All that is wrong with America’s democracy

Written By: - Date published: 10:46 am, November 10th, 2018 - 40 comments
Categories: articles, Deep stuff, democracy under attack, democratic participation, elections, International, Politics, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, us politics, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: ,

If this was a third world nation the UN would have sent in election observers. Such is the state of American politics and the politicisation of its electoral system as shown by the recent midterm elections.

There are many examples, Texan voting machings flipping votes from Beto to Ted Cruz, the most astounding gerrymandered electorates possible, and the shutting down of polling stations in Democrat strongholds to make it that much more difficult for people to vote. No wonder than even in a good year less than half of eligible voters actual exercise their democratic rights.

But one example really struck a nerve with me. The example was the Georgian governor’s race where the Democrat candidate Stacey Abrams, a black woman, looks like she may have only just fallen short in her attempt to become the first black governor in a state whose history was mired in slavery and where the force of the Voting Rights Act was required to force that state to begrudgingly start to respect that most basic of human rights.

The Republican candidate, Brian Kemp, proudly billed himself as a Trump conservative. He was Georgia’s secretary of state and even though he was a candidate and had so much hanging on the result he continued to oversee the elections in that state. So much for independent and impartial oversight.

Here is the kicker. For the past few years Abrams has been busy doing her best to make sure that as many people as possible could exercise their democratic rights, and for many years Kemp has been doing his best to make sure they couldn’t.

From Carol Anderson in the New Atlantic:

Kemp had no intention of relinquishing a post he has held since 2010, and often wields as a weapon to cull Georgia’s electorate. He understood that he would need every trick in the book because he was up against a woman who, in addition to serving as the minority leader of the state’s House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017, founded a formidable voter-registration organization, the New Georgia Project.

Several years ago, Abrams noticed that the state’s demographics were changing quickly, as minorities made up an increasing share of the age-eligible electorate. Abrams noticed, as well, that more than half a million black Georgians were not registered to vote. In 2013, as the executive director of the New Georgia Project, she set out to “register and civically engage the rising electorate in our state.”

When tens of thousands of voter-registration cards poured into Kemp’s office, he heard warning bells. He told the media that “we’re just not going to put up with fraud,” and launched a highly publicized investigation into Abrams’s organization. While accusations of criminality hung in the air, however, he relayed a very different story to his fellow Republicans. Kemp explained to them in 2014 that “Democrats are working hard, and all these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November.”

The claim of voter fraud, it seems, was a ruse to try to intimidate the New Georgia Project, Abrams, and black voters with criminal prosecution. It didn’t work. Abrams, a Yale-educated attorney, knew the laws, knew that the New Georgia Project had not broken any, and stood her ground. Kemp was forced to walk away, unable to even charge her or the organization with any violations. (A countersuit by the New Georgia Project alleging voter suppression was thrown out.)

Greg Palast has been doing a lot of work in the area tracking Kemp’s actions including publicising the fact that potentially hundreds of thousands of voters were removed from the electoral rolls. His conclusion?

If you do look at the numbers, it’s impossible to imagine that Abrams wouldn’t have won outright if everyone who is entitled to vote could vote. If all the provisional ballots are counted, if all the absentee ballots are counted, I don’t have any doubt about what the outcome would be or would have been.”

And how he formed this conclusion?

Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, purged 550,702 Georgians from the voter rolls in 2016 and 2017 — that is, canceled their registrations. I’m not guessing. After much resistance, Kemp turned over the names and addresses of each one of these purged voters in response to a threat of a federal lawsuit (which I filed in federal court in Atlanta and served on Kemp Friday).

Of these, we are certain that 340,134 were wrongly removed, with no notice that they were purged. I want to thank Salon for your report, which went viral, letting Georgians know my foundation had listed all the names of the purged at GregPalast.com. Unfortunately, there were only a couple of days left to re-register, but it appears that thousands did so.

That still leaves hundreds of thousands disenfranchised. If they show up to vote on Nov. 6 — though they won’t get notices of polling places, nor get absentee ballots if requested — they can only receive “provisional ballots,” with little or no chance they will be counted.

How did Kemp pull off this mass purge? He moved voters from his state’s so-called “inactive” list to “canceled,” based on his assertion they had all moved out of the state or out of their county.

