It’s been a rough primary season, and the presidential election is going to be even worse if thousands of voters can’t vote because their names have been wiped off the rolls. And voters can't rely on political parties to save their votes, so they're going to have to learn how to protect their vote themselves. And that's precisely the point of Greg Palast new book, How Trump Stole 2020. In this interview, Act TV host Julianna Forlano talks to Palast about the book and the invaluable vote-saving info it contains.
Julianna Forlano: It’s hard to believe, but the 2020 election is basically right around the corner. It's been a rough primary season, but the general is going to be even harder to stomach if thousands of voters can't vote because our names have been taken off the rolls or because they closed down our polling places. But according to today's guest Greg Palast, that is a very real possibility. Greg's new book, How Trump Stole 2020, will be out soon on July 14th. Greg is known for his investigative reports for the BBC, The Guardian, Rolling Stone. He has other bestsellers, I'm sure you know, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Greg, thanks for coming on the program today.
Greg Palast: Glad to be with you. And I want to tell people that even though my book is called, How Trump Stole 2020, I encourage you to get it now because it's your antidote to the Trump-demic. It’s basically how we can bust the burglary. And the reason I say it's already been stolen… you have to understand Juliana that in the last two years, 16.7 million people, almost 17 million people have been purged, removed, erased from the voter rolls. So you're going to try to get your mail-in ballot and you don't get it. I mean, the biggest problem of mailing in a ballot is if you don't get the ballot, you can't mail it in. So 17 million people have lost their right to vote. Very few of those 17 million know it. You're going to go in, you're going to try to vote, you’re going to try to get an absentee ballot and you won’t get it. Or you'll wait in line three hours and you'll say, Oh, I didn't get a ballot and they'll say, because you're not registered anymore. They're going to give you something called a provisional ballot, which is pretty much a bouncing ballot. One of the dirty secrets of American democracy is we don't count all of our ballots. So for example, 3 million people were shunted to provisional ballots in 2016, this is the government’s figures.
Forlano: I was one of those people.
Palast: And just short of 1 million of those ballots cast provisionally were thrown in the garbage officially. That's the official count from the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission. A million ballots thrown in the garbage — just provisional. And by the way, New York and California are bad on throwing away ballots. But the problem is not just everyone's ballot’s thrown in the garbage, you’re 250 to 300% more likely to lose your ballot or get a provisional ballot and have it thrown out if you're Hispanic or African American than if you're white. So you're two and a half times more likely to have your ballot just thrown in the garbage if you're not a white voter.
This is the game that’s being played, but we can bust it. First of all, read the book, How Trump Stole 2020, so you can un-steal it. And then second, at the back of it, there's 7 Ways to Beat the Ballot Bandits. That includes something everyone should do while they're watching this in the corner of the screen, if you're a multitasker or wait until after, check your registration, for God's sake. Millions of people are not registered. In fact, the book opens with a 92-year old woman, Christine Ford. I was with her at the polling stations in Atlanta, Georgia. She’s 92 years old and this was going to be her 50th year of voting at that station. 50 years of voting at one station. And they said, no, you can't vote here this time, you’re not registered. They literally wiped her off the registries. I was there in Atlanta. Her niece was in tears, totally freaking out. So I went to her house that evening and I see all these pictures of Martin Luther King, and I said, Oh, did you get to see King preach? She says, well, no, he just came over after dinner, because she was Martin Luther King's cousin. Martin Luther King's cousin, 50 years of voting, same place, thrown out. So she didn't check her registration beforehand. Why would she?!?
Forlano: Why would she after 50 years? I think people that are watching, myself included, are like but I just voted. That’s what happened to me last time when I was kicked over to provisional. I got there, same place I always voted, and they're like, we don't know who you are. And then the next time they did, which is highly unusual. I don't understand how that even happened. I thought, that’s odd.
Palast: Yeah, it's happening all over…. Yesterday I spoke with Neil Rosenstein who's the chief voting rights attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group. His daughter was shoved over to a provisional ballot. Even with an expert lawyer with you you can't save your vote sometimes. So I'm asking you to try to save it now because on Election Day, even if your daddy's a big shot voting rights lawyer, they're going to shunt you to that bouncing placebo ballot, the provisional ballot. The reason I call it placebo ballot is that it lets you think you voted, when, of course you haven’t.
