Rigging a primary can and does take many different forms. The most effective form of rigging actually takes place in subtle ways via long-exisiting Stalinist rules that normally don’t swing an election, but serve as an effective firewall against outsider candidates when they eventually do pose a threat. That was the establishment can claim “it’s always been this way,” as if that’s a justification for shadiness. This was the type of rigging we saw in New York, and the type we saw yesterday in California.
Many Bernie Sanders supporters held out a lot of hope for a strong performance by the insurgent candidate in yesterday’s California primary. This enthusiasm was based on the notion that California’s primary was “open,” i.e., non-affiliated voters could technically vote for Bernie in the Democratic primary. Recent polls pointed to a very close race due to the huge margin of support for Sanders amongst independents. For example, as NBC reported a few days before the primary:
Hillary Clinton is clinging to a narrow two-point lead over Bernie Sanders in California ahead of the state’s June 7 primary, according to results from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll.
Clinton gets support from 49 percent of likely Democratic primary voters in the state, while Sanders gets 47 percent, which is within the survey’s statistical margin of error.
Meanwhile, Sanders leads among first-time participants (72 percent to 28 percent), independents (68 percent to 26 percent), those younger than 45 (66 percent to 30 percent), men (54 percent to 43 percent) and Latinos (49 percent to 46 percent).
As you can see, polling put the race at a statistical tie, with independents favoring Sanders by an enormous 68% to 26%. So what happened?
Investigative journalist Greg Palast wrote a very disturbing but extremely important article providing us with some potential answers in his piece, How California is Being Stolen from Sanders Right Now.
Here’s what we learned:
[Los Angeles] It’s not some grand conspiracy, but it’s grand theft nonetheless. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ voters will lose their ballots, their rights, by the tens of thousands.
The steal is baked into the way California handles No Party Preference –”NPP” voters –what we know as “independents.”
There are a mind-blowing 4.2 million voters in California registered NPP – and they share a love for sunshine and Bernie Sanders. According to the reliable Golden State poll, among NPP voters, Sen. Sanders whoops Sec. Hillary Clinton by a stunning 40 percentage points.
On the other team, registered Democrats prefer Clinton by a YUGE 30 points. NPP’s can vote in the Democratic primary, so, the California primary comes down to a fight between D’s and NPP’s.
And there’s the rub. In some counties like Los Angeles, it’s not easy for an NPP to claim their right vote in the Democratic primary – and in other counties, nearly impossible.
Example: In Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, if you don’t say the magic words, “I want a Democratic crossover ballot,” you are automatically given a ballot without the presidential race. And ready for this, if an NPP voter asks the poll worker, “How do I get to vote in the Democratic party primary, they are instructed to say that, “NPP voters can’t get Democratic ballots.” They are ordered not to breathe a word that the voter can get a “crossover” ballot that includes the presidential race.
I’m not kidding. This is from the official Election Officer Training Manual page 49:
“A No Party Preference voter will need to request a crossover ballot from the Roster Index Officer. (Do not offer them a crossover ballot if they do not ask).”
They’re not kidding. Poll worker Jeff Lewis filed a description of the training in an official declaration to a federal court:
Someone raised their hand and asked a follow-up question: ‘So, what if someone gets a nonpartisan ballot, notices it doesn’t have the presidential candidates on it, and asks you where they are?’ The answer poll workers are instructed to give: ‘Sorry, NPP ballots don’t have presidential candidates on them.’ That’s correct: even when people ask questions of that nature, obviously intending to vote with a party.
This affidavit, and several even more horrifying, come from Election Justice USA, a non-partisan watchdog, hoping to get injunctions to stop this nonsense. [Hear my talk with the group’s spokesman, Paul Thomas, on a special edition of the The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: Elections Crime Bulletin, which I host with Dennis Bernstein on the Pacifica Radio Network.]
Let me throw in another complication. Nearly half of Californians vote by mail, ballots sent to your home automatically. Most NPP voters don’t realize that, to vote in the Democratic primary today, they must bring in their NPP ballot with the envelope, and say these magic words: “I want to surrender my ballot in return for a Democratic ‘crossover’ ballot.”
Got that memorized? Because if you don’t, if you say the wrong syllables, in some counties, you will be denied a Democratic presidential ballot.
