If there is anything positive to say about the 2016 elections, it's that they have finally forced an end to the official denial of computerized election rigging. In the past month, the fact that our voting technology is a hacker's paradise has been validated by no less than all the major TV news networks: NBC, ABC, CBS, Reuters, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, USA Today,The Hill, The Guardian, Mother Jones, Politico, and a dozen other outlets.
The voting rights struggle led by Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama, marked the beginning of a steady march of progress toward true electoral democracy. Yet 50 years later, we see that progress reversing dramatically since the Shelby v. Holderdecision of June 25, 2013. In that decision, the Supreme Court gutted the "pre-clearance" provisions of the Voting Rights Act and legitimized discriminatory and anti-democratic policy changes in 33 states.
The time has come to translate widespread outrage about voter suppression into momentum for an actionable voting-rights agenda.
The spring of 1966 was a harrowing yet hopeful period in America’s electoral history. In March of that year, the Voting Rights Act survived a Supreme Court challenge from the attorney general of South Carolina. Civil-rights campaigners could finally breathe at least a tentative sigh of relief as public officials across the country began initial preparations for the first federal election following passage of the landmark law for which King and countless others had toiled for years.
Fast-forward 50 years, and the scene is just as harrowing, but—tragically—far less hopeful. Voter-suppression tactics in 2016 are spreading like a virus in our body politic. In the first presidential primaries since the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the VRA and opened the floodgates for passage of voter-suppression laws in states, the impacts are already evident. Whereas voting rights were ascendant in 1966, voter-suppression tactics are spreading in 2016. Whereas Congress was moving in the right direction in 1966, in 2016, it’s often conspicuously absent.
The challenge this year—the 50th anniversary of the implementation of the VRA—isn’t just protecting free and open access to the ballot; it is also rekindling the fire that forced federal action on voting rights. This means reigniting a national movement for restoration of the Voting Rights Act, vigorous federal enforcement of electoral rights, and a reversal of anti-democratic state voter-suppression laws. With our country at a political turning point, time is of the essence.
As The Nation’s Ari Berman and others have methodically reported, the far-right’s well orchestrated voter suppression strategy—focusing on voter ID laws, purging of voter rolls, polling place reduction, and rolling back early voting requirements—has actually resulted in a rekindling of Americans’ 1960s-style resolve in defense of the right to vote. Look at Aracely Calderon, a naturalized citizen from Guatemala, who stood at the back of a 700-person, four-block line and waited five hours to vote in the Arizona primary. Or Dennis Hatten, an African-American Marine veteran, who enduredseemingly endless bureaucratic hurdles to get a Wisconsin photo ID after being told his other forms of identification—including a veteran’s ID—were insufficient under that state’s new draconian voter-ID law. There is no shortage of courage and grit in the face of these abuses.
However, we need more than individual resolve to overcome the systemic injustice of voter suppression. We need a broad-based movement for legislative change. Many voter-ID laws—which 36 states have now enacted in varying forms—will have their first test in the 2016 general election. An analysis by Nate Silver for The New York Times shows that these laws can decrease turnout by between between 0.8 and 2.4 percent—a potentially decisive amount in highly competitive elections. Other academic researchsupports anecdotal findings that voter-ID laws have disproportionate impacts on minorities and immigrants, expanding the participation gap between white and nonwhite members of the electorate.
The time has come to translate widespread outrage about voter suppression into momentum for an actionable voting-rights agenda. The first step is building awareness of the legislative fixes that are available right now.
In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Shelby ruling—which paved the way for widespread state voter suppression by eliminating the requirement that jurisdictions with histories of discrimination obtain Department of Justice preclearance for any changes to voting laws—there was hope that Congress would act to mitigate the damage. Then-House majority leader Eric Cantor traveled to Selma with Representative John Lewis’s civil-rights pilgrimage and declared his intention to find a bipartisan solution. Unfortunately, in the wake of Cantor’s departure, the Republican Congress has balked at even discussing the issue. Both the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendments Act, HR 885, and the Voting Rights Advancement Act, HR 2867, are viable options for Congress to turn the tide against state-based voter suppression tactics. While not a panacea, these proposed post-Shelby VRA fixes would help end voter-access crises of the kind already on display in Arizona, North Carolina, and elsewhere by restoring the preclearence requirement in up to 13 states.
