Skip to content Skip to footer

Election Theft Is a 120-Year Tradition. Let’s End It This Year.

We can’t depend on the Democratic Party to fight back. We need a grassroots movement to protect the voter rolls.

Voters cast their ballots at a polling station set up at Noonday Baptist Church for the midterm elections on November 6, 2018, in Marietta, Georgia.

Part of the Series

Every four years we suffer the sad ritual of begging or bashing a left third party to refrain from draining votes from the mainstream Democrats because of a horrendous Republican alternative.

And every four years the real point — election theft — is missed.

It’s a 120-year tradition dating back to 1896, the year in which the evangelical Democrat William Jennings Bryan persuaded radical Populists to back his presidential bid. He may well have won the popular vote. But steel baron Mark Hanna (the era’s Karl Rove) promised to have Bryan shot if he won — and then stole the vote count for William McKinley.

Bryan and Hanna’s manipulations shattered the Populist (People’s) Party. Bryan divided it by region and race, Hanna crushed it with stolen ballots. Together they weakened grassroots progressive campaigning for 12 decades to come.

As always, this election year, many on the left question how the Green Party might affect the 2020 election. Much of the debate is brilliant, and the minds behind it — on all sides — are the best.

But here’s a simple request: How about we postpone this evergreen argument until the last week of October?

Right now, it’s time to join together to prevent another election theft by protecting the voter rolls and stopping another stolen vote count.

The Transformative Justice Coalition, and are among the groups we can support. Their time is now.

Because, as in 1896, in 2020 we’re already drowning in real-time voter suppression. It’s computerized and violent, as we’ve just seen in Ohio, where more than 460,000 citizens have been stripped from the voter rolls, and where corporate thugs have used physical force to assault signature gatherers working for a legitimate referendum. Add this to the scourge of a new generation of voting machines that are vulnerable to hacking, and you have the perfect mix for another poisoned election… and for an entrenched autocracy to follow.

At this time, it’s helpful to look back through recent history in order to grasp the scope of election theft — and how to confront it.

The corporate Democrats did win the presidency in 2000, 2004 and 2016. Each time they walked away without a word (except to blame the left). The Gore, Kerry and Clinton campaigns all were shafted by the GOP stripping the voter rolls and flipping electronic vote counts. But instead of fighting to change the basic nature of our electoral system, they have blamed the left — and left the machinery of theft in place. So the same pattern of fraud and deceit that cost the Democrats three of the last five presidential elections could strike again in 2020.

Put simply, since the theft of Florida 2000, the Democrats have failed to protect the vote, failed to provide reliable voting machines and failed to abolish the Electoral College — all of which could enthrone Donald Trump in 2020.

Those of us reporting on stripped registration rolls and flipped vote counts in Florida in 2000; Ohio in 2004; Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in 2016; and more, have been relentlessly attacked not by the Republicans (who don’t seem to care) but by the corporate Democrats and many so-called progressives.

Officially decided by 537 votes, the 2000 election in Florida was turned by Gov. Jeb Bush’s stripping of more than 90,000 people allegedly with felony convictions (the vast majority of them people of color) from the voter rolls, disenfranchising them using a law from the former Confederacy. In The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Greg Palast shows virtually none actually had felony records. (Of course, even if they had, this should not have resulted in disenfranchisement.) But Ralph Nader is still being blamed for the Democrats’ defeat.

Bev Harris shows in Black Box Voting that in Volusia County and elsewhere in Florida in 2000, at least 20,000 electronic tallies were “in play” throughout election night. But machines vulnerable to hacking are still being purchased by election boards throughout the U.S.

In 2000, Brett Kavanaugh served on the Bush legal team that helped stop the Florida recounts that would have put Al Gore in the White House. In 2020, Kavanaugh could again turn the election, this time from his perch on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Outgoing Vice President Al Gore has never apologized for killing the legitimate constitutional challenge by the Congressional Black Caucus against Florida’s fraudulent Electoral College delegation that cost Gore the presidency.

Then in 2004, in Ohio, the head count of citizens stripped from the registration rolls was about 300,000 (out of 5.4 million, in an election decided by 118,775). The percentage of votes electronically flipped from Kerry to Bush was 6.7 percent, with the job done during a “glitch” in the official vote count between 12:20 and 2 am. It could easily happen again in Ohio and elsewhere in 2020.

John Kerry was thoroughly briefed (see our How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election and The Strip & Flip Disaster of America’s Stolen Elections) but has yet to do anything significant to stop another such theft.

In 2016, Michigan was decided by 10,000 votes, eclipsed by more than 70,000 “beheaded” ballots. Many such ballots also surfaced on Indigenous reservations in New Mexico in 2004. In both cases, we are expected to believe that voters stood in line for hours to then not choose a president.

In 2016, the Greens’ Jill Stein raised $7 million and (with co-author Bob Fitrakis) found irregularities in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that may have decided the 2016 election, all of which could recur in 2020. Stein won the right to a Michigan recount, but Hillary Clinton killed it — while still publicly blaming Stein for her loss. In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania (with a Democrat governor) Stein was blocked from litigating widespread irregularities while getting no help from the Democrats.

In 2019 alone, swing state Ohio purged nearly 500,000 voters, most of them suspected Democrats. The Democratic Party has failed to prevent the purge, and is on course to lose this critical swing state yet again.

In Ohio 2020, violent pro-nuclear “blockers” physically assaulted signature gatherers working (unsuccessfully) to qualify a popular referendum to repeal a $1 billion bailout for two dying atomic reactors. Voting rights activists now pushing an election protection referendum for 2020 may face similar violence.

In far more states nationwide, the Trump assault is already stripping millions of mostly young, poor and non-white citizens from the voter rolls.

The purge comes with countless hackable voting machines being installed nationwide instead of far cheaper, simpler machines that can scan and preserve hand-marked paper ballots with digital images and reliable, reviewable outcomes.

Unless this latest GOP strip and flip is stopped, the few votes that might bounce between the Green Party and the Democrats will be manipulated and rendered meaningless, except to serve as a periodic distraction.

The grassroots movement at the Transformative Justice Coalition,, and elsewhere is already underway to protect our 2020 election. It must succeed.

Networking is being done, national gatherings are being planned, hard-core campaigning is well underway. The success or failure of this great — and desperate — grassroots movement will determine the 2020 outcome. Thus, it will play a key role in shaping the fate of the Earth. It’s time to rise up against voter suppression before it’s too late.

Join us in defending the truth before it’s too late

The future of independent journalism is uncertain, and the consequences of losing it are too grave to ignore. To ensure Truthout remains safe, strong, and free, we need to raise $36,000 in the next 3 days. Every dollar raised goes directly toward the costs of producing news you can trust.

Please give what you can — because by supporting us with a tax-deductible donation, you’re not just preserving a source of news, you’re helping to safeguard what’s left of our democracy.