But they hadn’t moved. According to a team of experts led by John Lenzer, CEO of CohereOne, 340,134 had never moved at all. Lenzer led a group of the nation’s top “advanced address hygiene” professionals, who use dozens of databases (including deep post office files) to know exactly where every American lives. Our experts advise companies like American Express to make sure you get your bill (or find you if you don’t pay).

As Lenzer told me of the 340,134 Georgians, “They hadn’t moved, and they should not have been removed from the voter rolls.”

How could Kemp assert these voters had moved? Each one was “guilty” of missing the 2014 and 2016 elections, and they failed to return a postcard. The postcard looks like junk mail; most people throw it away. Kemp argues, correctly, that the Supreme Court said states could use this procedure — but only so long as the state had a good-faith basis to believe voters have moved.

Kemp sent the “inactive-to-canceled” list to counties to check the accuracy of the list, knowing damn well the counties don’t have the experts and resources to do this.

The people disenfranchised included a cousin of Martin Luther King who was involved in the original movement to gain the vote back in the 1960s.

There were other administrative ruses.  Like requiring signatures of late enrolees to actually match other recorded signatures.  When this decision was made it was clear that Kemp was just mucking around with people’s rights to vote.

These were not the only underhand tactics that Kemp engaged in.  When it was discovered that the state’s electoral data had been potentially compromised he accused the Democrats of hacking the site.  Wonderful tactics.  Deflect attention from the obvious question, how come he sucked so badly at his job to allow this to happen, with an attack on the other side.

From PR Lockhart at Vox:

In the final days of Georgia’s tight governor race between Republican candidate Brian Kemp and Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, things are heating up.

Kemp, who is Georgia’s secretary of state and also the chief officer overseeing the election, has been repeatedly accused by Democrats and civil rights groups of trying to influence the results. However, on Sunday, Kemp accused Democrats of attempting to hack the state’s voter registration system — a claim that has rankled Democrats.

“While we cannot comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation, I can confirm that the Democratic Party of Georgia is under investigation for possible cyber crimes,” Candice Broce, a spokesperson for Kemp’s office, said in a statement on Sunday. “We can also confirm that no personal data was breached and our system remains secure.”

And what actually happened?  Again from Vox:

When Kemp was made aware of the issue, he released the statement accusing Georgia Democrats of trying to break into the system. Democrats have maintained that the cybersecurity experts simply reviewed the websites and did not attempt to hack the state’s registration system.

Election experts like UC Irvine law professor Richard Hasen criticized the allegations and accused Kemp of voter manipulation and engaging in “some banana republic stuff” in a Slate article published Sunday. Georgia Democrats called the probe “a reckless and unethical ploy,” adding that the FBI was being used to support “false accusations.”

And during a Monday appearance on Good Morning America, Kemp’s opponent Stacey Abrams, who is running to become the first black woman governor in the US, argued that Kemp “cooked up the charge, because he realizes, once again, he left the personal information of six million voters vulnerable,” citing previous data leaks during Kemp’s eight-year tenure. Later in the day, Abrams added that Kemp was “abusing his power” by launching the probe so close to the election.

Apart from baseless smears and the mass disenfranchisement of people of colour what else did Kemp do?  He made it as difficult as possible for votes to be recorded in Abrams friendly areas.  Like not providing power.

And keeping voting machines under lock and key so that people had to queue for hours to vote.

From Amy Gardner at the Washington Post:

Another problem was the limited number of voting machines in some locations. More than 1,800 machines sat idle in storage in three of the state’s largest and most heavily Democratic counties. In Fulton County, according to figures provided by elections director Rick Barron, the ratio of machines to registered voters was lower than it had been in 2014, despite predictions that turnout was likely to break records for a midterm election.

While some voters waited in hours-long lines in Fulton County, 700 of those machines sat in stacks in a warehouse in downtown Atlanta, Barron said. The machines were sidelined because they are evidence in a lawsuit alleging the equipment had been exposed to the threat of hacking in 2016.

The federal judge in the case had ordered state and local election officials — including Kemp — and the plaintiffs to weigh the demands of upcoming elections in deciding how many machines to set aside.

In an interview, Barron said more machines “would have made a huge impact on operations yesterday” and acknowledged that “it would have been a good idea” to push for the use of more machines before Election Day.

“The lines were long in the morning and we just didn’t have any machines to throw out there,” he said.

Broce, too, said additional machines “would have really helped with the long lines.”

She blamed the litigation for tying up those machines. One attorney for the plaintiffs, Bruce Brown, called that “rubbish” and said officials could have sequestered fewer machines, or later decided to put some back into service.

