#OurWorld: American Voter Suppression in 2016

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Disclaimer: politics ahead. You can avoid this if you wish. However, I caution all Americans by saying that avoiding politics is part of the reason our country no longer represents our needs and desires as Americans. Conversations like these need to happen if we want our government to represent its people.

That said, the additional disclaimer is that while I am unapologetically pro-Bernie, voter suppression and election fraud should be issues we should all care about, no matter who we are voting for. This is a non-partisan issue, and were my candidate losing this election legitimately, I’d still be just as pissed off about the hindrances to our democracy, and I can gracefully accept a fair loss. I promise you that. You can even ask my husband.

Furthermore, my bias here is irrelevant. Today is June 7. The primaries are nearly over. I’m not trying to campaign here…this is a MAJOR issue in America that we should all be alarmed about.

Additional disclaimer:

Onward.

THE PLAGUE OF POLITICS

Democracy is dying.

I promised I was going to cover some major issues in the World and in America, and now I have a very heavy topic to cover. I’ll try to be as brief as I can, but in all honesty, this is a huge topic with a lot of information, and I don’t think I can cover it briefly.

2016 is election year in the United States of America. This is the year we elect our next President of the United States. Past elections have been pretty simple. There are two main parties: the Republican Party (more conservative) and the Democratic Party (more liberal). Each election cycle, each party selects their champion to be on the general election ballot in November, and some third party candidates will show up on the ballot as well (most notably, the Green Party). The Democratic Party and the Republican Party (or GOP), however, will get all of the news coverage, so it generally follows that one of them gets to be President. This is a decision that goes back and forth ad nauseum. The GOP is pissed when we elect a Democrat, and the Democrats are pissed when we elect the GOP. In retaliation, the GOP-led Congress (our legislative branch…the people who propose and pass laws) will cockblock the President if he or she is a Democrat, and the Democrat-led Congress will cockblock the President if a member of the GOP. In fact, the only time significant progress can be made is when the Congress and the President have matching party affiliations.

It is for this reason that a grand majority of everyday Americans have distanced themselves from politics. Mention politics to any sane American and I can almost guarantee the response will be “I just never talk about politics or religion with people I care about.” So politicians do things we dislike, Americans turn away in disgust, and the cycle repeats itself. Over time, what has happened is that politicians have left their constituents behind. There’s this televised, broadcast request for support because someone has to vote for them to get into office, but that’s the only time you will ever hear from them. You may write them occasionally and get a form letter response. They will tell you what you need to hear so that you return them to their seat. For most of us, this is the extent of our interactions with our elected leaders. So what are they doing with the rest of their time?

Finding money.

Are you giving them money? And I don’t mean taxes. We’ll maybe discuss those another day. If we’re not funding our elected leaders and the campaigns they need to wage to beat the guy who challenges their seat, where do they get the money? The money comes from ‘lobbyists,’ which are special interest groups that want favorable laws passed and laws they don’t like thrown out. Lobbyists come in many forms–environmental activists, pro-gun groups, oil refineries, etc–but what sets apart lobbyists that win and lobbyists that lose is who gives Congress the most money.

Robert Reich on Voter Suppression and Gerrymandering

This corrupt system of politics is what we call The Establishment. These are the ingrained, comfortable politicians that play the game of corruption. They have charm and personable demeanors in person and will tell their constituents whatever it takes to get elected, and then while in office, spend more time moving money and influence around than actually doing their jobs, and because they have the money, anyone who would do good and make real positive changes for our country lose in a campaign. The cycle repeats.

DECISION 2016

So here it is, 2016. And if anyone has been paying attention, this year has been an anomaly. They call it the Year of the Insurgent or the Year of the Outsider. Business-as-usual politics churned out an anointed candidate, and out of the kindness of their hearts, the parties allowed insurgents to share the stage with them. This is par for the course, for them. Usually, these hangers-on candidates are lost halfway through the season when the money runs out. No threat. No big deal. As long as they are there, they provide an opponent for the anointed champion to speak against. They generate attention and ratings.

On the GOP, the insurgent is Donald Trump (shown left), a reality TV star real estate mogul worth more than a billion dollars.

