On June 7, 2016, California, New Jersey and four other states held their primaries. Bernie’s campaign had high hopes for California, in particular. In polling, the gap between Sanders and Clinton was within the margin of error. Then, on election day, Hillary Clinton appeared to win by about 15 percent of the vote.
Did Bernie’s slacker supporters fail to show up when it counted? Where were the thousands of folks who were at the rallies?
A rigged system?
The Sanders campaign has complained that the Democratic Party establishment “rigged” the primary system against him. The mainstream media (MSM) concentrate on the closed party system as if that’s the complaint. But, in fact, many Sanders supporters believe that Clinton benefited from misconduct by election officials, not just in California, but in Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, and New York. And the MSM has largely ignored the allegations.
The Los Angeles Times reported on primary day that chaos and incompetence robbed Sanders supporters of their right to vote. The lists of registered voters were neither current nor complete. Pages were missing from hard copies. Many lists did not reflect the voters who had registered in the final days leading up to the deadline. The effect was to prevent many of those new voters from voting.
I’m not arguing that any specific California Democrats created this system to benefit Hillary. Greg Palast says there is no evidence to support that conclusion, and I believe him. But Palast says that page 49 of the state’s own election manual instructs election officials, “A No Party Preference voter will need to request a crossover ballot from the Roster Index Officer. (Do not offer them a crossover ballot if they do not ask).” An election worker claims that during the training before the primary, the workers were instructed to give NPP voters provisional ballots, not crossover ballots. She said specifically that the crossover ballots were not even mentioned during the training. Even if the voter asks why there are no presidential candidates on the NPP ballot, election officials were instructed to tell the voter only that the parties’ candidates for president do not appear on the NPP ballot. The voters were not to be told that they had to ask for a Democratic crossover ballot. If they didn’t use the word “crossover” along with Democratic, they wouldn’t get the ballot.
As a volunteer assisting phone bankers for Sanders, I heard that some voters had registered as Independent believing that was the same as not affiliating with a party. But they couldn’t vote in the Democratic primary because California has an Independent Party.
Alleged abuses in other primaries
Registered Democratic voters in other states were denied Democratic ballots, dropped from the rolls, or removed from the list of Democrats without their knowledge or consent. In Arizona, one election official testified that the computer system would not permit her to give Democratic ballots to 36 voters in her precinct who could show they were registered Democrats. Secretary of State Michele Reagan confirmed that voters’ registrations were deleted or their party affiliation changed without their knowledge or consent. She told reporters that it had happened to someone in her office. Reagan acknowledged that complaints about mysterious changes of registrations were up significantly compared to previous elections.
In Illinois, a recount of 5 percent of the vote was required. Members of Who’s Counting Chicago and the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project testified before the Chicago Board of Election. They described in detail how the election staff conformed their count from the audit to the numbers they had from election day, erasing and changing ballots, rather than trying to get an accurate count.
Similarly, in New York, the City Board of Elections removed thousands of voters from the rolls without notice. In fact, about 126,000 voters were purged in Brooklyn alone. The Executive Director claimed that the removal was limited to people who had not voted in several elections and did not respond to a written notice, but many people claimed that they had registered recently but were not listed. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that entire buildings, and even whole blocks, were dropped.
Hacking the machines?
Doug Johnson Hatlem, a Chicago-based writer, analyzed the allegations in depth in a series of articles in CounterPunch. He makes a convincing case that election officials suppressed the vote for Sanders in Arizona, Chicago and New York, and perhaps in California. He also considered the possibility that the electronic equipment that scans or counts ballots was hacked. Hacking would explain, for example, why the election results in California and elsewhere were so inconsistent with the exit polling. He noted that if the polling was 95 percent accurate, then the voting results would be consistent 19 times out of 20, and the discrepancies should occur randomly. The Republican results differed significantly from the exit polls on occasion. Cruz, Trump, and Rubio benefited in different states. In the Democratic races, however, the discrepancies favored Clinton.
Fool me once…
The allegations of voter suppression are serious, and public officials and the media must investigate them. The outcome of the 2000 election was changed because of voter suppression. Technical glitches, such as hanging chads and the infamous butterfly ballot, led to the disqualification of many votes for Gore. But a purge of purported convicted felons from the Florida voting rolls caused incorrect removal of many people with similar names from lists of eligible voters. And Florida officials knew that but directed their contractor to purge voters whose names differed up to 30 percent from that of the convicted felon.
There is good reason to believe that the presidential vote in Ohio was manipulated in 2004 as well.
Voters have sued to invalidate the results in New York. The court has already dismissed a suit that challenged the Arizona primary results. Other suits are planned to challenge the results in California and elsewhere. But litigation is slow and risky.
Unfortunately, there is not time for a do-over between now and November, let alone before the convention. All we can do is make sure that it does not happen again. You can sign a petition to ask the Sanders campaign to request recounts here on the change.org site.