Posts Tagged ‘Jill Stein’

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Michigan officials declared in late November that Trump won the state’s count by 10,704 votes. But hold on — a record 75,355 ballots were not counted.

The uncounted ballots came mostly from Detroit and Flint, majority-Black cities that vote Democratic.

According to the machines that read their ballots, these voters waited in line, sometimes for hours, yet did not choose a president. Really?

This week, I drove through a snowstorm to Lansing to hear the official explanation from Ruth Johnson, the Republican secretary of state. I was directed to official flack-catcher Fred Woodhams who told me, “You know, I think when you look at the unfavorability ratings that were reported for both major-party candidates, it’s probably not that surprising.”

Sleuthing about in Detroit, I found another explanation: bubbles.

Bubbles?

Michigan votes on paper ballots. If you don’t fill the bubble completely, the machine records that you didn’t vote for president.

Susan, a systems analyst who took part in the hand recount initiated by Jill Stein, told me, “I saw a lot of red ink. I saw a lot of checkmarks. We saw a lot of ballots that weren’t originally counted, because those don’t scan into the machine.” (I can only use her first name because she’s terrified of retribution from Trump followers in the white suburb where she lives.)

Other ballots were not counted because the machines thought the voter chose two presidential candidates.

How come more ballots were uncounted in Detroit and Flint than in the white ‘burbs and rural counties? Are the machines themselves racist?

No, but they are old, and in some cases, busted. An astonishing 87 machines broke down in Detroit, responsible for counting tens of thousands of ballots. Many more were simply faulty and uncalibrated.

I met with Carlos Garcia, University of Michigan multimedia specialist, who, on Election Day, joined a crowd waiting over two hours for the busted machine to be fixed.

Some voters left; others filled out ballots that were chucked, uncounted, into the bottom of machine. When the machine was fixed, Carlos explained, “Any new scanned ballots were falling in on top of the old ones.” It would not be possible to recount those dumped ballots.

This is not an unheard of phenomenon: I know two voters who lost their vote in another state (California) because they didn’t fill in the bubble — my parents! Meet mom and dad in my film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

How did Detroit end up with the crap machines?

Detroit is bankrupt, so every expenditure must be approved by “emergency” overlords appointed by the Republican governor. The GOP operatives refused the city’s pre-election pleas to fix and replace the busted machines.

“We had the rollout [of new machines] in our budget,” Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said. “No money was appropriated by the state.”

Same in Flint. GOP state officials cut the budget for water service there, resulting in the contamination of the city’s water supply with lead. The budget cuts also poisoned the presidential race.

The Human Eye Count

There is, however, an extraordinary machine that can read the ballots, whether the bubbles are filled or checked, whether in black ink or red, to determine the voters’ intent: the human eye.

That’s why Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, paid millions of dollars for a human eyeball count of the uncounted votes. While labeled a “recount,” its real purpose is to count the 75,355 votes never counted in the first place.

Count those ballots, mostly in Detroit and Flint, and Trump’s victory could vanish.

Adding to the pile of uncounted ballots are the large numbers of invalidated straight-ticket votes in Detroit. In Michigan, you can choose to make one mark that casts your vote for every Democrat (or Republican) for every office. Voters know that they can vote the Democratic ballot but write in a protest name — popular were “Bernie Sanders” and “Mickey Mouse” — but their ballot, they knew, would count for Clinton.

However, the Detroit machines simply invalidated the ballots with protest write-ins because the old Opti-Scans wrongly tallied these as “over-votes” (i.e., voting for two candidates). The human eye would catch this mistake.

But Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette stymied Stein’s human eye count. The Republican pol issued an order saying that no one could look at the ballots cast in precincts where the number of votes and voters did not match — exactly the places where you’d want to look for the missing votes. He also ordered a ban on counting ballots from precincts where the seals on the machines had been broken — in other words, where there is evidence of tampering. Again, those are the machines that most need investigating. The result: The recount crews were denied access to more than half of all Detroit precincts (59 percent).

I met with Stein, who told me she was stunned by this overt sabotage of the recount. “It’s shocking to think that the discounting of these votes may be making the critical difference in the outcome of the election,” she said.