Forlano: You opened the book by letting America off the hook for voting for Donald Trump, which I thought was very kind of you. Can you explain how he lost both the popular vote and the electoral college but he remains our president?
Palast: When I say he lost the electoral college, what I mean is if you counted the uncounted votes in America — and I just told you about votes that don't get counted in America — if you counted the uncounted votes and you allowed people to vote who were blocked from voting. This is our big problem, we still have apartheid elections in America.
Let me give you an example, let's take a couple of states, Wisconsin and Michigan. Now, as you know, Trump only won because he squeaked by in Michigan with 10,700 votes. In Detroit, he’s supposedly won by just 10,000 votes out of 5 million cast? The answer is 75,355 ballots were never counted in Detroit. Now, how did that happen? It happened because they vote on paper there and 87 of the scanning machines in Detroit broke down. They didn't work, they didn't read the ballots… You can fill out a ballot, but if it's not read by the scanner, it doesn't count. Now, you could say, well, we don't know who the people of Detroit voted for. Motown? Motown, these are Trump voters?
Forlano: They ain’t voting for Trump. I'll tell you that right now. How come we need a machine to look at a piece of paper in order to verify it?
Palast: Now you’re getting even closer. In the book there’s a chapter called “Michigan, Michigass.” The 87 scanning machines that broke down, when they broke down in Detroit… the city clerk of Detroit before — and I want to emphasize before the election — told the state we have old machines, they're going to break down, we need money for new machines. But the Republican governor at the time, Rick Snyder said meh. Because they were in bankruptcy, Detroit was not allowed to buy new machines without state approval. The state wouldn't give them approval because of the Republicans, and of course, 87 machines broke down. 75,000 Detroiters lost their vote, and of course it's Motown. I actually spoke to some of these voters, Carlos Garcia, who's a systems analyst there, a young, Hispanic voter, he's in a precinct that's basically young people and voters of color — that’s it. And for two hours he saw like a hundred ballots thrown into a machine, bypassing the broken scanners so the votes didn't get counted.
Jill Stein tried to get those votes counted. Remember people talking about the Michigan recount? It wasn't a recount. It was an attempt to count those ballots that had never been counted in the first place. And Donald Trump blocked the count because Hillary would have won Michigan absolutely — no question. Donald Trump went to court to block the count saying Jill Stein is not allowed to count the uncounted ballots. Jill Stein can't do that, cause you can count them a hundred times, she’ll never win. It's only up to Hillary Clinton. The court asks Clinton's lawyers, do you want these ballots counted? And her lawyers said, oh, we're just here to observe. Which of course was her campaign slogan.
Forlano: Why on earth did she not have them counted?
Palast: Tell me about it… Some people remember that I'm the reporter that broke the story in 2000 about how Katherine Harris, who was the Republican Secretary of State, it was George Bush versus Al Gore, and Bush became president of the United States by literally just 537 votes. But that was after they knocked out about 58,000 black people from the voter rolls of Florida saying that they were felons, criminals, not allowed to vote at the time. In fact, not one, zero, were Illegal voters, but their crime was voting while black — and that elected George W. Bush as president. And here we are, again, with the same type of games, removing voters of color from the voter rolls…. In 2000 it was illegal to ask a voter for their ID. Americans were trusted, you went and you signed your name and we didn't have massive fraud, but now we have voter ID laws…
Supposedly Donald Trump won Wisconsin by 22,000 votes, a fragment out of 3 million cast. But here's the problem, the uncast votes, the votes that were never cast because two weeks before the presidential election in 2016, Michigan changed its voter ID laws. It now required a state photo voter ID. Fine, except here's the problem; They defined what is the legal voting ID, but a student ID from the university of Wisconsin, even though it's a photo ID issued by the state, does not count… So two weeks before the presidential election in ’16 they changed the voter ID laws of Wisconsin, and say they have to have a state photo ID to vote. But the state photo ID issued by the university of Wisconsin to 182,000 students did not count. Suddenly you lost 180,000 students. Plus the new ID law disenfranchised about 50,000 African-Americans mostly in Milwaukee, because you could use your driver's license, but if you are a low income urban resident in Milwaukee and you take a bus and you don't own a car, you don't have a driver's license — you just lost your vote. So this is how Trump won Wisconsin, won Michigan, Pennsylvania, same games. And now he's taking it again, but we can bust the burglary. That's what I'm telling people.
