In the midst of bustling downtown Washington, DC, at the National Press Club on April 20, long-time and celebrated election integrity activist Jonathan Simon took an ample audience on a "walk through the woods" of election corruption and some of the weapons used to fight it between 2000, catalyst of the opposition and, when I forced the issue, right up to Election 2020. His presentation, complete with Powerpoint backup, highlighted major train wrecks and outrages the nationwide movement has confronted and usually been swiped away from like a ball of yarn clawed by a cat.
There's a childish approximation at a history Simon livens up with imagery taken from all walks of life: sports, for one; chess, one of his fields of expertise, chiropractic, and many other places. Author of Code Red: Computerized Elections and the War on American Democracy, which he has updated biennially since 2014, he analyzes head-on events surrounding national elections and shows us what really happened, a far cry from what we read and hear everywhere from the New York Times to Fox News.
Hardly had he joined us in 2005 when he discovered a statistical anomaly proving how far off reported election results deviate from the people's will. Case in point: National survey results contradict election results. Americans are for the most part progressive, according to polls but somehow manage to elect clowns at every level. Ballot initiatives back this up--liberal decisions, such as allowing former felons in Florida to regain their vote, contradicted the vote count that put Republicans into major [and "minor"] offices throughout the Sunshine State in 2018.
Many are the proofs we have of this and they are dismissed with "Aaaah, they're nuts, conspiracy theorists," by Trump and his ilk.
Exit polls, said Simon, were consistent with pre-election polls, both contradicted by actual election results.
Now these exit polls seem random. You vote, walk outside to your car, and are stopped by an earnest person with a clipboard inquiring whom you voted for. Most of us tell the truth. Republicans supposedly are more guarded in their reactions, ashamed to admit their choice or pretending it is none of our businessthe secret ballot, of course, which originated as a way to keep illiterate, read non-white and underprivileged, people from voting back in the late nineteenth century courtesy of the Australian ballot.
But serious, meticulous criteria determine exit poll results--statistical functions that serve to measure the people's will accurately. The red shift refers to the difference between pre-election and post election [exit] polls, and actual election results measured by computerized machinery, so disparate in many cases that many states have abandoned this invaluable instrument. Twenty-five states still use it, Jonathan told us, in some form or another. One of his Power Point graphs showed how disparate exit poll results were from those generated by computer election systems and it was ridiculous and surreal. QED. Might against right.
Computers simply don't count our votes accurately for any number of reasons, from train wrecks to willful corruption, which is so easy because the software was designed to be hacked. Let us count the ways: again, twenty-five that any computer-literate eighth grader could carry out. And there are other formulas of "inhuman" ingenuity to thwart the people's will and keep them voting altogether.
Our "walk through the woods" visited one scenario after another and the only traps on the path were the subject. We were being led by one of the foremost authorities in the country and an original thinker, that rarest of ingredients to crack codes and pull up the curtain revealing one Wizard of Oz after the next.
"Houston, we've got a problem," he began, borrowing from the popular Hollywood film Apollo 13 (1995). "It's crazy to count votes invisibly in proprietary, partisan, pitch-dark cyberspace." This is an age of low trust, hyper-polarized. Election Integrity experts, representing a variety of political perspectives, from Tea Party to Green Party, fight for the democratic ideal of accurate vote counts. The ingenuity of the GOP and other conservative decks of cards are varied and utterly ingenious and unscrupulous.
Take, for instance, Election 2004 in Ohio, the decider state that year. In the hands of an SoS who worked for the Bushes in Florida in 2000, Kenneth Blackwell, contracted out the state's election to the server Gov Tech Solutions, run by Karl Rove's IT guru Mike Connell out of Chattanooga, Tennessee in the basement of a bank building that also hosted congressional servers as well as those of Bush, Rove, and the GOP.
At 11:13 pm, with Kerry leading Bush by 200,000 votes, the servers suddenly went down. When they came back up two hours later, Bush had miraculously appropriated this identical lead quantity and ultimately won the Buckeye State by some 120,000 votes. Won? Let us count the ways. No, read Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman on the scores of devices that won the race for the GOP: from Cybergate (the aforementioned skullduggery) to a vacated polling place threatened by terrorism to blacks being kept from the polls or left standing in line in the rain for hours to registration forms required to be written on a certain weight of paper, postcard stock, by Blackwell. This outrage couldn't last for long but resulted in eliminating thousands from registration rolls if they didn't think quic. Then there were unannounced poll closures and relocations inaccessible on the SoS's website to his own double identity as honorary co-chair of the Bush re-election committee sending out fundraising letters on government stationery until thwarted, to the president of one of the computer vendors, Wally O'Dell, promising to do all he can to win the Decider State a measly one or two Republicans have lost and still won the White House. The rest of the time, the GOP can't win the presidency without Ohio's 18-20 or thereabouts electoral votes.
Down with he electoral college.
Back to the computer whiz Mike Connell, the amazing attorney/activists Bob Fitrakis and Cliff Arnebeck, aided by Harvey Wasserman as a citizen plaintiff, managed to get him subpoenaed the day before Election Day. There, contradicted and objected to at every turn by Rove's lawyers, these EI heroes managed to elicit enough information from Connell to convince the judge that further litigation was in order, which the judge decided to schedule at the beginning of the next year in a possibly public venue.
Fitrakis and co. pleaded for protection of their star witness, a religious Christian who confided that he planned to tell all. He never got to. No protection was provided. As Rove & co. would have it, his private plane crashed in perfectly clement weather en route back to his Ohio home from the District of Columbia in December. Government officials cleaned up the mess that same night so that no evidence was ever discovered about anything. The crown jewel Blackberry containing Connell's email correspondence with Rove inter alia had vanished.