Grand Theft Electoral: Aborted Recount Effort Shows US Elections Are Broken, Recount-Proof and Audit-Proof
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
It’s one thing to abstractly claim that US elections are a farcial exercise to legitimize the rule of a bipartisan imperial oligarchy. It’s quite another to publicly lay bare some of the stinky moving parts of that farce. The attempted recount initiated by 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein did exactly that, starkly illuminating 3 facts
- that US elections are intentionally and fundamentally broken and rigged, recount-proof and audit-proof;
- that both the capitalist parties like it that way (for differing reasons of course), and;
- that state and federal courts are willing to issue patently absurd rulings from the bench to keep it that way.
The 2016 presidential election was certainly stolen both on and before, and after election day.
It’s absolutely certain that voters were disappeared by the millions in the months leading up to the election. It wasn’t the Russians that did this.
For some time now, Republicans have found themselves in a demographic dilemma. They are unable to get substantial numbers of Latino or black voters, and the numbers of their base constituencies are declining. So for a generation standard Republican strategies have included making Democratic voters and votes disappear by the thousands and hundreds of thousands at state level, and by the millions on the national scale.
In the months leading up to the 2016 election millions of likely Democratic voters were prevented from registering by voter ID laws and uncooperative local registrars. Spurious police raids and criminal prosecutions hindered voter registration drives, and Republican sponsored private initiatives like CrossCheck, a database designed to provide the excuse for state election authorities to challenge legitimately registered voters with names similar to voters or alleged felons in other states. All these measures combined to remove a seven figure number of voters from the rolls across the country.
It’s likely that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions more votes were made to disappear on election day. Russians didn’t do this either.
The tactic of sending all the old and broken down voting machines to ghetto precincts and the newer ones less likely to break down to whiter Republican ones is a standard move practiced by election authorities in large and diverse counties and cities from coast to coast. In the case of Detroit, the state has long since relieved residents of even the pretense of self-government. Detroit and Flint have their own mayors, city councils, election authorities and the rest, but their budgets are all subject to approval by officials appointed by the state’s Republican governor. The same crop of state appointees who decided Flint residents should drink from their poisoned river, denied Detroit’s request to spend some of its own money on new voting machines.
In Detroit and much of Wisconsin too, voters mark their choices on paper ballots which are fed through optical scanners that count the vote. Or not. The aborted recount effort revealed that an astounding 59% of all Detroit’s voting machines failed election day, and more than 75,000 ballots went uncounted. Similar patters appeared in Flint, and in Dearborn Michigan, the largest concentration of Arab American voters in the US. Trump only carried Michigan by 10,000 votes.
It’s clear that state and federal courts intervened to abort any recount before detailed and damning evidence could be developed in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Some things don’t change much. The specious “reasoning” behind legal rulings which aborted meaningful recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan is roughly on a par with the quiz questions Dixiecrat registrars once used to fend off black registrants. They’d ask prospective black voters how many bubbles were in a bar of soap. It was good enough then, and it’s good enough now.
Michigan’s attorney general made the astounding ruling, seconded by state court judges, that Detroit’s paper ballots must not be examined by humans, who might easily determine the intent of those 75,000 voters. Wisconsin officials didn’t allow their recount to go as far as Michigan’s. They left it to each county whether the supposed “recount” would be accomplished by human observers tallying the paper ballots, or feeding the paper ballots into the same broken machines, or simply reading the totals the broken machines had coughed up on election day. The proposed recount in Pennsylvania was kind of a joke from the beginning, since the majority of that state’s voters are forced to use audit-proof DRE or Direct Record Entry machines which record voter choices directly to electronic media with no recountable permanent paper record.
A federal district court judge in Michigan summed it all up when he declared that “…a recount as an audit of the election has never been endorsed by any court…” Current law then holds that so-called “recounts” are utterly meaningless, and it’s perfectly OK for elections to be unaccountable and not subject to any audit whatsoever. You wouldn’t run a taco truck business without an audit. But an election?
Wisconsin eventually halted the recount with Milwaukee, the state’s largest concentration of black voters NOT recounted by hand, declaring that since Stein was not within striking distance of a win in that state, she had no standing to ask for a recount in the first place. Think about that.
First, if being in contention is a requirement for asking a recount, then NOBODY on earth could get a recount except Hillary Clinton herself, as if the election results were her personal property rather than the expression of the will of the people. Second, why didn’t Hillary Clinton’s campaign sieze upon the persuasive indications of widespread fraud to mount challenges in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and for that matter Alabama, Georgia, Arizona, Indiana, Florida, Texas and other places where tens or hundreds of thousands of presumably Democratic votes vanished or went uncounted?
