Jailed GOP activist Jack Abramoff and his fellow convict, Congressman Bob Ney, wrote the most sinister provisions of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which Congress passed in 2002 creating a series of diabolically cunning new voting impediments. HAVA, for example, allows state voting officials to purge tens of thousands of voters from the polls using algorithms and voter ID requirements that disproportionately disenfranchise black, Hispanic and minority voters, and other Democratic demographics including senior citizens and young people.
In 2004, highly organized GOP tacticians helped disenfranchise no less than 2.7 million American voters. Almost a million of them were African Americans. The The Federal Elections Commission has found black voters were nine times more likely to have their votes discarded than white voters and that over one-third of the million provisional ballots cast in 2004 -- ballots handed disproportionately to African Americans -- were never counted but simply thrown into dumpsters.
In a technique known as "caging" RNC operatives send millions of first class letters to black voters across the country marked 'do not forward.' Republican operatives armed with lists then invade black precincts on Election Day to challenge those voters whose letters were returned to the RNC because the voter was not home when the mail arrived. That tactic deliberately targeted black students on vacation in August, homeless men and soldiers posted overseas. "Caging" is resurrecting Old Dixie's Jim Crow procedures designed to rid the lists of black voters and create long lines in black precincts.
In this election, new HAVA mandates permit voting officials to precisely match registration form information with the voter's driver's license and other government records. While it may sound reasonable, in practice, any change, even a dropped hyphen, is cause for eliminating the voter from the rolls. Since 2004, Colorado's Republican Secretaries of State have purged one out of every five voters from the rolls. The current Secretary of State, Mike Coffman, a Republican also running for office, recently purged an additional 37,000 voters and discarded 6,400 new voter registrations -- overwhelmingly Democratic -- based upon an obscure technical mistake that Coffman's office encouraged voters to make in the first place.
The GOP "anti-fraud" campaign resulted in one in nine New Mexico Democratic voters finding their names had disappeared from voter roles during this year's caucus.
Despite a recent Supreme Court decision upholding Ohio's refusal to disenfranchise 200,000 legitimate voters based on this absurd demand to "match" voter names to databases, White House operatives are still fighting to purge these names from the rolls. President George Bush last week personally asked his Attorney General Mike Mukasey to renew Republican efforts to disenfranchise these voters.
Contrary to Mr. McCain's assertions, the real threat to democracy is from the GOP itself. ACORN has served as a good distraction from Republican efforts to steal the vote from hundreds of thousands of legitimate voters, a genuine threat that has received almost no media attention.
They're stealing your vote, but you can steal it back. Here are some steps you should take to protect your vote. First, avoid the November 4th minefield. Voters, wherever possible, should vote early and in person. Where feasible, avoid mailing in your ballot, many are rejected for flimsy reasons, and first time voters in many states must include a photocopy of ID. However, if you have a mail-in ballot, don't throw it away. Follow directions, use the correct postage (that's an error that cost a hundred thousand votes last time) and, if possible, walk it in to your elections office.
At the polling station, should you find yourself one of the 2.7 million purged, or your ID rejected, then do your best to resist a "provisional" ballot--one third of which are not counted. Return with proper ID, or call 1-800-OUR VOTE for legal assistance. And never just walk away discouraged. That's just what they want you to do.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast are authors of an investigation of vote suppression in the current Rolling Stone, and a comic book voter guide, "Steal Back Your Vote," both available for download at StealBackYourVote.org.