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LaRose knows not to purge

Wikimedia

Bob Fitrakis
Jan. 23, 2019

Ohio’s newly elected Secretary of State (SOS) Frank LaRose sounds surprisingly reasonable and sane for a Republican. Unlike his recently departed predecessor Jon Husted, who now occupies the state’s Lieutenant Governor’s office, LaRose seems to understand the voter registration purge problem in Ohio. Or at least he’s giving lip service to it.

Husted, notorious for removing minorities and the poor from the Buckeye State voter rolls, ended his tenure with a last great purge worthy of Stalin. Everyone who had not voted in the last four years was targeted for removal from Husted’s voting roll.

Could you imagine if they told National Rifle Association loyalists that “You have to give up your gun – you haven’t used it in four years” or “You have to give up your concealed carry permit, because you haven’t carried your weapon in four years”?

Voting should be regarded as a constitutional right and is the basis of our democracy. LaRose appears to understand this. He told the Akron Beacon Journal that Ohio’s voter registration process is “antiquated.” Even more interesting, LaRose said he “…wants to rely on data the state already collects but doesn’t share.”

LaRose insisted that the SOS office should access updated home addresses every time a voter interacts with the state. In his view, that would include drivers’ licenses, tax filings, or even buying a fishing license. While Husted targeted urban areas for purging, where Democratic voters are in abundance, at his swearing in, LaRose denounced our enemies and named: “racism … and bigotry.”

Husted could never explain why – in an era of computerized unlimited databases and in a state that requires an ID to vote – he had to de-register any voter because they failed to vote.

Isn’t it each person’s right to vote or not to vote?

As the Beacon Journal summarized, LaRose promised a new policy “With access to those addresses and the dates of interactions with the state, many people’s voting registrations could hypothetically continue unchallenged until they die or move out of state.” 

LaRose’s respect for the right to vote is refreshing and long overdue in the Buckeye State.

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Democray Now Presents Bob Fitrakis And Greg Palast In Ohio, Speaking About Election And Security

“In an on-the-ground report from the battleground state of Ohio, investigative reporter Greg Palast has uncovered the latest in vote suppression tactics led by Republicans that could threaten the integrity of the vote in Ohio and North Carolina. On some polling machines, audit protection functions have been shut off, and African Americans and Hispanics are being scrubbed from the voter rolls through a system called Crosscheck. “It’s a brand-new Jim Crow,” Palast says. “Today, on Election Day, they’re not going to use white sheets to keep way black voters. Today, they’re using spreadsheets.”

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Trump’s Racist “Rigged Election” Attack is as Old as America

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman

Trump in front of flag with red baseball cap on

Donald Trump speaking at a rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump’s demand for “monitors” at polling places to prevent a “rigged election” is an old and ugly story.

It’s obviously aimed—-KKK style—-at stopping black and Hispanic citizens from voting.  But in fact both major parties have used such terror tactics—- and updated electronic ones—-since the birth of the nation.

The cure—-we call it “the Ohio Plan”—- is scorned by both corporate parties:  universal automatic voter registration, transparent registration rolls that can be easily monitored, a national holiday for voting, and universal hand-counted paper ballots that stay in one place and are tallied (and re-tallied) in full public view.

The “rigged election” story dates back to the Constitution.  Its Electoral College gave a three-fifths “bonus” to slave owners for blacks who could not actually vote.  The race card carried through Jim Crow segregation and the KKK terror unleashed against post-Emancipation blacks who dared try to vote.  It continues through the Drug War and the tens of millions of African-American and Hispanic citizens stripped of their freedom and franchise.

Today it’s being done by computer programs that quietly eliminate millions of black and Hispanic voters from the registration rolls.

In Florida 2000 Gov. Jeb Bush stripped some 90,000 mostly black and Hispanic citizens off the registration rolls in an election decided for his brother by 537 votes.  In 2004 GOP operatives did it again to some 300,000 Ohioans in a state Bush won by 118,775.

In moves that Trump should love, between the 2004 and 2008 elections, in a state with about 5.5 million eligible voters,1.25 million Ohioans were de-registered. In 2012, the number purged was 1.1 million. So far this year, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has de-registered over a million Ohio voters, more than 600,000 clearly eligible to vote and on the rolls of their county boards of elections.

Photo ID, limited polling station access, machines that break down, provisional ballots that don’t get counted, absentee ballots that don’t get sent, elimination of days to vote, deliberate official misinformation and intimidation—-all do exactly what Trump wants.  They eliminate the “threat” of non-white voters.

