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Excerpt: "I know that Mike Pence says he's a Christian, but he also stopped 10 nuns from voting - and that's very important. Mike Pence would not be governor of Indiana if he hadn't figured out a way to knock out black voters, nun voters, student voters, and poor voters."

Vice presidential candidate Mike Pence. (photo: Getty)
Vice presidential candidate Mike Pence. (photo: Getty)

Mike Pence Walks 10 Nuns Out of the Voting Booth

By Dennis J Bernstein and Greg Palast, Reader Supported News

29 July 16


ike Pence is the poster boy for Voter ID laws. No one has benefited more from this legalized form of vote theft than the Republican nominee for VP. In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last Wednesday, Pence said he “wants every American to succeed and prosper.” However, he certainly doesn’t want every American to vote. Indeed it was thanks to Indiana’s Voter ID laws – the first of their kind in the nation – that he squeaked into the governor’s office. These seemingly benign laws, requiring voters to show approved photo ID, have a sinister and very deliberate effect: they suppress black, brown, young, old, poor – and, above all, blue votes. In this week’s Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Election Crimes Bulletin, Flashpoint’s Dennis J Bernstein gets the lowdown on the sleazy practice of vote-rigging-by-ID-law from political hanky-panky expert Greg Palast. They also discuss how these racist-by-design laws tap dance around voting rights and discrimination protections, and could ultimately help Pence and Trump waltz into the White House.

TRANSCRIPT (Originally broadcast on July 20, 2016)

Dennis J Bernstein: Today Mike Pence is front and center. He’s out there on his proverbial knees to greet the Trump helicopter. He’s getting ready to accept his party’s nomination. But also, as you point out, he’s a vote bandit. Tell us the joke about the nuns trying to vote.

Greg Palast: Ten nuns walk into a voting booth. I know that Mike Pence says he’s a Christian, but he also stopped 10 nuns from voting – and that’s very important. Mike Pence would not be governor of Indiana if he hadn’t figured out a way to knock out black voters, nun voters, student voters, and poor voters.

DB: You are serious about the nuns?

Palast: Yes. Here’s the story: In 2008, 10 nuns walked into a voting station, a place where they had been voting for decades, and they were told “Scram sisters!” because Indiana had just passed its Voter ID law. It was the first state in the nation that said you had to have a photo Voter ID. So the nuns proudly showed their driver’s licenses, except that the licenses had expired because they were all in their eighties and nineties. But they hadn’t expired. Nevertheless, they were told they couldn’t vote because they needed a current state ID, even though there’s no reason why. There’s no logic for any Voter ID because in the 100 years in which records have been kept, not one single person in a 100 year history of voting in Indiana – not one – was found to have used someone else’s identity. In other words, using identify theft to cast a vote. Because you are going to the hoosegow for a very long time, at least five years under federal law and more under state law. But, nevertheless, this was the first Voter ID law. This is the Voter ID law that Justice Scalia provided the fifth and deadly vote in favor of, saying that it was constitutional and okay under the Voting Rights Act. Now, the Voting Rights Act itself has been killed by the former Scalia court. (Get my FREE COMIC BOOK DOWNLOAD, which includes the NUNS’ TALE.)

But here’s where Mike Pence comes into the story: we wouldn’t have a Governor Pence except for this. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU hired Matt Barreto, who’s a great statistician. He calculated that about 72,000 black people in Indiana would be barred from voting by this ID law. Furthermore, students would be barred from voting. You can’t use a student ID. You can use a gun ID, but not a University of Indiana ID. Students would be barred, and obviously people who don’t drive tend to be poor people, whether they are white or black. Poor people tend to vote Democratic. Black people vote Democratic. Hispanic people vote Democratic – we’re not even counting those yet. Students vote Democratic. So if you add a few more of the blocked voters to the 72,000 African-Americans who are blocked from voting in Indiana, that more than accounts for Mike Pence’s very, very slim 80,000 vote margin when he ran for governor of Indiana. So Pence just sneaked by the Democrat, congressman John Gregg, and he sneaked by simply by blocking voters through this racist ID law.

DB: And the lower courts found it to be a real problem. Justice Terence Evans was not all that impressed, was he?