On the Democratic side, the insurgent is Bernie Sanders (shown right), the longest serving Independent in the Senate.

Donald Trump has said loads of incendiary statements. He has advocated for banning Muslims from entering the country, making them wear badges to demarcate them in society. He has insulted and sexually harassed women. He has encouraged violence against protesters at rallies. He has lied, blatantly. He has, to put it bluntly, made a mockery of the election process and made a lot of us ashamed to be Americans.

Because he’s winning.

His supporters turn out for his rallies en masse. They’re incredibly impassioned. New people have been brought into the political process. And they’re doing this because Trump says a couple of things that resonate: 1) They can’t buy me because I don’t need their money 2) I’m not one of them 3) You’ve been screwed over by The Establishment, and I can help.

The GOP laughed at him. They thought he was a joke, and he wouldn’t last a month. I thought they were right. No way are people going to let this asshole become the nominee.

And we were all wrong.

Bernie Sanders is Donald Trump’s polar opposite in most ways. He came into this campaign as a self proclaimed Democratic Socialist (in reality, he’s more of a Social Democrat). Socialism is a hot-button word in America, as most conservatives equate it to Communism (the difference is an authoritarian dictator). But he was a breath of fresh air for the young generation in America, a generation that has experienced nothing but terrorism and economic hardship, hammered home by a Baby Boomer generation that characterized them as lazy, entitled whiners who couldn’t handle a little adversity.

Bernie Sanders has set records, too. He is unmatched with independent and young voters. He has raised most of his money from regular people averaging $27 per donation. His rallies have shattered records for attendance.

Voter turnout is at its highest ever for a Democratic Primary race. The Americans who support him feel their highest ever level of hope for a better future, camaraderie for their fellow Americans, and patriotism for the country. He makes Americans want to be better Americans and work for a better America. And all he wants for us is something most of the developed countries already have: guaranteed food, housing, education, and health for every citizen, as well as a host of other issues that lift up the downtrodden. And he is running on resonating concepts similar to Trump: 1) They can’t buy me because I won’t take their money 2) I’m not one of them 3) You’ve been screwed by The Establishment and I can help.

There’s only one problem.

He isn’t winning.

On the GOP side, the GOP was in open rebellion against their front runner. Trump was an embarrassment to the party, and they did everything they could to stop his rise. He finally clinched the nomination when the last of his opponents dropped out. Now, faced with little choice, the GOP establishment is doing their best to swallow the bitter pill and support him. He actually has a shot at becoming President, as terrifying as that is.

But the Democrats aren’t going thus. The Democratic insurgent is too kind and too good to be as negative as Donald Trump has been. The majority of his supporters have honor and integrity, so they’re trying to win this nomination outright, even though they started behind. So this is the heart of our tale, ladies and gentlemen. We are fighting for the soul of America. This is why our democracy is dying.

THE PROBLEM

Our elections are fraudulent.

Let me repeat this…it’s 2016 and Americans are still fighting for the right to vote. This is a heavy, bold claim to make, particularly by one tiny citizen in the scheme of the most powerful Democratic nation in the world. America is the Champion of World Democracy. Our nation bursts into other nations all the time to cram democracy down the throats of others. We overthrow dictatorships and act like it’s for their own good, and yet at home our vote means nothing.

WHAT ALLEGATIONS, SAM! HOW CAN YOU MAKE THESE ACCUSATIONS?!?

Let’s back up a bit, and we’ll talk about my role in this election.

Last fall, when I learned Hillary Clinton was running for President, I was ecstatic. I grew up in Bill Clinton’s era. Clinton is a familiar name, Hillary is a woman, and Bill is often touted as the recent President with the best economic policies. Like most citizens, I knew only a meager amount of political information, limited to about this: politics are corrupt, politicians are corrupt, money rules everything, and Congress sucks. I’d watched Hillary Clinton being attacked for things I thought were honest mistakes, like Benghazi. I watched her handle it confidently and was impressed.

After the first debate, I was still pleased.

“Madam Secretary, do you want to offer comment on this?”

“No.”

