We Need to Fix Our Broken Election System

I look at the long lines at polling stations, the broken machines, the disenfranchised voters and I wonder if having citizens vote is much of a priority in this country. We need to fix a system that we all know is broken. Tolerating it only exacerbates the problem and leads to more and more disillusionment that results in less and less voters.
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Going into Tuesday's Democratic primary in Indiana, polls showed Bernie Sanders trailing Hillary Clinton by around 7 percent. The final tally had Sanders up by 6 percent, a 13 point difference that seems to follow a pattern of polling discrepancies in this primary process that are quite troubling. A couple of weeks ago I shared a post containing statistics compiled from CNN and the New York Times figures comparing Democratic Party primary exit polls and final election results. The numbers show a significant discrepancy between the two, favoring Hillary Clinton in all but one of the primaries by an average of 9.02 percent and in the New York primary by 16 percent. The post carried an incendiary headline, suggesting election fraud, which caused quite a ruckus. I'm glad it did. We need to have this discussion.

This posting led to the predictable onslaught of internet trolls calling me crazy, conspiracy theorist, etc., all the talking points that are being masterminded by the sleaze-meisters over at David Brock's Correct the Record, a Hillary Clinton Super PAC. The post also brought criticism from the mainstream media, but that is no surprise to me. I've been there before. In the 2002-3 campaign to stop the Iraq war, others and I were characterized as crazy, conspiracy theorists, etc., as mainstream media shamefully abdicated its role in a functioning democracy by becoming a propaganda arm for Bush and Co. Yes. The New York Times did that, and the Washington Post and ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, PBS, NPR etc. We, the millions who across the world were saying no, who were aware of the lies that Bush and Co. were telling, were ignored by the mainstream media, marginalized as radicals and told by pundits to shut our unpatriotic mouths.

So when that happened to me again two weeks ago, often by the same organizations that had marginalized me for my opposition to the war in 2002-3, I recognized the familiarity of it all. Could my post have touched a nerve? It certainly did with Joshua Holland, who wrote in Raw Story that I was involved with a "rabbit hole of misinformation and conspiracism." He then goes on to refute the claims of election fraud with seemingly empirical statistical evidence. Now, I am not a mathematician. But Richard Charnin is. He has two master's degrees in applied mathematics and has followed presidential elections since 1952. He took issue with Mr. Holland's article. I defer to his expertise: "Election Fraud: Response to Joshua Holland."

Mr. Charnin and others who study this issue contend that there are strong indications of election fraud in the Democratic primaries. We might not like it, it might make us uncomfortable, but the numbers and the statistics suggest that something untoward is happening. I understand the immensity of the message being sent. I am being told to shut up about this. I get it. But forgive me for not trusting the Washington Post or any of the mainstream media to put their resources into real investigative journalism that could get to the bottom of this. In the past, mainstream media has shown itself to be a willful participant in propagating political narratives sympathetic to establishment interests, narratives that are untrue and ultimately detrimental to the citizens the press purports to serve. So, I could be wrong about this, but is it possible that the emperor once again is out there buck-naked?

Most of the mainstream media have, for the past seven years, spoken of Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee. Any narrative outside of this was ignored or attacked until this pesky, independent and un-owned candidate named Bernie Sanders reminded us that the American people might have something to say about who the next president is. And the people started turning out in great numbers to tell the Democratic Party that they want more out of them, that they want a strong alternative to business as usual. And this movement was met with condescension. The anointers of Hillary told us that Bernie Sanders's ideas were unrealistic, pie in the sky fantasies and continued to ignore the massive grassroots movement that was happening. Establishment figures lambasted Bernie supporters as sexist and racist and uninformed, or just college girls wanting to meet boys. Soon, after Bernie started winning primaries and caucuses, our friends in the media told us that it was mathematically impossible for Bernie to secure the nomination even though the same was true of his opponent and only 300 delegates separated the two candidates. Then after the disparities between New York exit polls and the final vote count we were told that exit polls are unreliable even as the media continues to use exit polls daily to mold public opinion.

I remain deeply concerned with the disparity in the statistics and with the dysfunctions in our electoral system, as do many in the Democratic Party. Telling us we are crazy and conspiracy theorists may undermine our message but it doesn't make the problem go away, and as Americans it is all of our problem.

There is a massive effort underway in our country to disenfranchise voters. The Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act was a shot across the bow, empowering every bigot in a position of power to begin restricting, with legal authority, the right of individuals to vote. New restrictions in Arizona and North Carolina are apparent Republican strategies to try and deny the vote to African American and Latino voters. I understand that lawyers within our party are working to change that by the general election. I hope they do.