This story was repeated in Wisconsin, which uses the same Opti-Scan system as Michigan. There, the uncounted votes, sometimes called “spoiled” or “invalidated” ballots, were concentrated in Black-majority Milwaukee. Stein put up over $3 million of donated funds for the human eye review in Wisconsin, but GOP state officials authorized Milwaukee County to recount simply by running the ballots through the same blind machines. Not surprisingly, this instant replay produced the same questionable result.

Adding Un-Votes to the Uncounted

Stein was also disturbed by the number of voters who never got to cast ballots. “Whether it’s because of the chaos [because] some polling centers are closed, and then some are moved, and there’s all kinds of mix-ups,” she said. “So, a lot of people are filling out provisional ballots, or they were being tossed off the voter rolls by Interstate Crosscheck.”

Interstate Crosscheck is a list that was created by Donald Trump supporter and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to hunt down and imprison voters who illegally voted or registered in two states in one election.

An eye-popping 499,092 Michiganders are on the Crosscheck suspect list. The list, which my team uncovered in an investigation for Rolling Stone, cost approximately 50,000 of the state’s voters their registrations. Disproportionately, the purged voters were Blacks, Latinos and that other solid Democratic demographic, Muslim Americans. (Dearborn, Michigan, has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the US.)

The Michigan Secretary of State’s spokesman Woodhams told me the purpose of the mass purge was, “to clean our voter lists and ensure that there’s no vulnerability for fraud. We’ve been very aggressive in closing vulnerabilities and loopholes to fraud.”

While Woodhams did not know of a single conviction for double-voting in Michigan, the “aggression” in purging the lists was clear. I showed him part of the Michigan purge list that he thought was confidential. The “double voters” are found by simply matching first and last names. Michael Bernard Brown is supposed to be the same voter as Michael Anthony Brown. Michael Timothy Brown is supposed to be the same voter as Michael Johnnie Brown.

Woodhams assured me the GOP used the Trump-Kobach list with care, more or less. He said, “I’m sure that there are some false positives. But we go through it thoroughly, and we’re not just canceling people.”

As to the racial profiling inherent in the list? Did he agree with our experts that by tagging thousands of voters named Jose Garcia and Michael Brown there would be a bias in his purge list?

The GOP spokesman replied, “I’ve known a lot of white Browns.”

Jill Stein didn’t buy it. Responding to both Michigan’s and Trump’s claim that voter rolls are loaded with fraudulent double voters, Stein said, “It’s the opposite of what he is saying: not people who are voting fraudulently and illegally, but actually legitimate voters who have had their right to vote taken away from them by Kris Kobach and by Donald Trump.”

Crosscheck likely cost tens of thousands their vote in Pennsylvania as well.

“It is a Jim Crow system, and it all needs to be fixed,” Stein concluded. “It’s not rocket science. This is just plain, basic democracy.”

Sorry, no Russian hacker hunt

Nope, they’re not hunting for Russian hackers

To begin with, the main work of the recount hasn’t a damn thing to do with finding out if the software programs for the voting machines have been hacked, whether by Putin’s agents or some guy in a cave flipping your vote from Hillary to The Donald.

The Green team does not yet even have the right to get into the codes. But that’s just not the core of the work

The ballots in the electoral “dumpster”

The nasty little secret of US elections, is that we don’t count all the votes.

In Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania—and all over America—there were a massive number of votes that were simply rejected, invalidated, and spoiled. They were simply, not counted. Officially, in a typical presidential election, at least three million votes end up rejected, often for picayune, absurd reasons.

The rejects fall into three big categories: provisional ballots rejected, absentee and mail-in ballots invalidated and in-precinct votes “spoiled,” spit out by a machine or thrown out by a human reader as unreadable or mis-marked.
So, as Robert Fitrakis, lead lawyer for the recount tells me, their first job is to pull the votes out of the electoral dumpster—and, one by one, make the case for counting a rejected provisional, absentee or “spoiled” ballot.

Spoiled: over-votes and under-votes

How does a vote spoil? Most fall in the categories of “over-votes” and “under-votes.”

In Michigan, the Green team has found a whole lot of people who voted for TWO candidates for President. These are the “over-vote”—votes that will count for neither candidate.

How odd. While the schools in Detroit are not stellar, its graduates do know that they can only have one president.

Then, some folks didn’t vote at all. They are the “under-voter.”