I laughed my ass off. I was all, “YOU GO GIRL!” happy that she wasn’t about to be bullied.

My husband has been a Bernie Sanders fan for a while. My roommate was rooting for Webb. It was an odd time in the Balk household. We were all discussing what we wanted in a candidate and engaging in spirited debate.

It all changed.

I believe in judging people on their own actions and their own words.  I don’t like to listen to the media spoon-feed me what they want me to hear. I don’t like rumor and hearsay. I’m a person with integrity and I’ve seen too many people ruin their lives by being mistaken. I never wanted for that to be me. That’s why I watch the debates. I want to see the candidates defend their positions. I want to see the way they comport themselves in public. This is actually why I link more videos, rather than falling back on my own prose. I want you to see these things, hear these things for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

I was all in for Hillary, and then I watched her lie. It’s not an easy thing to do…learning to see liars. I think maybe I’ve just known a few too many? It’s in the way they avoid eye contact, or the way they choose to dance around the question to avoid answering it, or how they answer what wasn’t your question in the first place. Sometimes, they change the subject entirely. Sometimes, they pin it back on you. Has that ever happened to you? Maybe in a fight with a spouse?

“You did THIS!”

“YEAH?!? What about that one time when you did THAT?!?”

And suddenly you aren’t talking about what you wanted to talk about, but what they changed the subject to instead. Hillary has been doing this. So I asked my husband why he supported Bernie, and I started reading, watching videos from C-span, learning. I liked how respectful he was in the debates, how he answered the question, usually within the time limit, allowed everyone to have their say. Meanwhile, Hillary was talking over time, talking over people, interrupting, and not answering the question.

Now you might be wondering how this is related…

My point with the aside here is that there are a LOT of people that switched over from the Clinton Camp to the Bernie Camp. So many in fact that Sanders has broken records, in fundraising, voter turnout, and rally attendance. The more we learn about the two candidates, the more have been switching.

But this issue isn’t about who’s voting for whom…it’s about how the votes are getting reported.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY ELECTIONS

To give you a little election background, the Democratic Party has two major types of election processes–caucuses and primaries. In a caucus, people have to set aside a large portion of their day to go to an appointed place at an appointed time. They physically have to be present to vote. In a primary, a person casts their vote and leaves. Their ballot is recorded and counted later.

Primaries are further divided into several classifications. In an open primary, every registered voter can vote for whomever they wish. Michigan is one of these. So if I wanted to vote for the Republican candidate, I could. If I wanted to vote for the Democratic candidate, I could. I wouldn’t have to do anything special except show up to vote.

In a closed primary, voters must register with the party they intend to vote for. So if I wanted to vote for a Democrat, I’d have to register as a Democrat. This is especially problematic for moderates, whose preference could be for either party. It’s also problematic for new voters, who are still learning the political process. Many register to vote and leave it at that, thinking they’re done, then show up to vote and are unable to vote. Registrations have deadlines, and if you miss them, you miss out.

DELEGATES

Lastly, the other important aspect to all of this election stuff is the SUPERDELEGATE. These are high-ranking party officials, like governors or senators, who are worth a whole delegate vote.

PLEDGED delegates are awarded based on how well candidates do in the individual states. These are awarded proportionally. If Bernie wins 50% of a state, he gets 50% of the PLEDGED delegates.

SUPERDELEGATES can support whomever they wish, and HAVE, sometimes even when 86% of their state goes to the OTHER candidate.

However, something the media hasn’t been reporting (and we’ll get to that) is that the SUPERDELEGATES do not officially vote until the end of July. They can–and have, in the past–change their minds if it’s in the best interest of the party…such as if the presumptive nominee is likely to lose the general election.

SUPPRESSION AND FRAUD

Since this primary election season began, there have been numerous instances of voter suppression and election fraud (please note, this is not “voter fraud,” which would be fraudulently voting, but “election fraud,” which is a sham election). This sounds very tin-foil hat-y, until you put them all together in a line and see how fishy it looks. Occam’s razor suggests that Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected, or the simplest solution is usually the correct solution. 

