The Pathos of Politics (86-3) US Voting Irregularities

 US Voting Irregularities

Voting is the bedrock of democracy. Through the vote, citizens choose leaders, sway policy, and generally influence democracy. By contrast, citizens who don’t vote can be ignored. ~ American political scientists Zoltan Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi, & Lindsay Nielson

The US runs an undemocratic regime. In many US states, convicted felons cannot vote: a disenfranchisement based on the idea that violators of society’s rules should not be allowed to help set them, irrespective of having paid their debt to society. This exclusion ensures that felons, most of whom are black, are forever the legal underclass, unable to ever recover their basic civil rights. Over 6 million Americans have been stripped of their voting rights because of felony disenfranchisement laws.

The United States is an outlier. Its suppression of voting rights violates human rights. ~ international elections monitor Aubrey Menarndt

Crystal Mason, a black woman, cast a provisional ballet at her local church in Texas for the 2016 election. Her vote was provisional because Mason’s name could not be found on the voter registration rolls.

Crystal’s name was purged from the rolls when she went to prison, but Crystal did not know that. ~ American attorney Alison Grinter

For trying to exercise her supposed right to vote, a Texas judge sentenced Mason to 5 years in prison. Meanwhile, a white woman who had fraudulently tried to vote twice for Donald Trump got 2 years probation.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote is a fundamental right. It is the duty of the Federal, State, and local governments to promote the exercise of that right. ~ 52 United States Code (USC) §20501(a)

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Computers have been used in US elections since the 1960s, when punch cards and computerized card readers and tabulators were introduced. Computer experts have warned all along about the hazards of computerized voting, to no avail. From all around the country for over a half century to present day, numerous instances have been documented where electronic voting systems went awry. The only response has been to intensify the computerization of elections.

 Florida 2000 Presidential Election

In violation of the US constitution, the 2000 presidential election was awarded to the Republican candidate, George W. Bush, by the Republican majority of the supreme court. The court did so by stopping a vote recount in Florida while Bush held a slim lead: 537 votes out of 5,825,043 votes cast.

The Republican-led government of Florida had already laid the groundwork by denying the poor and minorities the right to vote – the clear majority of whom would have voted for the candidate of the opposition party: Al Gore, a Democrat. At least 12,000 voters had been wrongly purged from the voter rolls. The election supervisor in a Florida county was one of them. Unlike the election supervisor, who knew in advance and had the mistake corrected, other voters had no idea they would be denied their right to vote until they showed up at the polls.

The election totals in Florida had been rigged, as 2 counties illustrate. At 10 pm, Gore led Bush 83,000 to 62,000 in Volusia county. An hour later Gore’s total had dropped 16,022 votes, owing to a negative vote at a voting precinct. There were other tallies in that precinct that showed that the vote had been jiggered. Another country, Brevard, posted results that lessened Gore’s vote by 4,000. Voting officials blamed the discrepancies on faulty memory cards which were used to electronically record votes from the fault-prone punch-card ballots used.

Florida is always a crucial state in presidential elections. In 2000, Florida’s governor was Jeb Bush, the younger brother of George W. Bush. In the run-up to the 2000 election, Jeb studiously ignored his duty to faithfully execute the state’s election laws, despite a known practice of irregularities in the voter registration rolls.

In the aftermath of the election, an investigative commission found “widespread voter disenfranchisement,” and concluded that an “overall lack of leadership in protecting voting rights was largely responsible for the broad array of problems in Florida during the 2000 election,” in violation of federal law. Nothing was done about it.

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There’s so much trickery involved. ~ North Carolina resident Lee Jackson (58 years old), who doesn’t bother to vote anymore

The United States is unique in allowing state laws and officials to govern and run federal elections. The supreme court dismantled key federal protections against discriminatory practices in 2013. Since then, jurisdictions with a history of systematic racism, whose elections used to be subject to federal supervision, have shut down 20% more voting stations per capita than in the rest of the country.