Brian Pearce in Esquire called this particular activity election ratf*&king 101 and called Kemp a cheap crook.  It is hard to disagree with him.

There was also the problem that the machines that were in use seemed to occasionally have a major operating fault, flipping Abrams votes to Kemp.

Despite everything that the Republicans did, every low down dirty trick, every administrative action taken because it would disenfranchise Black voters Abrams still has a chance.  Currently Kemp is on 50.3% of the total vote.  If this drops to 50% or below then there has to be a fresh election in a month’s time.  The current number of votes needed by her is 25,622 out of nearly 4 million cast and there are still provisional votes to count.

If Kemp wins then clearly it will be because his actions in wrongly suppressing the rights of people of colour to vote.  If he loses it will be despite this.

But this is the sort of behaviour you expect from a third world tinpot dictatorship, not the leader of the Western World.

On behalf of the rest of the world can I ask America to sort its democratic system out?  There is far too much at stake for the will of the people to be distorted in the way that Kemp and Co so gleefully do.

40 comments on “All that is wrong with America’s democracy”

  1. patricia bremner 1

    What a bloody travesty Micky. After the behaviour in Florida to elect Bush, nothing would surprise me about USA elections.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    There’s two problems with the US system:

    1. It’s a system designed to prevent democracy and leave the power of the state in the hands of the rich. It was designed that way by the Founding Fathers.
    2. Despite all this obvious corruption nothing will happen to the rich person doing it or any of the people supporting him. Tough on crime – as long as the crime wasn’t done by rich white people.

  3. Macro 3

    On behalf of the rest of the world can I ask America to sort its democratic system out? There is far too much at stake for the will of the people to be distorted in the way that Kemp and Co so gleefully do

    Totally agree Micky. I’ve been following this travesty in Georgia and similar situations in other States for sometime now and to my mind the US has lost all pretence of being a democratic nation. Take Texas for example. The requirements for voter registration there are unbelievable!
    https://www.thenation.com/article/texass-voter-registration-laws-are-straight-out-of-the-jim-crow-playbook/
    Bearing in mind the enormous difficulty for anyone not white and male to actually register to vote in that State the performance of Beto O’Rourke is amazing – and the election of 19 Afro-American women to the judiciary is stunning.
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/08/black-women-texas-judge-harris-county
    And excellent article I have linked to previously on this very topic of voter suppression and its consequences for democracy:
    Rigging the vote: how the American right is on the way to permanent minority rule

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      And excellent article I have linked to previously on this very topic of voter suppression and its consequences for democracy:
      Rigging the vote: how the American right is on the way to permanent minority rule

      And that, of course, is how you bring a country to bloody revolution. I suppose that the RWNJs are expecting to win it because of all their fellows in the NRA.

  4. Dennis Frank 4

    It seems elementary that the state official supervising the electoral process ought not to be a candidate – it gives them both incentive and opportunity to rig the system in their favour. The voters discriminated against ought to launch a class action against their state, and fight it up to the Supreme Court. I reckon even conservative judges will agree that such legal discrimination is wrong. State-authorised subversion of the democratic process is a travesty of democracy.

    • Andre 4.1

      Your faith in the ability of American judges, particularly recently appointed ones, to put principle over partisanship, is truly touching.

      • Dennis Frank 4.1.1

        😎 Not faith as much as you may think though. More a blend with observation of how judicial ideology plus realpolitik operates in the group mind. Sometimes the primadonna motivation will force a judge to dissent, but often groupthink prevails. I agree partisanship is an operational factor in their group, despite the normal pretence of objectivity, but I think a class action would be likely to succeed due to the bias of the supervisor being undeniable.

        In other words, the threat of making the Supreme Court overtly partisan by rejecting the suit would bring the entire judiciary into disrepute and rend the fabric of the social contract as well. True conservatives get spooked by just the appearance of anti-establishment behaviour. The prospect of having to actually subvert the democratic process in the eyes of all would deter them.

      • soddenleaf 4.1.2

        Unprincipledness. Trump declares if only they carried guns. yeah, that would have helped the security guard at the night club, who was shot by Police. I think it’s truly touching that idiot Americans would get if wrong half the time, and really that’s the point since they have layers of review to weed out stupid. Once Trumps gone, lots of people are going to disrance themselves, and no justice wants to be any Politicians themed judge. Trump only won in red states, in the senate, and lost heaps for Republicians were jerrymandering is two way. I.e six governorship.