I will highlight some egregious ones here:

  • BEFORE:
    • We start the primary season by the Clinton Campaign alleging that Bernie Sander’s campaign hacked the voting rolls of the Clinton Campaign. This shut down Bernie’s access to his own records, hindering his campaign. Bernie immediately fired the individual. It was later determined the employee responsible had been recommended by the Democratic National Committee.
    • Superdelegates misreported, which I talk about later in this post.
    • Debate schedule rigged to minimize Sanders’ exposure. There were far fewer debates this year and hosted at subprime hours or during major televised events. Hillary even declined to debate Sanders after she promised in California.
  • IOWA: 6 coin tosses in a row favored Clinton (possible, but statistically highly unlikely. A 1.6% chance in fact).And then there’s this video showing Polk County precinct officials fudging things ’cause bias is cool. Click here for more allegations of issues in Iowa. 
  • NEVADA: Clinton’s side has some allegations of actual voter fraud. See here, where voters are being shoved PAST registration without even registering to vote, and their votes are counted. There’s also this video, which catches Clinton campaigners training their volunteers to “do whatever you can, whatever you can get away with just do it.” At the second stage of the caucus, MAJOR shenanigans occurred. If you only watch one of the videos I’ve linked in this massive post, watch this one:
  • MASSACHUSETTS: Bill Clinton is caught on video campaigning for his wife within 150 feet of a polling place (which is illegal). Voters reported that they could not even get into their polling place to vote for more than an hour. See here:
  • MICHIGAN: Multiple polling places ran out of ballots, sometimes for several hours.
  • ILLINOIS: Results changed to match fraudulent machine. Failed audits, auditors hiding/changing the number of votes. Watch this testimony at the election hearing in Chicago about fudging numbers to match bad ballot machines.
  • OHIO: Clinton campaign registers the deceased.
  • ARIZONA: The number of polling locations were greatly reduced, causing voters to have to stand in line for in some cases more than five hours until late, late into the night (11:00 p.m. or later). The results were called on the mainstream media with thousands of voters still standing in line, at which point people started telling them to go home.

  • NEW YORK: More than 120,000 voters were mysteriously purged from the voting records, making them ineligible to vote. Elliott Crown proves votes are stolen in New York.
  • DELAWARE: As with many of the primaries, supporters nationwide have seen the reported votes go down for Bernie Sanders.
  • HAWAII: A caucus-goer caught a precinct leader throwing ballots in the trash.
  • PUERTO RICO: Prisoners allowed to campaign as community service, but only if for Hillary Clinton. Voters threatened with actual violence if they voted for Bernie Sanders. Polling locations reduced drastically.
  • MARYLAND: Baltimore’s results decertified when a discrepancy was reported between the number of people checking into a polling place and the number of ballots cast.
  • OREGON: Watch this (this is one I caught):

More generally, these types of voter suppression were quite common across most primaries/caucuses:

  • Caucuses changing rules to disenfranchise Bernie Supporters
    • Some delegates were told they had to now support Clinton because she didn’t have enough delegates present.
    • Caucuses dragged on long into the night to try to encourage delegates to go home and give up.
    • Caucus goers told they could go home and their vote would count (it doesn’t).
    • Caucus goers told to write their vote down on paper and go home (some were then thrown into the trash).
    • Caucus rules not followed, changed at last second, fraudulently accepted.
  • Voters being informed of their polling location/polling time/polling date, but that value being incorrect, causing voters to waste their reserved voting time and ultimately being unable to vote.
  • Voters being told they could not vote with the regular, official ballot and being given a provisional one. Much of the time, provisional ballots are not counted.
  • The number of polling locations reduced, causing long wait times, discouraging voters.
  • Electioneering (campaigning at a polling place)
  • Voters’ electronic registration changed in the computer without their authorization, sometimes multiple times after fixing it.
  • Sample ballots mailed to voters without Bernie Sanders on it, misleading voters.
  • Unclear ballot instructions forcing voters to vote for Clinton delegates
  • Electronic voting machines not accepting Bernie Sanders as a vote
  • Campaigning in a polling place
  • Telling voters they weren’t supposed to vote that day
  • Ballot shortages
  • Polls opened late or closed early

