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Ocasio-Cortez Victory Shows Upsets Over Strong Incumbents Possible When Vote-Counting System Is Transparent

Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He is an advocate of "impact journalism."


In much of the country, if you think your vote ever determined anything like stopping or starting a war, passing a debt bond, abortion, LGBT rights, or Medicare for all, you're dreaming. At least in the last 20 years or so. If you think they are going to leave those things to schmucks like you and me, I've got a little land in Florida for you.

In 2012 no less eminent a source than Harper's Magazine ran the news that, for the most part, we don't know who won. It has only gotten worse. Victoria Collier wrote:

"as November 6 approaches, only one thing is certain: American voters will have no ability to know with certainty who wins any given race, from dogcatcher to president. Nor will we know the true results of ballot initiatives and referenda affecting some of the most vital issues of our day, including fracking, abortion, gay marriage, GMO-food labeling, and electoral reform itself. Our faith-based elections are the result of a new Dark Age in American democracy, brought on, paradoxically, by technological progress."

Collier was mostly right, but not completely. It depends on where you live. Some states and jurisdictions have better voting systems than others. If you live in the state of New York, and you watch election authorities like a hawk, then it is possible to have an honest election. Otherwise you are consigned to "push and pray" (electronic voting) or marking a paper ballot and hoping it gets counted.

It is no coincidence that New York is where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez scored her stunning upset victory over 10-term incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley, in the Democratic Primary. New York State's vote-counting machines are 100% hand-marked paper ballots with ballot imaging technology. That means a digital image of each ballot is made by the machine as it gets fed into the intake slot.

It doesn't matter whether you are Democrat, Republican, or something else. When you have transparency in elections, upsets over established incumbents can happen. Otherwise, not so much.

Look at the recent fiasco in Florida, where a Hillary-allied, establishment congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, supposedly defeated "Bernie Bro" Tim Canova. When Canova got suspicious of certain voting patterns in Wasserman's vote, he sued to view the paper ballots. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel mocked Canova for offering "conspiracy theories." Then, Broward County Supervisor of Elections, and Wasserman-Schultz ally, Brenda Snipes destroyed the ballots. Completely illegally, with impunity, since Snipes has not been prosecuted since.

The Sun-Sentinel suddenly went silent on those "conspiracy theories."

It was as clear day that Canova really won. There is no other reason Snipes would have destroyed this set, and this set only, of ballots. Canova had been running a competitive campaign. Money had been flooding in from around the country, from Sanders supporters eager to see the Wicked Witch of South Florida knocked off.

Break the law, destroy the evidence, problem solved. Best of all, no one goes to jail.

Today's voting systems go back to HAVA, the Help America Vote Act, which ushered in the optical scanner, paper ballot vote-counting machines. This might not be a bad thing, as long as they are the right kind. More on that later.

Why wouldn't the establishment—that is, elected officials and who are in cahoots at all levels - want all electronic voting? That is, DRE (the touch-screen machines with a "paper trail," which is useless,) or a machine which dispenses with paper altogether? Paper, and transparency, are the enemies of election fraud. A system like the one New York State has in place, where paper ballots are counted by optical scan vote-counting machines, which generate digital images of the ballots, would be extremely difficult to steal.

We are not talking about "voter" fraud. Election fraud takes place inside election departments. Collier writes:

"In 2005, the nonpartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by Jimmy Carter and James Baker, stated unequivocally that the greatest threats to secure voting are insiders with direct access to the machines: “There is no reason to trust insiders in the election industry any more than in other industries.”"

A small, hard core of activists refuse to lose their right to vote, to self-rule itself. Their names are easy to find, but a good start is to read a book by Bev Harris called Black Box Voting (free online,) and watch a movie called "Hacking Democracy."

After those two, you will definitely be up to speed on what's up with your vote. Democracy ain't easy, and you might have to read a book, rather than just believe what they are telling you on TV.

Then you can fully appreciate what is going on right now, as election boards and secretaries of state fight tooth and nail against mandatory all paper ballots, counted by modern optical scan vote-counting machines which take a digital image of each ballot. The images are married to its ballot of origin through an anonymous serial number on the ballot.

That is what they have in New York State, where the Ocasio-Cortez upset took place. Although New York jurisdictions still do not post the digital ballot images, election activists assured authorities that if it looked like there had been cheating, they'd be asking for them.

That is the answer. It has been carefully thought out by people who have devoted their lives to integrity and transparency in elections. Transparency is a key. Transparency means there is no good reason for officials ever to hide what they are doing, because all ballots in all 50 states are anonymous, anyway.

The elections that have been stolen are important ones, not dogcatcher. In 2012 there was good evidence that Ron Paul was the real Republican nominee, over the boring blockhead Mitt Dick Romney, who couldn't fill a stadium if they gave out free hot dogs and beer.