Voter protection is just the start of a legislative agenda for election integrity–which must also address issues like modernization of voting machines, absentee balloting, willful misinformation, felon disenfranchisement, partisan election administration, untrained election staff, and many others. On April 21, we’ll be participating in a special briefing on Capitol Hill—including the Rev. William Barber, Ari Berman, and others—to draw attention to the crisis of election integrity and to identify policy options for restoring our democratic institutions. This is the first of a series of efforts to bring the rising passion for voter protection to the halls of Congress.
The cause of voter protection is unique in that it can unite people from across the disparate areas of the progressive movement. Whether someone cares most about civil rights, campaign finance, climate change, reproductive rights, or global peace—fair and transparent elections are an absolute requirement for success. Election protection demands a fusion movement.
We’ve seen what happens when people are mobilized and organized in strategic action to defend the right to vote. Though African Americans were nearly absent from voter rolls in the deep south in the early 1960s, by late 1966, just four of the traditional 13 Southern states had African-American voter-registration levels under 50 percent. By 1968, even Mississippi had a 59 percent registration rate among African Americans. That progress was directly attributable to an indefatigable people’s movement that achieved tangible legislative change.
This year, voting-rights advocates are rightfully rushing to address the short-term barriers to the ballot box—getting people the required IDs, ensuring the presence of adequate polling sites, and protecting people from being purged from voter rolls. This is essential work. But we must also seize this moment and build broad momentum for a long-term election integrity agenda that can take hold in municipal buildings, in statehouses, and on Capitol Hill.
Friday, 29 April 2016 09:55
By Ben Ptashnik and Victoria Collier, Truthout | News Analysis
Congressional briefings are typically dull affairs, usually with only a few dozen participants, but it was standing room only in a House Judiciary Committee hearing room on April 21, when nine members of Congress, their staff and 200 activists gathered to address the present crisis in US democracy: voter suppression and the manipulation of US elections.
In 2016 - the first presidential election since the US Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act - a slew of new malicious laws and tactics are disenfranchising millions of Americans, even as the private control of US vote-counting technology has come under renewed scrutiny in a primary season marked by allegations of fraud and election rigging.
Nine members of Congress condemned the "new Jim Crow" laws that have been forced on over half the states in the US.
This high-stakes, emotionally charged election cycle has seen widespread closure of polling locations, unprecedented voter roll purges, voting machine failures and extreme waiting lines that cause countless voters to turn away without having cast a ballot. Many have been given "provisional" ballots that are simply not counted. Irregularities in Arizona, North Carolina, Wisconsin and New York have engendered intraparty accusations and lawsuits, exposing a dysfunctional and often undemocratic election process.
The nine members of Congress who spoke, all from predominantly minority districts, loudly condemned the "new Jim Crow" laws that have been forced on over half the states in the US, and which the lawmakers believe were designed to deliberately suppress voters in their districts, particularly people of color, the poor, the elderly and students.
Representatives included the dean of the House and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, and longtime civil rights champion Elijah Cummings. Others who made passionate and sometimes angry statements included Representatives G. K. Butterfield (co-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus), Sheila Jackson Lee, Terri Sewell, Maxine Waters, Marc Veasey, Alma Adams and Hank Johnson.
The briefing's sponsors, the National Election Defense Coalition and the Transformative Justice Coalition, support the urgent call for a new legislative agenda and political fusion movement to protect democracy, restore voting rights and ensure that every ballot cast is also counted in a secure, public, transparent process.
"There is a very insidious, treacherous and deceitful method of voter suppression, and it has to do with the integrity of the voting process itself."
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) brought much needed attention to a crucial aspect of the election crisis: the aging, hackable voting technology used nationwide. Johnson cited the fact that the vote-counting software in these machines is still programmed by a cadre of private companies on proprietary software inaccessible to elections officials and the public.
