The Green Party Presidential ticket of Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka released the following statement in response to recent controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s warnings that the presidential election may be rigged, as well as Democrats’ warnings that Russian hackers may try to interfere with the vote.
There is a problem with the US election system. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are raising unprecedented doubts – from very different directions – about the reliability of the upcoming vote count.
Trump conjures up fictional armies of people engaged in “voter fraud.” The mainstream media and the Democrats are obsessed with “Russian hackers.” In the meantime, President Obama scoffs at the notion of election rigging. But in fact, there are serious election integrity issues in the US that we need to address. Just as important, the system is rigged to ensure that the Democratic and Republican parties continue to dominate while political competition is effectively barred.
The rigging of our political system to prevent competition begins with anti-democratic and discriminatory ballot access laws that force parties like the Greens to gather massive numbers of signatures, often much more than the establishment parties need, simply to appear on the ballot. After we spend our resources getting on the ballot, the media gives us less than 1% the coverage given to the establishment candidates, while constantly reinforcing the narrative that political competition is futile or worse. This marginalization leads to low poll numbers in polls that significantly undercount young people and independents, which happen to be the demographics that are most likely to vote Green. Then these poll numbers are used to justify locking ballot-qualified candidates out of debates and media coverage. This is clearly a self-perpetuating cycle that keeps the establishment parties in control, even when voters are ready to revolt in disgust against the candidates they’ve chosen. This is a failing system badly in need of reforms such as ranked choice voting, an improved voting system that is on the statewide ballot in Maine.
As for the idea of voter fraud peddled by people like Donald Trump, social scientists have already debunked it as a myth. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University stated that “it is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”
People who worry about the integrity of our elections should be more concerned with the well-documented suppression of minority and poor voters by partisan secretaries of state and other election officials. Since the 2000 presidential election, a variety of techniques have been employed to disenfranchise large numbers of eligible voters, including voter ID laws, the deliberate purging of registered voters, the elimination of voting sites in minority neighborhoods and on college campuses, and intimidation at the polls.
In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush stripped some 90,000 mostly Black and Latino citizens off the registration rolls prior to the 2000 election in the key state that his brother officially won by 537 votes. In Ohio, considered by many to be the ultimate “swing state” with the power to decide a presidential election, GOP operatives have aggressively purged even larger numbers of eligible voters from the rolls.
Regarding hackers or other external threats, study after study has proved beyond doubt that computerized voting machines and central tabulators can be tampered with by external sources. The 2007 Everest study conducted by former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, following the irregularities in the state’s 2004 election, revealed many security flaws in electronic voting machines. But under our current system, we have more to fear from private voting machine contractors working with partisan election officials than we do from foreign nations.
A real threat to our election system comes from private for-profit corporations that register voters, control voter databases, count and report the vote with secret proprietary software and zero transparency, accountability, or recourse.
For example in the 2004 Ohio election, former Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell had signed a legal contract with Michael Connell for IT work on the infamous election night 2004, when Kerry unexpectedly lost after exit polls showed him winning. Connell and Blackwell had agreed 14 months prior to the 2004 election that that Connell would have “remote monitoring capabilities” to the computer counting Ohio’s presidential vote. That means Blackwell planned more than a year in advance for Connell’s private partisan external third party company and a subcontractor to have unfettered secret access to Ohio’s 2004 vote tally. The contract contains an “Exhibit B” which called for a “mirror” website to handle Ohio’s 2004 actual vote count on election night provided by Connell’s company, GovTech. The document stated: “GovTech shall install and host (as set forth in Exhibit B) a Mirror site of the Application to provide a fail over solution in the event of failure of the primary installation on Election Day.”
This “hot rollover configuration,” as the document explained, “can completely re-point the site if the primary site should fail by using some remote monitoring capabilities.” And that’s exactly what happened at 11:13pm election night when Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was up three points over Republican incumbent George W. Bush. Ohio’s 2004 votes were outsourced to Smartech in Chattanooga, Tennessee, owned by right-wing evangelical publisher Jeff Averbeck, subcontracted by Connell. The vote count inexplicably flipped at 12:21am changing from Kerry winning by over 3 percentage points to Bush winning by over 3 percentage points. Overall, there was an unexplainable rapid 6.7% shift in the vote count.
Now 16 years after the theft of the presidency in Florida 2000, and a dozen years since it was done again in Ohio 2004, mainstream media outlets are coming to the conclusion that it is indeed very easy to strip millions of legitimate citizens from the voting rolls, and then to hack electronic voting machines and computerized central tabulators to flip the official final outcome.
In 2016, official Democratic primary vote counts compared to exit poll results were significantly outside the margin of error in 12 of 26 states. Mathematicians concluded that the probability of those official vote tallies being correct is one in 78 billion. There were no such discrepancies in this year’s Republican primaries.
Finally, the major for-profit media is approaching consensus that U.S. political elections can be rigged.
Former national coordinator for counter-terrorism Richard Clarke, reporting for ABC News on August 19, 2016, analyzed the particular security problems related to battleground states like Ohio and Florida: “In 2000 and 2004, there were only a handful of battleground states that determined which presidential candidate had enough Electoral College votes to win. A slight alteration of the vote in some swing precincts in swing states might not raise suspicion. Smart malware can be programmed to switch only a small percentage of votes from what the voters intended. That may be all that is needed, and that malware can also be programmed to erase itself after it does its job, so there might be no trace it ever happened.” Clarke was on the White House National Security Council during both Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s administrations.
On August 30, 2016, the Washington Post wrote: “Deleting or altering data on voter rolls could cause mayhem on Election Day disenfranchising some voters. Many voting machines themselves also are vulnerable, especially touch-screen systems that do not create a paper record as a guard against fraud or manipulation.” The Post also supplied a list of the 15 states with the most vulnerable voting systems.
Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the North Carolina School of Information and Library Science, in his August 12, 2016 New York Times op-ed “The Election Won’t Be Rigged but It Could Be Hacked,” wrote: “The mere existence of this discussion is cause for alarm. The United States needs to return, as soon as possible, to a paper-based, auditable voting system in all jurisdictions that still use electronic-only, unverifiable voting machines.”
As President, first of all, I will propose federal legislation providing for universal national voter registration and election procedures.
As a presidential candidate, I call for immediate measures to help protect the vote on November 8.
Electronic voting machines must have an auditable paper-based ballot trail.
Immediately post-election, there must be a mandatory random audit of three percent of all ballots.
Open source code must be used to verify the vote count in states that use secret proprietary software. Systems like this, such as the Trachtenberg system, exist and are already in use.
All election jurisdictions with electronic ballot imaging technology and audit features must turn both these features on during the elections, and make ballot images and audit logs available as public records.
It is vital to the integrity of our elections and our democracy that every vote be counted. We call on all parties and presidential campaigns to join our call for verified election results today.