Placebo Ballots: Stealing California From Bernie Using an Old GOP Vote-Snatching Trick
Alert! California poll workers have been told to give all independent voters “provisional” ballots if they want to vote in Democratic Party. That’s illegal – and will insure that Sanders voters’ ballots end up in the garbage, uncounted.
A special bulletin for California voters. And for the rest of you, how this same trickery – shifting voters to provisional ballots which are rarely counted – can steal the White House and Congress for the GOP in November.
Here’s the 411. If you’re registered as an independent voter in California, you have the right to vote in the Democratic Presidential Primary. Just ask for the ballot. But look out! Reports out of Orange County are that some poll workers have been told to give “No Party Preference” (NPP), independent voters, PROVISIONAL ballots as opposed to regular ballots.
Voter, BEWARE! Do NOT accept a PROVISIONAL BALLOT! They’re really “Placebo Ballots” – they give you the satisfaction of feeling like you’ve voted, without the inconvenience of anyone actually having to count them!
And for our readers in the other 49 states: You can bet that the GOP will be shunting voters to these placebo provisional ballots in November. In the last election, over two MILLION voters, overwhelmingly voters of color, were shifted to these rarely-counted ballots. That’s how you steal elections.
No, I’m not promoting Bernie, nor Ernie, nor anyone. I’m promoting democracy. Let’s make sure your vote counts. Read on (or listen in) while Dennis Bernstein and I take you through that ugly sausage factory calling the American voting system….
Dennis Bernstein: Greg, welcome back. This week we’ll focus on what Greg calls placebo ballots, which are incredibly relevant to the upcoming California primary.
Greg Palast: Glad to be here for the bulletin. But I want to call it the alert, because I want people to wake up, get alert, and find out what’s happening in California and nationwide so you don’t lose your vote.
DB: You’ve done a lot of research on the provisional ballot.
Palast: If you don’t know what a provisional ballot is, you are probably white. I call them placebo ballots. They were created by George Bush and Karl Rove after they swiped Florida in 2000. The Congressional Black Caucus was very upset that people were not able to vote because they were falsely removed from the voter roles for all kinds of cockamamie reasons. So they said, “If your name is not on the voter roles, you should still be able to vote provisionally. They can check your records and count your vote later so you don’t lose your vote.” They passed the provisional ballots through the Help America Vote Act. You can imagine, Dennis, what happens when George Bush says he’s going to help us vote. People won the right to a provisional ballot, but we didn’t win the right to have them counted. They rarely are. That’s why I call them placebo ballots. They say you can’t vote here, but you can fill out a provisional ballot. You think if you filled out a provisional ballot, sign it and stick it in the envelope, it’s counted. It isn’t. The chances they’ll count it are minimal. It’s like voting, but it’s not voting.
What does that have to do with California? I am currently reporting from Southern California, and there’s an Ashley Beck, who is a poll worker in conservative Orange County. She was being trained with other poll workers, and they were given some very strange information. In the California primary, the independent voters registered as NPP, or no party preference, can vote in the Democratic primary. They can ask for a ballot and they are allowed to vote. The Orange County poll workers were told if NPP voters ask for a Democratic Party ballot to vote for Bernie or Hillary, they are not to be given regular ballots, but provisional ballots. This shook up Ashley:
“I was told that all NPP voters are to be given provisional ballots. I was bothered by that, because I was always told that NPP voters in California can vote for Democrats and their vote would be counted. I was a little worried that he was telling all 18 of us poll workers to give all NPP voters provisional ballots. We all know what happens most of the time with provisional ballots. They are not being counted.”
They are not being counted. Here’s the trick: Overwhelmingly, all polls show that NPP, or independent voters, are Bernie Sanders voters. Regular registered Democrats tend to slightly favor Hillary Clinton in the polls. So if you knock out the NPP voters by giving them placebo ballots – provisional ballots – that’s one way to steal the primary in California on June 7.
DB: The poll worker says that everybody knows these ballots don’t get counted, so there’s some awareness this is another Bernie fake-out.
Palast: The polls show an overwhelming preference of NPP/independent voters for Sanders versus registered Democrats who slightly favor Clinton.
And listen up: If you are in Nevada, Utah or Florida, you are not safe going into the voting booths either, because provisional ballots are everywhere in the USA under federal law. People are being given provisional ballots like candy. In 2008, 2.1 million voters were shunted to provisional ballots. They might as well have written their vote on bubbles. 2.1 million voters.
Who gets these ballots normally? I was on a book tour in Palm Springs and there were about 200 white folk and two people of color in the audience. I said, “Has anyone here ever gotten a provisional ballot?” The only two Black voters in the room both raised their hands, and that was it. Black people know what provisional ballots are, and they probably know that if they fill one out, the chance of it getting counted is slim. If you are given a provisional ballot, don’t take it. Demand adjudication – say that independents are entitled to regular ballots in the Democratic primary. This is a nationwide problem.
DB: Give us some history. Tell us about the Laguna and Acoma pueblos in New Mexico, south of Albuquerque. Tell us about what happened to this indigenous community and those who called this into question and defended people’s right to vote.