"There is a very insidious, treacherous and deceitful method of voter suppression," stated Johnson, "and it has to do with the integrity of the voting process itself."
As the Brennan Center for Justice recently reported, the United States' current voting systems are falling apart over a decade after they were bought with $3.9 billion in funds allocated by Congress in the Help America Vote Act. "How many of you believe that we should be using a touch-screen voting machine that is 10 years old, operating on year 2000 technology and software, with no security upgrades available for more than a decade?" asked Johnson.
Johnson touched on the concerns of both voters and candidates in this election season when he discussed the well-known vulnerability of these voting systems to internal error, fraud and outsider hacking -- claims supported by top computer scientists and cybersecurity experts from MIT, Princeton, the US Department of Energy's Argonne National Labs and many others whose warnings have largely been unheeded.
"Can you imagine why we have had elections where polls predicted that a certain person would win the election by five points and then it ends up the person loses the election by 10 points? Well, one possibility, and I think it's a very good one, is that someone's manipulating the counting of the votes. Someone is hacking into these computers that tabulate the votes," Johnson said.
The partisan control of voting technology has been a longstanding concern of Prof. Robert Fitrakis, Ph.D. and J.D., who testified on the widely contested 2000 election, which was marked by voter suppression of people of color, and on his involvement as a lawyer in contesting the 2004 elections, in which the computer architecture of election night was in the hands of far-right-wing partisan companies and election officials.
"The most dangerous thing in our democracy right now is the fact that partisan, for-profit corporations using secret proprietary software provide the voting hardware and the software to register us to vote, count our votes and report election results," Fitrakis said. "I want to know why these private companies who are not using open-source software are counting our votes, registering our votes and then doing the central tabulation."
To save democracy, it's important to both take to the streets and take to the Hill.
This week, to begin addressing some of these problems, Johnson will introduce the Verifying Optimal Tools for Elections Act of 2016 (VOTE Act). The bill calls for state-controlled, open-source programming of all voting technology, and provides more than $125 million in Help America Vote Act grants to assist states in replacing voting machines. The bill would also allocate $50 million in grants for training poll workers, adopting new voting technologies and safeguards, and, crucially, removing control of voting machine source code software from private vendors.
There are also clear legislative strategies for meeting the broader challenge of voter suppression. Congress can act now to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (S. 1659 and H.R. 2867), which has more than 150 co-sponsors in the House and bipartisan support in the Senate. The legislation would restore the Voting Rights Act and help to end the voter access crises.
This battle for democracy comes to a head this year as 32 states have promulgated new laws in response to the fabricated issue of "voter fraud." Sixteen of these states will see their plans go into effect for the first time in the crucial 2016 elections.
"We must emphatically ask the politicians that brought us these new Jim Crow laws to show us the fraud," stated Joel Segal, legislative director of the National Election Defense Coalition and a former staff member for Representative Conyers. He cited a Washington Post report showing that a comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation found only 31 credible incidents of so-called "voter fraud" out of 1 billion ballots cast in the United States.
Barbara R. Arnwine, president of the Transformative Justice Coalition, and former executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, put the current wave of voter suppression laws in the historical context of the poll tax and other attempts to disenfranchise voters of color.
The keynote presenter, Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, and leader of the Moral Mondays protest movement, described the avalanche of voter suppression laws unleashed in North Carolina immediately after the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
Barber also helped lead the Democracy Awakening protests that took place outside Congress on April 18, and saw civil rights organizations, unions, social justice groups and environmentalists all standing together to demand the restoration of voting rights and election campaign finance safeguards.
This "inside-outside strategy" embodied in twin actions -- focusing on official congressional actions and grassroots direct action -- is the strategy that Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists employed to transform the political landscape a generation ago. To save democracy, it's important to both take to the streets and take to the Hill.
The briefing sparked movement in the halls of Congress: Rep. G. K. Butterfield announced that voter suppression would now be a top priority of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Many members of Congress articulated the need to translate widespread outrage about election manipulation into an actionable voting rights agenda that protects the coming general election, and all future elections. It is clear that accomplishing that goal will require a political grassroots movement similar to the suffrage and civil rights movements that expanded the vote franchise in the last century.