Bruce C. Carter is losing his mind over this. I interviewed Carter who arrived in his Black Men for Bernie bus, decorated with a giant image of Bernie’s arrest while demonstrating for civil rights. Carter warns that, If an NPP voter doesn’t say they are “surrendering” their NPP ballot, the clerk can take it and count it, blank, instead of giving the voter a new one.
It gets far worse. There are simply not enough “crossover” ballots printed. If they run out of ballots, Carter his telling voters to demand a recorded vocal vote using the voice recorders set up for the disabled.
Unfortunately, the games hardly end there. Election Justice filed still more declarations with the courts of poll workers being told to give NPP voters “provisional” ballots even if they say the magic words, “I want a crossover Democratic ballot.” As I’ve previously reported, provisional ballots are “placebo” ballots that let you feel like you’ve voted, but you haven’t. Provisional ballots are generally discarded.
Minutes ago I got a note from NPP voter Olga Martinez in Contra Costa County where she was told she must take a “provisional” ballot. She heard our reports and demanded the Democratic ballot and got it. ML King told us, you don’t get your rights unless you demand them.
And this note just came in minutes ago from my KPFK co-host, Cary Harrison.
“I am in West Hollywood and was just denied voting twice! I’m NPP. I do not even appear on the voting rolls nor does my STREET on the voting rolls. Voting suppression is in full swing.”
Cary just called. He drove to a new precinct as directed: and was again denied a ballot.
And dig this: Some counties are demanding that some of the first-time voters show official voter ID—as if California is now New Alabama. New voters are, in the main, the young Sanders supporters who are now finding out what it’s like to be treated as if they’ve turned Black.
There is no evidence this ‘Grand Theft Voto’ is part of a massive scheme by Hillary supporters to swipe the election. The voting system is run mostly by the Democratic Party which is totally in Hillary’s pocket. So while the establishment party officials know of the absurd impediments to voting, they see no reason to solve these problems because it doesn’t harm “their” voters.
Most of this procedural nonsense, like the need to surrender an NPP ballot with an envelope and request a “crossover” ballot – well, frankly, Bernie’s campaign has known about that all year.
The Sanders campaign was spending time talking policy at giant rallies instead of educating their voters on how to vote. In the rat maze called the American voting system, the painfully amateur Sanders campaign never provided a vote-guiding map.
I don’t believe Clinton booster Governor Jerry Brown intended to play Bull Connor. Nevertheless, Brown and the Democratic establishment’s mad hunger to see their candidate wrap up the nomination, has led them to turn a blind eye to a catastrophe for our democracy.
For some further evidence of how difficult California makes it for independents to participate in the “open primary,” check out the following published at the Los Angeles Times in April:
With nearly half a million registered members, the American Independent Party is bigger than all of California’s other minor political parties combined. The ultraconservative party’s platform opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage, and calls for building a fence along the entire United States border.
Based in the Solano County home of one of its leaders, the AIP bills itself as “The Fastest Growing Political Party in California.”
But a Times investigation has found that a majority of its members have registered with the party in error. Nearly three in four people did not realize they had joined the party, a survey of registered AIP voters conducted for The Times found.
That mistake could prevent people from casting votes in the June 7 presidential primary, California’s most competitive in decades.
Voters from all walks of life were confused by the use of the word “independent” in the party’s name, according to The Times analysis.
Residents of rural and urban communities, students and business owners and top Hollywood celebrities with known Democratic leanings — including Sugar Ray Leonard, Demi Moore and Emma Stone — were among those who believed they were declaring that they preferred no party affiliation when they checked the box for the American Independent Party.
While California’s top-two primary system allows people to vote for any candidate, regardless of party, presidential primaries have different rules.
Republicans have a closed primary this year. Democrats will allow voters registered as having “no party preference” — the state’s formal term for an unaffiliated, independent voter — to cast a ballot. But a voter registered with the American Independent Party will only be allowed to vote for presidential candidates on the AIP ballot.
At 3% of the state’s 17.2 million registered voters, Robinson’s party is still vastly outnumbered by Democrats (43%), Republicans (28%) and those stating “no party preference” (24%).
While 3% sounds small, that number is 516,000 voters. Not an insignificant number.
Of the 500 AIP voters surveyed by a bipartisan team of pollsters, fewer than 4% could correctly identify their own registration as a member of the American Independent Party.
Of course, I wrote about related shadiness in other primaries earlier this year. See:
That’s American “democracy” for you.
* * *