The midterm elections in Georgia and Florida are far from over. I live in Georgia, and I am no fan of Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor. Her progressive credentials are no deeper than her gender, race and hair style. From 2011 to 2017 she was the Democratic party leader in the lower house of Georgia’s state legislature.
In capitalist America, legislatures choose as their leaders those lawmakers who are most effective at gathering bribes – politely known as campaign contributions, from corporations and wealthy individuals. That’s the leadership ladder Stacey Abrams climbed, and she emerges dripping with fracking money, nuke money, gentrifiers money and all the rest. Since she’s running against a naked white supremacist in the Trump era, our black political class and the rest of the Democratic party honchos are hoping we ignore this. We shouldn’t. And we shouldn’t get caught in the useless game of comparing the white racist crook to the crook that looks like us.
What’s important now is that the election is plainly being stolen, not from Stacey Abrams but from the majority of people who imagined that they and their votes ought to be counted. The election is being hijacked four ways.
FIRST, the election was stolen in the couple of years leading up to the current mid-term in which Brian Kemp as secretary of state purged some six or seven hundred thousand people from the voting rolls, often without the bother of even notifying them.
SECOND the election was stolen by the Secretary of State and officials in many counties who closed over 200 polling places going into this election alone, and by the state legislature which apparently feels the need to cut early voting hours and locations every session.
THIRD, the election was and is being stolen by the convenient expedient of not counting provisional ballots. Provisional ballots were introduced with the 2002 passage of the cynically misnamed Help America Vote Act, which provides that any vote which officials can find or invent a reason to question goes on a provisional ballot, separate from other cast ballots. Our good friend Greg Palast calls these placebo ballots, because they give the uninformed voter the opportunity to imagine that she has actually cast a vote, even though that vote may never be counted. In practice local officials have wide discretion on whether to actually count the placebo – I mean provisional ballots and frequently they are discarded, without the bother of notifying the voter.
Though federal law provides for the issue of placebo ballots, the Help America Vote Act allows states to make up their own procedures governing how and whether these are counted. In Georgia the law is that if you vote a placebo ballot you must appear in person before election officials while they’re still counting, and satisfy them that you are who you say you are and that you do indeed have the right and the intention to vote in that particular precinct. So federal courts have ordered Georgia counties to set up web sites and hot lines so that voters can discover whether they were among the tens of thousands who were issued these second class ballots, in the hopes that they can satisfy the authorities that they are real voters with the actual intent of exercising the franchise.
FOURTH, and worse than mere theft of the election, the electoral process is being fundamentally undermined and delegitimied by right wing media, corporate social media and Republican officials from the president down who are doubling and tripling down on the most outrageous vote fraud fairy tales, from thousands of votes showing up days late “out of nowhere” or “from the trunks of rented cars”, to busloads of non-citizens taken from polling place to polling place, to Democrats changing clothes and returning to polling places to vote a second or third time. It doesn’t matter that they’re all blatantly untrue, truth isn’t the goal. Elections are kind of magic, that is they do something only magic stuff can do. Elections confer legitimacy. At least they have until now. Blatant lies like these strip the magic from elections, and enable Republicans to claim any election they don’t win is crooked on the flimsiest of grounds or no grounds at all. This is beyond problematic, it’s a step toward fascism. If Trump doesn’t stroke out or choke on a hamburger with too much ketchup, he’ll be running again in 2020, with a gaggle of little fascists imitators at his coattails. They’re rehearsing they are building a playbook not just on how future elections can be stolen, but how they can be hijacked or even set aside.
Trump and his followers are sowing the wind, and we all stand to reap the whirlwind. I’m part of the Green Party in Georgia. We don’t support the Democrats and they don’t support us – Democrats have conspired with Republicans over the years to keep competition from the Green Party off the ballot. But we do want every voter and every vote counted. We expect to be running candidates in next year’s local elections around the country, and if they don’t change the law on us again as they have so many times, to compete in the 2020 elections. If they can do it to Democrats they will certainly do it to us.
In the end, the only legal solution to the vote counting mess is abolition of the placebo ballots maliciously introduced by the 2002 Help America Vote Act, and transitioning back to paper ballots, which can be accurately counted and if necessary recounted. Canada uses paper ballots, and their election results are ready by bedtime on election day. Georgia on the other hand has faith based voting machines, brought to us back when crooked Democrats instead of crooked Republicans ran the state. Recounts are not even possible – all officials can do is press the buttons again and the machines will spit out the same totals from wherever they came the first time.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. For three years now Google and other corporate social media suppress the appearance of Black Agenda Report in search results and by other means. The only way you can be certain you’re getting fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left each and every week is to go to www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button so that our free weekly email newsletter is delivered straight to your email inbox with links to each week’s new content. Following us on Facebook doesn’t always do that. And the only way more people find out about Black Agenda Report is for you to share our articles by email and social media. We’re grateful when you do.