Conyers noted with pleasure that the crowd at the hearing was marked by racial diversity, which he said would be needed to support a broad-based movement to restore democracy to US elections.
Congressional staff and organizers are planning a series of field hearings and town hall meetings across the nation aimed at giving voice to citizens who were not allowed to vote in the 2016 presidential primaries, and pushing for repeal of voter suppression laws. The first field hearings will be held in Michigan, Texas, Alabama and North Carolina. Further congressional hearings will be scheduled this summer and fall.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
By WILLIAM BARBER II
President, NAACP North Carolina
Moral Mondays Movement leader
APRIL 28, 2016
Durham, N.C. — ON Monday, Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court in Winston-Salem, N.C., upheld legislation passed in 2013 that imposed far-reaching restrictions on voting across this state, including strict voter-identification requirements. Judge Schroeder justified his decision by claiming that robust turnout in 2014 proved that the law did not suppress the black vote. But in reality, his ruling defended the worst attack on voting rights since the 19th century.
That attack began almost immediately after a 2013 Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder, which weakened Section 5 of the landmark Voting Rights Act. Section 5 required federal pre-approval of changes to voting laws in places with a history of discrimination, including parts of North Carolina. Within hours of that ruling, lawmakers in Raleigh filed H.B. 589, proposing some of the toughest voting rules in the country. Referring to Shelby, one sponsor expressed his relief that curtailing voting protections could move forward now that the “headache” of the Voting Rights Act had been removed. The Legislature passed the bill, and it was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican.
The law eliminated voting rules that had enabled North Carolina to have the fourth best per capita voter turnout in the country. In 2012, 70 percent of black voters used early voting — and cast ballots at a slightly higher percentage than whites. Although black voters made up about 20 percent of the electorate, they made up 41 percent of voters who used same-day registration.
The North Carolina Legislature set out to change those figures and suppress minority votes. Its many impediments to voting all disproportionately affect African-American and Latino voters. None of their attacks would have survived pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. A Republican official defended the law this way: “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”
There never was evidence of voter impersonation to justify the voter ID requirements established by the law. Yet the harm of those requirements is clear: At last count, 318,000 registered North Carolina voters — disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos — do not have a driver’s license or a state ID card.
BY EMILY ATKIN FEB 23, 2016 4:18 PM
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA — When Karen Stallings decided to move her blind, 84-year-old father from Arizona into her home in Virginia, she expected many new challenges in her life. She did not expect voting to be one of them.
And yet, a few months before election day rolled around, she realized her father’s drivers license was out-of-state and expired. And under Virginia’s strict voter ID law, every voter needs an acceptable, unexpired form of photo identification to cast a regular ballot. So in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, Stallings drove her father to the DMV to register to vote and get a photo ID card.
By the time we finally got him up to the window, he was so sick, he fell.
What followed was a series of DMV-related calamities that eventually saw her father in the hospital. Stallings described her experience on Tuesday in front of a Virginia federal judge, who is presiding over a heated trial over the state’s voter ID law. The Democratic Party of Virginia claims the law deliberately suppresses voting by minorities, young people, and the elderly.
“Dad has vertigo, so he can’t sit or stand very long,” Stallings explained. There were only two people ahead of her at the DMV, she said, but it took three hours before someone was able to help them. She informed workers of her dad’s condition — people even offered to switch tickets with her. But they needed a specific window, and a specific person to get the new ID. No one could help, so they waited.
“By the time we finally got him up to the window, he was so sick, he fell,” Stallings said. “He was in the hospital the next day.”
Weeks later, Stallings was informed she’d be able to register her father to vote online, using his passport and a bank statement delivered to her house for proof of address. He eventually was able to vote using an absentee ballot. So all was well in the end — but the hoops she had to jump through made her question the effectiveness of Virginia’s voter ID law, which passed despite no evidence of voter impersonation in the state.
