I hope you savored the moment. Yesterday, Monday, December 11, voting rights advocate John Brakey won a court order — in Montgomery, Alabama, no less — requiring counties to keep copies of their ballots after the voting Tuesday.
Then, by 6 pm Alabama time, the voting rights victory dance came to an end. GOP state officials, in an “ex-parte” (i.e. private) meeting with an Alabama Supreme Court judge, obtained a “stay” of the ballot protection, effectively killing it. Alabama counties may now destroy ballot images, destroy any record of the true vote.
But they’ll likely tell you the winner: Republican Judge Roy Moore, the former chief of the court that just blocked any possible challenge to a suspect election.
Even without Judge Moore’s cronies taking away this protection of voter ballots, the GOP had other methods already in motion to prevent a true and fair election. If the Democrat Doug Jones loses, it won’t be to Judge Moore; rather, it will be to Jim Crow and the little cheats perfected by the GOP.
Ballot-Box Stuffing: Blocked
The TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) that Brakey temporarily won may have stopped what I call the “Baldwin Ballot Bandit” trick or, as my co-investigator Bobby Kennedy calls it, “good old ballot-box stuffing.”
Background: In 2002, Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman won a close re-election victory. So, it appeared. But, after the Associated Press announced the result, rural Republican Baldwin County officials locked the courthouse doors. Beginning at midnight, they counted thousands of ballots that they had mysteriously “found”: enough to flip the election. No one was allowed to see those ballots — or if they even existed.
This is what the Brakey TRO had intended to stop.
How else might the Republican Party steal the Senate election? Let me count the ways.
Vote heist method #2: The ID Con. Within hours of the June 25, 2013, Supreme Court decision slicing up the Voting Rights Act, Alabama passed a law requiring all voters to have a photo ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Then, just a day later, the state shut down almost every DMV in the 10 majority-Black counties. Last year, I tried to go to the DMV in Lowndes County (73 percent Black) during business hours — and the door was locked shut.
Vote heist method #3: “Caging.” It’s a felony crime, but that didn’t stop Judge Moore’s campaign chief, Brett Doster, from committing this vote theft crime for the George W. Bush campaign in 2004. I know, because I have Doster’s own confidential emails, obtained while investigating him for BBC Television.
Here’s a bit of one of the emails:
Vote heist method #4: “Crosscheck.” In 2015, I got a call from Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma, Alabama. His name was missing from the voter rolls. Despite being a senator, he’d been removed without explanation. I flew down and solved the mystery. The perp: Donald Trump’s operative, Kris Kobach of Kansas.
Kobach created a list of 239,801 Alabamians he tagged as “potential” duplicate voters. I got my hands on about a third of that list — and it’s a hit list of Black, Latino and Asian-American voters. Alabama has arrested not one of these alleged “double voters,” but the state has purged tens of thousands.
Vote heist method #5: “Spoiling.” The Alabama ballot this time around consists only of the Senate race and, in some counties, a local referendum. But it also has a box for “party-line” votes. Vote for “Democratic Party” and also vote for the Democratic candidate, and your vote can be tossed in the “spoilage” bin, not counted, because those counting it can decide, arbitrarily, that you “over-voted” — voted twice. It’s a technical “gotcha” that is used selectively, i.e. against Black voters.
I saw the “over-vote” spoilage trick used to eliminate 700 Al Gore votes in Gadsden County, Florida, in 2000. (That’s more than the 537 votes that supposedly elected George W. Bush.)
I saw it again in November, 2016, in Detroit, Michigan, where 70,355 ballots were not counted (in part, because of the same over-vote trick). Throwing out those Detroit ballots gave Donald Trump a supposed 10,700-vote margin to win Michigan.
What Can Be Done?
There’s one certain way to stop these vote suppression games. A candidate named Barack Obama once told our investigative team: “You can’t steal all the votes all the time. Turn out so massively, they just can’t steal it.”
In 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. led 35,000 marchers over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to the capital, Montgomery. Along the 50-mile route, four marchers were murdered by the Klan. But by the time King’s band got to the capital, the Voting Rights Act was on its way into law.
A young Hank Sanders was there, 52 years ago. Last year, making my film with him, the elder senator demanded I walk over the Edmund Pettus Bridge with him. “You have to walk over the bridge every chance you get — because the right to vote is always in jeopardy.”
On Tuesday, we will see if enough Alabama citizens cross that bridge and overcome the trickery and flim-flam that Alabama calls an election.
The stakes have never been higher (and our need for your support has never been greater).
For over two decades, Truthout’s journalists have worked tirelessly to give our readers the news they need to understand and take action in an increasingly complex world. At a time when we should be reaching even more people, big tech has suppressed independent news in their algorithms and drastically reduced our traffic. Less traffic this year has meant a sharp decline in donations.
The fact that you’re reading this message gives us hope for Truthout’s future and the future of democracy. As we cover the news of today and look to the near and distant future we need your help to keep our journalists writing.
Please do what you can today to help us keep working for the coming months and beyond.