But, Fitrakis and team suspect, many of these under- and over-voters meant to vote for a candidate but the robot reader couldn’t understand their choice.

Here’s how it happens. Voters in Michigan and Wisconsin fill in bubbles next to their choice. The cards, filled up with darkened bubbles for each race, are gathered and fed through an “optical scanner.” These robotic eyeballs mess up all the time.

This is what Fitrakis, an old hand at vote-machine failures (both deliberate and benign), calls “the calibration problem.”

Are machines calibrated with a Republican or Democratic bias? No, that’s not how it works. But just as poor areas get the worst schools and hospitals, they also get the worst voting machines.

The key is an ugly statistic not taught in third grade civics class: According to the US Civil Rights Commission, the chance your vote will be disqualified as “spoiled” is 900% more likely if you’re Black than if you’re white.

So the Green Party intends to review every single one of the six million bubble-filled cards. They’ll use the one instrument that can easily tell one bubble from two, or one bubble from none: the human eye.

As you can imagine, This will require several thousand eyes. The good news is, Fitrakis reports, that well over a thousand volunteers have already signed up. Training by Skype begins Tuesday morning.

Provisional or “placebo” ballots

According to the US Elections Assistance Commission (EAC), Americans cast 2.7 million provisional ballots in the last presidential election. About a million were simply discarded. What?!

Yes. Discarded, not counted. You show up at your normal polling station and they can’t find your name, or they don’t like your ID, or you’re supposed to vote in another precinct. Instead of letting you vote on a regular ballot, you fill out a “provisional” ballot and place it in an envelope, sign your name, and under penalty of jail time for lying, affirm you’re a properly registered voter.

The polls close—then the magic begins. It’s up to highly partisan election officials to decide if your vote counts. Hillary Clinton only won one swing state, Virginia, notably, the only one where the vote count was controlled by Democrats. She lost all swing states—Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina and Florida—where the GOP set the rules for counting these ballots and their hacks acted as the judge and jury on whether a ballot should be counted.

Wisconsin generally rejects votes cast in the wrong precinct, even if they’re legal voters—and, says Fitrakis, “even if their official precinct was just another table in the same high school gym—and they were mis-directed by poll workers.”

(That’s why I sometimes call “provisional” ballots “placebo” ballots. They let you feel you’ve voted, even if you haven’t.)

In Wisconsin, provisional ballots were handed to voters—mostly, it appears, students—who didn’t have the form of ID required under new Wisconsin law. These ballots were disqualified despite zero evidence even one voter was an identity thief.

Fitrakis says the Stein campaign will fight for each of these provisional votes where this is clearly no evidence the vote is fraudulent.

Mail-in, Early and Absentee Ballots go Absent

If you’ve gone postal in this election, good luck! According to EAC data, at least half a million absentee ballots go absent, that is, just don’t get counted. The cause: everything from postage due to “suspect signature.” Fitrakis told me that in his home state of Ohio, you need to put your driver’s license number on the envelope, “and if you don’t have a driver’s license and leave the line blank—instead of writing ‘no driver’s license’—they toss your ballot.

It’s a “gotcha!” system meant to knock out the ballots the officials don’t want to count. (Remember, your mail-in ballot is anything but secret.) Team Green will try to fight for each absentee ballot rejected for cockamamie reasons.

If the recount doesn’t change the outcome, can we feel assured the election was honest?

Sadly, no. As Fitrakis says, “If a student is given a provisional ballot because they didn’t have the right ID, or the state simply lost their registration, we can fight for the ballot to be counted. But most students who voted off campus didn’t know their right to get a provisional ballot and most probably didn’t get offered one.

Students and others were discouraged from voting because they lacked the proper ID (300,000 by the estimate of the experts with the ACLU—that’s thirty times Trump’s plurality). But if you didn’t cast any ballot, provisional or otherwise, no one can fight for it.

And final decisions may come down to the vote of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, God forbid. As Norman Stockwell, the editor of Madison-based The Progressive explained to me, formerly, elections law adjudications were made by a panel of non-partisan judges. These were replaced by this new commission of partisan shills appointed by GOP Governor Scott Walker.

Trump says millions voted illegally. Is he crazy?

Crazy like a fox. There’s a method in his madness that affects the recount.

