America’s Stolen Election Process

The imperial fraud that has corrupted our electoral process seems finally to be dawning on a broadening core of the American electorate—if it can still be called that. This shift is highlighted by three major developments.


1. The NAACP goes to the United Nations


In early December, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the largest civil rights organization in America, announced that it was petitioning the UN over the Republican attack on black and Latino voters. In its landmark report entitled “Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America,” the NAACP took on the Jim Crow tactics passed in 14 states that are designed to keep minorities from voting in 2012.


The report analyzes 25 laws that target black, minority, and poor voters “unfairly and unnecessarily restrict[ing] the right to vote.” It notes “…a coordinated assault on voting rights.” The NAACP points out that this most recent wave of voter repression is a reaction to the “historic participation of people of color in the 2008 presidential election and substantial minority population growth according to the 2010 consensus.”


It should be no surprise that the states of the old Confederacy—Florida, Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina—are in the forefront of repressing black voters. Three other Jim Crow states with the greatest increase in Latino population—South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee—also implemented drastic measures to restrict minority voting.


The report documents that a long-standing tactic under fire since the 1860s—the disenfranchisement of people with felony convictions—is back in vogue. This has been coupled with “severe restrictions” on persons conducting voter registration drives, reducing opportunities for early voting and the use of absentee ballots.


Most of these new Jim Crow tactics were initially drafted as model legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive conservative corporate policy group whose founder, according to the NAACP, is on record in favor of reducing the voting population in order to increase their own “leverage.” The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that the 25 laws passed in these 14 states could prevent as many as 5 million people from voting, a number easily exceeding the margin of victory in numerous presidential elections. Ohio’s HB 194, which awaits a 2012 referendum vote, would disenfranchise an estimated 900,000 in one of the nation’s key battleground states.


An important statistic in all the legislation is that 25 percent of African Americans lack state photo identification, as compared to 15 percent of Latinos, and 8 percent of white voters. Other significant Democratic constituents—the elderly of all races and college students—would be dispropor- tionately impacted.


Ohio voters have just repealed a draconian anti-labor law passed by the GOP-dominated legislature and the state’s far-right governor John Kasich. Whether they will do the same to this massive disenfranchisement remains to be seen. But the fact that it’s on a state ballot marks a major leap forward. Ohio activists are also drafting a constitutional amendment that includes revamping the registration, voting, and vote count procedures.


2. The Justice Department awakens


On Friday, December 23, 2011, the U.S. Justice Department called South Carolina’s new voter ID law discriminatory. The finding was based, in part, on the fact that minorities were almost 20 percent more likely than whites to be without the state-issued photo IDs required for voting. Unlike Ohio, South Carolina remains under the 1965 Voting Rights Act and requires federal pre-approval for any changes in voting laws that may harm minority voters. The Republican governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, denounced the Justice Department decision as “outrageous” and vowed to do everything in her power to overturn the decision and uphold the integrity of state’s rights under the 10th Amendment.


The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the requirement of a photo ID for voting. Undoubtedly, the attempt by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to challenge this will go to the most thoroughly corporate-dominated Court in recent memory. The depth of the commitment of the Obama administration to the issue also remains in doubt.


3. The EAC finds that voting machines are
    programmed to be partisan


On December 22, 2011, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) issued a formal investigative report on Election Systems & Software (ED&D) DS200 Precinct County optical scanners. The EAC found “three substantial anomalies”:


·       Intermittent screen freezes, system lock-ups, and shutdowns that prevent
the voting system from operating in the manner in which it was designed

     ·   Failure to log all normal and abnormal voting system events 

·   Skewing the ballot resulting in a negative effect on accuracy


The EAC ruled that the ballot scanners made by the ES&S electronic voting machine firm failed 10 percent of the time to read the votes correctly. Ohio is one of 13 states that requires EAC certification before voting machines can be used in elections. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported in 2010 that the voting machines in heavily Democratic Cuyahoga County had failed during testing for the 2010 gubernatorial election. Cleveland uses the same Republican-connected ES&S ballot scanners—the DS200 opti-scan system.


Ohio’s Mahoning County, home of the Democratic enclave of Youngstown, also uses the DS200s. The same opti-scan system is used in the key battleground states of Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New York, and Wisconsin. Voting rights activists fear a repeat of the well-documented vote switching that occurred in Mahoning County in the 2004 presidential election when county election officials admitted that 31 of their machines switched Kerry votes to Bush.


A flood of articles about these realities—including coverage in the New York Times—seems to indicate the theft of our elections has finally taken a leap into the mainstream of the American mind. Whether that leads to concrete reforms before another presidential election is stolen remains to be seen.  


 Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection, including How the GOP stole America’s 2004 election (Free Press).