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Dennis J Bernstein, Reader Supported News

Voters line up to cast their ballots on Super Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas. (photo: Ron Jenkins/Getty)
Voters line up to cast their ballots on Super Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas. (photo: Ron Jenkins/Getty)

The Urgency of Now: Fighting the 'Hysteria Factory'

By Dennis J Bernstein, Reader Supported News

27 May 16


Below is an audio excerpt of Dennis J Bernstein's discussion with Greg Palast. Click to play.
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lection Protection Bulletin, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, with bestselling investigative reporter Greg Palast and Flashpoints’ host, Dennis J Bernstein. This week they are joined by actress and Voto Latino spokeswoman Rosario Dawson as they delve into what Greg calls the hysteria machine and voter fraud.

Dennis Bernstein: Today we’ll delve into the hysteria machine and hear from Voto Latino’s Rosario Dawson, who was at UCLA on May 10th with Greg and other media experts on a panel called The Urgency of Now. Please set this up for us, Greg, and give us a bit of history and background on voter fraud in America. Then tell us a little bit about what Rosario Dawson had to say on the subject at UCLA.

Greg Palast: Bill O’Reilly from Fox News, and the other foxes in the foxhole, talk about the massive amount of voter fraud in America. But it’s also coming from the mainstream. Why all these cries of voter fraud? There are about six people a year – in a major election year – arrested in the US for committing voter fraud. So why all this hysteria about people voting fraudulently? I call it the hysteria machine. The purpose was laid out by Rosario Dawson, the actress from “Sin City.” She’s also the voice of Voto Latino. She tells us why they are hysterical about voter fraud. “That they are trying to manipulate the vote is outrageous. It is fearmongering so people can pass ridiculous legislation to suppress people from voting.”

Rosario and I talked about how the hysteria machine is used to suppress the vote. How do they do this? By saying there are fraudulent voters, they can come up with ways to eliminate the fraudulent voters. If someone is impersonating a dead person – or if a dead person walks into a voting booth – how do you stop the zombies from voting? You require photo ID. Last week we talked about how Kansas, Alabama, and Georgia voters now need to prove their citizenship, which is not so easy. Driver’s licenses and Social Security cards don’t work. It’s very difficult. What is the purpose? Do they have non-citizens voting? In Florida, 181,000 people were accused of being illegal alien voters and only one Republican from Austria was arrested.

It’s not a crime that happens, but it’s a very good crime you can accuse people of, without any evidence, and not even arrest anyone, but you can take their vote away. Rosario said, “You have this pre-crime thing. You haven’t done the crime, but we are going to anticipate it and penalize you for it. We’re going to judge you already and take you off the roster. The idea I grew up with of innocent until proven guilty no longer applies. Now you are guilty until you prove yourself to be innocent.” For example, in Florida 181,000 people – almost all with Hispanic last names – were sent letters by the Republican administration headed by Rick Scott, telling them to appear in court and prove their citizenship before they can vote. How did they get those names? They said they had deported somebody with the last name of Hernandez, so everyone with the last name of Hernandez in Florida must prove that they are a citizen. This is not a joke. People with the last name Koch don’t have to prove they are citizens. Rosario is saying that, in effect, they are being accused of committing a felony of voting illegally without any evidence at all.

DB: Greg, please put this in a national context. Is this a methodical program, a pattern and practice being instituted now? Is this new?

Palast: It’s not new, but it’s accelerating. The Ku Klux Klan used to scare away voters of color wearing white sheets. Now they use spreadsheets. For example, in Florida, Kansas, Alabama, and other states they are accusing illegal aliens of voting. We’ve previously talked about how in Kansas they are running a program for 30 Republican-controlled states called Cross Check where they are accusing people of voting twice. They’ve arrested two people and accused 7.2 million of voting twice – overwhelmingly voters of color.

DB: What do you mean accused? How do they accuse somebody?

Palast: They simply run names through computers. For example, in 2000, I uncovered that Katherine Harris had a list of 92,000 names of voters who supposedly were convicted of felonies in Florida so could not vote. If they criminally re-registered, it would send them back to prison. But she removed those people, almost all African-Americans. That elected George Bush as president. They used a computer, knocked off these voters from the voter roles, and in most cases didn’t notify them. One young man, a Gulf War veteran, came back from the war and took his five-year-old kid to the voting station to show him what Martin Luther King Jr. has done for African-Americans. “Now we can vote,” he said – but they said he couldn’t vote. “You are a felon.” In front of his kid. He had never even gotten a traffic ticket. That was a shameful racist incident and that’s how they stole the vote in 2000.

The lesson the GOP learned from the Florida purging was how to imitate that in other states. So the felon purges spread across the nation. Instead of being ended, they spread to places like Colorado. When it was under Republican control, they removed 50,000 voters of color as felons, even though it’s not even illegal for a person convicted of a felony to vote in Colorado. In most states it isn’t illegal. In New York, California, you can vote if you have a felony conviction, just not from prison. They learned from Katherine Harris how to do it, and they expanded it. They use lists of names. A real name from the list is Maria Hernandez. They claimed that Maria Isabel Hernandez voted a second time as Maria Christina Hernandez in another state. So both Maria Hernandezes, with two different middle names, had their registrations cancelled – given no notice – because they had a common first and last name. Who has common first and last names? African-Americans, as a leftover from slavery, often have names such as Washington and Jackson. Immigrants often have names such as Rodriguez and Hernandez, etc. Eighty-five of the most common 100 last names in America are predominantly voters of color.

