October 22, 2008
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Early Voting Sees Reports of Voter Intimidation, Machine Malfunctions
Early voting has begun, and problems are already emerging at the polls. In West Virginia, voters using touchscreen machines have claimed their votes were switched from Democrat to Republican. In North Carolina, a group of McCain supporters heckled a group of mostly black supporters of Barack Obama. In Ohio, Republicans are being accused of trying to scare newly registered voters by filing lawsuits that question their eligibility. We speak to NYU professor Mark Crispin Miller, author of Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy. [includes rush transcript–partial]
Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media culture and communication at New York University. He is the author of several books, most recently Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008. His previous book is called Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too.
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AMY GOODMAN: Just days after reports that six early voters in at least two West Virginia counties claimed their votes were switched from Democrat to Republican, a couple in Nashville, Tennessee reported similar problems with paperless voting machines. In West Virginia, one voter said, "I hit Obama, and it switched to McCain. I am really concerned about that. If McCain wins, there was something wrong with the machines.”
In Tennessee, a filmmaker couple also had difficulties casting their vote for the Democratic candidate, the Brad Blog reports. They had to hit the Obama button several times before it actually registered, and in one case it momentarily flipped from Obama to Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney. Patricia Earnhardt said, “The McKinney button was located five rows below the Obama button.” The couple in Nashville were using machines made by the same company as those in the counties in West Virginia—by Election Systems and Software.
Meanwhile, there are reports of long lines at early voting sites in several other states, including some counties in Texas, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico.
Mark Crispin Miller is a media critic who’s been focused on voter problems and election fraud in this country. He’s a professor at New York University, author of several books. Most recently he edited Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008. His previous book, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too.
Mark Crispin Miller now joins us in the firehouse studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Great to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: What are your concerns right now, Mark?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, you’ve referred to a couple of them already. We now see a burst of vote flipping by machines, electronic voting machines in a couple of states. This is something that we saw in at least eleven states in the 2004 election, hundreds and hundreds of people coming forward to say, “I pushed the button for Kerry, and the button for Bush lit up.” So, clearly, this was a systematic programming decision by the people in charge of the machines, which in that case and this one is the Republican Party. We’re also seeing systematic shortages of working voting machines in Democratic precincts only. This is also something that did not happen only in Ohio in 2004, but happened nationwide. That election was, in fact, stolen.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you know that?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, I know because there’s been an audit of the vote in eighteen counties of Ohio by a researcher named Richard Hayes Phillips, who had his team literally scrutinize every single ballot that was warehoused in eighteen Ohio counties. They took over 30,000 digital photographs. This is not speculation, Amy. This is a meticulous, careful, specific and conclusive demonstration that John Kerry actually won some 200,000 votes in those eighteen counties only that were taken away from him. Bush’s official victory margin, you may recall, was about 118,000. So there is no question about it. Ohio was stolen.
AMY GOODMAN: When they—OK, so they have the pictures of all these—
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Pictures, there’s a CD with this book that you can—
AMY GOODMAN: But they have the pictures of the ballots.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Of the variously altered, mutilated ballots, yes. Ballots with stickers placed over the square that people had blacked in for Kerry/Edwards; somebody else blacks in Bush/Cheney. Thousands and thousands of ballots that were pre-marked before they were distributed, so that people would mark different boxes on them, and then they would be invalidated.
Even more chilling is the fact that after Phillips did his research, the boards of elections in fifty-five Ohio counties destroyed all or some of their ballots in defiance of a court order. So we have criminal behavior here of a kind of grand and systematic kind. But the point is—not to engage in what Sarah Palin calls finger-pointing backwards, the point here is to note that we’re dealing with a consistent pattern of subversive behavior by the Republican Party since 2000 and extending all the way up to the present. What we’re seeing now is an especially brazen and diverse range of dirty tricks and tactics that are being used both to suppress the vote and also to enable election fraud.
AMY GOODMAN: Ohio has been very much in the news this past week, not around the issue of voter suppression, but around the issue of fraudulent registration forms, the concern about them being handed in by the organization ACORN.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Yeah, the whole ACORN thing is a first-class propaganda drive. ACORN has done nothing wrong. ACORN has, however, been guilty of trying to register low-income citizens to vote. Because they’ve been in the sights of the Republican Party for several years now, they’ve always been extremely scrupulous about checking the registration forms that they garner from their volunteers.