Palast: No. His ruling was that this was just a clear, bold attempt at partisan manipulation of voter rolls by the Republican Party, knowing that they are knocking out their adversaries. But Scalia, being the 5th vote, said, “I don’t care.” Scalia famously said, “You can always get a non-voter ID.” Well, it’s kind of a catch 22 – you need ID to get a non-voter ID. But even if you do, it’s an average three bus, all day trip back and forth from a county office – on average a 17 mile trip. And, as Scalia infamously said, “Seventeen miles is 17 miles, whether you are black or white.”

But, of course, he had a black Beemer, for which he got a speeding ticket. But whether it’s a black Beemer or a white Beemer, 17 miles is nothing for him. But if you actually have to take a bus, and most people who don’t have licenses have to take a bus, it’s a major hardship. He knew that.

And while it’s racist, that’s only secondary to their plan. It’s partisan, and the interesting thing is that the Republicans in the court say a plan which knocks out your opponents, that’s perfectly fine. It just can’t be clearly and overtly intended to be racist. Now there was a glimmer of hope, because the devil needed his advocate early and took Scalia from us. And the Texas court of appeals is changing and the Texas ID law, which is also a nasty piece of work. That ruling just came out yesterday.

DB: That was not thrown out. It’s thrown back to the lower court, so that could show its ugly face again. Now, Karl Rove thinks it’s a good idea. He thinks, if you gotta go get groceries, they check your ID, so if you gotta go to vote, they check your ID too.

Palast: Yeah, can you imagine Karl Rove trying to cash a check at the grocery store? But the difference is that cashing a check at a grocery store is not the key to American democracy, but we like to think of voting as part of it. By the way, most Americans don’t realize voting is not a constitutional right. I want to repeat that: There is nothing in the Constitution which gives you the right to vote. That silence in the Constitution was what allowed the Supreme Court to pick George Bush as our president in Bush v. Gore. There is no right to vote in the Constitution. The one thing the Constitution has is the 14th Amendment, which says if you allow the people to vote, you can’t stop them from voting because they were once slaves or their great-grandparents were slaves. And, of course, the 19th Amendment said if you allow people to vote, you can’t stop them from voting based on their genitals. That was the suffrage amendment. But you don’t have a right to vote – that’s what makes it possible to have these nasty laws.

DB: Mike Pence, you said, was a recipient of this kind of draconian, and I guess we can call it racist, on its face, behavior?

Palast: There’s this big back and forth – and we see this in Texas – about whether something is racist by intent or racist in effect. Those have two different meanings under the law. If it’s racist by intent, then the law has to be thrown out. In fact, in places like Wisconsin, one of the Republicans confessed that when the Voter ID law was passed there was absolute jubilation among the Republicans. And Charlie Crist said that in Florida. He was the Republican governor and he said the Republican party specifically did that to knock out black voters. When he revealed that, he was basically tossed out of the Republican Party. But even if it’s not intended, if it has a racial effect, the law must be modified. That’s what’s happening in Texas. They have to modify the law to try to remove some of the overt racial effects. I don’t know how they’re going to do that though.

DB: The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University has weighed in on this as well, haven’t they?

Palast: Yes. Here’s a breakdown from the Brennan Center: 6 million senior citizens don’t have their legal ID, mostly poor senior citizens.

DB: 6 million?

Palast: 6 million. 5.5 million African-Americans, 4.5 million 18- to 24-year-olds, and 15% of voters with household incomes under $35,000 a year – that is the poor … If you’re on food stamps these days, what they now call SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, in most states you get an official government ID card with your photo on it. Well, Texas allows you to use your gun permit with your photo on it, but does not allow you to use your food stamp card with your photo ID on it. That’s one thing that the court did latch onto.

By the way, they are saying that’s not racist. And you know what? They may be right. It’s really class war. I want to emphasize this. In all my research, while we see that most of the victims of election thefts are voters of color, it’s really class war by other means. Upper-middle class, wealthy Hispanics and wealthy African-Americans tend not to have trouble voting. They have passports. Vernon Jordan and Andy Young had no problem at all with the Voter ID law. They said, “That’s a good idea. People should have ID.” Well, of course, they’ve got passports – and their chauffeurs to vouch for them!

