|Purged Voters’ “Provisional” Ballots
Could Decide Georgia Governor Race
By Greg Palast for Truthout
[Macon, Georgia.] On Sunday, I watched President Donald Trump warn a rally in Macon, Georgia, that Stacey Abrams, running to become the first Black female governor in US history, “is one of the most extreme far left politicians in the entire country," adding, "you know that! You put Stacey in there, you’re going to have Georgia turn into Venezuela. I don’t think the people of Georgia like that.”
Trump's rant against Abrams has not driven away her many supporters. But voters like Atlanta filmmaker Rahiem Shabazz are being driven away from the ballot box.
“I want to vote for Stacey Abrams.” Shabazz told me, but, “I won’t be able to vote in the November 6 election.”
Shabazz' voter registration, his right to vote, has been cancelled by Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brian Kemp.
Notably, Kemp, while running the election for the state of Georgia, is also running in the election for governor of Georgia—against Democrat Stacey Abrams.
Rahiem is just one of more than 340,134 Georgians Kemp has purged from the voter rolls based on dead-wrong evidence they’d moved from the state or from their home county.. It took a federal lawsuit — which I filed jointly with voting rights advocate Helen Butler — to force Kemp to divulge the names and addresses of those whose registration he cancelled in a single year, 2017.
And, while Kemp may believe that the tidal wave of purges may overcome a Democratic Blue Wave, there is another possibility: When a voter turning up to the polling station discovers his/her registration is missing or cancelled, the voter has the right, under federal law, to cast a “provisional” ballot.
However, the man who decides whether these “provisional” ballots will be counted is… Brian Kemp. But Kemp should stop grinning. “Federal judges may feel differently about Kemp’s right not to count these provisional ballots,” says Jeanne Mirer, lead attorney on the lawsuit filed against Kemp in October. If the court determines that Kemp misused his power as Georgia’s “Purge’n General” it could order that those provisional votes be counted.
No Notice for Purged Voters
Rahiem Shabazz, like hundreds of thousands of others, had no idea he’d been flushed from the rolls, and assumed he was still registered. Kemp sent out no notice to voters after cancelling their registrations.
Rahiem Shabazz, wrongfully purged Georgia Voter | Photo by Zach D Roberts, Palast Investigative Fund
Then Rahiem heard on radio that the Palast Investigative Fund had posted every purged voter’s name. “And lo and behold, my name is there and it’s telling me that I have to re-register to vote!”
He did attempt to re-register for the election, but Kemp’s office informed him it would take at least three weeks to verify his registration information. Conveniently for Kemp, that would be a week past Election Day.
Federal law permits Kemp to cancel the registrations of voters who move out of state or out of their home county. But Rahiem, like every one of 340,134 others, never moved from his home county, let alone the state.
“I never left the state of Georgia. I never left the county. My license has me in the same county. So all they had to do is look at my DMV records and they will see that I live in the same county.”
Shabazz noted that the government has no trouble finding him to pay a parking ticket, or pay his taxes. But when purging voters, Kemp does not check his own state’s DMV nor tax records nor even the post office to see if voters have moved.
Rather, Kemp looks at voting records. Miss two elections and Kemp takes that as evidence the voter has moved away. That infuriates Shabazz who skipped two elections because he didn’t like his choices. And, he says, "you have a Constitutional right to vote and a Constitutional right not to vote, right?"
A Clear Violation of Voting Rights
Scholars are debating whether the right to vote is implicit in the Constitution, but there’s no doubt that voting rights are explicit in federal law. The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote is a fundamental right.”
And there’s more: “It is the duty of the Federal, State, and local governments to promote the exercise of that right.”
Furthermore, says attorney Jeanne Mirer, the National Voter Registration Act explicitly prohibits state voting officials from purging voters simply for not voting.
Kemp — and two dozen other GOP Secretaries of State — claim they don’t use non-voting as grounds for taking away a person's vote. They claim non-voting is merely evidence, when combined with failure to return a postcard to the secretary of state, that a voter moved away.
But this “evidence” is clearly faulty. Data experts from CohereOne found, reviewing the DMV, postal records and dozens of other records, that not one of these 340,134 Georgians has moved.
Kemp’s odd reliance on postcards to verify addresses has a serious built-in racial bias. The US Census reports that renters, young people, and Americans of color — i.e. Democrats — do not get nor return government cards and letters anywhere near the response rates of white, suburban, older homeowners — i.e. Republicans.
The National Voter Registration Act does require Kemp and other Secretaries of State “to ensure that accurate and current voter registration rolls are maintained.”
GOP officials call it voter list “cleansing.” Shabazz says, “I wouldn't call it cleansing the voting roll. I would call it ethnic cleansing.”
It is a cruel irony that Kemp cites the National Voter Registration Act as the excuse for the purge-by-postcard trick, because using voting history and postcards makes the list monstrously inaccurate.
Purged Voters Get Out the Vote
During Trump’s Georgia rally, assorted right-wing and white supremacist attendants took selfies in front of Air Force 1, while fanatics sported Qanon, Three Percenter and Oath Keepers T-shirts. Proud Boys flashed “white power” signs. One Trumper thought Abrams’ supporters should stop complaining, telling me, “We all have rules to vote. Just follow the rules.”
Still, Kemp’s wrongful purging frenzy may, in the end, backfire, even if it does not come down to a court fight over the provisional ballots.
Shabazz warns Kemp, “You took one vote away, but Stacey Abrams is going to get ten more because I'm going to bring ten more people out to vote.”
Number of Georgia Voters Purged by Brian Kemp Continues to Climb:
Investigation reveals 340,000 voters were improperly removed
Number of Georgia Voters Purged by
Don’t miss this 7-minute film of Palast's Georgia Investigation (for Salon TV)
Brian Kemp Continues to Climb
Investigation reveals 340,000 voters were improperly removed
By Peter Wade, Rolling Stone
Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp incorrectly canceled some 340,000 voter registrations, according to a recent investigation. Although Kemp claimed the voters left the state of Georgia or moved to another county, they hadn’t, Greg Palast, who filed suit against Kemp.
According to John Lenser, who is CEO of CohereOne and who led a review of the list of purged voters for Palast, “340,000 of those voters remained at their original address. They should have never been removed from the voter registration rolls.”
Palast only obtained the list after he filed suit against Kemp. “It began five years ago, when Kemp stonewalled my first requests for information on purges in Georgia, first for Al Jazeera and Rolling Stone, now for Truthout and Democracy Now!” Palast wrote, “It took my lawyer’s threat of a federal lawsuit, filed last week in Atlanta federal court, to blast the list of the electorally doomed from Kemp’s hands.”
After he received the list, Palast said he analyzed it and discovered that 340,134 voters were purged when they shouldn’t have been. To do this, he consulted experts who cross-referenced voter data with a number of other databases including cell phone bills and tax filings to see if, in fact, any of these voters had actually moved. Many had not. A list of the purged voters’ names is available on Palast’s website. While it is too late for them to register for the upcoming midterm elections, they are still eligible to re-register for the 2020 presidential election.
Kemp used a tactic Palast calls “Purge by Postcard” to remove eligible voters from the rolls. Kemp sent a postcard that could have easily been mistaken for spam to voters who did not vote in the prior election. If a voter did not return the postcard, Kemp purged their registration without informing the voters it was happening.
Thanks to a June 2018 Supreme Court ruling that reversed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, this practice is now legal. If a voter misses an election and fails to respond to a notice by mail, the court ruled it legal to remove them from the list of registered voters. In a dissent to the majority opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the practice part of “concerted state efforts to prevent minorities from voting and to undermine the efficacy of their votes” and said they were “an unfortunate feature of our country’s history.”
Kemp also faces a lawsuit for exposing the records of 6 million registered Georgia voters and potentially the state’s election system to foreign hackers. Kemp has become notorious for his efforts to cull voter registrations, especially those of Democratic and minority voters. Rolling Stone recently obtained audio of Kemp speaking to donors, saying his opponent Stacey Abrams’s campaign “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.”
Cambridge Analytica Ain’t Nuthin:
Look out for i360 and DataTrust
By Greg Palast
There are two dangers in the media howl over Trump’s computer gurus Cambridge Analytica, the data-driven psy-ops company founded by billionaire brown-shirts, the Mercer Family.
The story is that Cambridge Analytica, once directed by Steve Bannon, by shoplifting Facebook profiles to bend your brain, is some unique “bad apple” of the cyber world.
That’s a dangerously narrow view. In fact, the dark art of dynamic psychometric manipulation in politics was not pioneered by Cambridge Analytica for Trump, but by i360 Themis, the operation founded by… no points for guessing… the Brothers Koch.
Mark Swedlund, himself an expert in these tools, explained in film The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, that i360 dynamically tracks you on 1800 behaviors, or as Swedlund graphically puts it [see clip above], “They know the last time you downloaded porn and whether you ordered Chinese food before you voted.” Swedlund adds his expert conclusion: "I think that’s creepy."
The Koch operation and its competitor, DataTrust, use your credit card purchases, cable TV choices and other personal info — which is far more revealing about your inner life than the BS you put on your Facebook profile. Don’t trust DataTrust: This cyber-monster is operated by Karl Rove, “Bush’s Brain,” who is principally funded by Paul Singer, the far Right financier better known as The Vulture.
Way too much is made of the importance of Cambridge Analytica stealing data through a phony app. If you’ve ever filled out an online survey, Swedlund told me, they’ve got you — legally.
The second danger is to forget that the GOP has been using computer power to erase the voting rights of Black and Hispanic voters for years — by "caging," "Crosscheck," citizenship challenges based on last name (Garcia? Not American!!), the list goes on — a far more effective use of cyberpower than manipulating your behavior through Facebook ads.
Just last week, Kris Kobach, Secretary of State of Kansas and Trump’s chief voting law advisor, defended his method of hunting alleged “aliens” on voter rolls against a legal challenge by the ALCU. Kobach's expert, Jessie Richman, uses a computer algorithm that can locate “foreign” names on voter rolls. He identified, for example, one “Carlos Murguia” as a potential alien voter. Murguia is a Kansas-born judge who presides in a nearby courtroom.
It would be a joke, except that Kobach’s “alien” hunt has blocked one in seven new (i.e. young) voters from registering in the state. If Kobach wins, it will, like his Crosscheck purge program and voter ID laws, almost certainly spread to other GOP controlled states. This could ultimately block one million new voters, exactly what Trump had in mind by pushing the alien-voter hysteria.
The Cambridge Analytica story was first reported by The Guardian and Observer in 2015. Did we listen? Did any US paper carry the story the British paper worked on for years? So, my first reaction reading this story was nostalgia — for the time when I was a reporter with The Guardian and Observer investigations team. We could spend a year digging deep into complex stories, working with crazy insiders. There, in 2000, I uncovered another cyber-crime: Using database matching to purge felons from Florida voter rolls. (None, in fact, were felons; most were Democrats.)
I moved back to America, but found I had to give up any hope of doing true, deep investigative reports for newspapers in my own country. US papers will sometimes re-report Guardian news, but American media almost never initiates deep investigation. And THAT, fear of the cost, difficulty and risk in digging out the truth, is a greater threat to America than Steve Bannon.
Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Case of the Stolen Election (the brand new, updated, post-election edition).
Greg Palast wins December Sidney Award
for Exposing a Defective Database that Endangers
the Votes of Millions of People of Color
NEW YORK – Greg Palast wins the December Sidney Award for “Jim Crow Returns
,” and “Challenging Crosscheck
,” a two-part Al Jazeera America exposé that shows how millions of innocent people were flagged as suspected vote fraudsters just because they have the same first and last name as someone in another state.
On the eve of the 2014 elections, officials had begun to purge voters based upon Interstate Crosscheck, voter fraud prevention software. More than 40,000 voters were dropped from the rolls in Virginia alone.
Read The Backstory
, our Q&A with Greg Palast.
The Crosscheck program, used in 28 states, is ostensibly designed to prevent voter fraud by identifying people who voted in different states in the same election. The system is billed as a sophisticated fraud-detection tool, but Crosscheck lists obtained by Palast for three states show that the system matches on first and last name alone. Crosscheck flagged more than 2 million names in those three states, Palast found.
“It was absolute murder trying to get the Crosscheck lists out of the hands of these highly political agencies,” Palast said. “They knew damn well the lists were phonies—just common ethnic names, an excuse to knock off Democrats—and dynamite if exposed.”
In the states Palast studied, anyone with a common name is at risk, but the system disproportionately flags voters of color: If you’re white, you have a 1 in 11 chance of being flagged. If you’re Asian or Hispanic, your odds are 1 in 8. If you’re black, the odds are 1 in 7 that someone in another Crosscheck state shares your first and last name.
Check Al Jazeera’s interactive database to see if your name
is in on the list.
“Greg Palast has uncovered a major threat to voting rights,” said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein. “Crosscheck is casting unwarranted suspicion on innocent people and endangering their right to vote.”
Greg Palast produces investigative reports for the Guardian, BBC TV, and other outlets. Before becoming a reporter, he was an investigator of corporate crime and racketeering for governments and labor unions worldwide. He is the author of several books including “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” and “Vulture’s Picnic.”
“Jim Crow Returns” was produced by Alex Newman, Steve Melendez, Tate Strickland, John Thomason, and Lam Thuy Vo, edited by Mark Rykoff and Jayati Vora, with photographs by Zach D. Roberts and interactive production by Alex Newman.
Al Jazeera America’s broadcast
of "Crosscheck" was produced by Hanaan Sarhan, with Richard Rowley as director of photography.
* * * * * * *
The Sidney Hillman Foundation honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good. Judges are Rose Arce, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Hendrik Hertzberg, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Harold Meyerson and Lindsay Beyerstein.
The Sidney Award is given once a month to an outstanding piece of journalism about social or economic injustice, by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which also awards the annual Hillman Prizes every spring. Winners of the Sidney receive a certificate designed by New Yorker cartoonist, Edward Sorel, a $500 honorarium and a bottle of union-made wine.
BP and the Three Stooges Defense
By Greg Palast for Truthdig
Thursday, 26 September 2014
Forget Stephen King. If you want scary, read U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s 150-page Findings of Fact released Thursday in the Deepwater Horizon case.
Although the judge found BP liable for “gross negligence,” some U.S. media failed to mention that Barbier let BP off the hook on punitive damages. And that stuns me, given that the record seems to identify enough smoking guns to roast a sizable pig.
Here’s a standout example:
Every rig operator knows that, before a rig can unhook from a drill pipe, the operator has to run a “negative pressure test” to make sure the cement has properly sealed the drill pipe. If the pipe is safely plugged, the pressure gauge will read zero. The amount of pressure BP measured at 5 p.m. on April 20, 2010, the day of the explosion? 1400 psi (see the findings, pages 62-65). So, how could the company record zero? Answer: BP’s crew re-ran the test measuring the pressure in something called the “kill line,” which is definitely not the drill pipe.
By reporting that the pipe had no pressure and all was safe, BP could begin to unhook the Deepwater Horizon from the pipe—and sail away. Why would BP do that? In my view, there were three motives: money, money and money. It costs BP a good half million dollars each extra day the rig stays on top of the drill hole. It seems that BP wanted the rig gone and quickly.
So, instead of halting the disconnection process, BP appears to have lied and recorded the pressure reading as “zero.” The rig’s owner, Transocean of Switzerland, went along with BP’s actions.
So how did BP get away with mere “gross negligence” as opposed to the more serious claim of fraud? Because the court found that the blowout, explosion, fire and oil spill were caused by “misinterpretation of the negative pressure test.”
Misinterpretation? If a woman says “thanks” when you say she’s dressed nicely and you think she wants a kiss, that’s “misinterpretation.” But on the Deepwater Horizon, the drill pipe gauge read 1400 psi and BP picked a different pipe that gave the company the magic zero. That’s not, I contend, “misinterpretation.”
Maybe the judge thought he was pretty tough by calling out BP for “gross” negligence (rather than plain-vanilla negligence, the finding against Transocean and contractor Halliburton). But, in fact, it seems Barbier fell for the Three Stooges defense.
Throughout the 150-page decision, the judge cites one instance after another of bone-headed, buffoonish, slapstick decisions, and plenty of pratfalls and banana-peel slips by BP, Transocean and Halliburton. You have to wonder how these schmucks even found their drill hole. It was a corporate Larry-Moe-and-Curly-Joe routine that would provide a lot of belly laughs if 11 men hadn’t died as a result.
I’ve seen the Three Stooges defense before in federal court. In 1988, the corporate owner and the builder of the Shoreham nuclear plant were on trial on accusations they bilked their New York customers out of $1.8 billion. In court, they pleaded stupidity and incompetence as a defense against deliberate deception. As the government’s investigator, I didn’t buy it—billion-dollar corporations can’t be that stupid—and neither did the jury. (The racketeering charges were settled after trial for $400 million.)
And here is a new set of Stooges: BP plays Larry, Transocean puts on Moe’s wig and Halliburton makes “Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!” sounds like Curly Joe. Halliburton, the judge found, failed to test the final cement mix and BP bitched about it—“[Halliburton engineer Jesse Gagliano] isn’t cutting it any more,” reads an email between two BP managers on the rig—but BP went ahead and used the bad cement anyway (Findings, paragraphs 227-228).
When the pressure in the drill pipe read 1400 psi, BP and Transocean managers should have stopped the rig departure immediately. They didn’t. Nevertheless, other systems should have prevented a blowout. According to Barbier, other safety systems were jacked with to save a penny here, a penny there (or, a million here, a million there). Example: BP used leftover cement (Findings, paragraphs 209-211) that contained chemicals that destroyed the integrity of the new cement, because using the old stuff saved some serious cash.
And this leads to the question of punitive damages.
1400 psi is not zero. Stick a balloon in your mouth with zero pressure and nothing happens except that you look silly. Replace the balloon with a hose delivering a 1400 psi blast and it’ll blow your skull apart.
So maybe it was not the judge but the public that was blinded by the government and media crowing about a possible $18 billion fine for gross negligence. Eighteen billion dollars may sound like a lot to us mere mortals, but to a trillion-dollar behemoth like BP, it is not a punishment, but a reasonably priced permit for plunder.
Greg Palast has a book 14 called Vultures' Picnic
Greg, the New York Times bestselling author of Armed Madhouse, offers a globetrotting, Sam Spade-style investigation that blows the lid off the oil and banking industries, and exposes how government agencies aren't
This is the story of corporate vultures that feed on the weak and ruin our planet in the process-a story that spans the globe and decades. Palast shows how transnational economic cartels (the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization, and Central Banks) act as puppets for Big Oil.
With Palast at the center of an investigation that takes us from the Arctic to Africa to the Amazon, Vultures' Picnic shows how the big powers in the money and oil game avoid regulations and break the rules to take advantage of nations and everyday people.
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, "Armed Madhouse" (Penguin Paperback 2007). When Palast (an investigator of corporate fraud and racketeering) turned his skills to journalism, he was quickly recognized as,
"The most important investigative reporter of our time" [Tribune Magazine] in Britain, where his first reports appeared on
BBC television and in the Guardian newspapers. Greg Palast's Reel Click here to watch.
Download the Greg Palast's Bio here. firstname.lastname@example.org