Sunday, November 2, 2008


Stealing elections is what democracy is all about!by Selvam Canagaratna "Old burglars never die, they just steal away."
- Glen Gilbreath, on facing his 13th robbery charge (1958)

Yes, yes, of course the Republicans are at it again. Simply doing what they do best – wholesale thievery of the democratic process. As this is being written, with just over a week to go for the whole world to witness what is arguably the most historic election in America’s entire constitutional existence, alarming reports are surfacing of millions of Americans – about one-third of all eligible voters - having their names purged from the electoral registers for the flimsiest of reasons.

Oh, it’s been done before, over and over again. As Tracy Campbell explains in Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, an American Political Tradition - 1742-2004, election chicanery is "deeply embedded" in America’s political culture. Far from regarding cheating as wrong or anti-democratic, its perpetrators have treated it "as part of the game that one has to practice in order to counteract one’s equally corrupt competitors."

"Election fraud is a crime that usually pays," writes Campbell.

What the Republicans are attempting in 2008 is the same ploy they successfully used to ensure a second term in the Oval Office for George, the cowboy Prez. In 2004 they arm-twisted the investigative agencies of the federal government to manufacture a hot campaign issue of alleged fraudulent voter-registration by a community organization the Republicans claimed favoured the Democrats. Ditto in 2008, with Barak Obama the pin-up boy this time. [It’s true. The FBI are confident of arresting one such hora voter just days before he violates the law and casts his vote pretending to be Mickey Mouse, while that other quack, Donald Duck, was last spotted in Alaska.]

Such allegations are, of course, intended to distract from the real criminal activity going on in earnest behind Republican screens. During the third and final Presidential Debate, McCain laid it on real thick about a nonprofit advocacy group that was "on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history" and "may be destroying the fabric of democracy." [John, himself, may have been carelessly destroying only the fabric of truth.]

That McCain outburst prompted the New York Times to editorially note that Republicans weren’t "saying anything about another more serious voter-registration scandal: the fact that about one-third of eligible voters are not registered. The racial gaps are significant and particularly disturbing. According to a study by Project Vote, a voting-rights group, in 2006, 71 percent of eligible whites were registered, compared with 61 percent of blacks, 54 percent of Latinos and 49 percent of Asian-Americans. Much of the blame for this lies with overly restrictive registration rules."

Permit me to momentarily dip back into the history of election rigging in America, courtesy of Tracy Campbell. For starters, Campbell serves this juicy bit: "George Washington won his seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758 by spending 40 pounds on booze for his neighbours", adding that historian Samuel Eliot Morison had, in 1916, concluded that the passage of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780 appeared to have been the work of election thefts.

Writes Campbell, "Rampant voter fraud existed in the Colonial era, when voting was generally limited to white, property-owning men. To swing local elections, corrupt campaigns would arrange for the landless to gain title to property in return for their vote, after which the land would be returned. The purchasing of votes was so popular in Rhode Island that the practice became known as ‘Rhode Islandism’." [So, by that yardstick, our island paradise got "Americanized" way before McDonalds and Pizza-Hut arrived!]

A blogger on the internet explained how Republican-leaning bureaucrats take advantage of a problem caused by bureaucratic inflexibility to promote partisan agendas. It is very common for immigrants to the US, within weeks or months of arrival, to have a plethora of documents – a US immigration document, a social security card, a driver’s license or a state ID card, all having different versions of their names. This can be further complicated by state welfare records and other records with further variations on their names.

Those from Latin America, for example, may have a version of their name where their paternal ‘last name’ becomes their middle name or initial and their maternal last name becomes their last name. An example of bureaucratic incompetence, said the blogger, was the Social Security Administration’s handling of his wife’s Social Security card. "In the end she had four cards with four different names - one because the SSA processor insisted in violation of law that my wife should carry my last name (which is not her legal name) and her last two names because apparently the employee was semi-literate and misspelled her name (twice). In the end, we could not even get them to take the three wrong cards back. This name confusion should not be reason for disenfranchisement."

But Greg Palast, the famous BBC investigative journalist and author [The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse] says there’s more to it than mere buceaucratic bungling. He believes the 2008 election has already been stolen by you-know-who. In 2006, 40 percent of citizens who were purged from the voter rolls in California had Islamic, Vietnamese, Chinese and Hispanic names, says Palast. These names were at most risk for misspellings. The New York Times appeared to confirm Palast’s findings on mass voter purges in its report last week, noting that tens of thousands of eligible voters were being illegally purged ahead of the 2008 elections.

In the crucial swing states of Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio, the Times reported that Social Security databases were being used to verify voters, as opposed to more accurate state databases. Federal law requires Social Security databases to be used for verification only as a last resort. By removing voters from the registration rolls within 90 days of the presidential election, two other swing states, Michigan and Colorado, were also in violation of federal law, the Times said.

Palast noted that when a name was purged from the voter rolls, election workers would hand out a provisional ballot, and warned, "Once you sign that provisional ballot, the chances are officially one in three that your ballot will be thrown in the garbage can." To make his point, Palast reminds Americans that 1.1 million provisional ballots went uncounted in the 2004 election.

In a specially-prepared nonpartisan voter guide, Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a voting rights attorney, advise that a provisional ballot will most often render a vote uncounted; seek adjudication on the spot, by calling a voter’s rights hotline instead of accepting and signing the provisional ballot. "Don’t go postal," are Palast’s final words of advice, urging voters not to mail in their ballot.

"All you need is the most minor error. Not enough postage, for instance, cost a third of a million votes in the US the last time around, because most ballots are two stamps, not one. There’s a million ways to not count your vote on a mail-in; don’t do it."

Top Republicans are unquestionably a bloody-minded bunch of plutocrats pushing the myth of concern for working Americans – yes, those very Americans, millions of them, who’ve had to toil through eight bruising years at home and abroad and bear the brunt of an unprecedented financial debacle triggered by Republican misrule and fiscal profligacy.

The Party’s evangelical base, however, has faith in God, believes Bush’s poppycock, and eagerly swallows McCain’s crap.

A nice fit, that.


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