In reporting on Trump’s assertions, the New York Times quotes Ohio’s GOP Secretary of State Husted as the “voice of reason.”  But like other Republican Secretaries of State across the US, Husted is aggressively stripping millions of black and Hispanic voters from the registration books.  Nationwide, tens of millions of exactly the kinds of people Trump doesn’t want to vote will have been stripped off the voter rolls come November.  Much of this is explained in Greg Palast’s new film The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

As Michelle Alexander has explained in her New Jim Crow, tens of millions of blacks and Hispanics have been stripped of their votes since Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs in 1971.  Alongside filling history’s biggest gulag with about 2.2 million prisoners, America’s Drug War has anchored the GOP’s Southern Strategy by stripping blacks and Hispanics from the rolls in southern states where they comprise some 40% of the potential electorate.

Neither Trump nor his mainstream critics mention mass incarceration’s “twin” means of election rigging:  electronic voting machines.   Some 80% of this year’s votes may be cast on touchscreen and other computerized devices that are absurdly easy to flip.  The courts say the corporate-owned source code is proprietary.  So there’s no meaningful accountability.  Allegedly safe Scantron paper ballots are easily manipulated with corrupted tallying machines.

Significant computer manipulations helped rig GOP presidential victories in Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004, and critical down-ballot elections elsewhere.  These include 2014 US Senate races in North Carolina, Colorado and Alaska that now loom large in terms of who might or might not be confirming new Supreme Court appointments.

Corporate-sponsored critics brand this “conspiracy theory”.  But neither they nor Trump can answer this most basic question:  “how, in fact, do we verify the legitimate tally of votes cast on electronic machines with no effective paper trail, i.e. the vast majority of those that will be cast this November?”

If we’re to have meaningful elections in the future, they must be conducted on paper  ballots that are held at their precincts in transparent containers that do not move.  Those ballots must be counted in public, by hand.  Voter registration should be open automatically to all citizens, with registration rolls open to the public and easily monitored.  Voting should be open to all on the basis of a signature.  And we need a national holiday for voting so working people do not have to pay with their jobs for exercising their democratic rights.

The “Ohio Plan” would also eliminate corporate money from our elections, end gerrymandering and abolish the Electoral College.

This coming election, up and down the ballot, could indeed be “rigged”.  But it will happen exactly counter to what Trump says.  Rather than eliminating millions of black and Hispanic voters, as he wants, we need to guarantee their franchise.  We must be able to verify their presence on registration rolls.  We need to make sure they have reasonable time and place to cast their ballots—-free from KKK/Trump-style thugs intimidating us all.

Above all, as they now do in Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, Romania, Japan and Canada, we need to cast our votes on paper ballots that are safety stored and counted by hand, preferably by our nation’s high school and college students, and our elders.

Maybe then, Trump or otherwise,  we can begin to think of America as a country where elections really aren’t rigged or stolen, stripped or flipped.

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Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman’s STRIP & FLIP SELECTION OF 2016:  FIVE JIM CROWS & ELECTRONIC ELECTION THEFT has just been chosen as one of America’s most censored stories ( http://projectcensored.org/4-search-engine-algorithms-electronic-voting-… ).  It’s available at www.freepress.org, along with Bob’s FITRAKIS FILES.  Harvey’s SOLARTOPIA!  OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.harveywasserman.com, along with AMERICA AT THE BRINK OF REBIRTH, available in 2017.

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Mass Ohio Voter Purges Begin

By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman

October 3, 2016

husted-in-court

Sunday, October 2, 2016, the Columbus Dispatch reported that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted refused to mail absentee ballot applications to over one million Ohio voters.

Husted refused to mail to 1,035,795 registered voters. Those left off Husted’s mailing list include 650,730 registered voters who had changed their address. Of these, 568,456 moved within the Buckeye State and are still eligible to vote. The other 82,274 moved out of state and are presumably ineligible to vote.

The key target of Husted’s deregulation scheme are the remaining 385,065 voters who are registered at their current residence but simply failed to vote in the 2012 or 2014 federal elections.

Husted has had these voters harassed by their local Boards of Elections sending them letters demanding they verify their address. Failure to do so could lead to the voters’ deregistration and has led to them not being offered an absentee ballot. Social science data shows that the crux of Democratic Party voters move more often and vote less often than Republicans. Husted’s strategy is to purge poor and minority voters from Ohio rolls.

A U.S. federal court had recently blocked Husted’s strategy of just outright mass purging minority, young and mostly Democratic voters. A recent 2-1 ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals halted various Husted practices including the removal of any voter who hadn’t voted in six years in Ohio, even if they remained at the same address.

However, the ruling did not block Husted from doing an end-run by using the absentee ballot application mailing to eventually deregister voters.