Forlano: We're going to get to how do we bust it besides, right now — like literally right this second — going to check on the internet whether you are registered at this moment. Greg is suggesting that everyone do it, even if you just voted yesterday in the New York primary or whatever…
Palast: Because that's the other thing, a lot of people asked for mail-in ballots and didn't get them and they're wondering why. And it could be that you have been removed from the voter rolls and you don't know why. Now back in 2016, 125,000 residents of Brooklyn were illegally scrubbed from the voter rolls.
Forlano: This one! Me!
Palast: And the New York Public Interest Research Group sued and got people back on after the fact, after the election.
Forlano: Do you know if they were mostly Democrats? Because I had just voted for Bernie in the primary… I'm like, I wonder if they're scrubbing Bernie people out of Brooklyn?
Palast: This is a continuing problem. And while I write about the Trumpetos, and it's mostly the GOP which has been stealing votes from voters of color and young people… Because if you get rid of voters of color and young people, obviously that favors the GOP. However, I do have a chapter on how Democrats remove young people and voters of color, but that's because they're trying to win primaries in California. I'm in LA, where in the People's Republic of California there's only one party, the Democrats, but it's really two parties. There's the old line with Jerry Brown… And you'll see in my chapter in How Trump Stole 2020 called “California Reamin’” how the Secretary of State of California who was helping run the campaign first for Hillary Clinton, then for Joe Biden. He’s running the campaign while he's running the election for the state. And over half a million Bernie Sanders voters lost their votes. It was unbelievable.
I did that analysis with the top voting statisticians in California, half a million Bernie Sanders voters did not get…. In California how it works is they mail you a ballot, but if you're one of the 4 million independent voters view, if don't ask for a special ballot that allows you to vote in the Democratic primary, which you're entitled to do by law, you get a ballot without the presidential candidates. So you had over 3 million people receive ballots without Bernie Sanders name on it and they freaked out. But this was engineered by the state of California. So, in other words, I'm telling you, yes, the Democrats do it too. However, the Democrats do it to each other… They knock out Hispanic voters because, as you know, Bernie Sanders, Tío Bernie was the choice of the Hispanic voters in California. They had to knock it out. So while the book is truly nonpartisan, or it goes after everyone, it's important to understand that we do have this tremendous problem still of racism in voting in America. And that's what we're trying to go after. We’re back to the question, do black votes matter?
Forlano: I was just going to say that, but I wasn't sure we were like allowed to do it. I wouldn't want to offend a movement, but you know, it leads to Black Lives Mattering, they're synonymous.
Palast: Actually LaTOsha Brown, cofounder of Black Votes Matter, asked me to join her. I was giving a lecture actually at Harvard University a few months ago, by Skype of course. And when you see what happens, for example, in Atlanta… I was just on the phone the ACLU of Georgia, speaking to Andrea Young, who's their Executive Director. She points out if you take away people's votes, then you have these police killings, you can't take away people's lives unless you take away their family’s votes and their community's votes. Cause otherwise they'll do something about it. If you're going to kill people's kids, you better take [CHECK 17:20] the right to vote, to stop you from doing it. It all goes together.
Julianna Forlano: What is with the fact that there is literally no outcry over what is happening? I mean, I'm out crying now and I'm hoping that the people who are watching on our platforms and anywhere you go to speak will begin an outcry… Are we just emotionally unable to have an outcry over something that's like a longer term issue?