But a lot of white people are caught up in these things too. Elderly, poor white people who are barely getting by on Social Security. Because 15% of the voters are under the poverty line, and that’s white and black. Most poor people in America, remember, are white. People tend to forget that because of the way things are portrayed on TV. Most people who are poor are white, and they don’t stand much of a chance if all they have to show is their food stamp cards. It’s really class war.

DB: Broaden this out at the national level. We’ve been talking about Mike Pence because he’s going to accept the Republican nomination tonight and he was an offender in Indiana. But this is a national program.

Palast: Understand the republic lasted two centuries without photo ID. We founded the republic before there were photographs without any problem. We haven’t had hoards of identity thieves voting. But it’s been marvelously excellent at knocking out literally hundreds of thousands of poor people, especially voters of color.

We’ve gone from one state having a photo Voter ID program in 2000 – Pence was the beneficiary. He would not be governor if it weren’t for that law. Since Indiana, it’s gone like a virus. Once the Supreme Court said Indiana was okay, it was both constitutional and not violating the Voting Rights Act, 20 states adopted some type of ID requirement. And there’s no case in which it doesn’t have a very smelly racial aroma.

(photo: Reader Supported News)

(photo: Reader Supported News)

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.

Greg Palast has been called the “most important investigative reporter of our time – up there with Woodward and Bernstein” (The Guardian). Palast has broken front-page stories for BBC Television’s Newsnight, The Guardian, The Nation Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Harper's Magazine. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, Armed Madhouse, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, and the highly acclaimed Vultures’ Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC’s Newsnight Review. His books have been translated into two dozen languages. Palast’s investigation and production team are currently preparing to release his new film on the theft of the 2016 election: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits.

Palast’s film will screen in Oakland on September 7th.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+34 # Radscal 2016-07-29 16:32
"Palast’s film will screen in Oakland on September 7th."

Woo Hoo!!!!

That's our own Grand Lakes Guy's theater.

Hey, GLG, I haven't made it to the Bay Area in a couple of years, but I'd love to come down and see this flick.
+26 # grandlakeguy 2016-07-29 17:45
Hey Radscal…you can come as my guest!
I wonder... will rocback and lights be there to jeer it?

Probably not because THEY would have to buy a ticket and that is not on the permitted deductible expense list for Hillary's trolls!
-50 # rocback 2016-07-29 18:10
I'll be flying in there in a couple of weeks. I would love to come see the movie. I love fiction.
+38 # reiverpacific 2016-07-29 18:14
Quoting rocback:
I'll be flying in there in a couple of weeks. I would love to come see the movie. I love fiction.

That's obvious from y'r posts here!
-39 # rocback 2016-07-29 18:49
I was hoping for a battle of wits but it would be wrong to attack someone who’s totally unarmed.
+8 # jwl 2016-07-29 22:07
That's not terribly new, as I'm sure you're aware. I have a T-shirt with a close variant of that one, and I got in the late seventies.
+1 # grandlakeguy 2016-07-31 21:14
Wow, I am surprised that rocback has admitted that in a battle of wits he/she is totally unarmed!
+17 # Thomas0008 2016-07-29 21:48
#rocback of course you love fiction/lies. that is why you support the politicians you support.
-2 # rocback 2016-07-30 12:48
you mean like the lies that Clinton stole the primaries. Jane sanders just debunked that yesterday. Hopefully that BS can now be put to bed:

"He lost this election by more votes than can be explained by the things that people are concerned about — the voting irregularities, or the DNC. If it was closer, we might have done something differently, but there is no choice. It's not like we're stopping because we want to. We're stopping because those are the rules of the game. That's democracy. There is a winner and a loser in every election."
+9 # Radscal 2016-07-30 01:10
How kind of you to offer, GLG. I'm going to invite some others to come, too though, so wouldn't feel right taking you up on your generosity.

I hope it'll be sold out.

