Interstate Crosscheck May Have Removed One-Million Legitimate Voters from Election

Al Jazeera's Greg Palast looks over the Crosscheck list, searching for these supposed double voters.

Al Jazeera’s Greg Palast looks over the Crosscheck list, searching for these supposed double voters.

New Orleans   There’s a saying in almost every language that the “devil is in the details.” There’s a lesson in that expression though, and it’s one we all need to learn more carefully about how to work the levers of intricate bureaucracies at every level of government in order to implement our programs.

The particularly infamous devil who is teaching these lessons about details includes the notorious and dangerous Secretary of State in Kansas, Kris Kobach, who we have seen recently in conference with President-Elect Trump on how to establish a registry for Muslims. Previously he has not only been in the thick of litigation to repress the human rights of immigrants, but the prime mover in voter identification and other efforts to block access to the ballot particularly for poor and minority voters. Kobach has long been on my radar, but I had still missed some of the incredible damage he wrought.

The Kansas Secretary of State’s office was an early adopter of a small program around 2005 with four neighboring states participating: Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska. The intention of the program, called Interstate Crosscheck, was to identify people who might have been voting in more than one state. Ray Thornburgh was the Secretary of State when the annual use of Interstate Crosscheck began, but its use exploded in recent years since Kobach took office as Kansas’ Secretary of State in 2011. According to his reports, the number ballooned up to 15 states in 2012, 22 in 2013, and 29 in 2014, and according to some reports 30 in 2016, all of whom were involved in a shared data dump and list purging annually. The roster of states in 2014 included many red states, but several important blue states as well. The 29 include Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Although ostensibly checking for duplicate voting, what may or may not have been realized fully in each state is that Interstate Crosscheck, according to investigative reporter Gary Palast, was removing hundreds of thousands of minority voters from the rolls. This was a brute tool which was unable to distinguish between common names in minority communities like Jose Sanchez or Joseph Johnson and so forth. Virginia was unique in reporting the number of voters it dropped using Interstate Crosscheck and the number was significant at 12.1% of the rolls, almost one of every eight registered voters. Nationally across the thirty states, seven million names were identified. If the Virginia data were replicated at the same percentage nationally among the participating thirty states as many as one million legitimate voters may have been disenfranchised.

Does this mean the election was stolen? No, because this was just one of many ways that millions of voters were disenfranchised across the country through various efforts to deny legitimate voters access to the ballot because of income, language, or information. Kobach and his crew are on to something. A wolf in sheep’s clothing can deny voters and tilt the even playing field of an election by sneaking in the back door, as surely as some of the more pronounced – and successfully challenged – legislative efforts can do that were more widely publicized.

We need to learn how to operate more successfully in the darkness of the little reported bureaucracy over coming years. We also need to look at this list of states and take action to disengage as many as possible from vote purging software apps like Interstate Crosscheck being manipulated by conservatives. Not easy perhaps, but certainly necessary on our “to do” list pretty darned quick.

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Individual Acts of Solidarity

US Census records were used to locate Japanese Americans for Internment Camps

US Census records were used to locate Japanese Americans for Internment Camps

New Orleans   Watching Kris Kobach, the uber-controversial Kansas Secretary of State who has been a one-man wrecking ban of voters rights, ballot access, and the human and legal rights of immigrants, walking hand in hand with President-elect Trump and giving him advice on how to set up a Muslim registry was another in a long list of scary moments in recent weeks, I don’t care how much sugar he put in the coffee of the crowd at the New York Times in his meet and greet. People all over the country are debating where to open their minds and where to take a stand. I’m a collective action guy, but as we all realize, enough individual actions put together are also collective actions.

Recently many of us saw an example of this on Facebook of all places. When it became clear that the sheriff in North Dakota was monitoring the Facebook check-ins to determine who and how many people were part of the Standing Rock Sioux anti-pipeline protests, people from all over the world registered that they were there in order to put a monkey wrench in the sheriff’s plans.

Earlier a common strategy for individual actions to thwart NSA snooping and mass government profiling, as revealed by Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks, was not only to be opaque on social media but to shuffle the deck widely on sites like LinkedIn. I have no idea how people really use LinkedIn to get a job, and having several, I’ve never worried about it. The simple strategy is to accept all requests to link. For me that means music promoters and rock acts, radio djs, organizers, publications people, random sales personnel, and even old friends. Let them figure that out. It’s not foolproof, but it’s a fool’s errand.