But doesn't it undermine our argument if we tolerate irregularities in our own primaries? 125,000 voters purged in Brooklyn? Broken machines? Polling sites not opening until noon? 60,000 new voters sent a mailing telling them the primary was in September? Votes for Sanders allegedly being erased in Chicago? And what the hell happened up in Massachusetts? If we, as Democrats, are committed to protecting the disenfranchised then why are we allowing Democratic voters to be disenfranchised? There is something seriously wrong with a registered voter showing up to their polling place to find that their name is not on the rolls or that their party affiliation has been changed, making them ineligible.

After the debacle in Florida in 2000 we came to understand that electronic voting machines manufactured by Diebold were tampered with in certain key districts in Florida, including Volusia County where Al Gore's vote tally was somehow in negative margins (-16,022). It turns out that unlike those old rickety hand-lever machines, these new electronic machines were much more susceptible to massive vote tampering. Yet we still used these electronic machines. And in 2004 it happened again in Ohio where 94,442 votes cast primarily on opi-scan machines remain uncounted because of incorrect calibration. In Ohio's Mahoning County, the Board of Elections admitted that on 31 electronic voting machines, votes hopped from Kerry to Bush.

It is my understanding that the data that both parties have on the voting tendencies of certain districts is very specific. If polling data suggested that two or three districts could swing an election, is it really unimaginable that supporters of that candidate might try to tamper with the machines in that district?

In the 2008 New York primary Barack Obama tallied no votes in Harlem, a predominantly African American district. In fact 80 election districts, many heavily African American in demographics, initially reported ZERO votes for Obama (New York Times). In this case, embarrassed city officials reviewed the tallied votes and found several inaccuracies. The votes were recounted, still favoring Sen. Clinton, often by an extremely narrow margin. The Board of Elections blamed these inaccuracies on "human error." Was anyone called to task for it? Was the person responsible for that fired? No. Nothing was done.

So forgive me for having doubts about the recent numbers in the New York primary. I noticed a huge discrepancy between the CNN exit polls, which had Hillary up by 4 percent, and the end results that had her up 16 percent. There was a 7.8 percent discrepancy in Massachusetts and in the Ohio primary a 10 percent discrepancy. The margin of error on exit polls is 4 percent.

If this was one of the elections we monitor overseas wouldn't we call foul? A 16-point difference? In Florida 2000 we called foul. In Ohio 2004 we called foul. But Bernie Sanders's supporters notice a discrepancy and we are told we are crazy and that exit polls are unreliable. Really? I'm not sure that is true. But if it is, why on earth use them? Why do we hear endless data from exit polling on every election night? And as I write I am watching CNN tell me that exit polls suggest that 60 percent of Bernie supporters will support Hillary in the general election. Should I believe this? Is it just my inability to apply doublethink effectively that leaves me so confused?

Most importantly, if we cannot rely on exit polls, then what is to prevent people from hacking into electronic voting machines to change people's votes? Princeton Professor Ed Felten showed us how easy that is to do. All it takes is knowledge of the software and one voter card with a virus to flip the votes on that machine. Our votes are counted by for-profit, potentially partisan companies using secret proprietary software. Diebold, indicted for bribery, falsifying documents, and "a worldwide pattern of criminal conduct" after the 2004 election, renamed itself Premier and then was acquired by ES&S. So who currently holds the patent on the software used with ES&S voting machines, estimated to count and tabulate 80 percent of the U.S. vote in the next election? That would be a useful thing to know, wouldn't it?

I look at the long lines at polling stations, the broken machines, the disenfranchised voters and I wonder if having citizens vote is much of a priority in this country. Our turnout rate isn't very good for a free society, at 36.4 percent in 2014. Independents, nearly 42 percent of the electorate, are excluded in many states from voting in the primaries. Candidates like Bernie Sanders who bring new voters into the Democratic Party should be encouraged, not marginalized. Millennial voters should be welcomed and encouraged regardless of their affiliation. Coming to the polls for the first time or at any time should not be a challenge. It should be as easy as showing up and filling out a ballot. And when the results show irregularities, they should be thoroughly investigated by the press and by an independent agency that holds responsible parties to task for any attempts at election fraud. Until then, every broken machine, every disenfranchised voter, every discrepancy between the exit polls and the final results will suggest malfeasance. Fix the system. We all know it's broken. Tolerating it only exacerbates the problem and leads to more and more disillusionment that results in less and less voters. That couldn't be what we want, right?

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