By Dave Rice
Book Review: Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps
Author: Greg Palast / Introduction by: Robert F. Kennedy Jr
Seven Stories Press / Release Date: September 18, 2012
Ten elderly nuns get kicked out of an Indiana polling station for not having driver’s licenses or other state ID.
Electronic voting machines in Georgia report massive malfunctions – but only in Democratic-leaning low income districts, where the hot, humid conditions of polling stations aren’t conducive to electronics. The ones in wealthy, Republican-leaning districts are protected in well kept, air-conditioned buildings – and have no problems registering votes.
Thomas Brown, a black Floridian, has his name purged from voter rolls because a white man with the same name and birthday once committed a felony.
Foreclosure firm Trott & Trott shares an office building with John McCain’s Detroit campaign headquarters. Whenever Trott completes a foreclosure, the McCain campaign challenges the foreclosure victim’s voter registration to have it purged from Michigan’s voter rolls: if they’ve been kicked out of their home, the address they used to register must not be valid.
Mad yet? Greg Palast is hardly getting warmed up ….
In case you’re not familiar with him (though you definitely should be, I must admit I wasn’t until his book Vulture’s Picnic landed on my desk last year), Palast heads a team of prolific investigative reporters, appears on BBC news broadcasts, and has written numerous books on corporate profiteering and election fraud. His latest, due to hit shelves on Monday, is Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.
Palast’s newest release comes just in time for the 2012 election season to hit the home stretch, and details the numerous tactics used on both the Left and the Right (though much more aggressively by the Right) to corrupt the American voting system.
A few low lights:
In the 2008 election, 767,023 “provisional” ballots were cast but not counted, 1,451,116 regular ballots were considered “spoiled” and also not counted, and 488,136 absentee ballots were mailed but rejected, without voters even knowing their vote didn’t count. Another 2,387,587 voters were denied in their attempts to even register, 491,952 citizens were wrongly removed from voter rolls, and another 320,000 were turned away at the polls, mostly for failure to present an acceptable form of ID. Thus, nearly 6 million people in theU.S.were denied their right to vote.
“Caging” lists are continually being sent out across the country – using this ploy, mail is sent to a voter’s address and if it comes back to the sender, it’s assumed the address the voter used is not legitimate and party officials then petition to have that voter removed from the rolls. If an unusual number of voters report the same address (as in the case of the State Street Rescue Mission inJ acksonville,FLor, in another instance, a Jewish nursing home), all of the registrants are considered suspect and their right to vote is challenged en masse.
In McKinley County,New Mexico, nearly 10 percent of voters (three-fourths of them Native) failed to select a president on their ballots. Election officials insist these people took time out of their day to drive to the polls, get a ballot, and then decided it really wasn’t worth making a choice for the highest office in the land.
There’s even a brief chapter devoted to the infamous non-election of liberal firebrand and former city councilwoman Donna Frye, where local officials insisted they couldn’t determine the “intent of the voter” when people wrote in her name but incorrectly filled the bubble next to it, or misspelled her name. I did a little background research of my own for this piece and didn’t find anyone named Donna Fry that was running a public write-in campaign for that election.
Palast’s conversational, amusingly sarcastic style keeps the pages turning, and his ability to break down massive chunks of data and sort through a myriad of names (for the protection of the nation, the names of the accused have not been changed), making for an easy if infuriating read.
There’s also a mid-book break for a 48 page comic contributed by Ted Rall, Tales From the Crypt of Democracy. It breaks down the book’s main points into an even-easier-to-read format.
Despite the dismal assessment of trickery and fraud that’s only expanded in the wake of unlimited funding via Citizens United, hope remains. Palast provides numerous tactics for ensuring your vote isn’t one of the millions set to be stolen this November, as well as resources to help readers stay vigilant and help others protect their constitutional rights on voting day.
It should be noted that all of the facts and figures used in Billionaires are well-referenced and easily verifiable, with copies of many documents available on Palast’s website, www.gregpalast.com. Even if you’re not going to buy the book (in my opinion indispensable and affordable at $14.95 paperback), much of the research is available online through Palast direct or at www.ballotbandits.org.
Full disclosure: I’ve received payment in the form of a $15 review copy of this book from the author that I didn’t pay for, and after reading it I don’t intend to give it back…I also got a free copy of Vulture’s Picnic, but I liked that so much I bought a second copy retail.
Dave Rice is a freelance writer whose works appear regularly in the San Diego Reader. Follow him on Twitter @DaveRiceSD