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Commentary :: Politics
Race and Truth at the Polls: The Real Election Results
08 Nov 2004
If we look past the partisanship of the Republicans and Democrats, this election will go down in history as a huge victory for the impulse of US democracy and a huge defeat for actual democracy.

The largest turnout figures in the our history. The biggest get out the vote efforts. Unprecedented forces coming together to turn out those most disenfranchised. Unlike the official story, an incredibly close election with both Bush and Kerry getting more votes than any president in the U.S. history.

And more voters were actively disenfranchised probably than ever before. The election was called with over 1.6 million ballots uncounted in Florida; Bush only won by 380K and Democrat-leaning forces had been telling folks to vote by absentee ballot for months to avoid the electronic machines – how might that have affected the outcome? The election was called with 175K and growing uncounted ballots in Ohio; if you add Ohio’s undervotes and overvotes (majority people of color who overwhelmingly voted for Kerry) which would have to be hand-counted, well, Bush only won by 140K officially…
Add to those figures the say 60,000 absentee ballots that never got to voters in Florida, the hundreds of Democratic Nevada registrations pulled from the trash by police (among alleged thousands at that firm).

Then we have 10’000’s of voters from Florida’s intentionally vastly overly broad purge lists from 2000 -- very few of whom were ever able to re-register -- and their 2004 list which once again was almost all African American with almost no Latinos. That doesn’t count the police mysteriously being sent out to interview elderly black voters in Florida before the election. Early analysis of Florida computerized votes suggests very strategic hacking. Would the outcome be different if we the public hadn’t been distracted from Florida voters’ disenfranchisement by being directed to focus on Ohio?

Similar although smaller purge lists in Ohio, New Mexico and in Colorado where 1,000’s of names were illegally removed less than six weeks before the election precluding voters chance to challenge their removal before the election. The list goes on. These are estimated at almost 1,000,000 voters almost all of color – African American, Latino, Native American – who vote overwhelmingly Democrat. Nor the police visits to new Native American voters in South Dakota right after a massive voter registration drive on the reservation.

Nor the fliers distributed in African American communities this time around. The most well know are from the “Milwaukee Black Voters League” which threatened penalties of “up to 10 years of prison and removal of children” of voters who tried to vote if: you had already voted in an election this year; you have a relative with a conviction; you had even so much as a parking violation yourself; etc. Such notices appeared elsewhere in the US as well. In one major city, notices were posted that due to the huge number of new registrants, Republicans should vote on Tuesday and Democrats on Wednesday.

Problems of machines down in ten of Florida’s Broward County’s precincts and three primarily African American communities in Wisconsin. One machine malfunction in Iowa that delayed the entire vote count since the state was so close (Bush interestingly ended up officially winning there). The Wisconsin campus where students were supposedly allowed to register the same day but were turned away until the campus president intervened. Precincts where people were turned away because they ran out of pencils.

But let me return to the race story. Native Americans report being followed by police. A road block on a main route to a primarily African American voting place (it took miles to go around). Some voters were told to show multiple id’s (which is illegal) or in states that require no id, people were required to show one and then turned away if they could not. In 2000, this happened in mostly Latino areas; we await details now.

I won’t even go into the phone-banking scams that include Democratic voters being told Kerry is already going to win their state and not to go vote, etc. At least 2 reports of voting places (1 in Florida) where voters
had to report and/or were marked for party affiliation before being allowed to vote?

Then there are the issues with the new electronic voting machines. Computerized voting problems apparently mostly surface in the vote “canvass” – happens about 3-7 days after the vote. There are initial reports that getting your vote for Kerry recognized by many Florida machines was a problem. Many voters may not have had persistence to keep retrying to get it properly recorded; how many did not really check before they okayed the ballot? 20% of electronic voting machines tested by observers prior to the election had problems correctly recording votes. Only Nevada had a consistent paper trail of the votes out of the some 30% of voters who used electronic machines across the US this year.

Early exit polls put Kerry clearly in the lead; mysteriously by the end of the day, he was not and the Bush campaign was “confident” of the outcome. Hackers in minutes had been able to alter results both in particular machines and in the data transfer process in tests before the election. Computer experts may be able to track if machines were tampered with after the election– but what then?

Clearly, even if the votes we do know about had finished being counted, the outcome of the election could easily be different. But imagine the outcome if eligible voters who wanted to vote had been able to? And not had their vote tampered with? And they had actually been counted too?

Why the rush to resolution (by the Kerry campaign)? Why was the appearance of propriety, of a functioning democracy valued over real democracy, the counting of every voice? Whose voices get silenced, again?

I wonder if the systemic nature of the racism involved in the numerous strategies of vote suppression will ever get out? Many of these strategies are refined from ones used over and over by white right wing forces in the South against primarily African American voters. Many Republicans were explicit that suppression was their strategy: including Secretaries of State, election officials, Republican state parties and the more loosely affiliated “creative” groups. Clearly the Democrats are not interested in fighting for that story to come out even though in the short term, their candidates would be the beneficiaries.

So who is the big loser? As typical of systemic, intentionally enforced racism (dare I say apartheid), all of us.

I was asked by a reporter from the Final Call, shouldn’t we say Americans were disenfranchised instead of primarily Americans of color? My answer is no. If we cannot properly identify a problem, we cannot properly fix it.

And if white America cannot get it that it is our democracy, our spiritual integrity, our community, the hope for our future that is one and the same as the democracy, spiritual integrity, community and hope for the future for all our sister and brother Americans, well, we are all in deep trouble together.

May we remember: “What befalls the earth, befalls the people of the earth” and “A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

But this hugest turn out and attempt to actually function democratically means the largest progressive forces in my life time were on the ground in the week leading up to and including November 2nd. If we can awaken the awareness in everyone, in all racial groupings in the US, that we are in this together and we act together, we will have an unstoppable force for progressive change in this country – regardless of who is in the top office.

Of course, younger voters, women, low-income voters also turned out in larger numbers and tend to vote progressively. Yet we must do more to overcome their disenfranchisement as well. But, as I keep reminding people these days, hopelessness is a tool of repression – we need to carefully nurture our own hope and each other’s hope and inspiration. If we figure out how to reach each other and keep those flames of inspiration burning, we will have the power to create the change we want.

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