Husted has never been able to explain why, in a state that requires ID at the polls to verify a voter’s address, any voter would be removed from the computerized voting rolls. There’s no logical reason other than partisan politics to purge a registered voter in a computer era.

Overall, Republican Husted has targeted 13 percent of Ohio’s registered voters for absentee ballot disenfranchisement.

Also, voters who received Husted’s absentee ballot application mailing may have noticed the specific instructions on the envelope to the post office not to forward the mail to a new address, although the post office can return it to the sender. Husted’s office has used the return of two pieces of mail intended for the same voter to the secretary of state’s office or county board of elections as a reason to purge that voter.

Husted also admitted to the Dispatch that some of his absentee ballot applications got lost in the mail. Husted, who claims to be a fiscal conservative and has in the past refused to have backup paper ballots at polling sites because of the cost, cannot seem to explain why he is mailing more than 6.5 million absentee voting applications anyway.

Husted has allowed his office and the county boards of elections, without explanation, to disable their electronic audit logs that are built into central tabulators as well as certain county ballot scanning machines.

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Ohio election officials cover up for illegal voting by police

Ohio election officials cover up for illegal voting by police

Bob Fitrakis

8-7-2013

My, my. The coverup begins in the Metro section lead which begins, “County election officials say they think a clerical error is to blame for 19 Columbus police officers having their voting addresses listed as the Downtown police headquarters.”
Now, if a lower-class black male had used his work address as a voting address, and tried to vote in the inner-city Driving Park area, the headline would have read: “Massive voter fraud uncovered in urban inner-city precinct: ACORN is suspected.”
It is a fifth-degree felony to intentionally register to vote at your work address instead of your residence. The police might enforce the laws, but it doesn’t mean they obey them.
As the Dispatch pointed out, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who supervises the vote in Ohio, “…isn’t particularly concerned about police officers registering their work address.”
Say what? The top election official in the state of Ohio doesn’t care if the law is obeyed? I never thought I’d say it, but apologies are in order to the infamous former Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who stole the election for George W. Bush in Ohio. At least with Blackwell, he found obscure old laws and re-interpreted existing law.
Husted is either ignoring the law or refusing to obey it.
By the time the article jumps to page five, the Dispatch reports the obvious: “Registering an address other than the residential address where you live is voting fraud and a felony punished by a year in prison.”
Not to worry about the blatant felonies being committed, Ben Piscatelli, spokesperson for the Franklin County Board of Elections — whose Executive Director is former county Democratic Chair Bill Anthony — chimes in to echo Husted. Piscatelli assured the Dispatch that “Columbus police officers don’t have to worry that their names will be forwarded to the county prosecutor’s office for possible investigation.”
Now, had this been an elderly retired black woman in the Mt. Vernon area, a SWAT team would have descended on her house and arrested her for voter fraud. Husted, with Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine and County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien at his side would have gleefully announced her prosecution for voting while black at the wrong address.
Piscatelli told the Dispatch that “It’s just a clerical problem. We’re working through it.” Of course there’s been no criminal investigation and Piscatelli offers no proof that it is a clerical error. But he gets paid well for being a mouthpiece for the Board of Elections, and all public officials love to get the FOP endorsement.
In a predictable twist, seven of the police officers don’t even reside in Franklin County where they were illegally registered to vote. Study after study has indicated that the overwhelmingly white police force is seen as an army of occupation in Columbus’ black neighborhoods.
We’re also told by the Board of Elections that one of the officers registered at work lived in the city and it was the exact same ballot for the illegal police headquarters precinct as where he lived. Again, the Board of Elections doesn’t offer proof in the form of an actual ballot.
Piscatelli goes on to say that “The Board thinks the registrations were honest mistakes,” according to the Dispatch. That makes sense. Columbus’ finest are required to have at least a GED to be on the force, and perhaps they forgot they didn’t live at police headquarters.
On one hand, Piscatelli’s comments may be reasonable, since the Columbus police have no concept of the meaning of the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments. Why should they be expected, as foot soldiers of the Constitution, sworn to defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic, be expected to understand something as simple as a voting law.

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Broken Democracy

The U.S. election system is broken, but you’d never know how bad it really is if you read the Columbus Dispatch. Citing a recent Pew Charitable Trust study, the Republican-owned paper stresses that Ohio ranks 29th out of 50 states in terms of worst voting practices.

A much better perspective of the nearly 6 million lost votes in the country from the 2008 election is offered by BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast. His book “Billionaires and Ballot Bandits” is a must read for those seeking to grapple with the real facts surrounding U.S. democracy. Ohio has a history since the stolen 2004 election of allowing Republican secretaries of state to purge voters in record numbers.