  5. mary_a 5

    The obvious fact the US voting system, mainly in minority areas is rigged to suit the present government!

    Disgraceful conduct by US administrators! Corrupt to their filthy rotten core!

    Mandatory UN electoral inspectorate monitoring required in future US elections after this.

  6. Shocking how blatant they are now – don’t even half try to hide their behaviour. ffs

  7. Ad 7

    Good post Mickey.

    I must do one on LBJ in Texas.

  8. Adrian Thornton 8

    Nice piece there Micky, the American electoral system has been a shambles for a long time, which is of course very ironic, as the US seem to be the first to point the finger at other countries real or imagined electoral shortcomings when it suits them

    It would be interesting to see how these elections could have turned out if the Democratic Party and their friends in the media had spent even 1/4 of the time/resources and energy on this as they have chasing Russian boogeyman?

    It not as if any of this is anything new to the Democrats, they should have been mobilizing and informing the public in a huge way, bringing the eyes of the whole country on to this, shaming the Republicalians, Obama should have been crisscrossing the affected states using his awesome oratory skills as a counter and energizer etc.

    Imagine Rachel Maddow crying on air about the injustice Stacey Abrams and her supporters have just suffered, instead of her ridiculous crocodile tears over Russian interference…

    ‘MSNBC’s Maddow covers Russia more than all other topics combined: analysis’

    https://thehill.com/homenews/media/328771-msnbcs-maddow-covers-russia-than-all-other-news-topics-combined-analysis

    Media obsession: 55 percent of broadcast news coverage of Trump centered on Russia probe

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jun/27/media-obsession-55-percent-of-broadcast-news-cover/

  9. RedLogix 9

    Great work mickey. It seems odd to me that any candidate, incumbent official or not, should be allowed anywhere near the mechanics of the electoral process. It just invites abuse.

  10. Bill 10

    And what has been the Democratic Party’s role in combating all of this? Why is it falling to a private citizen, Greg Palast, to get to the bottom of things?

    Also. Am I correct in saying that there is no paper print off in Georgia?

    Meaning that if the electronic vote is monkey wrenched in any way, it’s that more difficult to pinpoint and also meaning that a recount simply isn’t an option under any circumstances.

    For what it’s worth, if Kemp winds up losing, he’s already resigned as Secretary of State, meaning he’ll be gone from politics. .

    • mickysavage 10.1

      Abrams herself has been doing the hard work for years in the area of voter registration.

      I guess the basic problem is if only one side does it then they have a permanent advantage.

      • Bill 10.1.1

        Sorry. Guess I should have asked the role of the DNC – those upstanding stalwarts of electoral probity – in highlighting and pushing a major issue.

        As for only “one side” being involved in election jiggery pokery (if we allow for red and blue being different sides 😉 )…then what about the fiasco around Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s election in 2016 when ballots were unlawfully destroyed?

        That not count?

        There might be a redder hue to much of the electoral corruption in the US, but it’s by no means all red.

  11. greywarshark 11

    I suppose this Georgia thing examples our present situation in a nutshell. The good nuts have been eaten and gone leaving their broken home.

  12. ianmac 12

    “If this was a third world nation the UN would have sent in election observers. ”

    So true. And think Iraq and the great help USA was to develop their democracy!
    All terrifying to we the NZers who have a foolproof Electoral system.
    A great post Micky. Thanks.

  13. One Two 13

    Systemically broken = can’t be fixed…both sides are the same entity…

    This Blue v Red (it’s all purple) being somehow a worthy narrative, is part of the problem….

    Decades upon decades upon decades…

    The US interferes with foreign elections, naturally it interferes in local elections…

    Keep voting though…maybe the system owners will walk away, eventually…

  14. Sabine 14

    I did especially like the tweet of Abrams, vowing to count that ballots that were found in a smashed honda civic.

    Same is currently going on in Florida.

    Nelson vs Scott is going into recount territory, Gillum vs DeSantis might.

    Currently ,this tho.

    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/11/9/1811613/-Republican-Congressman-leads-disturbing-rally-outside-Florida-Board-of-Elections-to-harass-officials?utm_campaign=trending

    and this

    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/11/9/1811538/-How-widespread-are-efforts-to-invalidate-FL-votes-Former-Congressman-says-his-ballot-was-rejected?utm_campaign=trending

    and for a bit of good news

    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/11/9/1811618/-On-Election-Day-19-black-women-made-history-in-Texas-by-winning-their-races-for-judicial-seats?utm_campaign=recent

    Beto might not win, but he sure helped up the game, help get people on the polls and helped get people to the polls.

