Kerry Won. Here are the Facts.
- Kerry Won. Here are the Facts.
by Greg Palast
11/05/04 "TomPaine.com" -- I know you don't want to hear it. You
can't face one more hung chad. But I don't have a choice. As a
journalist examining that messy sausage called American democracy,
it's my job to tell you who got the most votes in the deciding
states. Tuesday, in Ohio and New Mexico, it was John Kerry.
Most voters in Ohio thought they were voting for Kerry. At 1:05 a.m.
Wednesday morning, CNN's exit poll showed Kerry beating Bush among
Ohio women by 53 percent to 47 percent. The exit polls were later
combined withand therefore contaminated bythe tabulated results,
ultimately becoming a mirror of the apparent actual vote. Kerry also
defeated Bush among Ohio's male voters 51 percent to 49 percent.
Unless a third gender voted in Ohio, Kerry took the state.
So what's going on here? Answer: the exit polls are accurate.
Pollsters ask, "Who did you vote for?" Unfortunately, they don't ask
the crucial, question, "Was your vote counted?" The voters don't
Here's why. Although the exit polls show that most voters in Ohio
punched cards for Kerry-Edwards, thousands of these votes were
simply not recorded. This was predictable and it was predicted. [See
TomPaine.com, "An Election Spoiled Rotten," November 1.]
Once again, at the heart of the Ohio uncounted vote game are, I'm
sorry to report, hanging chads and pregnant chads, plus some other
ballot tricks old and new.
The election in Ohio was not decided by the voters but by something
called "spoilage." Typically in the United States, about 3 percent
of the vote is voided, just thrown away, not recorded. When the
bobble-head boobs on the tube tell you Ohio or any state was won by
51 percent to 49 percent, don't you believe it ... it has never
happened in the United States, because the total never reaches a
neat 100 percent. The television totals simply subtract out the
Whose Votes Are Discarded?
And not all votes spoil equally. Most of those votes, say every
official report, come from African-American and minority precincts.
(To learn more, click here.)
We saw this in Florida in 2000. Exit polls showed Gore with a
plurality of at least 50,000, but it didn't match the official
count. That's because the official, Secretary of State Katherine
Harris, excluded 179,855 spoiled votes. In Florida, as in Ohio, most
of these votes lost were cast on punch cards where the hole wasn't
punched through completelyleaving a 'hanging chad,'or was punched
extra times. Whose cards were discarded? Expert statisticians
investigating spoilage for the government calculated that 54 percent
of the ballots thrown in the dumpster were cast by black folks. (To
read the report from the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, click here .)
And here's the key: Florida is terribly typical. The majority of
ballots thrown out (there will be nearly 2 million tossed out from
Tuesday's election) will have been cast by African American and
other minority citizens.
So here we go again. Or, here we don't go again. Because unlike last
time, Democrats aren't even asking Ohio to count these cards with
the not-quite-punched holes (called "undervotes" in the voting biz).
Nor are they demanding we look at the "overvotes" where voter intent
may be discerned.
Ohio is one of the last states in America to still use the vote-
spoiling punch-card machines. And the Secretary of State of Ohio, J.
Kenneth Blackwell, wrote before the election, "the possibility of a
close election with punch cards as the state's primary voting device
invites a Florida-like calamity."
But this week, Blackwell, a rabidly partisan Republican, has warmed
up to the result of sticking with machines that have a habit of
eating Democratic votes. When asked if he feared being this year's
Katherine Harris, Blackwell noted that Ms. Fix-it's efforts landed
her a seat in Congress.
Exactly how many votes were lost to spoilage this time? Blackwell's
office, notably, won't say, though the law requires it be reported.
Hmm. But we know that last time, the total of Ohio votes discarded
reached a democracy-damaging 1.96 percent. The machines produced
their typical lossthat's 110,000 votesoverwhelmingly Democratic.
The Impact Of Challenges
First and foremost, Kerry was had by chads. But the Democrat wasn't
punched out by punch cards alone. There were also the 'challenges.'
