A Primary Concern: Can Bernie Sanders Win a 'Strip and Flip' Election?
February 8, 2016
Mimi Kennedy, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman / Reader Supported News
Bernie Sanders has shown in Iowa that he's a viable candidate (considering that he was down 50 points just a while ago). But the terrain will quickly shift. We're not talking about demographics. The problem comes from states that rely on electronic voting machines, machines that can (and have in the past) "stripped" electronic registration lists and "flipped" the vote count -- from Democrat candidates to Republicans -- with no reliable system of verification.
Can Bernie Win a 'Strip and Flip' Election?
Mimi Kennedy, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman / Reader Supported News
(February 3, 2016) -- Bernie Sanders has shown in Iowa that he's a viable candidate . . . and more. Considering Bernie was down 50 points just a while ago, Iowa has sent a clear signal that this campaign must be taken seriously.
But the terrain will quickly shift. Bernie will obviously do well in New Hampshire. Then the race will move to southern and bigger states, where Hillary may have an edge.
But we're not talking about demographics. The real terrain shift that concerns us is from a caucus state to ones where the votes are counted on electronic voting machines.
The key strategy in question is "strip and flip," i.e., the stripping of electronic registration lists, and then the flipping of the vote count on machines that have no reliable system of verification.
The "strip & flip" realities are simple enough:
As Greg Palast has reported, the Republicans are now stripping the electronic voter rolls in some two dozen states. The primary program is "Crosscheck," which strips citizens with the same or similar names from voter rolls in different jurisdictions, with the excuse that these citizens will otherwise illegally vote twice.
Palast reports that once again in 2016, large numbers of voters have been targeted for being stripped. He also found that many of the names being purged don't entirely match . . . and that despite the premise that these people might have voted twice in the past (and plan to again) no attempt is ever made to investigate their "crime."
Of course, the primary disqualifying factor is skin color or ethnicity. The vast bulk of those being stripped from the voter rolls are African-American and Hispanic.
Palast reported in 2000 that more than 90,000 such voters were stripped from the voter rolls in Florida using a computer program that falsely tagged black citizens as ex-felons, ineligible to vote. All were innocent. The stripping was done primarily by Jeb Bush, then Governor of Florida. His brother George W's alleged margin of "victory" was less than 600 votes.
In Ohio 2004, we reported at www.freepress.orgthat Republican election officials stripped more than 300,000 primarily urban, non-white citizens from the voter rolls. Bush's alleged margin of "victory" was less than 119,000 votes.
Neither Al Gore nor John Kerry, the losing candidates who actually won, have ever spoken publicly about this.
This decimation of the voter rolls has been repeated in numerous federal, state, and local elections since 2000, and is being enhanced in the lead-up to Election Day 2016.
In addition to electronic stripping, official turnout at the polls is gutted by using Jim Crow demands for photo and other ID, discrimination aimed primarily at citizens of color.
Officially, the voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest in history. But much of this "low turnout" was in fact due to electronic stripping and other means of denying minority ethnic and racial groups' ability to actually cast ballots.
The various stripping schemes alone could lower to virtually nil Bernie's chances of winning in the primaries or the general election.
The ultimate back-up for corporate election theft is electronic flipping.
The bottom line here is that some 80% of the votes in 2016 will be cast or counted on electronic voting machines owned by private corporations. Courts have ruled the source code proprietary, and thus inaccessible to the public.
This means that much of the nation has no legally binding mechanism by which results can be publicly verified. In South Carolina, there's no audit law to check the accuracy of results – and nothing to audit if there were, because Georgia's statewide voting system is all-electronic machines with no paper trail.
Other states have a mix of no-paper electronic voting machines and Scantron paper ballots counted by computer software that is also subject to manipulation. Six key swing states where elections will be run by Republican governors and secretaries of state will have unverifiable results: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and Arizona. But those results can decide the presidency and control of Congress – and much more.