Those that somehow succeed in registering and voting in a state dedicated to the proposition that minorities, the poor, young, and the elderly should face difficult obstacles, often find that their votes were not counted. In the Dispatch’s recent article, they lauded Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted for moving in the right direction.

I guess that means he did OK by doubling the amount of uncounted provisional votes from 17,000 to 34,000. That’s absurd. It is also a travesty that people who haven’t voted in the last two federal elections lose their voter registration.

The only way to protect U.S. voters is through a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. The truth is, our system is beyond flawed. It is one that targets the most vulnerable of our citizens for election purges and vote theft.

See full article http://www.freepress.org/columns/display/3/2013/1961

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Republicans Ban Minor Parties In Ohio: Battle On To Repeal Law

By Bob Fitrakis

August 10, 2011

Ohio Secretary of State John Husted has banned all minor political parties in Ohio from the ballot. In an August 5, 2011 letter written to the Libertarian Party of Ohio, Husted made it clear that his interpretation of the draconian Ohio House Bill 194, passed by the Republican-dominated legislature, means that all minor parties have lost their official statewide party status effective September 30, 2011.

In a bizarre twist, Husted wrote that the bill “…included laws related to the requirements minor parties will have to satisfy in order to gain ballot access.”

In Husted’s reading of HB 194, the Libertarian, Green, Socialist and Constitution Parties that have been on the ballot since the 2008 election will have to start over to gain ballot access that they already held under a federal court ruling. In a similar situation, then-Secretary of State Ted Brown left minor parties on the ballot in 1970 and 1972 rather than revoking their ballot access due to a new election law.

In 2006, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found the qualifications for minor parties two restrictive and the Ohio election law was declared unconstitutional. One provision in the bill struck down by the 6th Circuit held that minor parties had to file in November of the year before the election. HB 194 moved this petition filing deadline to early February of the election year for minor parties.

But the U.S. Supreme Court in Williams vs. Rhodes, a 1968 Ohio case, ruled that a February deadline is “unreasonably early.”

The law gives the minor parties three and a half months to collect 40,000 valid signatures to place their Party back on the ballot.

The Libertarian Party of Ohio filed a lawsuit on August 9 for “First Amendment rights and voting freedom,” seeking to overturn the short turnaround for the ballot access signatures portion of HB 194.

Former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner spoke on Talktainment radio August 10 and was critical of Husted’s letter, arguing that it was a waste of taxpayers’ money to force the minor parties to sue to gain ballot access. “It’s an unfortunate waste of taxpayer dollars. The minor parties should prevail. But the Secretary of State’s office will have to pay the bills out of their budget,” she said.

Brunner and her CouragePAC are part of a broad coalition of forces that include Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH and ProgressOhio. They will be gathering signatures to repeal HB 194 because it restricts the right to vote for many Ohio voters, including the elderly, students, urban and poor people. The law forbids pollworkers from directing voters to the correct precinct among other anti-democratic measures.

On August 6 at the Mt. Hermon Baptist Church in Columbus, the anniversary of the historic Selma to Montgomery civil rights march, Rev. Jackson told Ohio activists seeking to repeal HB 194 that “Fundamental to protecting all the rights is voting rights.”

Jackson accused the Ohio Republican Party of embracing a “state’s rights ideology” left over from the Civil War. He stressed that it was no accident that the Republican Party is now engaging in the largest disenfranchising of voters since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and it is happening in 34 states across the country.

If Brunner and Jackson’s coalition is successful in gathering the signatures to place the repeal of HB 194 on Ohio’s ballot in 2012, the law will not go into effect on September 30. Rather, it will decided by voters in the 2012 November election.

Where this leaves Ohio’s minor parties may ultimately decided by the courts. Part of HB 194 retrospectively “declared void the 2009 and 2011 Secretary of State directives providing ballot access to certain minor parties,” Husted wrote to the Libertarian Party of Ohio. Those directives came as part of a consent agreement between the Secretary of State’s office and minor parties, enforced by Ohio’s federal court in the Southern District.

Husted’s letter makes it clear that he intends to enforce the partisan Republican law even if it is placed on hold by a repeal process.

It was the Libertarian and Green Parties in 2004 that demanded the recount of Ohio’s suspect presidential vote, and it was the Green Party that conducted statewide election protection operations in 2008.

If the Republicans have their way, they will not only remove the minor parties from the ballot, but also the vehicle by which election protection activists observed and reported on Ohio’s presidential elections.

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Bob Fitrakis is Co-Chair of the Ohio Green Party and was the attorney who filed to secure the Green Party of Ohio’s ballot access in 2008. He was also an independent candidate for governor in Ohio endorsed by the Greens in 2006.