That's a polite word for the Republican Party of Ohio's use of an
old Ku Klux Klan technique: the attempt to block thousands of voters
of color at the polls. In Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, the GOP laid
plans for poll workers to ambush citizens under arcane lawsalmost
never usedallowing party-designated poll watchers to finger
individual voters and demand they be denied a ballot. The Ohio
courts were horrified and federal law prohibits targeting of voters
where race is a factor in the challenge. But our Supreme Court was
prepared to let Republicans stand in the voting booth door.
In the end, the challenges were not overwhelming, but they were
there. Many apparently resulted in voters getting these
funky "provisional" ballotsa kind of voting placebowhich may or
may not be counted. Blackwell estimates there were 175,000;
Democrats say 250,000. Pick your number. But as challenges were
aimed at minorities, no one doubts these are, again, overwhelmingly
Democratic. Count them up, add in the spoiled punch cards (easy to
tally with the human eye in a recount), and the totals begin to
match the exit polls; and, golly, you've got yourself a new
president. Remember, Bush won by 136,483 votes in Ohio.
Enchanted State's Enchanted Vote
Now, on to New Mexico, where a Kerry pluralityif all votes are
countedis more obvious still. Before the election, in TomPaine.com,
I wrote, "John Kerry is down by several thousand votes in New
Mexico, though not one ballot has yet been counted."
How did that happen? It's the spoilage, stupid; and the provisional
CNN said George Bush took New Mexico by 11,620 votes. Again, the
network total added up to that miraculous, and non-existent, '100
percent' of ballots cast.
New Mexico reported in the last race a spoilage rate of 2.68
percent, votes lost almost entirely in Hispanic, Native American and
poor precinctsDemocratic turf. From Tuesday's vote, assuming the
same ballot-loss rate, we can expect to see 18,000 ballots in the
Spoilage has a very Democratic look in New Mexico. Hispanic voters
in the Enchanted State, who voted more than two to one for Kerry,
are five times as likely to have their vote spoil as a white voter.
Counting these uncounted votes would easily overtake the
Already, the election-bending effects of spoilage are popping up in
the election stats, exactly where we'd expect them: in heavily
Hispanic areas controlled by Republican elections officials. Chaves
County, in the "Little Texas" area of New Mexico, has a 44 percent
Hispanic population, plus African Americans and Native Americans,
yet George Bush "won" there 68 percent to 31 percent.
I spoke with Chaves' Republican county clerk before the election,
and he told me that this huge spoilage rate among Hispanics simply
indicated that such people simply can't make up their minds on the
choice of candidate for president. Oddly, these brown people drive
across the desert to register their indecision in a voting booth.
Now, let's add in the effect on the New Mexico tally of provisional
"They were handing them out like candy," Albuquerque journalist
Renee Blake reported of provisional ballots. About 20,000 were given
out. Who got them?
Santiago Juarez who ran the "Faithful Citizenship" program for the
Catholic Archdiocese in New Mexico, told me that "his" voters, poor
Hispanics, whom he identified as solid Kerry supporters, were handed
the iffy provisional ballots. Hispanics were given provbisional
ballots, rather than the countable kind "almost religiously," he
said, at polling stations when there was the least question about a
voter's identification. Some voters, Santiago said, were simply
Your Kerry Victory Party
So we can call Ohio and New Mexico for John Kerryif we count all
But that won't happen. Despite the Democratic Party's pledge, the
leadership this time gave in to racial disenfranchisement once
again. Why? No doubt, the Democrats know darn well that counting all
the spoiled and provisional ballots will require the cooperation of
Ohio's Secretary of State, Blackwell. He will ultimately decide
which spoiled and provisional ballots get tallied. Blackwell,
hankering to step into Kate Harris' political pumps, is unlikely to
permit anything close to a full count. Also, Democratic leadership
knows darn well the media would punish the party for demanding a
What now? Kerry won, so hold your victory party. But make sure the
shades are down: it may be become illegal to demand a full vote
count under PATRIOT Act III.
I used to write a column for the Guardian papers in London. Several
friends have asked me if I will again leave the country. In light of
the failurea second timeto count all the votes, that won't be
necessary. My country has left me.
Greg Palast, contributing editor to Harper's magazine, investigated
the manipulation of the vote for BBC Television's Newsnight. The
documentary, "Bush Family Fortunes," based on his New York Times
bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, is now available on
DVD. View a clip at http://www.gregpalast.com/bff-dvd.htm
To receive Greg's investigative reports click here:
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