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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.”"

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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 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, 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

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