Honestly…I’m not the conspiracy theory type. But in the past five months I’ve seen so many firsthand accounts, videos, frustrated tweets to comprehend that something isn’t right. No one else’s supporters have been this put out. Every time a primary or caucus came around, Bernie supporters were preparing the materials:

  • “Call this number if you experience any issues.”
  • “Make sure you request a provisional ballot if they won’t give you one.”
  • “Don’t leave the line even after the polls close.”
  • “GO BACK TO YOUR POLLING PLACE”
  • “They can’t make you go home!”
  • (in some states) “You are allowed time to go vote, even if you’re working!”
  • “You are registered. You can vote!”
  • “No, the polls are NOT closed!”
  • “DO NOT LEAVE THE CAUCUS!”

We basically had Bernie standby troops to make sure everyone was even allowed to vote.

SHITTY MACHINES

So, a few fun facts. Bernie did much better in most of the caucuses. Hillary did best in closed primaries. Bernie tended to do better in open primaries, though by a slimmer margin than the caucuses. Why?

At a caucus, you can SEE the vote.

During a primary, a machine counts them.

This video demonstrates just how easily these machines can be hacked. Of course, it’s the 21st century…we all know how easy it is to hack a machine. But truly, you should watch this:

EXIT POLLS

Exit poll data is used as a red flag warning system to indicate fraud may have occurred.

Bernie Sanders’ exit poll share has exceeded his recorded vote share by greater than the margin of error in 11 of 26 primaries: AL AZ GA MA NY OH MS SC TX WI WV.

But instead of investigating the fraud, when the public got noisy about this egregious discrepancy, the media instead chose to cancel all remaining exit polls. 

Which brings us to the biggest issue of all…

THE MEDIA

We writers know a thing or two about words and how powerful they are. The mainstream media are the snakes of words.

Before any states even voted, the media was reporting superdelegates as earned delegates–irrefutable, counted delegates–which put Clinton at about a 400-delegate advantage before voting even began. Now, I love to vote my conscience, but if I’m given two decent choices and one of them is getting spanked in the contest, I throw in with the leader.

And many did, giving Clinton an unfair leg up on the race before anyone even knew who Bernie was.

Because honestly…who the fuck IS Bernie Sanders?

The major news networks–CNN, MSNBC, etc–are owned by only a handful of people, and that handful of people are paid by Clinton and friends.

The spin…

The bias is so bad that at one point, Washington Post ran 16 anti-Sanders ads in less than 16 hours.

THE TAKE-HOME MESSAGE

No matter who you are voting for or DID vote for, no matter what happens in the general election, this issue is fucking atrocious. We should not be struggling and fighting for the right to vote. It’s 2016. Americans have died for us to have this chance. Other nations long for the day when they can choose their own leaders.

Here we are, though, squabbling about politics and whose candidate is better than whose. While we fight each other we’re trampled upon.

I have friends who support each candidate. So far I’ve managed to hang onto most of them, even my Republican friends. How?

The world thrives when it is balanced. When we talk to one another and discuss opposing views, seek to understand where we’re each coming from in our convictions and simply have a little mutual respect, we all grow as people. Think in terms of characters, in stories if you must. Think of crayon boxes. Whatever you have to do to understand that diversity is generally good, homogeneity is generally bad. We should be sharing our ideas and conversing, understanding and respecting.

This is something we should all be able to look upon objectively. Two teams can compete for the same prize while still demanding the same amount of respect.

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS.

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About oneofthedragons

Samantha K. Balk and F. R. Donaldson met on An Archive of Our Own, one of the many fanfiction sites online, when Sam asked Frankie to illustrate the fanfiction that would one day lead to Sam's first novel. They've been friends ever since! This blog was created as a way to share the oftentimes difficult journey any new author experiences on the uncomfortable quest of an introvert for attention to his or her most personal work. It is meant to remind you that authors don't just appear fully fledged like a George R. R. Martin, that all of us start out unsure and feeling inadequate. Feel free to ask us anything. Sam: sammykaye9@gmail.com Frankie: reluctant.fraggle@gmail.com

Posted on June 7, 2016, in #OurWorld and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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