Dr. Jill Stein: Jim Crow is Built into Our Voting Machines
The former Green Party presidential candidate discusses her efforts to examine voter integrity problems in Wisconsin, what the Greens do between elections, and what we can do to build a trustworthy voting system in the US
KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Kim Brown in Baltimore.
On Tuesday, 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein held a rally at the Wisconsin State Capital at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. She launched what you’re calling the “Count My Vote Campaign” because thousands, possibly even millions, of registered voters nationwide had their votes demonstrably suppressed on election day in November in several States, including Wisconsin and North Carolina. And Dr. Stein is joining us now live to detail her new campaign. Dr. Stein, thank you so much for being here.
JILL STEIN: It’s great to be with you, Kim. Thanks so much.
KIM BROWN: And I’d like to add that we are streaming this right now on Facebook Live, so if you have any questions for Dr. Stein about the Count My Vote Campaign, you can feel free to send them in and we will let her know. So, thanks to everyone that’s watching now.
Jill, we appreciate you being here but let’s start our discussion by clarifying exactly what the Count My Vote Campaign is and what it’s not. This is not another vote recount attempt by a presidential campaign to re-examine the election results in November. Is that accurate?
JILL STEIN: That’s correct. And also, just for the record, I didn’t fully hear the intro, just to clarify — the launch of Count My Vote took place yesterday at the Capital in Madison, at the Capital Building, the launch of a campaign specifically for Wisconsin, but it is part of a much broader movement that may have a similar name or different names in various states. But what we found in the recount, you know, essentially the recount asked the question, “Do we have a voting system we can trust which is accurate, secure and just, and free from Jim Crowe in our elections?” And, unfortunately, we got a resounding, “No!” as the answer to that question.
There were all sorts of obstructions to the recount but also what we learned was that there were all sorts of errors, both human and machine, and particularly in communities of color which are under-resourced and whose machines, therefore, are old, more liable to fail, more poorly maintained and calibrated. In the City of Detroit alone, there were 87 counting machines, that is these optical scanners that count your paper ballot — 87 of them failed in Detroit alone on Election Day. And it’s, unfortunately, a symbol of the kind of untrustworthiness, inaccuracy and racial bias that’s built into our election system.
KIM BROWN: Indeed. Dr. Stein, and your party and along with the Wisconsin Green Party, the state party there, you presented a report about some of the election irregularities, suppression, voter oppression tactics that you found. So, tell us more about this report and how it was exactly compiled. You know, where did you get the information to generate the report from?
JILL STEIN: Great. So, the report that we gave yesterday was the preliminary because, unfortunately, many of the county election departments still have not handed over their minutes from the recount — which is one of the problems. We didn’t even have the results of the recount where it was conducted in time to assess the vote before the vote was finalized. You know, and so this is an obvious problem. If you can’t even check on the vote in enough time to have the information, that’s a real problem. So, the minutes basically have not been turned over still, from almost half of the voters. The counties covering half of the voters still have not turned in their reports on December 16th which was the last day at which you could challenge the results of the election.
So, that was one problem, not having the information in a timely manner. But what we were able to put together piecemeal, showed that there were over 17,000 miscounted or discounted votes just from the information we had and that information covered about half, not even half, of the voting precincts. So, 17,000 miscounted votes in which many of those votes balanced each other out, there were equal problems on both sides. But the area that was not hand-counted was, again, the communities of color and the low-income communities — Milwaukee and Racine and other areas that represent really the communities of color disproportionately in Wisconsin. So, the recount was essentially not done there because those districts simply fed the ballots back into the same fallible and vulnerable machines. It was not a hand-recount.
We had a decision, a court decision that strongly recommended a hand recount, but it did not enforce a hand recount. So, unfortunately many of the districts did not do a hand recount. It’s like asking the same doctor for a second opinion, or it’s like measuring twice with a bent ruler. It doesn’t give you an accurate result.
KIM BROWN: Jill, we have a question coming from Facebook, from Jim Bird. Jim wants to know: “Is there a site that people can view the report and read it for themselves?”
JILL STEIN: Yes. If you go to countmyvotewi.com, so it’s basically Count My Vote Wisconsin — countmyvotewi.com. But, again, before the report is published we’re actually waiting for the full notes to come in. And we are trying to expedite that as quickly as possible.
And I’ll add also, we are trying to examine the software from the machines — the optical scanners and the touch screen machines. We’re trying to actually examine those on the inside. The state is required to do that because these machines are run by private companies who run the software, who do not have standards for accuracy or security. So, it’s really up to the state, we the public, to ensure that this source code, in fact, has not been corrupted, that there hasn’t been some kind of error. And what applies to Wisconsin here, basically applies all over the country — that we do not have standards for security. So, we are also in the process of trying to get that information. So, I’d say stand by and stay tuned again to Jill2016.com/recount where we will be compiling the information from all three states where we attempted but were basically stopped from applying transparency and accountability to our election system where we deserve to have it.
KIM BROWN: Jill, there was a really interesting piece done a couple weeks ago in the L.A. Times detailing exactly what you’re talking about in terms of communities of color in Milwaukee and other places in Wisconsin not being allowed to cast their vote as they had in previous years, partially because of a relatively recent laborious voter ID law that passed in Wisconsin. This L.A. Times piece features a 77-year-old African-American woman who had voted in 14 previous presidential elections and was precluded from voting in the most recent election because she did not have proper identification.
So, it sounds like Count My Vote, your new campaign, is more so aimed at people who actually were able to cast a ballot. What about the people who have been precluded from casting ballots for a variety of reasons, including these new voter ID laws that sprang up in a variety of Republican-controlled states after the Shelby County versus Holder Supreme Court Decision, which gutted some key provisions in the Voting Rights Act? How can Count My Vote help those folks?