Erroneous Denials and Bureaucratic Bumbling Taking the Franchise Away From Legal Voters
MADISON, Wis. — A new filing in a lawsuit brought by One Wisconsin Institute and other voter rights advocates exposes serious flaws at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the process for providing Wisconsinites with the ID that voters must now produce to cast their ballot at the polls. As part of the voter ID law adopted by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican controlled legislature, individuals are ostensibly able to request a free identification card from the DMV under certain circumstances. But bureaucratic delays and improper denials are preventing otherwise legal voters from obtaining the ID now required to vote.
“There has been a comprehensive, systematic effort in Wisconsin to make voting harder and more complicated for targeted populations by Republican politicians attempting to gain an unfair partisan advantage,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Institute Executive Director. “The documented failures of the DMV to provide legal voters with the ID they now need to exercise their right to vote is yet another sad episode in the assault on democracy underway in Wisconsin.”
The suit, filed in federal court in Madison, outlines more than a dozen policies that have made voting in Wisconsin more challenging for eligible citizens and seeks to strike down various restrictive voting measures put in place by Governor Scott Walker and the Republican State Legislature since 2011.
The latest filing by the plaintiffs notes that in the state voter ID case, the state supreme court held that the DMV had to exercise its discretion under the “extraordinary proof” petition process to permit voters to obtain exemptions for having to pay for birth certificates or other government records needed to obtain voter ID. An analysis of this process and numerous examples shows how this process is resulting in otherwise legal voters being denied the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.
An internal DMV analysis found an error rate of 27 percent, meaning more than one in four petitions to obtain a voter ID under the extraordinary proof process were mishandled between March and August of 2015. The agency admits numerous instances of petitions being suspended because a person gave up in anger or frustration.
And the problem is expected to get worse. The DMV is expecting increased demand for voter IDs this year due to the presidential election and already reports a backlog of dozens of “open” petitions, has cut back on staff, and has no extra staff or budget allocated to deal with the expected increased demand.
The filing includes several examples of how the DMV process is broken, resulting in eligible individuals being denied IDs, and therefore their right to vote, including:
- Refusing to provide an ID to a woman who had lost the use of her hands and couldn’t sign an application. The woman brought her daughter with her to sign the application and even provided her daughter with power of attorney giving her permission to sign, but the DMV did not allow it;
- Denying the petitions of many eligible voters because of minor discrepancies in the spelling of their names or uncertainties about their exact dates of birth—even though DMV acknowledges it has no doubts these disenfranchised voters are U.S. citizens;
- “Turning away” a senior citizen who had been ‘born in a concentration camp in Germany,’ and his German birth certificate had been lost in a fire. That citizen was ultimately granted an ID, but only after extraordinary effort on his behalf to comply with absurd demands by the DMV.
Ross concluded, “When the DMV erroneously denies someone an ID or their incompetence and bureaucratic delays result in a person giving up in anger or frustration, they are denying a legal voter their right to vote. And that is unacceptable.”
# # #
One Wisconsin Institute is a non-partisan, progressive research and education organization dedicated to a Wisconsin with equal economic opportunity for all.
By Ben Ptashnik, Truthout | News Analysis
"Something smells in the Democratic Party," blasted The Des Moines Register in a scathing February 5 editorial, after the unverifiable Iowa caucuses on February 1 ended in an inconclusive photo finish between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The Democratic caucus process, which did not provide voters with paper ballots, left many questioning whether Clinton really won, or whether the count was rigged to favor the insider establishment candidate by her supporters in the Iowa Democratic Party. Is Sanders' outsider campaign the victim of yet another example of the political "shenanigans" that seem to be a growing tradition in US party primaries?
The Des Moines Register, which has endorsed Clinton, took an applause-worthy stand of journalistic integrity (almost never seen) by questioning the voting process that benefitted its favored candidate.
"Clinton campaign officials are trying to shut down the questions, lashing out at Sanders backers for peddling conspiracy theories," reported the Register. "It also doesn't help the optics that the state party chairwoman drove around for years in a car with HRC2016 license plates," stated the Register's most recent article.
