Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He has been published in the Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun.
Following the exhortations of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to his supporters to run for office and make change "from the bottom up," thousands of "Berniecrats" have expressed interest in running for office within a system which the DNC claims every "right" to rig.
During a hearing in a lawsuit over the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, in which Sanders supporters contend that the DNC was committed to the nomination of Hillary Clinton over Sanders regardless of voter sentiment, attorneys for the DNC argued in 2017:
“We could have voluntarily decided that, ‘Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way, it would be within their legal rights to do so.”
Democratic Party lawyers argued that the party had no legal obligation to follow its own bylaws, which they likened to a campaign promise made to be broken, such as President Donald Trump's promise to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. DNC attorney Bruce Spiva told the judge:
"Someone said, We're gonna build a wall, and Mexico is gonna pay for it during the primaries...anybody could sue President Trump or the Trump campaign for statements that were made that—where the promise was not kept in the context of the primary."
The 2016 election cycle was marred by evidence of election fraud in many states, at many levels. Lawsuits were filed in New York, California, Arizona, Illinois, and Massachusetts against election authorities for employing a wide variety of tactics calculated to suppress the Sanders vote. In San Diego election officials were filmed using white-out to erase Sanders votes on paper ballots.
Local and state authorities have fought to keep citizens from verifying election results in both primaries and the general election, in recent lawsuits and recount initiatives. In one state, Wisconsin, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was forced to pony up $3.5 million to the state to recount the votes in the presidential contest between Clinton and Trump, which Trump won by a mere 0.75%.
Even then the recount was inconclusive, with only 53% of the ballots across the state counted, and most of the "recount" consisting only running the ballots through the same vote-counting machines which may have generated errors in the first place. The recount was not completed despite anomalies such as 53% of the voters in the town of Hazelhurst in Oneida County casting a ballot with no vote for president.
Election integrity activists say they have discovered a way to ensure that the vote counts in the majority of U.S. jurisdictions are accurate, at no cost to the government. This is based on the fact that most votes cast in the U.S. are paper ballots fed into "optical scan" vote-counting machines, which take a digital image of each paper ballot as it is fed into the machine. These digital images are saved in memory and can be copied and made available to the public. The images, like the ballots, are anonymous with no way to trace them back to individual voters.
The Arizona secretary of state is fighting to be allowed to destroy the images. In Massachusetts, the secretary of state and town election authorities are fighting to keep citizens from recounting the paper ballots themselves, as unpaid volunteers.
Ironically in Arizona, the hotly contested Republican primary between Senator John McCain and challenger Kelly Ward showed an unusual pattern, in which all of the votes needed for McCain to overtake Ward were cast in one county by nearly a two-to-one margin, Maricopa County.
Statistical evidence of election fraud also arose in an important congressional Democratic primary, between Sanders protege Tim Canova, and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Wasserman-Schultz was also chairman of the DNC at the time it was revealed, in leaked emails, that the DNC brass was committed to helping Hillary Clinton win the Democratic nomination. In one email, Wasserman-Schultz says bluntly:
"He isn't going to be president."
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Dr. Fritz Scheuren, 100th president of the American Statistical Association, said of the voting results:
“We have to find a way to find out if they were manipulated, and that requires a recount, of at least a sample of locations.”
Sanders has made a regular theme of saying that change in politics happens from "the bottom up," not "from the top down." Sanders argued at the People's Summit in Chicago last weekend that recent elections in the UK, and Brexit, both showed that it is possible for progressives to win elections. However, the election system in the UK is vastly different from the U.S. Parties are bound to neutrality in primary contests, and almost all ballots are counted by hand, rather than by machines which have been shown to be notoriously easy to hack.
The U.S. is still one of the last industrialized countries not using fraud-resistant hand-counted paper ballots in all elections. Sanders supporters contended that there was clear evidence of voter suppression in critical states against the Sanders demographic, and statistical evidence of hacking into vote-counting machines and "flipping" votes. Election experts call the combination of voter suppression and vote-counting machine hacking "strip and flip."
Although the Democratic Party claims it has the right to conduct its nomination processes and choose nominees as it sees fit, primary elections in the U.S. are always paid for by the taxpayers, not the party.
The weakness in most U.S. vote-counting systems was demonstrated in the HBO documentary "Hacking Democracy," which showed that hackers can break into a machine's code and instruct it to add or subtract votes to particular candidates.
Almost all state recount laws, as Jill Stein's odyssey showed, are onerous and require high hurdles to meet. Some states will not trigger a recount unless a race was won by less than one-half of one percent. In Pennsylvania a full recount was impossible because a large number of jurisdictions did not have paper ballots, but instead used purely electronic, no paper trail voting.
Activists are working in some states to force their state legislatures to enact reforms.
The latest country to switch to a system of 100% hand-counted paper ballots, directly as a result of what was seen in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, is the Netherlands.
Election integrity activists prescribe, at the very least, and as an initial measure of the government's desire to restore the confidence of the voters, that all electronic ballot images be preserved. Election integrity activists such as Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, John Brakey of Audit Arizona, and others have taken leading roles in bringing this about.
As a longer range goal, activists are calling for the U.S. to join most of the rest of the industrialized world, and institute an exclusive regime of the public hand-counting of all ballots, which are anonymous, on election night.
Finally, the activists are calling for a secure chain of custody, using surveillance cameras to monitor ballot storage locations at all times, and accounting for every movement of the ballots with official sign-offs.
Integrity activists are fond of a quote attributed to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, who cynically noted: "Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote decide everything."
There is precedent in the law for determinations of government jurisdiction over internal primary processes. In Smith v. Allwright, which was primarily concerned with racial discrimination, the general principle was nevertheless laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court:
"When, as here, primaries become a part of the machinery for choosing officials, state and federal, the same tests to determine the character of discrimination or abridgment should be applied to the primary as are applied to the general election."
Clip from "Hacking Democracy"
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.