Interview by Joan Brunwasser
My guest today is Harvey Wasserman, co-author of "Will the GOP Steal America's 2012 Election?" Welcome back to OpEdNews, Harvey. We spoke about your new book at the beginning of September. But election-related stories seem to be breaking all the time. Can you bring us up to speed? Are we worse off than we were in 2000, 2004 or 2008?
Well, it's the best of times, it's the worst of times.
On the one hand, much of the media and even the Democratic Party has picked up on the nation-wide Jim Crow campaign being waged by the Republicans to disenfranchise as many suspected Democrats as possible. According to the Brennan Center at NYU, this could mean ten million or more Americans will lose their vote.
Back when we first started writing about such things, we were attacked by the Democrats and even much of the left media. Now it's being taken seriously. Even the New York Times has covered some of it. And many of the laws enabling this mass disenfranchisement have been overturned by the courts.
But that doesn't mean they won't still disenfranchise millions of citizens. The dirty tricks and intimidation are still very much out there. We expect many thousands of Tea Party and other right wingers to show up as poll workers and harass voters no matter what the law says. So those who care about election protection are going to have to show up at the polls in droves to protect the vote.
That's what happened in 2008 and that's why Obama won. But he has been such a corporatist president that many of those who enthusiastically worked for him in 2008 will not do so this year.
We are also finally getting some traction on the electronic voting machines. It has become ridiculously obvious that the GOP can steal this election electronically. Our story has gone viral on the fact that nine key swing states (Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico and Arizona) have Republican governors and secretaries of state that could flip the electronic vote count in a matter of nano-seconds, with no public recourse.
Our latest story showing the Romney family with investment ties to Hart Intercivic has turned up at Forbes.org . Since Hart Intercivic supplies the voting machines to Hamilton County (Cincinnati) Ohio, where the election could be decided, this has raised a few eyebrows....finally!!!
There are now at least two excellent cartoons circulating about the dubious nature of electronic machines.
So we have definitely made some progress in terms of awareness since we broke those stories about the theft of the 2004 election.
But will that stop Romney, Rove and the GOP money machine? Not likely. When you have a few hundred million to drop into a political candidacy that could make you billions, spending the pittance more it would take to rig and flip the voting machines is a no-brainer.
So in terms of awareness, things are better, we've definitely pushed this story into the mainstream.
But in terms of actually stopping the theft of yet another presidential election....that remains to be seen.
Yikes! Please explain how the exit polls and their demise in 19 states fits into the electoral picture, Harvey.
Without exit polls there is no independent view of the election results. Since electronic voting machines have no effective means of public scrutiny or accountability, we really have no way of knowing how a vote went without exit polls. They are accurate in Germany to 0.1% of the vote. But here, especially in 2004, they have been our only lifeline to seeing hugely improbable tallies that could only mean massive theft and fraud.
More detail, please. The 19 states are not "battle-ground" states. So, how can not knowing what happened there affect the larger picture nationwide?
All states ultimately are important. The idea that ANY vote will go unverified is a breach of democracy. The cancellation of these exit polls is a big foot in the door to abolish them everywhere, which leaves us with zero check and balance on the electronic vote count.
There are fears that without checks and balances, large numbers of votes in non-battle-ground states can be shifted and this can then affect the overall national popular vote count. Is that a legitimate concern?
At this point, all fears are legitimate. The electronic vote count in this election is a totally blind article. The secretaries of the various states, with their governors, can do pretty much anything they want with the "official" vote count. And given the hundreds of millions of dollars the corporations are pouring into this, and the proven expertise of Karl Rove and others like him at stealing elections, we can expect the worst.
We are attempting in Ohio to establish an on-the-ground monitoring system to visit the polling places throughout the day to check on turnout and "maintenance" visits by voting machine technicians, and to record the posted vote counts at the end of the day. We will then tally what we find. We hope it will have legal standing. We shall see...
Victoria Collier has a feature piece in this issue of Harper's called "How to Rig an Election: The GOP aims to pain the country red". She says this about electronic voting manipulation: "It's the electoral equivalent of a drone strike." Is she exaggerating?
It's actually the equivalent of a nuclear weapon. Electronic manipulation of this election is going to be extremely difficult to avoid. Like atomic radiation, it's impossible to detect (except in certain instances, where a metallic taste is present) except with special equipment. In this case, the only established method of detection is with exit polling, which has already been cancelled in 19 states. It's like they're doing nuclear testing but outlawing geiger counters. As at Fukushima, where horrifically lethal fuel rods are perched 100 feet in the air, electronic vote theft is capable of destroying everything we love.
If this sounds like hyperbole, look at the eight years of George W. Bush, and contemplate eight more of Mitt Romney AND a Republican Congress. We're all focussed on the presidential race, but electronic election theft was used to purge Georgia Senator Max Cleland and install the truly horrible Saxby Chambliss. In Ohio, we're looking at the loss of Sherrod Brown for an embarrassingly incompetent and cynical Josh Mandel. Like an atomic bombing, the aftermath is truly devastating.
Based on that analysis, would you also agree with this Collier statement from her article?:
"Only one thing is certain: American voters will have no ability to know with certainty who wins any given race, from dogcatcher to president. Nor will we know the true results of ballot initiatives and referenda affecting some of the most vital issues of our day, including fracking, abortion, gay marriage, GMO-food labeling, and election reform itself."
She is absolutely correct. With the exception of Minnesota and perhaps some other scattered places with hand-counted paper ballots, this coming election is a blind article. The governors and secretaries of state can make it say whatever they want it to say. There is no legal recourse on electronic voting machines. Ireland just got rid of theirs and is switching to paper ballots, which are already in use in Germany, Japan, Canada and Switzerland, among others. We need universal automatic voter registration for all citizens as they turn 18; universal hand counted paper ballots; a four-day Saturday-Sunday-Monday-Tuesday window for voting, with the nation's high school and college students running the polls and counting the votes; money out of politics and the abolition of the Electoral College. THEN, we might have the beginnings of a real democratic process. But in 2012, the title of our book---WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA'S 2012 ELECTION, available at Free Press, may be a question that answers itself.
Ambitious agenda, Harvey. Anything else you'd like to add before we wrap this up?
Our "ambitious agenda" means nothing less than winning back whatever democracy we once had in this country, enhancing it and making it work. What alternative do we have.
Eliminating electronic voting machines, winning hand counted paper ballots, installing a four-day voting window, eliminating money from politics and abolishing the Electoral College---these are all do-able and necessary basic steps in the American tradition of what American democracy should stand for. Without them, this country is a sham.
In the lifetime of many of us---I was born in 1945---we have seen enormous advances in civil rights, in ending the war in Vietnam, in stopping nuclear power and preserving the environment, and more. We have also seen the ascendance of the power of the super-rich in a declining empire. So it's always a challenge. But there is no alternative to making these advances if we are to have a decent life. So let's just accept that we can win and go ahead and do what it takes within a non-violent framework.
One important thing is to have fun doing this work, and to embrace the timelessness of our agenda. As A.J. Muste once said about social activism, "the pay's no good, but the work is steady."
But the pay IS good if we embrace the great pleasure and sense of accomplishment that comes with preserving and moving ahead an agenda of social justice and sustainainability. That's what this pro-democracy movement is all about.
So we'll see you on the picket line, demanding paper ballots!!!
I love the Muste comment. So true. And I also appreciate your comment about getting pleasure working for social justice in this way. I admit that I find it's a struggle, in more ways than one. Thanks for talking with me again, Harvey. I'm sure we'll have lots more to talk about very soon.
Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform.