Thursday, June 01, 2006

RFK Jr. on the election, Margaret Kimberley on New Orleans' jailed

Like many Americans, I spent the evening of the 2004 election watching the returns on television and wondering how the exit polls, which predicted an overwhelming victory for John Kerry, had gotten it so wrong. By midnight, the official tallies showed a decisive lead for George Bush -- and the next day, lacking enough legal evidence to contest the results, Kerry conceded. Republicans derided anyone who expressed doubts about Bush's victory as nut cases in ''tinfoil hats,'' while the national media, with few exceptions, did little to question the validity of the election. The Washington Post immediately dismissed allegations of fraud as ''conspiracy theories,''(1) and The New York Times declared that ''there is no evidence of vote theft or errors on a large scale.''(2)
But despite the media blackout, indications continued to emerge that something deeply troubling had taken place in 2004. Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad(3) never received their ballots -- or received them too late to vote(4) -- after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations.(5) A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states,(6) was discovered shredding Democratic registrations.(7) In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes,(8) malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots.(9) Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment -- roughly one for every 100 cast.(10)
The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush's victory in the electoral college. Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency. A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count.(11)
Any election, of course, will have anomalies. America's voting system is a messy patchwork of polling rules run mostly by county and city officials. ''We didn't have one election for president in 2004,'' says Robert Pastor, who directs the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University. ''We didn't have fifty elections. We actually had 13,000 elections run by 13,000 independent, quasi-sovereign counties and municipalities.''
But what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 2004(12) -- more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes.(13) (See
Ohio's Missing Votes) In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots.(14) And that doesn?t even take into account the troubling evidence of outright fraud, which indicates that upwards of 80,000 votes for Kerry were counted instead for Bush. That alone is a swing of more than 160,000 votes -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.(15)
''It was terrible,'' says Sen. Christopher Dodd, who helped craft reforms in 2002 that were supposed to prevent such electoral abuses. ''People waiting in line for twelve hours to cast their ballots, people not being allowed to vote because they were in the wrong precinct -- it was an outrage. In Ohio, you had a secretary of state who was determined to guarantee a Republican outcome. I'm terribly disheartened.''
Indeed, the extent of the GOP's effort to rig the vote shocked even the most experienced observers of American elections. ''Ohio was as dirty an election as America has ever seen,'' Lou Harris, the father of modern political polling, told me. ''You look at the turnout and votes in individual precincts, compared to the historic patterns in those counties, and you can tell where the discrepancies are. They stand out like a sore thumb.''

The above is the opening of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s " Was the 2004 Election Stolen?Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House." (Rolling Stone). Mark Crispin Miller noted it on KPFA's The Morning Show this morning and Zach's e-mailed to highlight it (and to recommend you listen to Miller's interview if you missed it).

Kris Welch noted that today was the first day of the hurricane season and used that to update (and explore) New Orleans on KPFA's Living Room today. Also exploring the topic, Craig notes, is Margaret Kimberley's "No Justice in New Orleans" (Freedom Rider, The Black Commentator):

Little attention is ever given to the incarcerated, and the media told us nothing about the condition of New Orleans jails after the neglected levees failed and the city flooded. Recently we got an answer about the most vulnerable prisoners of all, juveniles, minors. They are usually referred to as children. The Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana issued a damning report, "Treated Like Trash: Juvenile Detention in New Orleans Before, During and After Katrina," that documents how juveniles were left without food, water and medical care for days.
[. . .]
America is in a mad race with itself to incarcerate as many of its citizens as possible and children are not excluded. The Department of Justice recently confirmed that America still has the dubious distinction of keeping more of its citizens behind bars than any other country on earth. The already awful statistics worsened in 2004 and 2005 when an additional 1,000 inmates were incarcerated every week. The numbers of Americans behind bars increased by more than 2 percent in that one year period.
The enormous increase in the prison population is a seldom debated subject. Most white people don't care or are in favor of putting and keeping more black people behind bars, and most black people are too embarrassed to speak out.
There are a few who will stand up for the least among us. In New Orleans, African American criminal court judge Arthur Hunter, Jr. has begun the very sensible process of
freeing indigent prisoners. Most defendants rely on public defenders for representation, but the public defender system in New Orleans has no money and no attorneys to try cases. There are also not enough court rooms, jurors to deliberate, or witnesses to testify. Hunter's courage is to be applauded in a city that should otherwise be ashamed of the way it treated children behind bars.

Consider it a bonus link-fest (this entry). The e-mail address for this site is