The Register explained that in the Democrats' caucus process, voters physically arrange themselves around the room to signal their support for a presidential candidate and are counted by precinct captains. It also noted that in six precincts ties were settled by coin flips, so that a handful of delegates were assigned by pure chance. The entire process made a recount impossible, and a Democratic official confirmed that there is also no recount provision.
"You've heard the old adage 'follow the money.' I follow the vote, and wherever the vote becomes an electron and touches a computer, that's an opportunity for a malicious actor potentially to ... make bad things happen." — Steve Stigall, CIA cyber-security expert, in remarks to the US Election Assistance Commission
Primary election rigging in the coming weeks and months is all but assured if American voters and candidates don't take steps to prevent it now. Evidence that US voting systems are wide open to fraud and manipulation should be taken seriously in light of the unprecedented high-stakes elections we're facing.
Not in recent history have American voters been presented with such radically polarized candidates, forcing a crucial choice for the direction of our future, and possibly upending long-established centers of power.
Local fixers, insider operatives, rogue hackers and even foreign countries could all rig US elections electronically.
It's no secret that US primaries have been tightly controlled by the two ruling parties, usually to the benefit of their favored candidates. If this internal manipulation (some might call it rigging) is not publicly condoned, neither is it loudly condemned.
This year, however, the primary season is shaping up to be a battle royal between the political establishment and outsider insurgencies who are challenging the party elites and defying their usual filters, money and manipulations. And it seems all bets are off.
As a brazen Donald Trump kicks down the door of the GOP, tens of millions in super PAC dark cash has (so far) failed to buy the candidacy for a lackluster Jeb Bush. Accusations abound that Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has stacked the deck for Hillary Clinton. Yet nothing - not even corporate media's censorship or outright hostility toward Bernie Sanders - has blunted his skyrocketing grassroots campaign.
You might ask: What is left, then, for the party powerful to ensure outcomes in 2016? Would any of them be so desperate as to actually rig the final vote count? Could they?
Indeed, they could.
But to be fair, so could a lot of other people. Local fixers, insider operatives, rogue hackers and even foreign countries could all rig US elections - in whole or part, in 50 states and most of the United States' 3,143 counties - electronically, and without detection.
Time and again, the beneficiaries of suspicious primary elections are establishment-favored candidates.
The potential for this vote-rigging cyberwar is the result of an ongoing crisis in US democracy - a silent coup of sorts. Over many decades, US elections have been quietly outsourced to a small group of private voting machine companies, some with extreme partisan ties and criminal records. They have now almost entirely replaced our publicly counted paper ballots with their secretly programmed, easily hacked electronic voting technology.
For example, the Diebold AccuVote-TS Touchscreen voting machine was recentlyanalyzed by Princeton computer security professors. They found that malicious software running on a single voting machine can be installed in as little as one minute, spreading invisibly from machine to machine through a virus, while stealing votes with little risk of detection.
While recent laws have limited essential hand-counting audits - in some cases making them actually illegal - in 18 states voting machines are used that produce no paper ballot at all, making verification of the results impossible.
Threats to the 2016 Elections
In 2016, Americans will once again cast their votes into this lawless electronic void, and no, we can't solve the problem before these game-changing primary elections. But shining a light on our voting systems does make a difference - as does getting out to vote: Voter apathy and ignorance create the ideal conditions for election rigging. Huge turnout makes election rigging less feasible, particularly when the pre-election polls or exit polls diverge more than 10 percent from actual vote returns. Manipulations usually happen when the spread between candidates is smaller than 10 percent.
What evidence do we have that any election rigging has already taken place? As it happens, extensive documentation exists, compiled over decades by researchers, cyber-security professionals, statistical analysts and even government agencies.
If you haven't heard about it until now, thank the press. A longstanding mainstream media blackout on this issue has prevented the evidence from reaching the public and vulnerable candidates.
While the investigations into rigging are mostly nonpartisan, the results typically are not. Time and again, the beneficiaries of suspicious primary elections are establishment-favored candidates. In general elections, far-right and extremist Republicans have overwhelmingly raked in the "surprise upset" wins.
Why Watch the Primaries?
