By Greg Palast
November 24, 2004
---Kerry won. Here are the facts.---
I know you don't want to hear it. You can't face one more hung chad. But I don't have a choice. As a journalist examining that messy sausage called American democracy, it's my job to tell you who got the most votes in the deciding states. Tuesday, in Ohio and New Mexico, it was John Kerry.
Most voters in Ohio thought they were voting for Kerry. CNN's exit poll showed Kerry beating Bush among Ohio women by 53 percent to 47 percent. Kerry also defeated Bush among Ohio's male voters 51 percent to 49 percent. Unless a third gender voted in Ohio, Kerry took the state.
So what's going on here? Answer: the exit polls are accurate. Pollsters ask, "Who did you vote for?" Unfortunately, they don't ask the crucial, question, "Was your vote counted?" The voters don't know.
Here's why. Although the exit polls show that most voters in Ohio punched cards for Kerry-Edwards, thousands of these votes were simply not recorded. This was predictable and it was predicted. [See TomPaine.com, "An Election Spoiled Rotten," November 1.]
---Whose Votes Are Discarded?---
And not all votes spoil equally. Most of those votes, say every official report, come from African-American and minority precincts. (To learn more, click here.)
We saw this in Florida in 2000. Exit polls showed Gore with a plurality of at least 50,000, but it didn't match the official count. That's because the official, Secretary of State Katherine Harris, excluded 179,855 spoiled votes. In Florida, as in Ohio, most of these votes lost were cast on punch cards where the hole wasn't punched through completely-leaving a 'hanging chad,'-or was punched extra times. Whose cards were discarded? Expert statisticians investigating spoilage for the government calculated that 54 percent of the ballots thrown in the dumpster were cast by black folks. (To read the report from the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, click here .)
And here's the key: Florida is terribly typical. The majority of ballots thrown out (there will be nearly 2 million tossed out from Tuesday's election) will have been cast by African American and other minority citizens.
---The Impact Of Challenges---
First and foremost, Kerry was had by chads. But the Democrat wasn't punched out by punch cards alone. There were also the 'challenges.' That's a polite word for the Republican Party of Ohio's use of an old Ku Klux Klan technique: the attempt to block thousands of voters of color at the polls. In Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, the GOP laid plans for poll workers to ambush citizens under arcane laws-almost never used-allowing party-designated poll watchers to finger individual voters and demand they be denied a ballot. The Ohio courts were horrified and federal law prohibits targeting of voters where race is a factor in the challenge. But our Supreme Court was prepared to let Republicans stand in the voting booth door.
---Enchanted State's Enchanted Vote---
Now, on to New Mexico, where a Kerry plurality-if all votes are counted-is more obvious still. Before the election, in TomPaine.com, I wrote, "John Kerry is down by several thousand votes in New Mexico, though not one ballot has yet been counted."
How did that happen? It's the spoilage, stupid; and the provisional ballots.
CNN said George Bush took New Mexico by 11,620 votes. Again, the network total added up to that miraculous, and non-existent, '100 percent' of ballots cast.
New Mexico reported in the last race a spoilage rate of 2.68 percent, votes lost almost entirely in Hispanic, Native American and poor precincts-Democratic turf. From Tuesday's vote, assuming the same ballot-loss rate, we can expect to see 18,000 ballots in the spoilage bin.
Spoilage has a very Democratic look in New Mexico. Hispanic voters in the Enchanted State, who voted more than two to one for Kerry, are five times as likely to have their vote spoil as a white voter. Counting these uncounted votes would easily overtake the Bush 'plurality.'