Missing the real election sabotage

January 19, 2017

Ryan de Laureal asks why the media and Democratic leaders are ignoring the real scandal in the election where the popular vote loser still won: voter suppression.

EVEN AS they fanned the flames of anti-Russian hysteria out of supposed concern for the integrity of the presidential election, media corporations and leading Democrats have largely ignored numerous and persistent reports of widespread vote suppression, including the purging of over a million voters from the electoral rolls.

Most of the "proof" of Kremlin interference in the U.S. election outlined in the declassified version of the investigation from Director of National Intelligence consists of Russia's attempts to influence U.S. public opinion through pro-Russian journalists, online trolls and state-funded media outlets such as Russia Today.

These actions are not very different from things that most governments do on a regular basis.

The declassified report also argues that Russian intelligence is behind the hacker persona "Gufficer 2.0" responsible for leaking the e-mails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). This accusation is certainly plausible, but it has yet to be proven, and more ot the point, it's unclear what impact these particular leaks even had.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach

The most serious threats to electoral integrity are raised by the report's claims that "Russian intelligence accessed elements of multiple state or local electoral boards." However, the report is definitive in stating that "the types of systems we observed Russian actors targeting or compromising are not involved in vote tallying."

Meanwhile, there are a number of documented threats to the legitimacy of the 2016 election that very much involve the fundamental question of vote tallying.

These threats--which raise questions not only about the 2016 election, but the integrity of U.S. democracy in general--don't come from Russia or any other foreign government, but are 100 percent homegrown.

A GOOD place to start examining the integrity of the 2016 election is to sum up what we know for sure about its peculiarities, beginning with the most glaring and obvious:

Hillary Clinton received nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump, whose victory in the Electoral College boiled down to thin margins of victory in three key states.

This was the first presidential election since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, opening the door for states to gerrymander electoral districts, relocate and close polling stations, and reinstate restrictive voting laws without federal oversight.

Trump won Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes, while more than 75,000 ballots in the state were never counted, primarily from majority Black Democratic strongholds of Detroit and Flint.

Many of these uncounted ballots originate from inner-city precincts with faulty voting equipment.

Finally, there is the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which has purged over a million people from voter registration rolls to date by matching the information of people in different states in order to eliminate supposed "double voters."

These purges, which disproportionately target people of color, have proven sloppy and inaccurate, matching voters by only first and last name, while ignoring other key identifiers, contrary to the claims of state officials. The number of voters purged to date by Crosscheck far exceeds Trump's margin of victory in multiple states.

CROSSCHECK IS a database used by 27 states--almost all of them in the South and Midwest, and Republican-dominated--to combat the supposedly widespread problem of voter fraud.

It was launched in 2005 by the Kansas Secretary of State's office. Since 2011, that office has been held by an early promoter of Crosscheck, Kris Kobach, an anti-immigrant zealot with ties to white supremacist groups.

Kobach has helped to design a number of racist laws, including the Bush administration's National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), responsible for the surveillance and racial profiling of Muslim immigrants after 9/11, and Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, which gave state law enforcement officers the full individual authority to racially profile and detain anybody who they identified as a potential non-citizen.

Kobach is currently an adviser to Trump and was briefly floated for a potential cabinet position as head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where he could have led an effort to revive NSEERS in order to realize Trump's so-called "Muslim registry."

Over 7 million people have been tagged by Crosscheck as potential "double voters"--people who have supposedly registered in multiple states in order to vote twice in the same election. This is an astonishingly high number that is difficult to take seriously--especially given that investigative reporter Greg Palast could only find a total of four people who had been criminally charged with voting or registering twice.

The evidence of voter suppression in recent U.S. elections is far more compelling than anything that has yet been leveled against Russia, and its effects are far more comprehensive than anything the Kremlin could be capable of.

Yet the same media outlets and politicians who are so concerned with Vladimir Putin's electoral manipulations have been virtually silent on the actual peculiarities of the election that led to Trump's presidency--including the possible disenfranchisement of over a million people.

Much of what we know about the possible effects of Interstate Crosscheck comes from the work of veteran investigative journalist Greg Palast. Palast may go for more sensational headlines than the New York Times, but he has amassed a solid body of official documentary evidence on the Crosscheck program (including the secret lists of "matched" and purged names) that is damning and shocking.

Yet his work--and Interstate Crosscheck itself--has been largely ignored by the Washington Post and New York Times.

EVEN SETTING aside Crosscheck, there has been shockingly little national attention paid to the spoiled election process in Michigan.

In Detroit, 87 aging voting machines malfunctioned on Election Day, contributing to Michigan's 75,000 "spoiled" ballots that were never counted. This also led to discrepancies between the number of votes counted and number of voters registered in 392 of Detroit's 662 voting precincts.

In a rational society, such discrepancies would indicate a problem with the initial results provide a strong justification for a recount. But under Michigan state law, the opposite is true: Any voting precincts where the number of votes cast does not match the number of registered voters are automatically disqualified from a recount, and the initial election results must stand.

That meant that the ballots from 59 percent of Detroit's precincts did not qualify for the recount organized by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

All told, the real election scandals of 2016 were not the DNC leak or the handful of anti-Clinton RT articles circulating around Facebook, but Interstate Crosscheck, the botched recount efforts and the largely uninvestigated impact of the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act.

In a political culture concerned with election integrity, even the smallest indication of the fraudulent suppression of votes ought to be enough for concern and an investigation, until the evidence is either corroborated or proven false.

The scant attention these scandals have actually received tells you all you need to know about the real nature of U.S. "democracy."