Palast: Well.. here's the problem. The truth is that vote thievery or voter suppression as some people call it. I don't say that, ‘cause if someone steals your car, you don't say my car has been suppressed. Vote thievery, vote suppression, it's a racial issue for the most part. And so if it ain't your race, you're not going to get too shaken up. Plus, I got to tell you, think about it, if you really let everyone vote, as we discussed with the California example, you'd have a very, very different Democratic party. It would have a very, very different look. So they're not too crazy about it. But the truth is you can't rely on political parties to save your vote. The incumbents got elected by the system that's there. You change that system and they won't be incumbents anymore. It doesn't matter what party… And you can't say that no one's taken up the cudgel in the Democratic party. We do have Stacey Abrams.
Forlano: I was just going to ask about that. You’ve worked with her.
Palast: Yes. Stacey Abrams hired the Greg Palast investigations team to help her in federal lawsuits with her nonpartisan organization. I couldn't give her any help while she was running for office, and if she runs her office again, I can't give her any help because I'm nonpartisan. But the important thing there is that we had a Democratic party politician who for the first time in my memory actually stood up and said, I would have won my election if not for these racist Jim Crow tactics. And she specifically cited my work in the book. In How Trump Stole 2020, I have an interview with Stacey Abrams from a couple of years ago, which is really good…. She wasn't running for anything and we could just talk without her being politically careful.
And then I went to see her opponent, Brian Kemp. Now the reason I make fun of his accent, and I don't make fun of Southern accents per se. But his I do, because he just made up this accident. He used to have a very soft, Southern, Jimmy Carter, New South accent. Then he decided to go full hayseed to run for governor. And he used to have blue suits and the red tie, the New South look. Then he changed it for farmer shirts and an old jeans and a big shotgun. He bought himself a pickup truck and he had these commercials — and I'm not exaggerating by the way — he goes, “I've got me a pickup truck, so I can round up illegals myself and bring ‘em in if I have to.” …These kind of racist dog whistles, et cetera. He was in charge of the voter rolls of Georgia, Brian Kemp… Remember at the beginning of our program, we talked about Martin Luther King's 92 year old cousin, he removed her from the voter roll and another 340,000 other people illegally.
I caught him, I busted him. And at least Stacey Abrams said, if not for removing these 340,000 of my voters, I would have won because there's only a few thousand votes difference. The problem is that it's great to hear from Stacy Abrams, who was the first black woman ever to run for governor of any American state. That's great. And I've heard from people like Alcee Hastings, the Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus. I would like to hear from the Congressional White Caucus, that's what we're missing. We need those white leaders to step forward. They’re seeing it too much as a racial issue to the point where a lot of African American politicians, including by the way Barack Obama, didn't want to touch the issue publicly. Because it is seen as so much of a racial issue. I think it should be seen as an American issue.
Forlano: Everyone said Barack Obama is our first black president. The right was like he's black, oh my God. I wish he would have just embraced those issues. He had an opportunity, it's too bad he shrunk from that position.
Palast: Well, I wished that he'd take a different position, but that's not my job. I will say, you have to understand his position… running as the first black man for president. And by the way, I'm not guessing because I was writing for Rolling Stone with Bobby Kennedy. I can't call up Obama, but Kennedy could. And basically he understood exactly what was going on with the theft of the vote. But his view was you just outvote them. Now, in his case in 2008, I calculated very, very carefully that he was ripped off by about 5.9 million votes, but he won, he just crushed the steal. As you'll read in the book, he did it in ’12, he crushed the steal. That doesn't mean that votes weren’t stolen. ‘Cause they say, well, what about Obama? So his view is don't cry, overcome it.
I want to tell you that there couldn't have been a state more hostile to young voters or African American voters, then Wisconsin under Scott Walker, the Kochs toy boy governor. Under Scott Walker and the Republican legislature, which did everything on the planet to erase black voters and stop student voters, change IDs. Wisconsin voting was something like Alabama in 1956 and yet Scott Walker was thrown out on his Keester. This important: They can't steal all the votes all the time. And it's very important that you protect your vote and the votes of people you know, Again, check your vote, get the book, How Trump Stole 2020… And by the way, I'm unashamed to advertise it because 100% of proceeds go to my foundation, the Palast Investigative Fund.