Palast: I went to the Acoma pueblo in New Mexico with my investigations team. The Native Americans who live in the pueblo were voting for city council in droves because they are very concerned that their land is being poisoned by the uranium mines – which are going to expand.… Because they didn’t want their lands poisoned, they had a motive to vote. There was also a reason for people to not let them vote. The people that wanted the mine didn’t want the natives to vote. What did they do?
They told the pueblo residents, “You are not properly registered.” In Native American communities, they say things like “Your address is incorrect because it says ‘home next to the Post Office.’” That’s often the only address in a pueblo, but it’s not a street number, so their registration is challenged.
There were 200 people in the pueblo who had their registrations challenged, and they were given provisional ballots. “Don’t worry. If you overcome the challenge, we’ll count your vote. Fill out the provisional ballots and put them in the envelope.”
The county took the ballots and threw them all away because they said they were in the wrong envelopes. They were the envelopes the government had given them, knowing they were the wrong envelopes they could then throw out. That’s how this game is played.
No one is hit with more provisional ballots than Native Americans. They are one of the most Democratic Party-leaning groups there are. If you are wondering if this is a one-party steal system, it was the Democrats who took away votes of their fellow Democrats at the pueblo because they didn’t like who they were voting for in the primary. This is typical, as we are seeing in California right now.
DB: In Arizona, you write about a John Brakey, who worked with Audit Arizona. What happened to him?
Palast: He’s a great vote theft and election manipulation investigator. He’s well known in our field and works with a great team of attorneys. He was a poll watcher in Arizona, and they were taking Hispanic voters, especially young men, and automatically sending them over to provisional ballots – which wouldn’t get counted.
They’d say, “What’s your name?” “Jose Juarez.” “Well your name isn’t on the voter roles.” Why? When they looked for Juarez, they looked under “W” – I kid you not! When Brakey complained, the state of Arizona called in the state cops, not to stop the theft of the vote but to arrest John Brakey, the poll worker. This is the type of games that are played.
In California, with the attempt to steal votes by giving independent voters provisional ballots, for the first time there are a lot of white people, Bernie voters, who are being treated as if they are Black, Hispanic or Native American voters.
This is the typical treatment for voters of color in America, under our apartheid provisional ballot system we have. Two million ballots in 2008 were provisional and most were thrown in the garbage. We are heading into a primary where poll workers are going to try to shunt the independent voters to the provisional ballots and get their votes thrown away. If you take a provisional ballot and you are an NPP voter, it will 100% be thrown away because you’re not allowed to use that ballot even if they give it to you.
Protect your vote. Go to GregPalast.com and download 7 Ways to Beat the Ballot Bandits. One is don’t vote provisionally. You can say, “I want a polling judge to determine that I get a real ballot.” In California, an independent NPP has a right to vote in the Democratic primary.
DB: Is there somebody like a polling judge around? Do they legally have to produce that person? How does that process work? Many people might want to fight for their vote but they might be intimidated. They might be threatened that they are causing problems. They could be threatened with violations of getting in the way of the vote that’s taking place. How do you fight this at the front line?
Palast: You do have a right to ask for an adjudication of your vote. There should be a poll judge who is assigned to each poll.
I would give advice that everyone should have a lawyer, but that’s not possible. This is how it’s coming down in America. It’s unfortunate and sad.
Also, outside California, if you can, do “early voting” in November. If your name is not on the voter rolls, don’t wait until Election Day to find out. It’s better to vote early so you can find out if there’s a problem. In California, you don’t have that choice in the primary. You’ve got to go in and stand up for your rights. The ACLU and Rock the Vote and others will have numbers for the general election. We’ll find out what’s available for voter protection in the June 7 California primary. I was hoping California would be a little bit cleaner, but it looks filthy already.
DB: How many votes could be at stake in California?
Palast: There are well over a half million NPP independent voters in California who all have the right to vote in the Democratic primary. Over half a million is real numbers in my neighborhood. The Republican Party is closed to the NPP voter.
DB: The difference in New York is that the independents were not allowed to vote in the Democratic primary. Hillary says she has more voters, but it’s because independents can’t vote. But in California, independents have the right vote in the Democratic primary, and nobody should tell them differently.
Palast: 100%. If you are in the American Independent Party you need to vote for them. But if you are truly an independent voter, registered as an NPP, you absolutely have the right to a real Democratic Party ballot to vote in the Democratic primary for the president of the United States. That’s California law. There is no reason for a provisional anything. In California, please check and make sure you are registered. If not, you will get a provisional ballot that will go to the shredder.
Dennis J. Bernstein is the executive producer of Flashpoints, syndicated on Pacifica Radio, and is the recipient of a 2015 Pillar Award for his work as a journalist whistleblower. He is most recently the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.
Greg Palast has been called the "most important investigative reporter of our time - up there with Woodward and Bernstein" (The Guardian). Palast has broken front-page stories for BBC Television Newsnight, The Guardian, The Nation Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Harper's Magazine. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, Armed Madhouse, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review. His books have been translated into two dozen languages. His brand new film of his documentary reports for BBC Newsnight and Democracy Now! is called Vultures and Vote Rustlers.
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