Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He is an advocate of "impact journalism."
After a year of election transparency activists suing election authorities in numerous states and demanding to see the automatically stored digital images of ballots generated by many vote scanning machines, progressive Democrats have won stunning upsets in primaries this week in states with this capacity.
One victor, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, defeated 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in New York's 14th Congressional District. Crowley was an up-and-coming star in Democratic establishment circles and was vying to be the next Speaker of the House.
Also victorious in gubernatorial primary contests were 2016 Bernie Sanders ally and former NAACP head Ben Jealous in Maryland and Rep. Jared Polis in Colorado.
These victories provide an interesting contrast to the recent fiasco in the Florida 23rd Congressional District, where another progressive challenger in a Democratic primary, Tim Canova, saw his ballots destroyed just before a lawsuit demanding a recount. In that race between Canova and Democratic establishment incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the Broward County elections supervisor, Brenda Snipes, admitted in a court filing that she had signed off on an order for the ballots to be illegally destroyed. In all federal races, paper ballots and other election documentation are required, by federal law, to be preserved for a period of 22 months.
Wasserman-Schultz is a former chair of the Democratic National Committee and a close ally of Hillary Clinton. Schultz came under fire and was eventually forced to resign when a Wikileaks dump of DNC emails revealed that she heavily campaigned for Clinton to be the Democratic nominee over Bernie Sanders, despite official DNC bylaws mandating that the chair remain neutral in any Democratic primary.
To date, no prosecutorial action against Snipes has been undertaken by federal or state Florida law enforcement offices, showing a level of corruption and impunity unmatched in any other state. The US law requires—on penalty of a fine of $1,000 or or one year in prison or both—the preservation of all ballot evidence.
Some citizens are lobbying for prosecutorial action against Snipes.
Although the vote tallies showed that Florida law school professor Tim Canova came in 13 points behind Wasserman-Schultz, neutral statisticians, including a former president of the American Statistical Association, discovered unusual voting patterns in the results. The anomalies were enough to prompt Canova to take legal action to re-examine the ballots. But before the case could come to a decision, Election Supervisor Snipes destroyed them.
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The Problem With Ballot Scanning Machines
In states where ballot images are created by optical scan vote counting machines, it is possible for citizens to recount the ballots without touching them, by examining the digital versions. However, in the past year, election authorities have fought transparency activists tooth-and-nail not to make public the images of the ballots.
This has prompted some to wonder if many important congressional elections in the US might not be hacked, and the political make-up of Congress manipulated to be more conservative than the electorate.
Progressive vs. Established Democrats
A sufficient number of conservative Democratic candidates are seated in Congress to thwart any meaningful change in course in, for example, the granting of war-making powers to the US president, resulting in a prolonged US military presence in Syria and throughout the Middle East. It is also difficult to bring forward any strong agenda regarding the nationalization of the US healthcare system, including "Medicare for all."
Election transparency activist are lobbying in one state after another to have election authorities migrate to all paper ballots, and vote counting machines which generate ballot images.
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.