Forlano: Well, we’re here to help you promote it… Greg, what can we do to make sure we don't fall pray to this voter purging? I know at the end of the book you had some suggestions. You made the one right now, go and make sure you are registered, even if you think you are, make sure that you definitely are. Question: are people finding out that they are not registered and then when they reregister, then they're more likely to be on the rolls if they register…
Palast: Here's the trick, they purge you off the rolls, but they're not that sophisticated. If you resign up, it’s very, very rare that they'll take you off a second time. Because what happens is they now have a record, what's called a “contact”. It's very strange the voting biz. If you make a contact, as they say, to your voting office, to your Board of Elections or whatever, and that could just be checking to see that you're still registered, that protects your registration. So literally going on the site and putting in your name will also preserve it…
That included me. I went in and I checked because I was showing on air on another program how you do it. You go to the Secretary of State's office, your Board of Elections, you type in your name, address, birthday, and it said, Greg Palast, no such voter here in California. So I re-signed up again and I got my vote and I got my ballot in the mail….
And that's the other thing I want to talk about, the dangers of mail-in voting. Now, people misunderstand, when I talk about the dangers of going postal, they think I'm saying don't mail in your ballot. Well, here's the problem, you don't mail in your ballot and you stand in line for five hours with sick people, you could die. I don't want you to die voting, but I don't want you to lose your vote either. So number one, you better check your registration so that you don't end up in the position where your ballot never arrives. Second, chase down your ballot. Some states allow you to hunt down the status of your request for a mail-in vote. If you don't get a card in the mail that says “do you want a mail in ballot?” It looks like junk mail so you might miss it. So again, just like you have to go and re-register, you have to go and request that mail-in ballot and when you get the mail in ballot, for God's sake… Now here's the rough one, 22% — that’s more than one in five mail-in ballots — never get counted my friends. Never get counted. Twenty-two percent! That's according to the MIT/CalTech study of absentee ballots. The number one reason that mail-in ballots don't get counted is that you don't receive them in the first place. Also, if you have moved at all, and I mean even in your own building, while the law says you don't have to reregister, if you move within your same neighborhood, you are a fool if you don't re-register. Even if you've registered and moved in the same building. Because number one, if you're doing a mail-in ballot and you've moved, you ain't getting the ballot.
Forlano: How much time do we have to reregister before November? When's the cut off?
Palast: In the lovely America every state is different. In most cases, it's usually 30 days before. New York has a longer period of time. So always check, always check. Check now and then check again before the election, usually 30 days before the election. So you want to check at the end of September. Now I want to be careful about that. Cause I believe in New York and some other places cut off is much, much longer before the election. Some states now, like California for the first time, have same day registration, but I wouldn't start trying to register to vote on Election Day, unless that's your only recourse… Weirdly in California, they didn't tell people who came in to vote, by the way, if you're not on the voter rolls, instead of filling out a provisional ballot, we'll just register you right now. You can be registered right on the spot. So please do that if you have that chance.
Forlano: What are some of the other things that people can do so that we don't as a country fall prey to this voter purging?
Palast: I want everyone to be careful when you get the mail-in ballot. It's dangerous, dangerous stuff because it's not just a pick and lick. You don't just pick a candidate, lick a stamp and send it in. You now have this envelope that you have to fill out every single item on the envelope, in some cases 15 items, including it says driver's license number. And a lot of states, if you have no license, you better say “no driver's license.” If you leave it blank, you lose your vote. Find out how many stamps you need… You’re going to lose it all if you don’t. A hundred thousand lost their vote because of postage due.
Forlano: Wow. That is absolutely insane.
Palast: There's a bunch of things you can do, but the main thing is check your registration, check your ballot when you fill it out and if you're not getting your ballot in the mail, you'd better hunt it down. Even though in many states they're not allowed to ask you for ID, if you're black and you're young, you better bring your ID ‘cause they're going to ask you for it. For example, if you're not a first time voter in New York, you should never be asked for an ID. Neil Rosenstein’s daughter, I won't give her name, but he's the New York Public Interest Research Group’s voting rights lawyer, his daughter was not only denied the regular ballot, but his daughter was also asked for a photo ID, in New York, where it's illegal to ask for an ID, except for a first time alert. This is what they do, 67% of black men get asked for an ID when they go to vote, even though in most states there is no voter ID requirement.