    Maybe, just maybe the left is not quite as bad as some would like them to be, and maybe just maybe the other side is exactly as bad as they are.

  15. AB 15

    Time to think the unthinkable? That the American Revolution was actually a bad thing, a reactionary movement to entrench the power of wealth, and it made future democracy less likely.

    • Ad 15.1

      Less headchopping than the French one

      • AB 15.1.1

        Yep – there’s that.
        But is seems to me (though I’m no historian) that the loyalists in Canada developed a democracy that, to date, is a superior example to the one created by the revolutionaries in the USA.

      • Gabby 15.1.2

        Quite a bit of tarring and feathering though, and confiscations.

    • Draco T Bastard 15.2

      The US revolution, just like the UK revolution, was taken over by the capitalists who didn’t want democracy and so they put a sham one in place to ensure that the rich maintained power.

      • JohnSelway 15.2.1

        You use the term “the capitalists” with such breadth and frequency it is devoid of all meaning.

        It would help if you could actually provide a workable definition of what you actually mean by it because as it stands it is just “people Draco doesn’t like”

        • Draco T Bastard 15.2.1.1

          What a load of bollocks but fully what I expect from you.

          Really, if you don’t know what a capitalist is perhaps you should read a friggen dictionary.

          • JohnSelway 15.2.1.1.1

            I know what capitalist means Draco.

            I am asking you to define what it is you mean because the term “the capitalists” lacks any definition in the way you use it. It could literally somewhere in the order of 95% of the NZ population as almost all of us are people who use their wealth to invest in trade and industry for profit in accordance with the principles of capitalism is some form or another (to use the most readily available dictionary definition).

            So you need to be more specific. I assume you went to university so can construct an argument instead of using broad terms which lack meaning without specificity.

            (BTW – I am very careful to not talk a load of bollocks . Asking you for a meaning when you use a word with a specific meaning, and shades of meaning, in such fell swoop is like me calling you a communist because you are anti-capitalist. Try harder)

            • Tricledrown 15.2.1.1.1.1

              DTB hates capitalism as much as Trump hates communism?
              But with out capitalism DTB wouldn’t have a soap box or a computer he would scratching out a living on the steeps.

  16. Sabine 16

    can you see the economic anxiety of the white working female :), so anxious, so worried about jobs, and income and such. Surely, any day now, this anxiety is gonna be all gone, baby gone.

    https://www.rawstory.com/2018/11/watch-republican-activists-harass-black-people-see-florida-election-theft-demonstration/

  17. NZJester 17

    They have so many dirty tricks they use.
    I would like to point out my 9 Nov 2018 post #5 on “Disestablish the establishment”
    on how even when Republicans lose they try and keep power in any way they can.

    Disestablish the establishment.


    I link to a video that discusses how the Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker who failed to win re-election has been conspiring with other Republicans during his last days in office to strip the new Governor of power before he is sworn in leaving the power in the hands of the Republicans.

  18. Anne 18

    America is no longer a democratic country. It is in the intermediary stage between what was once a democracy to becoming a totalitarian state. WW3 (ie. nuclear war) is just around the corner if the inmates of that country allow it to continue to progress towards totalitarianism.

    • Sabine 18.1

      This is what frightens me the most, a failed state with a leader who needs a win at all cost and nuclear weapons.

      Ain’t it great?

      • Anne 18.1.1

        Terrifying.

        • In Vino 18.1.1.1

          Well.. I remember George Bernard Shaw writing something like, “The USA is the only country to have passed directly from the state of barbarism directly to decadence without passing through the intermediate phase of civilisation.”
          Maybe Shaw was not stupid…

  19. Draco T Bastard 19

    Federal investigators scrutinized Whitaker’s role in patent company accused of fraud, according to people with knowledge of case

    Federal investigators last year looked into whether Matthew G. Whitaker, as an advisory board member of a Miami patent company accused of fraud by customers, played a role in trying to help the company silence critics by threatening legal action, according to two people with knowledge of the inquiry.

    Whitaker, named this week by President Trump as acting attorney general, occasionally served as an outside legal adviser to the company, World Patent Marketing, writing a series of letters on its behalf, according to people familiar with his role.

    The US government has been bought and paid for.

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