’ve got five state that are all mail-in ballots and you've got another four or five states where it's super, super easy. It seems to me that we need to establish voting as a right. I mean, right now it's opt in rather than opt out, if you know what I'm talking about. Is there a movement toward that within the Democratic party?
Palast: There is among the Democratic party, but guess what? They don't control the Senate, Thom, I think you aware of that. We can have all kinds of great ideas. Amy Klobuchar has a bill in, Senator Harris has a bill, a lot of people have bills, but we're going to have to take care of our own vote. We're going to have to have a campaign of education. Things like, don’t use your own envelope. And if it didn't arrive, you're going to have to go down to your County Clerk's office and pick up that ballot.
Hartmann: Or call them and ask for a new one.
Palast: Yeah, if you can get to them and that's always a problem. ‘ Cause remember we're not talking now about a few thousand people asking for absentee ballots, we're talking about states going from less than a hundred thousand absentee ballots to several million, as in Georgia. I'm not going to let them off the hook and say it's not intentional. Because they know what's going to happen here. And they are hostile to the mail-in voters. In fact, things are going the wrong way. Like in Georgia, there's a bill in to prevent the state from sending out cards asking you if you want a mail-in ballot… They're trying to stop people from even being sent a postcard saying would you like to mail in your vote? Would you like to get a mail-in ballot?
This is our biggest problem. The reason that 22% of mail-in ballots don't get counted, according to an MIT/CalTech study — that's one in five votes don't get counted — Is that the biggest loss is people not getting their ballot in the first place. You can't mail in a ballot if it's not mailed to you. By the way, it’s not true, we're not going to get thousands and millions of ballots from Kazakhstan and Russia filled out…
Hartmann: This is Trump’s claim… it’s hysterical.
Palast: Well, I mean, maybe he mailed his ballot to Moscow. I have no idea, but it doesn't go the other way because each ballot has a code on it. And you can't just start mailing in ballots cause they won't have the code or they'll be matched with someone else. I don't even know why I'm talking about fraud and mail-in ballots being mailed from other countries. This is how ridiculous the discussion’s become. It's gone into nutcase-ville because of Agent Orange. So I do want to reassure people; no your mail-in vote won't be flooded out by a bunch of guys from the Ukraine mailing in for Rand Paul. That's not going to happen.
Hartmann: But the bottom line is if you are presented essentially with the choice of either going through the hassle of getting a mail-in ballot, or simply not voting because you're not willing to die in order to vote. Go to the trouble of getting the mail-in ballot, even if it does get screwed up, right?
Palast: Right. And some of it is learning how to fill out a mail-in ballot. It's not just pick and lick you. You don't just pick a candidate and lick the stamp. Number one, you may need two stamps. We had over a hundred thousand mail-in ballots in 2016 deep sixed because they were missing a stamp or two stamps. Like in Ohio, you really need two stamps and people don't know this because again, a lot of these GOP States are terribly hostile to mail-in voting.
Hartmann: Well, here in Oregon the envelope’s are postage page. You don't have to put a stamp on them.
Palast: In Oregon, not in Georgia.
Hartmann: Yeah… I get it. Greg Palast, his new book — and you’re going to want to read it — is How Trump Stole 2020: The Hunt for America's Vanished Voters. It’ll be out in a couple of weeks. Greg, thanks so much for dropping by.