You know, they pay people, basically, to register other voters. So, naturally, from time to time, some volunteer who wants the money will fill out a registration form, you know, with Mickey Mouse or the names of the Dallas Cowboys, something like that. Precisely because that is an ever-present possibility, the people at ACORN have always scrupulously checked the forms before submitting them.
And ten days ago, what they did was, in Las Vegas, their office in Las Vegas, they found a number of these suspicious forms, handed them over directly to the Secretary of State in Nevada, and his response was to turn around and say, “Aha! Here is evidence that you’re conspiring to commit voter fraud.” Now, that effort, that drive went from Nevada to Missouri to Ohio, and now we hear that the FBI is investigating ACORN.
The important point here, Amy, is that voter fraud is practically nonexistent. Several studies have taken a close look at this and found that there really is no voter fraud of this kind.
AMY GOODMAN: Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films has put out a new short film about ACORN and the attacks against them. Let me play an excerpt.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama’s relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.
GOV. SARAH PALIN: John and I are calling on the Obama campaign to release communications it has had with this group and to do so immediately.
CARMEN ARIAS: These attacks on ACORN are part of a pattern of voter suppression that the GOP has been carrying on for a long time.
PAUL WEYRICH: They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been, from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections, quite candidly, goes up as the voting populace goes down.
ANDREW SULLIVAN: The McCain campaign has now two camps. And one of them is already assuming that he’s lost, and he’s aiming for the post-election warfare in the Republican Party, and part of that is the ACORN strategy, which is trying to delegitimize the result in advance, if Obama were to win, by saying it was rigged by minority voters. That’s what this is about.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Someone here keeps yelling “ACORN, ACORN.” Now, let me just say to you, there are serious allegations of voter fraud in the battleground states across America. They must be investigated.
NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES: Let’s look at North Carolina. We turned in 28,000 applications in North Carolina, and there are investigations into four of them right now. Over 95 percent of the cards we turned in were error-free. So we’re talking about an extremely small percentage of the overall 1.3 million cards collected. To suggest that this is some kind of widespread criminal conspiracy is just absurd.
MONTAGE OF NEWSCASTERS: ACORN. ACORN. ACORN—is a left-wing—radical—extremist community group.
CARMEN ARIAS: This is hardly the first time that these Rove-style tactics have been used to suppress low-income minorities.
NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES: They did it in 2000.
GREG PALAST: Voters were being removed from the registries by the Secretary of State, Katherine Harris.
NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES: They did it in 2004.
UNIDENTIFIED: Evidence has emerged that in the last presidential election the Republican Party organized efforts to suppress the votes of active-duty military, low-income and minority voters by challenging their registrations. The Republicans put in motion a plan to hold down the Democratic vote in key battleground states. Many are convinced that Republican officials broke the law.
NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES: And they’re doing it again right now.
CARMEN ARIAS: Suppressing the low-income minority voters can swing an entire election. A handful of improperly filled-out voter registration cards cannot.
AMY GOODMAN: That, an excerpt of a piece by Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films. Professor Mark Crispin Miller?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Yeah, well, I think he hit the nail right on the head. The important point to get here is that the party that is itself engaging in disenfranchisement on a massive scale, the deliberate, systematic disenfranchisement of arguably millions of Americans, is clouding the issue by accusing—essentially accusing its victims of doing the same thing. OK?
Voter fraud—I want to repeat this—is virtually nonexistent. There have been several academic studies of this notion of whether individuals actually stuffed ballot boxes or show up at polling places pretending to be somebody else. There’s actually not a single known case of any such type of voter fraud being prosecuted by the Department of Justice. And yet, that notion of voter fraud is used as the pretext for taking steps that do demonstrably result in tens of thousands of people being unable to vote, you see? It’s a really masterful strategy. And I only wish that the Democratic Party had all this time been aggressive in pointing out that the Republicans are the party engaged in disenfranchisement.
AMY GOODMAN: Mark Crispin Miller, we have to break. When we come back, I want to ask you about a man named Stephen Spoonamore—
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —a prominent expert, supposedly, on computer fraud, and what he has to say. Stay with us.