Why didn’t Hillary Clinton expose the massive interstate tampering with ballots in largely black constituencies?
Hillary’s campaign was forced to send token observers to the recount effort. Hillary partisans operating without the campaign’s permission did the original research and drew up a Wisconsin petition alleging foreign intervention as the reason a recount was needed – a petition which Stein carelessly endorsed, to the embarrassment of most Greens. Some 150,000 small Democratic donors funded the Stein recount effort. Team Trump had suits in court and boots on the ground everywhere in the three states recounts were attempted. Hillary’s campaign had the money to e orchestrate challenges a dozen states, and to launch a sustained campaign to expose the national pattern of electoral apartheid centering upon black and Latino communities. But they didn’t.
Evidently the one percenters who call the ultimate shots for the Democratic party just don’t much respect the millions of black and Latin voters in places like Detroit and Philly and Jacksonville who provide that party with what Donna Brazile and others call its “base vote.” It’s a lot easier, and far more in line with the capitalist one percenter self-interest and world view to blame the Russians.
The attempted recount showed the need for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote.
Democrats in the 70s, 80s and early 90s failed to consolidate the victory won by the Voting Rights Act of 1967. While they held the moral and political high ground for a generation, Democrats, including black ones failed to nail their victory permanently into the nation’s fundamental law by amending the US Constitution to include a specific right to vote. So little by little racist authorities encroached upon voting rights by refusal to comply with motor voter laws, by prosecuting clerical errors by voter registration and absentee ballot drives as felonies, gerrymandering, voter ID laws and administrative machinations.
Democrats John Kerry and Barack Obama, both serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee resisted the pleas of voting rights activists to filibuster the appointments of Justices Roberts and Alito, neither of whom made a secret of their extreme right wing views. So a few years later with Obama in the White House the Supreme Court was able to gut the Voting Rights Act.
Given the current briar patch of voter ID laws, gerrymandering, CrossCheck databases, felony disenfranchisement restrictions on who can vote and when, black box voting, and machinations of state and local officials, along with courts declaring voters have no right to an auditable election the only way to clear the obstacles to voting rights, to make every vote count and ensure every vote is counted is by amending the US Constitution. Other nations have constitutions that spell out a right to vote, along with the right to a clean environment, a quality public education and more. Why not here?
Did the attempted recount damage the Green Party?
Certainly not. Stein asked the Green steering committee to be a fiscal sponsor of the thing, and they wisely declined. If the Greens had done this, they’d have enabled large donors to drop tens of thousands of bucks at a time into the effort to fund the recall, a move that goes entirely against the declared intention and tradition of the Green party. The dispute among Greens over aspects and ramifications of the recount and the aftermath of the 2016 has sparked a lively national discussion among Greens on how to make the Green Party more small-d democratic,and sustainable. That can only be a good thing.
The Green party’s refusal to sponsor the recount meant it had to be funded by small donors. That was another good thing. According to the Stein campaign about 150,000 individual donors kicked in an average of less than $50 apiece to pay for the recount effort. Those small donors who habitually give to Democrats, but once on the list of the national and state Green Parties, whom the Stein campaign is pledged to share its database with, they can be directly addressed, messaged and contacted by state and local Greens. In the near term, a significant number will be converted. After all, Democrats would NOT stand up for their own voters or their own alleged principles.
The Stein campaign has pledged to donate leftover funds to voter integrity efforts around the country. It would be good if some of those efforts specifically target the communities which were disenfranchised, and it seems essential that some or most of these efforts be run by Greens and not Democrats. Some wide awake Greens need to step up here.
Was it necessary? Did the whole thing really have to be done?
Only if you imagine taking part in elections is meaningful in the first place.
In 2017 local Green parties will be working with candidates for municipal and local offices, for school boards and alderman and mayors and county commissioners. If the Green Party knows widespread vote tampering is taking place in 2016 and does nothing about it, how can we look local activists in the eye and tell them they ought to run for mayor and school board in 2017? That would make us hypocrites – almost Democrats.
The recount reminded millions of people, in a tangible way that the Green Party exists as an alternative to the two capitalist parties. The corporate media work long and hard to keep any left alternatives beyond the pale and out of the political discussion. The attempted recount put us in that discussion in a way that would not otherwise have been possible. And for those paying attention, it delegitimized both Republicans and Democrats, and makes the case for something completely different.
The attempted recount was a good thing. It demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt not only that this was a stolen election, but that the laws, the courts, corporate media are complicit in an bipartisan electoral crime wave of national proportions targeting communities of color. Our job now is to tell that story again and again so it becomes common knowledge, and the foundation for whatever transitional demands, like amending the US Constitution, that we can organize around for the near future.