The other day I heard an interesting individual action strategy to protect undocumented immigrants. In cities where there is a municipal IDs that can be used for basic identification when lacking other documents, similar to how we used our ACORN membership cards for our waste pickers in India, many are now moving to ask for one. NYCID for example in the Big Apple is being flooded with non-immigrants in order to make it an unattractive target for Homeland Security, if it comes to that. Furthermore, in New York having such an ID gives the holder premiums and discounts in some places. This is Trump-city, so who would be surprised if business didn’t find a way to benefit.

I saw a posting the other day from a friend who said he was ready to sign onto the Muslim registry, if one was created by Kobach and the new gang. Might be hard to do that since it was pointed out to me that most of the touted registry is designed to nab you as you enter the country from foreign lands. I’m actually not sure, but in some countries, once again India is an example, applying for a visa demands you state your religious preference. Even if the United States is asking for that information, right now it’s protected as confidential, so presumably the Kobach’s on the right want to break down any kind of privacy walls that exist, just as they want to build other walls.

On the other hand if they are thinking about reinvigorating the same laws used to force Japanese-Americans to register during World War II, and some experts have recently argued that many of those laws, though in disuse, were never repealed, then that’s another matter. If such a list is passed around and mandated for Muslims, many of us will have little choice but to register in hopes that we can break that bank by the overwhelming volume of the protest.

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Fake News and a Field Guide to Lies

fake-newsNew Orleans You have to love headline news about fake news.  Usually fake news is in the stories, not the headlines.  We all have to appreciate the irony contained in articles in almost any newspaper, especially opinion pieces, about fake news when there is no disclosure of inherent biases contained in any of them.  Nonetheless, it is a real and ageless problem.  What do we do about outright lies that take on lives of their own and move public opinion and often become impossible to ever pry loose?

            Admittedly, I’m jaded about this.  For all of the journalists and columnists now trying to act high and mighty because of their fears about the Trump ascension and the host of different tribes in his movement, it seems a case of “whose ox is being gored.”  Don’t make me go into the total fakery involved in contentions around voter fraud versus voter registration errors once again.  Finally, most commentators have sorted this out, but for conservatives in the USA, it’s too little, too late, since so much of this has seeped into the ideological fabric of the right, when it was always a lie, just never called out in a timely fashion, and without defenders when ACORN and others were attacked and decimated.

            Nonetheless, let’s swallow our bitterness hard, and say, better late than never.  Facebook thus far seems to be talking out of both sides of its mouth without a real plan that they are willing to throw money and muscle at, as they vacillate between concerns about free speech and the damage of fake news.  Studies indicate that Facebook is a much louder microphone for all of this than Twitter, but they are all swimming in the same stew of privileging eyeballs and advertising regardless of adverse impacts and real harm to millions.

            But, even if they make progress in some directions, ferreting out the facts in all of the news may be harder than any are willing to admit.  Reading neuroscientist Daniel Levitin’s A Field Guide to Lies:  Critical Thinking in the Information Age was a fascinating look at both how easy in our fast moving world it is easy to be fooled if we’re not paying close attention, as well as how determined many of the actors in business and politics are to fool us, and I’m not talking about basement hackers in Russia or scammers in Nigeria.   Some of the bits on advanced math and reasoning might not be helpful to the average bear, but his points on how we are often manipulated by fake facts hidden in preposterous math or deceptive charts and graphs lacking any qualifications or context were excellent and sound a solid cautionary note about how difficult separating facts from fiction may be for many.

            Once again though we have to confront the fact that power plays with fact and fiction.  We do not yet have an accurate count on the number of people who were effectively disenfranchised by the wave of Republican-led voter suppression laws state by state in the recent election, but we know it is in the millions.  We have to weigh all of those unjustly deprived of their votes, particularly among low-and-moderate income and minority families against the right’s argument that even if there are only a handful of actual, proven cases of voter fraud in the US annually they still justify the barriers to voting even if they rob millions of their right to vote.

            Let’s hope the search for truth is not a temporary project or a finger pointing exercise but a real and objective effort to level the playing field with facts rather than fiction.

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What’s a Woman to Do?

Norma Swenson and Betsy Cole at an exhibit booth for Our Bodies, Ourselves

Norma Swenson and Betsy Cole at an exhibit booth for Our Bodies, Ourselves

New Orleans   The ascent of Trump may be proving that the personal is not the political, but it also seems to be establishing to a frightening degree that the political is very, very personal.

I read a lengthy and poignant story in Harper’s in the wake of the election. It was centered in Rapid City, South Dakota, a city I know reasonably well and have visited often over a lifetime. A young nurse in her mid-twenties with one child found herself pregnant by a man passing through her life with what turned out to be no interest in raising a child or building a permanent relationship with her. She had just submitted her application to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner. Despite the fact that Roe v. Wade establishing a legal right to abortion still exists for the time being at least, various road blocks had been thrown in the way of actually receiving one by the hard red legislature in South Dakota. A retiring ob-gyn had effectively close down the last clinic anywhere near Rapid City with the last one in this small population state now located in Sioux Falls, a vast expanse away in this western state about 350 miles distant. Required 72-hour waits and other delays though meant that if she were able to schedule a procedure with the clinic the cost would be over $1000 out of pocket, not counting gas, lodging and incidentals, like lost work time. Frequently, the state laws and limited capacity led to the clinic counseling people to instead try to go to Fargo, North Dakota where the next nearest clinic was available with only slightly less restrictive laws. When a legislator was asked to comment on these difficulties, he seems to have shrugged and said essentially, too bad about that, go to Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota or someplace other than South Dakota. Having seen reality and laws make a mockery out of anything like “freedom of choice,” the story ended with her having the baby and trying to make the best of it as a single-mother of two children, fortunately still employed, and facing the future.

The Times quoted four young women in a southern state planning to go and get IUDs before the end of the year for fear that coming changes in the Affordable Care Act might make it impossible for them to obtain birth control.

As the political overwhelms the personal for women all over the country, it’s impossible to be prematurely nostalgic, because even though women are oppressed and restrained everywhere, a woman’s lot in the South and the West has never been easy or equal either. I overheard two women of different generations talking between themselves in the patio of one of our New Orleans social enterprise coffeehouses. They were discussing cervical biopsies in very forthright terms. The procedure involves cutting a piece of flesh for testing. One asked the other if she had had anesthesia. Her friend probably shook her head, “no,” because then I heard her clearly say it was the most painful experience she had ever had. The first said that the women’s bible, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” dating to my generation, said that you should have anesthesia for the procedure. The second woman simply stated, yes, probably if you are in Boston. The denouement was almost sadder, when the older woman said she had called a nurse to complain at the doctor’s after it was all over, and the nurse had simply stated that women had never complained in the past.

Trump says he will appoint another Supreme Court judge pretty darned quick and he’ll make sure that that justice is ready to suit up to overturn Roe v. Wade. In state after state Republican legislatures are already killing the freedom of choice for women with a thousand cuts as they use the political knives to eviscerate a woman’s personal integrity over her body and her ability to protect it. Where there’s really no regard for women and their pain, these will just be more cuts in a tradition of them. And, tragically, there won’t be anesthesia, just pain.

***

Thanks to a loyal reader for suggesting this song by the recently deceased Mose Allison. 

 

Mose Allison performs Everybody Cryin’ Mercy on Later… with Jools Holland, BBC Two (20 May 2005)

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Response to Trump Takes Action, Not Just Reaction

161112-trump-protests-los-angeles-mn-1540_da56341e92374b2c0df05c08ae6f9ece-nbcnews-ux-600-480

Protesters hold up signs during a march and rally against the election of Donald Trump in Los Angeles on Nov. 12. LUCY NICHOLSON / Reuters

New Orleans   The election is in the rear-view mirror now, but for many people the shock and awe of the Trump victory is a raw and open wound, bleeding profusely, and demanding attention.

The first response after disbelief at the election returns for many seems to be denial. Quixotic efforts are being promoted in social media about trying to flip votes for some uncommitted Electoral College voters sufficiently to deny Trump the presidency. I’m not going to say that such a strategy is a waste of time, but I will say that in the end it will be futile.

Others are advocating resistance. The teachers’ union in San Francisco put out a lesson plan labeling Trump as a racist and fascist for their 6000 members. Demonstrations and rallies followed the election in cities around the country. College campuses across the country rallied demanding that their administrations protect undocumented students and workers. Some cities have vowed to become sanctuaries to resist deportation efforts. Boycotts are being loudly announced for Trump properties and for just about anything Trump and his campaign have touched. I even heard of one in effect for Nationbuilder, because the Trump campaign used that database. I saw a link to a Facebook group with various committees and subgroups planning all manner of responses. The energy and detail of these efforts is amazing and encouraging.

Donations to necessary and embattled organizations in the coming years have soared. Emily’s List, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood report records numbers of contributions since the election. Environmental groups speak confidentially that they expect they will have the resources to amount fights against initiatives to impose draconian new rules, although not necessarily to prevent some rollback of regulations.