Is the theater set up for a mobility scooter?
+1 # grandlakeguy 2016-07-31 21:13
Of course!
+9 # kundrol 2016-07-29 21:31
Re: Palast film in Oakland: That's great! I'll come down if I can.
0 # Shades of gray matter 2016-07-29 17:29
Hold it right there, mister. How do we know the virtually expired Black Robed Ten weren't......zo mbies? Wait. We do know. Because their God has seen fit to fasten Mikey to the tail of a tiger with the runs. Runs, Mikey, runs!
+14 # pushingforpeace 2016-07-29 18:26
The Dems learned from the Republican playbook. So now only people with money can vote with ease. It is such a sacrifice for the others that they just give up, especially if they have to miss work to stand in long lines.
+24 # grandlakeguy 2016-07-29 18:38
The similarity between the Mike Pence path to election victory, as outlined above, and the manner in which our recent Democratic primary was conducted is stunning!

It is too bad that the lack of ethics virus seems to have become contagious with our supposedly more ethical Dems falling victim to it's allure.

Actually…the real victims here are "We the People".
+27 # dipierro4 2016-07-29 20:26
My dad, a WWII vet, died in 2009. He wanted badly to vote in 2008, and was afraid that he wouldn't be allowed to, because his driver's license had expired. He was disabled and did not have transportation to the DMV, which was some distance from where he lived. (I could not help, as I lived far away.)

I never will know if he managed to vote, and it doesn't matter now. Still, the idea of these laws makes me angry beyond words.

I have another viewpoint on this as well: For more than 20 years I have worked with undocumented immigrants, hundreds of them, maybe thousands, and known many quite well. I can say with certainty that the LAST thing on their minds is to sneak into a voting booth. They have their own lives, families, and struggles to survive. They have no incentive, desire, or thought to put themselves at risk by trying to vote in an election. The idea is absurd beyond imagination.

There a very few instances where abuses might happen: In states where an undocumented alien is eligible for a license, an overeager DMV employee might ask him/her to sign a voter registration form; and the alien, out of compliance or ignorance, might sign. The same goes for Deferred Action recipients. But this doesn't mean the person actually will vote. They don't! Also, a few people have come to the U.S. as small children and been told that they are citizens. But these numbers surely are tiny.

The above instances do not remotely justify what my dad went through. Not remotely.
+16 # Radscal 2016-07-30 01:21
First, please accept my sympathy on your dad's passing.

It angers me that he even had to worry about being able to vote, more than 6 decades after fighting for all of our rights.

Many older people don't have these IDs and more than a few of them don't have the ability to get one. My mother was born in her parent's home, and so didn't have a regular birth certificate. And she was a city-girl. Babies born out in the country were even more likely to have none.

And I, too have known many undocumented migrants, and as Greg continually notes, and statistics show, almost every one of them goes WAY out of their way to avoid breaking ANY law. They don't want to even get pulled over for a traffic violation.
+8 # Thomas0008 2016-07-29 21:46
look at the expression on his face. Very much like our favorite demon, cheney !
+8 # NAVYVET 2016-07-29 21:46
I have read that Mike Pence didn't run again for governor because he was close to being indicted for malfeasance--us ing taxpayer money for personal purchases. Is that true? If so, why isn't he in prison?
+1 # Texas Aggie 2016-07-30 21:23
From what I gather, it may be that the regulations forbidding personal use of donated political funds followed his doing so. From what I read, the judge on the case decided that only incumbent politicians were forbidden from using political donations while challengers could do whatever they wanted with the money. Because of what he did, the regulations have now changed.
+13 # boredlion 2016-07-29 21:51
Now let's see if the Demos can outrig the Repugs in November. They ( the D's) got some pretty good practice in the primaries.
+1 # treespeaker 2016-07-31 00:25
Pence is just another slimebag evil republican. They are all the same.
0 # jimb1129 2016-08-01 20:30
The last time Republicans managed to avoid the outcome of a fair election, we got GWB. Two of the five Supreme Court justices who installed him are rotting in hell right now, but what Bush did to the country is peanuts compared to what Trump could do. While Republicans (as they freely admit with their voting restrictions) can only win elections when they cheat, rob and steal like happened in 2000, even they should take pause about what they are trying to do now. Trump in the White House could very well be the last US president.

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