That’s how they remove people. Not with Klansmen in white sheets, but guys with computers and spreadsheets. They do it quietly. Sometimes you are notified, and sometimes not. It’s all about accusing people of committing a terrible crime for which almost no one gets arrested, such as voting twice, voting illegally if you are a felon from prison, or voting for someone else – which is why they supposedly need the voter ID. They create this hysteria. They said on Fox News that two million illegal aliens have voted in US elections. This is not just some Fox News nut. Hans Von Spakovsky, the guy who claims the two million illegal alien voters, was appointed to chair a commission by President Barack Obama on how to improve voting in America. I’m not making that up.

DB: Who pays for the spreadsheets, the research? How can we track the money here?

Palast: Rosario talked about the money boys and who is behind this. It’s not just Republicans stealing votes from Democrats. That’s not at the core of it. “It’s a very calculated, manipulated effort. There are a lot of people conspiring to make that happen, because this isn’t just one person or a few people who benefit from it. The entire system benefits from things going they way they are going.” What she’s talking about is the money behind vote purging. It’s not necessarily partisan. Follow the money. Hans Von Spakovsky and other so-called experts are pushing the idea that there are millions and millions of fraudulent voters: illegal alien voters, double voters, criminal voters, dead voters, people impersonating other voters. Where does this come from? There is a pamphlet put out by the Heritage Foundation, which is at the center of this hysteria machine. It’s called “Does Your Vote Count?” This is typical of what Heritage puts out. Why do we care about Heritage? That’s otherwise known as the Koch Foundation. The Heritage Foundation was founded, funded, and maintained by the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. The pamphlet says types of voter fraud are: impersonation fraud at the polls, false registration, duplicate voting, fraudulent use of absentee ballots, buying votes, illegal assistance at the polls, ineligible voting, altering the vote count. This is their list of terrible voter fraud crimes involving millions of people in a massive conspiracy to vote illegally.

The obvious solution is to remove people with common names, because they have obviously voted twice. You require people to have photo voter ID so you can’t impersonate someone else. Indiana started requiring photo voter ID despite the fact that in 100 years of record keeping, not one person was found to have impersonated another to vote. Why? Because it’s five years in the slammer if you do that. For one vote. They are going to organize this on a multi-million-person basis? Why are the Kochs so intent to create and build this hysteria machine that will remove voters? They are not very partisan. Most people think of them as Republicans, but they aren’t. David Koch was going to run for governor of Kansas as a Democrat. They’ve been in other parties, such as the Libertarian Party. They are for the Koch Party. They are for themselves. They have an agenda. For example, they need the XL pipeline to be completed because at the end of the pipeline are their refineries, which would get that discounted filthy Canadian oil. They have a money interest in this. This is what Rosario was trying to get across. Follow the money. There are people who make a profit by manipulating the system and preventing you from voting – especially voters of color. There is money to be made.

DB: In the 60s, with the move toward voter rights and the battle for voter registration, the powers that be, the racists, and the Klan used to accuse black folks of illegal voter registration. Then they’d have long Grand Jury investigations and put old people on buses to various Grand Jury operations and intimidate them. That’s what brought us the voting rights protections that we got through Lyndon Johnson. They are gone now. We’ve got the same forces trying to undermine any kind of voter protection. The only thing that’s changed is the methods. The electronic actions can steal votes without people knowing what’s going on.

Palast: One interesting change is technical. They no longer use nightriders, white sheets, burning crosses on people’s lawns, and lynchings. There were 3,600 Black people lynched to prevent Black people from voting. Now it’s all in cyberspace. It’s not Jim Crow. It’s Dr. James Crow, Systems Consultant. Also, until the Voting Rights Act, the blockade was created by the Democratic Party. The racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant know-nothings and Klan were expressing their prejudice and fears of the other. Now it’s quite changed. It’s become billionaires who are interested in manipulating the vote. It’s very sad how many Democrats as well as Republicans have become involved in purging voters of color in these vicious primary cycles. For the most part, it’s the billionaires like the Kochs, who have a monetary interest.

It’s a lot easier to manipulate the vote than convince somebody to change their position. To put it in simplest, the crudest terms, there ain’t enough white guys to elect Donald Trump. So how do you keep a Republican House and Senate, which is their biggest concern, if there aren’t enough white guys who will come out? The answer is you eliminate the non-white guys. You do it through these methods, which, as Rosario pointed out, couldn’t have happened if we still had the full force of the Voting Rights Act, which was gutted by Supreme Court in 2013. Look out. This will be the first presidential election without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. I’ve been traveling around the country for Rolling Stone, and it’s the ugliest I have seen since the 60s.

Rosario said that we shouldn’t discourage people from voting, but do just the opposite. We need to say to people, “They don’t want you to vote, so you have to keep voting.” A young Latina woman was turned away from voting in New Mexico when I was there because they didn’t like her voter ID. She wasn’t going to go home to find another ID and return, and she was in tears. She said, “They don’t want me to vote. I’m not coming back.” Rosario said she would tell her: “Dig your heels in, man. Dig your heels in. And keep going.” I know people in their 80s in Nevada who showed up to vote and were told their names were off the list. The woman said absolutely not. This is not OK. She went to a judge. She said, “I’m in my 80s. I’ve always voted and I intend to continue voting. I don’t know if this is going to be my last vote, and I’m not going to let anybody steal it from me. This is obviously your mistake and you are going to correct it because I am voting today.” The suffragette movement wasn’t easy. Ending slavery wasn’t easy. Most of the world had slavery, so it was a radical idea to stop it.

Dennis J Bernstein is the executive producer of Flashpoints, syndicated on Pacifica Radio, and is the recipient of a 2015 Pillar Award for his work as a journalist whistleblower. He is most recently the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.

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