Here's Why the GOP Fought So Hard to Stop Rust Belt State Vote Recount

Posted Dec. 28, 2016

MP3 Interview with Greg Palast, investigative journalist and author, conducted by Scott Harris


With Donald Trump's presidential election victory defying most pollsters' forecasts, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein's pursuit of a vote recount in the historically Democratic states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were welcome by many in a nation suffering from political shock. Of the three states Wisconsin was the only one to complete a recount, financed by small donors across the U.S who contributed to a fund set up by Stein.

However, Republican legal objections succeeded in blocking the completion of a vote recount in Michigan and prevented a vote recount in Pennsylvania from ever getting started. Although the recount in Wisconsin didn't change that state's results, Stein said the process she initiated revealed deep flaws in states' systems for administering voting and verifying results. She cited election irregularities in Michigan, including more than 75,000 uncounted ballots as evidence of the need to re-examine that state's election outcome ― and the urgent need for reform of state laws that make verification of voting results more difficult.

Greg Palast is an investigative reporter and award-winning author who uncovered the Republican voter purge in Florida that led to what many charge was a stolen election in 2000 that put George W. Bush in the White House. In his new documentary film titled, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits," Palast investigates a multi-state system known as Crosscheck, that he says was employed to wrongly purge some 1.1 million Americans of color from the voter rolls of GOP–controlled states. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Palast, who reports on the results of his most recent investigation into the Green Party-initiated recounts in the three Rust Belt states and the Republican Party effort to stop them.[Rush transcript.]

GREG PALAST: I think that the recount was sabotaged in Wisconsin, sabotaged and stopped in Michigan [and] halted in Pennsylvania because they knew what would happen if you actually counted all the votes. And this is the dark secret of American democracy. We don't count all the votes. There are officially – this is not Greg Palast finger-in-the-wind type stuff. We have an agency called the Elections Assistance Commission, which tracks the number of votes and the number of NO VOTES – the number of ballots which are never counted. They call it "spoiled" and the problem is that if you're black, the chance your vote will spoil for a technical reason is 900 percent higher than if you're white. And we saw that happen in Michigan, in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona and Florida. That's quite a bit.

All of those Trump so-called victories and margins there may not be victories if you pulled ballots out of the electoral Dumpster and counted them. We don't count all the ballots in America. No nation can count all ballots; there's always some that are spoiled and legitimately destroyed and unreadable. But in America, it's in the millions and it is deliberately biased against voters of color. That is our nasty secret.

Jill Stein told me, that she – when I met up with her in Detroit – she said she expected to find Russian hackers, and stuff that like that may have bent the vote. She said, and this is a quote from her, "What I found instead was a Jim Crow election. Black votes uncounted that made the difference." So that's why they had to stop her from counting those votes.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Greg, how typical is it that you'd have 75,000-plus votes in Flint and Detroit, as you describe, that went uncounted if you go back to presidential election years like 2012, 2008 and so on?

GREG PALAST: Just in Florida, 2000, 181,000 ballots were rejected as uncountable for hanging chads and similar reasons. A hundred and eighty-one thousand ballots. So 75,000 ballots in Michigan – that's not unusual. And where are those ballots not counted? Generally, they're not counted in black areas as the U.S. Civil Rights Commission found in both its nationwide and state studies. Why in Detroit and Flint? Well, remember Detroit and Flint are bankrupt cities. They were taken over by the Republican governor who appointed what he called emergency managers who then slashed the budgets of these cities. First, they slashed the budget for the water supply of Flint. And infamously, they've poisoned the children of Flint. When you're talking about people, to save a few bucks, who have no problem poisoning children – the idea that they would poison the election machinery is nothing. What they did was something simple. The black officials begged the state to let them spend the money to get new voting machines because their old voting machines, their ancient voting machines, just didn't work. They were broken.

And in fact, on Election Day, 87 machines broke down in Detroit. Eighty-seven. Each of those machines is supposed to tabulate thousands of votes. What happened to those votes?

BETWEEN THE LINES: What are the dangers you see in the Trump administration as it takes power with its chosen attorney general Jeff Sessions with a horrendous record of racist statements and prejudicial actions as a senator and the appointment of a Supreme Court justice or justices that may fall to Trump, as well as federal judges that he'll have, from what I've heard, an estimated 100 of who he'll get to choose?

GREG PALAST: Yeah, two things immediately. Number one, Jeff Sessions says we're going to eliminate the Voting Rights Act. Trump could not have been elected if it wasn't for the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. But, it's still hanging in there. The Voting Rights Act. That is going to be removed utterly. And if they can't remove it utterly, though I think that they will, they simply won't enforce it, because right now, you've got the mob. You've got the vote-heist mafia running the FBI, literally, is running the civil rights enforcement of the Justice Department, which will now become an injustice department. It's true that Obama basically was frozen in place and his Justice Department was pretty much useless throughout his eight years. One thing is the jalopy not moving; the other thing is for it to race in reverse at high speed. We're going to be back in 1955 when it comes to voting, I'm telling you that right now. We're going to be coming back to that same situation where we're going to be for black people, and now the new black people known as students and Asian Americans are going to have a heck of a time trying to vote. Students, Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinos – look out in those GOP-controlled states. We're going back to the '50s.

Greg Palast's new documentary film is titled, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits." Visit his website at

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