Voter identification laws serve as an effective barrier that limits the legitimate participation of racial and ethnic minorities and other disadvantaged groups. ~ Zoltan Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi, & Lindsay Nielson

Selective voter disenfranchisement has long been part of the American election landscape.

Concerted state efforts to prevent minorities from voting and to undermine the efficacy of their votes are a feature of our country’s history. ~ SCOTUS Justice Sonia Sotomayor

For decades, Republicans have vigorously disenfranchised voters through various measures, including making voter registration more difficult for those who don’t own homes, and not providing enough voting stations in poor and minority districts. They do so because Republicans tend to lose elections as more people vote. In one instance, a woman who had voted in elections since 1948 could not register to vote in 2016.

GOP senators were giddy about the prospects of suppressing minority and college voters. Elected officials planning and happy to help deny a fellow American’s constitutional right to vote in order to increase their own chances to hang onto power. ~ American Republican political aide Todd Allbaugh

(GOP is an acronym for “Grand Old Party,” which used to refer to Democrats until after the Civil War. The Republicans appropriated GOP for themselves in the 1870s.)

Like other Republican-controlled states, Kansas officials do their best to deny the right to vote to those who might vote against them. For the 2018 election, Republican election officials moved the single voting station for Dodge City out of town, citing road construction. Dodge City, with a population of 27,000, is 60% Hispanic.

There is barrier after barrier after barrier being created. It is just one example against citizen participation in our democracy. ~ American civil rights activist Micah Kubic

Voter suppression isn’t only about blocking the vote, it’s also about creating an atmosphere of fear, making people worry that their votes won’t count. ~ American politician Stacey Abrams

There’s a lot of liberal folks who we don’t want to vote. We want to make it more difficult. ~ Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith in 2018

In 2018, in a 5-to-4 decision, the Republican majority in the supreme court (SCOTUS) endorsed Republican efforts to purge voter rolls, and so improve their hold on power.

Congress enacted the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) with the express purposes of “increasing the number of eligible citizens who register to vote” and “enhancing the participation of eligible citizens as voters.” Congress acted against the backdrop of substantial efforts by States to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters, including programs that purged eligible voters from registration lists because they failed to vote in prior elections. The court errs in ignoring this history and distorting the statutory text to arrive at a conclusion that not only is contrary to the plain language of the NVRA but also contradicts the essential purposes of the statute, ultimately sanctioning the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against. ~ Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in dissent in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute (2018)

In contrast to rabid voter-purging states, 41 states use voter registration databases over a decade old that go without upgrades or security checks.

There is significant fraud in American voting, though the extent is unknowable, as partisan election officials run an opaque process. As states do not cross-check registrations, duplicate voting is easily accomplished.

(Perhaps the best-known contemporary case of voting fraud was the 1997 mayoral election in Miami, Florida, where diddled absentee ballots changed the outcome. Some other instances of asserted fraud were either well-done enough to elude damnation (St. Louis in 2000) or politics by other means (1996 US House of Representatives race in Orange County, California).)

What is known is that ballots are falsified or discarded on a whim, after the vote is known to election officials. (The author had his mailed-in vote discarded, ostensibly because the signature was disapproved, even though it matched the signature on his voter registration.) Especially in districts with a lot of poor voters, electronic machines tend to break down and votes go uncounted. States forbid recounting when recounts are most needed.

The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do. ~ Joseph Stalin

The US uses ~350,000 voting machines. All fall into 1 of 2 categories: optical-scan or electronic (direct-record). Optical-scan machines store digital images of cast paper ballots on a removable memory card – which may be altered or switched out, as is known to have happened in Florida in the 2000 election. All electronic voting machines are connected to networks which can be hacked. Regardless of voting machine type, states don’t conduct decent postelection audits to check whether the tallies are accurate.

Rigging vote counts is just one way to subvert elections. Another way is to target voters, by tampering the registration rolls. This too has been done, repeatedly.