The first modern instance of electronic flipping may have come in New Hampshire in 1988, when George H.W. Bush trailed Bob Dole in Election Day polling by 8%, but somehow won by 9%, a 17% flip that qualifies as a "virtual statistical impossibility."
As Bev Harris and others have reported, thousands of votes were electronically flipped during a critical moment in the 2000 election in Volusia County, Florida.
In Ohio 2004, a 4.2% John Kerry lead in Ohio mysteriously flipped into a 2.6% George W. Bush victory during a "glitch" in vote count reporting between 12:20 a.m. and 2 a.m. election night. The process was controlled by Ohio's GOP secretary of state, J. Kenneth Blackwell, who simultaneously served as co-chair of the Bush-Cheney re-election team.
The electronic tallies were delivered by GovTech, a Bush-linked IT firm whose CEO, Michael Connell, died in a mysterious plane crash in 2008 while under federal subpoena (in a case in which we were attorney and plaintiff).
Furthermore, in a wide range of Congressional, state and local races, "impossible" outcomes have become commonplace. At least three US Senate races in 2014 were almost certainly flipped, giving the Republicans overwhelming control.
Unless accountability and verification are added to the mix, all this could happen again in 2016.
We support strict regulations on campaign finance; abolition of the Electoral College; an end to gerrymandering; non-partisan management of elections, and other democratic (small d) election reforms to retain our republican (small r) form of self-government.
But at this point, the key issue is for all eligible citizens to be able to vote and know their ballot will be counted as cast, not counted as flipped.
A 7-Point Vote-Protection Plan
So we propose the "Ohio Plan," as follows:
1. Automatic universal voter registration when a citizen turns 18;
2. Registration rolls maintained on verifiable records. Registering online has added tens of thousands of young voters, but the rolls must be continually re-checked right up to Election Day;
3. A four-day national holiday for voting;
4. Universal paper ballots printed on recycled or hemp paper;
5. Voter verification by personal signature with fraud a felony (photo ID not required);
6. All ballots hand-counted;
7. Polls run and ballots counted by paid high school and college students.
The corporate media refuses to report on this agenda. Democrats often ignore it for fear they'll discourage voters from coming out to cast ballots (that are then trashed). We understand the urge to ignore these issues and to focus on the hope that a high turnout can offset these electronic impediments. But that's a risky bet, and gambling is not democracy.
Ironically, New Hampshire is where the first major electronic "flip" happened. In 1988, the Granite State was the first to use electronic voting machines in a primary. Bob Dole was leading George H.W. Bush on Election Day by 8% of the vote. That night, the official tally showed Bush the winner by 9%. That flip was a "virtual statistical impossibility," and remains unexplained.
Bernie Sanders has endorsed hand-counted paper ballots. He could expose the problem and solve it. But first, Sanders supporters must produce a "tsunami" of votes that will drown the strippers and the flippers. Democracy-minded citizens must exercise oversight to guarantee independent polling is accurately done.
And they must aggressively scrutinize every detail of the upcoming elections as the votes are cast and counted, beginning in New Hampshire.
CONSIDER THIS A WARNING LABEL: If the Sanders campaign fails to aggressively push for truly universal registration and a verifiable vote count, this thrilling attempt to restore American democracy might prove futile, heartbreaking, and infuriating.
Mimi Kennedy, Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are election protection activists. Bob & Harvey's The "Strip & Flip" Selection Of 2016: Six Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft is at www.freepress.org along with the FreePress plan for monitoring the 2016 elections.
On the Radio with Greg Palast:
The Birthplace of Electronic Election Theft
Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman / Reader Supported News
(February 7, 2016) -- As the New Hampshire primary lurches toward the finish line, the reality of electronic election theft looms over the vote count.
The actual computer voting machines were introduced on a grand scale in New Hampshire's 1988 primary. The godfather was George H.W. Bush, then the vice president. As former boss of the CIA, Bush was thoroughly familiar with the methods of changing election outcomes. The Agency had been doing it for decades in client states throughout the world.
