Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Lynching by Laptop: Palast Reveals New Jim Crow System

By Buddy Grizzard

Approximately one in seven African-American voters and one in eight Asian-American voters were purged from the voter rolls in states carried by Donald Trump, according to investigative journalist Greg Palast of Rolling Stone. Palast conducted a press conference Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to share information on Interstate Crosscheck, a voter purge system that is the brainchild of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Trump adviser. When Trump talks about the millions he alleges voted twice, he's stating the rationalization for voter purges via Crosscheck, which may have removed 1.1 million voters -- predominately of color -- from the voter rolls in those states.

"It's probably what you would call intentional and purposeful racial discrimination in voting for Crosscheck to exist," said voting rights activist and attorney Barbara Arnwine at the National Press Club conference. "It is an overly-broad program, it is over-inclusive in violation of the 14th amendment of the constitution, it has clear racially-discriminatory impact and it's avoidable."

Not only is Crosscheck discriminatory but it violates federal law according to Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida. The former federal judge hand-delivered a Congressional member letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting an investigation and calling for indictments.

"As a former federal judge ... I know a criminal conspiracy when I see one, and this is it," Palast quoted Hastings as saying in reference to Crosscheck.

In August, Palast published a major investigative piece for Rolling Stone entitled "The GOP's Secret War Against Voters." More recently, Palast has been in Michigan to report on the recount initiated by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. Palast reports that in 59% of voting precincts in Detroit, Michigan's major urban center and largest concentration of Democratic Party voters, Trump lawyers cited discrepancies which, by state law, made it illegal for those votes to be recounted. Typically a precinct would be declared ineligible for recount if the vote totals did not match what the precinct reported on election night, even if the discrepancy was a single vote.

"Altogether there are 7.2 million Americans who are suspected of voting or registering in two different states," said Palast. "In Michigan, 449,022 people are on the double voter suspect list -- almost half a million Michiganders. In Pennsylvania, there are about a third of a million people suspected of voting or registering illegally ... but they're arresting no one."

Since Crosscheck's purge lists allege a felony violation against the suspected double voters, these lists are supposed to be kept confidential. But Palast was able to obtain the purge lists for Michigan and other states. What he found was that voters across multiple states were placed on the purge list if their first and last names matched, even if middle names, suffixes and social security numbers -- data which was provided to Crosscheck by participating states -- did not match. Palast found that the bulk of listed names -- such as Jackson, Lee and Gomez -- were surnames typical of persons of color.

"53% of the people named Jackson are African-American," said Palst. "93% of the people named Washington are African-American. We aren't guessing because the Census Bureau provided our researchers with the racial breakdown of every surname in America."

Activist Sameera Khan of 18millionrising.org also spoke at the press conference and called on the Department of Justice to investigate the Crosscheck program.

"We are concerned that the voting rights of communities of color, specifically black, Latino and Asian-American communities, have been suppressed due to disproportionate voter registration purges under this program," said Khan. "Over seven million voters may have been wrongly tagged and listed as registered or voting in multiple states since 2005. And while Interstate Crosscheck claims to address voter fraud, no dis-enrolled voters have been charged."

Trump's wild theory of millions voting twice doesn't stand up to scrutiny. It would be like committing felony armed robbery of a gas station and only taking a lottery ticket. With over 100 million votes cast in the recent presidential election, the chances of an individual voter changing the outcome of an election by casting an extra vote is absurdly small. And while Crosscheck has accused millions of felony voter fraud, only a handful of persons have ever been charged with double voting in the entire electoral history of the United States. If millions of Americans were committing felonies to influence an election, it follows that thousands should be under criminal indictment. This isn't the case.

Palast asked Michigan election officials how many people from the tens of thousands who were removed from the voter rolls had been prosecuted. They advised that some of the persons on the suspect list had been referred for prosecution but they were unaware how many actual prosecutions were under way. Palast said he had checked and zero charges have been filed in the state of Michigan against persons suspected of voting twice.

"To give you an idea of the accuracy of the list, I went to the secretary of state of Michigan the day before yesterday," said Palast. "Donald Trump won the state of Michigan by 10,900 votes, they say. I just talked about some of the other problems of 74,000 votes uncounted, supposedly blank; of people supposedly voting by the thousands for two presidential candidates. Almost all of these bad votes, under-counts [and] over-votes were in minority areas.

"We tried to speak to the Secretary of State (in Michigan). Once I showed them that I had the list, I showed them the names I just read to you, and suddenly the interview was over. So I went to the attorney general of the state the day before yesterday. His spokesperson said to me when I came to his office "never, ever will we speak with you.""

In addition to obtaining the purge lists from multiple states, Palast learned that Virginia purged 12% of total registered voters via Crosscheck. Virginia was the only state to report the total number purged and Palast claimed that their purge standards were "conservative." Using the same proportion of total voters that were purged in Virginia, Palast extrapolated that 1.1 million voters may have been purged in total in the 30 states carried by Trump.

"We have a brand new Jim Crow system," said Palast. "But it's not turning away voters of color with scary guys in white sheets. These are systems analysts with spreadsheets. This is lynching by laptop. It may have elected our president."

Voters whose status was flagged via Crosscheck were mailed a postcard informing them of the issue. Those who failed to respond and prove the flagging inaccurate were removed from voter rolls. Among those who lost their right to vote via Crosscheck this past election was country artist Willie Nelson. His name was flagged as being identical to a voter in Mississippi, one Willie Mae Nelson, an African-American woman.

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