Conspiracy theory? Remember Broward County.

The progressive magazine Mother Jones presents evidence that, in 2004, the actual winner of the first post-Iraq invasion election was John Kerry, not George Bush. In 2007, two election officials from Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the critical swing state where Kerry lost it, were convicted of rigging an audit in order to confirm Bush as the winner. Then, to remove all doubt that something was amiss, the star witness in a lawsuit against the Republican secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, was killed in a small plane crash before he could testify.

Politics in America has become as murderous as it always has been in any Third World banana republic. But instead of open coups, we have small plane crashes.

And of course, everyone knows by now that Hillary stole the nomination from Bernie in 2016. Everyone.

These are matters of war and peace, our children's futures, whether we starve to death under bridges again when social security gets wiped, and all the other visions which warm the cockles of the One Percent's heart.

Voter hand-marked paper ballots, no vote-by-mail except for excuse, counted by machines which make ballot images and then make those images public. Exception for disability. Full transparency. If you want to know more, read the article at Alternet: "New Technology Allows Election Officials to Verify Votes Like Never Before—Will It Be Widely Used in 2018?"

If you live in a state like New York, which uses the right kind of machines, which take ballot images that can be publicly posted, definitely vote, and fight for the images to be posted. Right now, according to election experts, the qualifying machines are the ES&S (Election Systems and Software) DS200, the ES&S DS850, the Dominion ImageCast Precinct and ImageCast Central, the Hart Intercivic Verity Scan and Verity Central, and the Unisyn Voting OpenElect OVO. A free tool by a nonprofit, at VerifiedVoting.org, lists all voting machines in the US by county.

Otherwise, save your time going to the polls. It doesn't mean a thing. Like Stalin said, it's not who votes, but who counts the votes, that matters.

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.

© 2018 Ralph Lopez


Linda Crump on August 10, 2018:

I am wondering about the upcoming election between Tim Canova and DWS. Do you know if anything can be done to prove fraud before they get rid of the evidence this time? You know it is going to happen.

The Logician from then to now on on July 12, 2018:

Wrong Ralph, they should be first educated of the importance to vote and the consequences of not voting which is where our education system has drastically failed. And they aren’t all “apathetic”, most probably just don’t have their priorities right and that can be changed as it is changed for many who as they grow older and through life experiences trade their apathy for involvement as I am one.

Ralph Lopez (author) on July 12, 2018:

TSAD , The kind of people who don't vote out of apathy rather than because they think it doesn't count, and need to be talked into it, probably shouldn't be voting anyway.

The Logician from then to now on on July 12, 2018:

Ralph, If more people voted more people would care about the accuracy of the recording of the votes and more attention would be focused on the problems. However if you sell your points by saying your vote doesn’t matter now, which obviously isn’t true across the board as I’ve illustrated, it’s like crying wolf, non-voters don’t listen now, even fewer voters will listen to you. The point to make is that if the current practices aren’t changed or monitored better your vote won’t matter.

The way you are couching the problem, on which I said I agree with you, simply gives potential non voters another excuse not to vote now, and believe me human nature will insure that to be the outcome of any article sledging your vote diesn’t count now.

Ken Burgess from Florida on July 11, 2018:

Yep, they have a lot of problems here in FL with vote fraud, the county next to mine the ballot collectors were filmed via cell phone by a concerned citizen sitting in a back room filling out ballots as quickly as they could for Hillary.

Was quite the controversy locally, never made it to the state or national news however, it was hushed up. They also have a terrible absentee ballot system here, it wouldn't shock me if more than half of them were fake or forged ballots.

Ralph Lopez (author) on July 11, 2018:

TSAD: No, electronic rigging of the count regardless of the real vote count can overwhelm any landslide, that's why they never let you see the paper ballots. The differences between the real vote and the electronic count would become apparent. The point is not to persuade people not to vote. The point is to fix the system so that their votes count, which is now well within reach. Voter hand-marked paper ballots, no vote-by-mail except for excuse, counted by machines which make ballot images and then make those images public. Exception for disability. Full transparency.

Brad on July 11, 2018:

If Ron Paul could have won the 2012 election, then today would see a very different world. You didn't mention McCain in 2008, and there surely was a better candidate instead of him.

The Logician from then to now on on July 11, 2018:

Wow, you make some very good points which probably just added to the nearly majority of eligible voters who don’t vote because, like you, they “think” their vote doesn’t matter when in reality if all those people did vote, nearly 50% of the electorate there would be no case to make that your voice doesn’t matter just because the shear number of voters would overwhelm any rigging of the system. The more people who vote the harder it is to mess with.

But in this last election if you were for constitutionslists judges, lower taxes, controlled borders and a better immigration system you voted forTrump and considering the alternative your vote definitely mattered and will matter even more if you want to avoid a socialist democrat party destroying our country.

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