The American voting-machine industry is an oligopoly of 3 companies with close political ties to the Republican party, and a revolving door between machine vendors and election officers. The industry provides electronic voter registrars as well as voting machines. The criteria for rational criminality are “means, motive, and opportunity,” all of which are ever-present for the people who run US elections.

Voting-machine companies have seized a central role in our democracy. But rather than recognizing that cybersecurity needs to be their top priority, they treat it as a public relations problem that can be dismissed with spin. ~ American US Senator Ron Wyden

14 states use electronic voting machines which leave no paper trail – there is no way to tell whether vote counts are accurate or have been altered. Georgia, which runs a thoroughly rigged election system in favor of Republicans, is exemplary. One Georgia voting precinct with 276 registered voters tallied 670 votes in a 2018 election. Georgia election officials discard absentee ballots when they don’t like the vote. This corrupt tallying comes after various methods to suppress voting by those not inclined to vote Republican. Georgia is merely exemplary of state elections systems run by Republicans.

There is no federal agency, such as the Department of Homeland Security, that concerns itself with the veracity of elections. State and local officials responsible for elections admit the process is subject to irregularities, but paradoxically insist the system is fundamentally sound. Efforts to investigate are roundly denounced as a threat to democracy.

For years, Republican leaders have pushed the lie that voter fraud is a huge issue. Interestingly, all that fraud seems to plague only urban neighborhoods, minority communities, college campuses, and other places where large numbers of people might vote for Democrats. The purpose of this manufactured hysteria is obvious: to delegitimize Democratic voters and justify Republican efforts to suppress their votes. ~ Elizabeth Warren

Unsurprisingly, Congressional Republicans have repeatedly voted against measures that might help states improve their voting systems, including refusing to provide funding to ensure ballot counting.

The ‘security’ of American voting machines is so bad.  ~ Dutch software security expert Victor Gevers

Without question, our voting systems are weak and susceptible. We also know that our foreign adversaries – including Russia, North Korea, Iran – possess the capabilities to hack them. ~ American software developer Jack Braun

There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections. The effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton. ~ US Senator Richard Burr (Republican) & US Senator Mark Warner (Democrat), heads of the senate intelligence committee

Trump lost the election, and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf. ~ US President Jimmy Carter

In June 2017, American government intelligence specialist Reality Winner was imprisoned for leaking secret government evidence that the Russians had hacked American electronic voting machines in the 2016 election. 39 states were affected, but no public disclosure was made about whether the outcome was altered. (There should be little doubt that Russia’s “extensive, sophisticated” effort delivered the presidency to Donald Trump, in that the outcome was determined by slim margins in only 3 states.)

The government is desperate to keep any information about election illegitimacy a secret, for public knowledge would rightly undermine confidence in the US election process.

We are not making our elections any safer by withholding information about the scope and scale of the threat. ~ Mark Warner

One should be skeptical over the manifest circle-the-wagons mentality to what should be a transparent process with open records. Further, systematic denial of voting rights is a matter of record and law, demonstrating that the US election system is corrupted. Finally, constitutional disregard of proportional representation in the construction of its powerful upper house (Senate), and indirect election of presidents, ensures that the US has an ersatz facsimile of democracy which cannot be considered legitimate.

American voter tolerance of its dysfunctional electoral system can only be chalked up to ignorance or indifference. American society is riven by inequities; its politics merely symptomatic. Yet Americans don’t revolt.

Politicians’ incentives conflict with voters’ interests, leaving citizens without any political remedy for their constitutional harms. ~ SCOTUS Justice Elena Kagan

Across the country, the 2018 elections were rife with voter suppression of minorities by various measures (e.g., long waits from insufficient voting machines, Republican election officials selectively denying the right to vote) and suspicious vote tabulations. Fraud is known to have occurred in North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia; in all instances, to the advantage of Republican candidates.

The real theft of American democracy happens through election fraud and voter suppression. And Republicans are the thieves. ~ American political scientist Carol Anderson

Mexico has a more secure and transparent election process than the United States, and Mexico is no pristine model of copasetic election practices.