While the media dismisses Trump’s claim that there are “millions of people that voted illegally,” they have not paid attention to the details of his claim. Trump explains that millions of people are “voting many, many times,” that is, voting in two states in the same election.

Trump’s claim is based on a list of “potential duplicate voters” created by his operative, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach (a top dog in Trump’s transition team) directs a program for hunting down fraudulent voters using a computer system called, “Crosscheck.”

It’s quite a computer: Crosscheck identified a breathtaking 449,922 Michiganders who are suspected of voting or registering in a second state, a felony crime, as are 371,923 in Pennsylvania.

I spent two years investigating the Trump/Kobach claim for Rolling Stone. We obtained the “confidential” suspect list of several million citizens accused of voting twice. In fact, it was no more than a list of common names—Maria Hernandez, James Brown, David Lee—that is, common to voters of color. Read: Democrats. A true and typical example: Michael James Brown of Michigan is supposed to be the same voter as Michael Kendrick Brown of Georgia.

About 54,000 voters in Michigan, five times Trump’s plurality, lost their right to vote based on this nutty double-voter accusation. In Pennsylvania, about 45,000 were purged.

The problem for Fitrakis: While he eventually plans to file suit against Crosscheck purges, in the meantime, it’s not clear he can challenge someone whose lost their vote because of a false accusation of double voting. And those who found their names missing and didn’t demand a provisional ballot—there’s no hope at all of recovering their vote.

Is Jill Stein going to get rich?

Fitrakis laughs at this one. “The FEC [Federal Elections Commission] has very strict rules on recounts. The donations for the recount are sequestered in a specially designated account and all spending is restricted to the recount.”

The big problem is that the cost is somewhat out of Stein’s control. Each state will bill the campaign for the “pro-rated salaries and benefits” of its county and state officials working on the recount.

To add to the cost and just plain drive the Green team crazy, the Wisconsin Election Board announced on Monday that each separate county elections clerk will decide if they’ll even let the Green volunteers directly view the ballots. Fitrakis and partners will have to get a court order to get into each county. How does one recount ballots without seeing them? (Hmm, is the Wisconsin board, stooges appointed by the GOP Governor, fearful that the viewing the ballots will expose the game?)

Hillary joins the fray

What will the Clinton camp add to the recount? “Lawyers,” said Fitrakis, though he’s yet to see them. The Clinton campaign is apparently helping find one voter in each Pennsylvania county, as one is required in each jurisdiction to file for a recount of that state.

And what about that hack job?

While Fitrakis is not looking for Russkies in the computer code, he says, “We’re more concerned with the private companies that control the keys to the kingdom—to match what’s on paper to the official count.” The “keys” are the little machines, memory cards and other electronic gewgaws that are used to suck the data from the voting machine—which are carried off to another state for tabulation by a private contractor. Will these tabulations at each step match what the volunteers find in the on-the-ground recount?

One problem is that the tabulation software is “proprietary.” A private company owns the code to the count—and the privateers will fight fiercely, with GOP help, to keep the ballot counting code their commercial secret.

Push and Pray Pennsylvania

In the end, the single biggest impediment to a full and fair recount is that 70 percent of Pennsylvania voters used what are called, “Push and Pray” voting machines—Direct Recording Electronic touch-screens. Push the screen next to your choice and pray it gets recorded. Pennsylvania is one of the only states that has yet to require some form of VVPAT (“vee-pat”) or voter-verified paper audit trail that creates an ATM-style receipt.

Therefore, the Keystone State recount will have to rely on hopes of access to the code, statistical comparisons to counties that used paper ballots—and prayer.

Maybe it IS the Russians

The possibility that a Putin pal hacked the machines was championed by University of Michigan computer sciences professor J. Alex Halderman who proposed, “The attackers would probe election offices well in advance in order to find ways to break into their computers…and spread malware into voting machines.”

I imagine some squat, middle-pay-scale civil servant in chinos and a pocket protector who works in the Michigan Secretary of State’s office approached, one late overtime night, by some FSB agent in high heels and a slinky dress split halfway up her thigh. The svelte spy would lean against the bureaucrat provocatively and whisper, “My handsome dahling, would you mind sticking this little thumb drive into that big old computer of yours?”

Professor Halderman, if you want to help the recount, put down the James Bond novels and pick up some Opti-Scan ballots. We’ve got a lot of bubbles to read. End