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1 Million Minority Ballots Likely To Be Lost In 04

From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release June 7, 2004

The Ballots of 1 Million African-American and Latino Voters Likely to be "Lost" in 2004 Presidential Election

- Interview with Greg Palast, BBC investigative reporter, conducted by Scott Harris

Listen in RealAudio:

Until the 2000 presidential election, most Americans saw their nation as a model of democratic ideals where one-person-one vote was valued above all else. But with memories still fresh about the Florida election scandal -- where tens of thousands of votes were eliminated by defective paper ballots and allegations of deliberate disenfranchisement -- U.S. voters are looking warily at the coming 2004 presidential election

In reaction to the voting scandal, Congress allocated billions of dollars to upgrade the nation's voting equipment, but growing questions about electronic voting machines' reliability and vulnerability to manipulation have slowed progress on modernizing the U.S. electoral system. As November approaches, state, county and municipal governments are scrambling to improve the mechanics of voting, hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2000 election, which saw the Supreme Court install George W. Bush as president, although he had lost the popular vote by half a million ballots.

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In the midst of the tumultuous 2000 election recount in Florida, BBC investigative journalist Greg Palast uncovered documents which established that Florida officials had purged more than 57,000 registered voters, a majority of them African Americans, Hispanics and likely Democrats, off the rolls in advance of the November vote. Between the Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Greg Palast, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," who explains why he believes reform legislation enacted after the scandal-ridden 2000 election, could result in disenfranchising up to one million minority voters in this year's presidential ballot.

Greg Palast is an investigative reporter with BBC television and the London Observer newspaper. Read his columns online at His book "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," was recently updated and re-released by Penguin.

Greg Palast: In 2002, our president signed a law called the "Help America Vote Act" and as soon as, you know, George Bush tells me, he's going to help us vote, I got a little bit of a problem. So now, what is it that's in this baby? First of all, the Florida purges are going to be taken nationwide. Second, they've got $4 billion mostly to help computerize our vote. Let me tell you, we're already tested this thing out. You see, Katherine Harris, when she was leaving (the Florida Secretary of State's) office to go to congressional heaven, she ordered a test and imposition of electronic computer voting machines, touch screens. It was tried out in Broward County and in the white precincts, it seemed to work pretty well. I mean, that is, we can't tell, but nothing that anyone could see went wrong.

In the black precincts, poll workers couldn't find passwords, the machines crashed, power failures. When machines crashed in the white areas, the tech teams came in like SWAT action. In the black areas, they said, "We'll get to you tomorrow. " As a result, thousands and thousands of black votes were lost. They either were never punched in, or they just disappeared in an electric storm. In other words, the computers worked perfectly, that's the game.

In fact, I've been working on this issue with Chris Edley Jr., the dean of the University of California law school at Berkeley and statisticians with the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Here's what we found: In the 2000 election, 1.9 million votes in America were cast and never counted. They called them "spoiled," right -- couldn't read them. What they found out is that nationwide, over half of those votes that are spoiled, are cast by black folk. One million black ballots just go "poof" in a typical general election. One million black ballots, and the Democrats are pretty silent about it, especially because the biggest spoilage, the biggest dump of black votes occurs in Florida, occurs in Georgia, where the Democratic party does not like the black intrusion into the party and it occurs in Chicago, where the baby Daley machine survives as a white minority controlling a black majority Democratic party. So basically, both parties are in on this kind of "lynching by laptop" that's going on.

Between The Lines: Given all this information about the purging of voters, the disqualification of "spoiled ballots," what, if anything, can we do to avoid the cross-continental fraud that we saw back four years ago?

Greg Palast: We just have to restore an interracial movement that says that when one person loses their rights, we're all going down. Now, we know that when they don't count the black ballots, by definition you just got canceled out. Most of the listeners of your program just had their vote cancelled out, see? Second, tell the truth on them. In other words, go to my website There's a petition that Martin Luther King III, and I have, click on the MLK petition. Sign up electronically. We have 75,000 people who've signed up already. We're giving it to (Attorney General John) Ashcroft, by the way. People ask, why are you giving it to Ashcroft? The answer is, we know he's watching us, but we want to tell him, we're watching him. So it's harder for him to do it. It's harder for people to do embarrassing things with the lights on.

Between The Lines: Tell us a little bit about the Diebold company and electronic voting and the hazards for our democracy therein. You were one of the first reporters to discuss this issue. It's sort of come into its own. It's more widely discussed than it was a couple of years ago.

Greg Palast: A terrific colleague of mine, Bev Harris ( has showed how easy it is to hack in into Diebold computers, because she did it. And how you could change a Democratic vote into a Republican vote if that's what your mindset is -- and that will happen. But I think the bigger problem is the dumb stuff that's so hard to trace. Someone pulls the plug, the machine goes zap. In black areas, they don't provide tech support, they don't train the poll workers. People in black communities are less familiar with touch screens and they want to make it so that this is the subtle way you disenfranchise. So, late-opening polls, they frustrate people, polling takes longer. Then you have the multi-lingual issues will now become monstrous.

Imagine testing a software program and the hardware with millions and millions of people on a single day and the outcome of the U.S. presidency relies on that. I mean, you wouldn't do that with a program to give you suggestions for summer vacation. But they're not doing it because it's stupid. People keep saying, "if they fix this framus and they put on this gimmick and you have a verification trail and all …" They don't want it want to be fixed.

It's working. Like I said, the Broward (Florida) County test succeeded. White communities voted, black communities, disaster. We're going to see it all over America. Get ready for it. You heard it in here on Between The Lines.

Read links and contact information on at


"Vanishing Votes," by Gregory Palast, The Nation, April 29, 2004

"California Panel: Don't Use Diebold Touch-Screen Voting Machines"

"File Sharing Pits Copyright Against Free Speech: Voting Machine Giant Diebold Seeks To Silence Critics"

"Electronic Voting's Vulnerability to Tampering Could Undermine Public Confidence in Machinery of Democracy," Interview with Bev Harris, author of "Black Box Voting, Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century"

"Florida's 'Disappeared Voters': Disfranchised by the GOP," by Gregory Palast, The Nation, Jan. 18, 2001

and more ...


Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines ( for the week ending June 11, 2004. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.

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