The primaries in particular should be a major focal point of scrutiny by all democracy advocates and supporters of grassroots, populist and insurgent candidates in both parties.
See the eye-opening statistical analysis of vote results from 2008 to 2012 compiled by citizen watchdog team Francois Choquette and James Johnson. Results showed a highly suspect, so far inexplicable gain of votes, only in larger precincts, only for Republicans (and in the primaries, only for Mitt Romney), and only when votes are counted by computers.
Choquette, an aerospace engineer and Republican, writes, "This substantial effect exceeds reasonable statistical bounds and we calculate that the probability of such election results happening by chance is beyond typical or even extreme."
The potential smoking gun is that the votes gained by Republicans or "chosen" candidates in each precinct increase as a function of precinct size (vote tally), not the precinct location, whether in cities or rural areas. This makes no obvious sense based on any known demographic. Once you factor in rigging, however, it starts to make a lot of sense; stealing votes from a bigger pool is less likely to be detected.
By EMILY BAZELON and JIM RUTENBERG
DEC. 31, 2015 New York Times
Over the past year, The New York Times Magazine has chronicled the long campaign that led to the Supreme Court’s 2013 nullification of the Voting Rights Act’s most powerful provision — its Section 5 — and the consequences that decision has had for minority voters. As I’ve written in our Disenfranchised series, the gutting of Section 5 facilitated an onslaught of restrictive new laws that made voting disproportionately harder for minorities across the country, marking the biggest setback to minority voting rights in the half-century since President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard a new case, Evenwel v. Abbott, that could also have a significant effect on minority political power — specifically, Hispanic voting power. Evenwel stems from a case first instigated in Texas by the same conservative group — the Project on Fair Representation — that helped bring about the decision gutting Section 5 in 2013. Like all of these big election cases, the issues involved are complicated, which may explain why Evenwel has drawn less media attention than it deserves; it does not reduce easily into sound bites. But the Court’s decision in Evenwel could be among the most important developments in politics in 2016, and well beyond. This series would not be complete for 2015 without a review of the case. My colleague Emily Bazelon and I have done our best to break it down as simply as possible, trading off segments to explain the main legal questions at play, the potential consequences and the likely outcomes. A decision is expected by June of 2016.
Typically, laws are implemented through the legislative process by our elected representatives. Twenty-six states and Washington, D.C., however, allow for a system of referendums or public initiatives – a sort of veto right for their citizens, and Ohio is one of them. On Tuesday, Ohioans overwhelmingly approved an amendment to their state constitution called Issue 1– calling for a renewal in the democratic process by more fairly drawing up voting districts. In fact, according to Cleveland.com “with 92% of the vote counted this morning the issue was passing 72 percent to 28 percent with ‘yes’ votes in favor of the referendum outnumbering ‘no’ votes by 1.2 million.”
Issue 1 was sponsored by Common Cause Ohio and the League of Women Voters of Ohio to help organize fair districting in the election process, and they are jubilant over their victory. “For so long, these state legislative districts have been drawn to favor one party over the other” said Catherine Turcer of Common Cause. “This is an amendment that does renew faith in the democratic process.” Carrie Davis, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio said: “Ohio voters sent a clear message today…They want districts to be fair and the winners to be determined by the voters.”
This fall, Daily Kos community member Bill Busa exposed North Carolina's sneaky new voter suppression tool in which county boards of elections in the state closed almost one-third of the state’s early voting polling places in 2014, replacing them with polls at new locations. The result of moving those early voting locations: African American voters found themselves 350,000 miles farther away from their nearest early voting sites than they were in 2012, while white voters’ total distance-to-poll increased by only 21,000 miles.
This blatant attempt to keep black voters from the polls by making it harder for them to vote, Busa and voting rights organizations he's been working with say, is akin to "poll taxes and literacy tests did during the South’s Jim Crow era." It's one Busa has vowed to fight, both by exposing the ploy in North Carolina and by creating a new policy-driven, non-profit data analysis firm, Insightus, which will "harnesses the 21st Century technology of data science to promote a just, civil, democratic and sustainable world."