In the Granite State, Bush was up against Bob Dole, long-time senator from Kansas. Dole was much loved in hard-core Republican circles. But Bush had an ace-in-the-hole. For the first time, the votes would be cast and counted on electronic voting machines, in this case from Shoup Electronics.
Governor John Sununu, later Bush's White House Chief of Staff, brought the highly-suspect computer voting machines into New Hampshire's most populous city, Manchester.
The results were predictable. Former CIA director George H.W. Bush won a huge upset over Dole and the mainstream for-profit corporate media refused to consider election rigging.
Here's the Washington Post's account of the bizarre and unexplainable election results when touchscreens were first used: In 1988, H.W. Bush was trailing Dole by 8 points in the last Gallup poll before the New Hampshire primary. Bush won by 9 points. The Washington Post covered the Bush upset with the following headline: "Voters Were a Step Ahead of Tracking Measurements."
Was it a late surge of Bush devotees who reversed all reasonable expectation? Or was it the kind of electoral manipulation that had been perfected by the Agency over the decades, this time with an electronic assist?
While the mainstream for-profit media tried to explain it away, the Manchester Union Leader had been suspicious of the former CIA director going back to his first presidential bid in 1980.
"The Bush operation has all the smell of a CIA covert operation . . . strange aspects of the Iowa operation [include] a long, slow count and then the computers broke down at a very convenient point, with Bush having a six percent bulge over Reagan," according to the Union Leader.
In the next presidential election, in 1984, Bush's rival, President Reagan, signed National Security Directive Decision NSDD245. A year later, the New York Times explained the details of Reagan's secret directive: "A branch of the National Security Agency is investigating whether a computer program that counted more than one-third of all the votes cast in the United States in 1984 is vulnerable to fraudulent manipulation.
In 1987, Gary Greenhalgh resigned as director of the Election Center to become vice-president of operations for the R.F. Shoup Company. The company's founder, Ransom Shoup, had been convicted in 1979 for conspiring to defraud the federal government in connection with a bribe attempt to obtain voting machine business, according to the Memphis newspaper Commercial Appeal.
His machines were known as Shouptronics. Under the name Danaher they were used in the disputed 2004 election in Columbus, Ohio, where numerous voters complained that their vote for Kerry "faded away" on the screen.
Computerized voting machines, with software programmed by partisan for-profit corporations, make election fraud even easier. We have known about this for four decades. Roy G. Saltman's work at the National Bureau of Standards has documented the vulnerability of computer voting since the 1970s.
Saltman issued a report for the Bureau numbered NBSIR-75-687 documenting the lack of computer security in vote tallying and the potential for election tampering. He traced the use of computers to tally vote results from September 1964 through his 1975 report. He found that in 1971, Bob's junior year in high school, "an error in programming" had caused a levy to pass by 1000 votes in Bob's hometown, Redford Township, Michigan, rather than failing by 100.
A follow-up report by Saltman in 1988 pointed out other problems with computer voting. In 1986 in Stark County, Ohio, a recount programming error reversed the correct election results. There's a question on whether this was a real error, since a special programmer was brought in to write the code for the recount.
The ultimate implication for this year's primary has yet to be played out. This year in New Hampshire, we have Bernie Sanders rolling into Election Day with a very strong lead. Barack Obama did much the same (though with far smaller margins) in 2008, and emerged the loser. Could a similar outcome follow for Bernie?
On the Republican side, it's anyone's guess.
But whatever happens, remember that for decades the Granite State has set the tone for the general election, and could do so again on Tuesday. It remains to be seen whether we get a legitimate outcome, or another strip and flip selection, with ultimate control of the government still at stake. But the whole world had better be watching.
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of the upcoming THE "STRIP & FLIP" SELECTION OF 2016: SIX JIM CROWS & ELECTRONIC ELECTION THEFT ( www.freepress.org / www.solartopia.org )
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