All of this is good and appropriate, but I am most encouraged when I hear about meetings about the need for independent politics as part of the rebuilding strategy for progressives. We can’t just defend. We also have to attack. We have to have an offense to go with our defense. Our campaigns can’t just be to stop the right, but also to advance the left.

Here’s one example. We hear constantly that there will be an effort to toss Dodd-Frank and its regime of banking regulations and reporting onto the trash bin of history to allow our financial system to return to the precarious situation we faced in the Great Recession eight years ago. The head of the House Committee on financial affairs wants to open the door wide to payday lenders again for example. Surely, we will resist and defend on these issues that so adversely affect lower income and working families, but we also need to open up new fronts to drive them back on their heels.

I think a concerted national campaign against contract-for-deed house purchases is a good example of the new fronts we should open targeting hedge funds, predatory financial practices, Wall Street, inadequate lending, unaffordable housing, racial and ethnic discrimination, and the inadequacy of existing regulations. Who can defend stealing peoples’ homes over and over again? Even as conservatives prepare to do the opposite, we need to advance our message with the real meat of organizing and moving our base aggressively to promote our own interests and not simply to defend against attacks. We need to send clear signals, not just read their tea leaves that we maintain majority popular support for fairness, justice, and equity, and we will fight furiously led by the people and supported by the people. We won’t just wait for winter to come, we’ll bring the heat now and scorch the opposition. We can’t win in the bunkers. We have to mount the barricades.

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Logistical and Strategic Challenges at Standing Rock

Casey Camp with her two sons (Mekasi Camp-Horinek on the left) at the Reject and Protect event in Washington, DC. (Photo by Garth Lenz for Bold Nebraska and iLCP)

Casey Camp with her two sons (Mekasi Camp Horinek on the left) at the Reject and Protect event in Washington, DC. (Photo by Garth Lenz for Bold Nebraska and iLCP)

New Orleans   The election is over, but there is still a tremendous struggle being waged by the Standing Rock Sioux and a host of allies from tribes all over the country and supporters in a face-off with the pipeline constructors coming ever closer to the embattled and sacred areas. I talked to Mekasi Camp Horinek of Bold Alliance on Wade’s World on KABF, and got a closer understanding of where this fight stands today, both imperiled and a rally cry for many around the country, from his perspective after the last three months he has been part of the occupation.

North Dakota in November can be harsh country on its vast plains and hillsides. My first question to Mekasi had been about the weather. In order to get good enough cellphone coverage for radio, he had climbed to the top of the ridge to call me. He reported there was a dense fog that morning with visibility no more than fifty feet and, worse, there were ice crystals in the fog with the temperature dropping. It goes without saying that adds up to rough weather for an encampment. Having seen news reports of recent standoffs where more than one-hundred were arrested, I asked him how many people were in the encampment at Standing Rock. I was shocked when he responded that 2300 people were staying in the camp. In North Dakota, that’s a small city, even if they are sixty miles south of Bismark. I can’t even imagine the logistical challenges of housing and feeding that number, but Mekasi shrugged off the question, saying that they were getting support from everywhere, people were staying in tents and teepees with wood stoves.

Mekasi’s organization, Bold Alliance, has refitted one of those barn-shed structures you see for sale at Lowe’s and Home Depots across the country with insulation, solar panels, and a wood stove so that it will sleep six. Willie Nelson funded the first one, and they have twenty being delivered the first of December so that more people can winter at the site, but they are still raising the money for those. Talking over the weekend to Chapman Clark in New Orleans organizing a supply truck to go to Standing Rock at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse this week and one of many around the country doing the same, when I asked him about the huge logistical challenges of this kind of action, he also shrugged in his own way, saying this is now just something that people know how to do in the aftermath of Occupy. Good skills to have!

Mekasi and Bold Alliance have been fighting pipelines from Keystone to Standing Rock. They want the pipeline stopped. In Keystone, a victory securing an environmental impact statement made a huge difference. There has been none at Standing Rock. The big hope is that President Obama’s promise that the Corp of Engineers is looking for another route to avoid sacred areas will be delivered, but construction continues every day, and the Corp report has been postponed, forcing more nonviolent protests. The reaction has been fierce and brutal. Mekasi and his mother were part of the more than one-hundred arrested. They were held for eight hours, even having the bail money available. Many others are still being held without bail. They were put in dog cages in the basement of the courthouse in miserable, inhuman conditions.

This is a fight that deserves more attention and needs huge support. Time to stop with our worry beads and make sure we’re still doing the work.

***

Please enjoy Flipside by Norah Jones. Thanks to KABF.

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