JILL STEIN: Exactly. And let me just qualify Count My Vote to say that that is the initiative of the Wisconsin Voting Integrity Movement. But what our campaign is pushing for in the follow-up to the recount is a joint movement for voting justice because there was plenty of Jim Crowe built into the dysfunction of our machines. There’s plenty of racial bias built in to the lack of voting integrity but the problem doesn’t stop there. As you point out, we need not only to count our votes accurately but we need to ensure that we have a right to vote. And we need to ensure that there is a strong and respected constitutional right to vote so that these voter ID laws are not allowed. And we shouldn’t stop there because there’s also the system of inter-state CrossCheck which is also stripping people from the voter rolls — and particularly people of color and Latino communities. This has been demonstrated in wonderful work done by Greg Palast and you can see many of his writings about this, as well as his recent documentary called, I think, “The Best Democracy Money Could Buy” that really focuses in on inter-state CrossCheck and voter ID laws.
And let me say, Kim, we don’t want to stop there either because we are precluded from a just and fair system of voting not only by the denial of the right to vote but also by not knowing who we can vote for. So, we’re also calling for a Citizen’s Debate Commission — a people’s debate commission — because in this election you not only had trouble asserting your right to vote, but then once you got to the polls, you didn’t know who your candidates really were. You saw names on the ballot, but voters were not informed through our debates. And we need a Debate Commission which is not run and not censored by the Democratic and Republican parties who currently run the Commission on Presidential Debates.
And one last item is that we need to be able to vote without fear, as well. We both need to know who we can vote for but we need to know that our vote is going to count and it’s not going to inadvertently help the candidate that we most despise. And, in this election, most people were actually not voting for Donald Trump, most of his supporters were actually voting against Hillary Clinton. So, we need to have a voting system in which we can actually vote for a candidate who represents the vision of the future that we want. And so, we call for a ranked choice voting system like the State of Maine just passed. It allows you to rank your choices. So, if your first choice is eliminated, loses, your vote is automatically reassigned to your second choice.
And we also need to get rid of the Electoral College, so that our votes actually count equally, every vote — one person, one vote.
So, there are many obstacles right now to a meaningful vote and a system in which we count every vote, make every vote count, and ensure that every citizen in the United States has and can assert their constitutional right to vote. And I urge people, again, to go to Jill2016.com/recount because we will be continuing to drive this movement forward. It was announced in Wisconsin that we will be getting a refund potentially as large as a million dollars from this exorbitant price that we were charged initially. There will be a refund which will be dedicated to these ongoing efforts to have a voting system that we can trust and that actually provides justice to our voting system. So, stay tuned — Jill2016.com/recount.
KIM BROWN: Well, Jill, let’s talk about your 2016 campaign in which you probably got more mainstream media coverage than in your previous attempts to run for President. And some criticisms came from people on the left, curious as to what the Green Party agenda is and will be going forward in non-presidential election years. So, what does the Green Party have in store as we go from now, 2017, and we approach a mid-term year of 2018, next year?
JILL STEIN: So, yes, and let me clarify that misconception that was actually propagated by mainstream media and also by the centrist liberal media, as well, which tried to make us out to be sort of one-moment wonders. You know, that the Green Party gets together to run for national office only, to run for President, which really couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The Green Party actually prioritizes decentralized democracy and we’re very active at the local level. And we have well over 100, going on 200, local elected officials, actually. We happen not to get covered by mainstream media and not by much of the liberal media either. But you can look from Richmond, California, where we have for eight years a Green mayor who turned eminent domain on its head and used it against the banks in order to protect home-owners from foreclosure who were under water. You can look from there to New Paltz, New York, where a Green mayor was the first elected official to actually preside over gay marriages and went to jail to have done so.
So, Greens have actually been leading the charge in so many ways on equal marriage, on green energy, on the fight for free public higher education and to cancel student debt, and to end these insane and destructive wars on terror that only create more terror.
So, we’ve actually been ahead of the curve at the local level as well as at the national level and we will be coming out of the starting gate full speed ahead here, running local candidates for everything from, you know, city councilors, there will be a candidate for a special election in a congressional district in L.A., and a gubernatorial candidate, actually, in New Jersey which has an off-year gubernatorial election as well, and a slew of local candidates. So, we are very much focused right now.
We have many new chapters and I urge people to go to your local Green Party chapter. So many people now have been, what shall we say, thoroughly discouraged with the two mainstream political parties and are seeing Donald Trump as really a symptom of what is broken with our bipartisan political system, where so many people were voting against the Democrat, not really voting for Donald Trump. It’s really an indicator of our need for a real system change in our political system. And the Greens are the only candidates that do not take corporate money, do not take money from lobbyists, and do not have super PACs. So, we actually have the real liberty to really represent what it is that we, the American people, are clamoring for.
KIM BROWN: Dr. Stein, speaking of the 2016 election as you mentioned that obviously President-elect Donald Trump will be inaugurated in Washington in just a couple of short weeks. And in some of the states where the margins were pretty slim, you received more votes than the margin of victory that Donald Trump actually had. You and Governor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, and there was a lot of Democrats and people on the left very mad at you — actually several placing the blame of the Hillary Clinton loss solely at your feet because your voters could have made the difference in a Hillary Clinton victory in some of the key states. What do you have to say to the people that blame you for President-elect Donald Trump?
JILL STEIN: Well, I have really exciting news for you. There’s this thing called mathematics and you can actually do the numbers. What the numbers tell you is that 61% of Greens would not vote for a Democrat or a Republican and would simply have stayed home. We know that from exit polls, you know? We can wish that pigs would fly but pigs don’t fly. We can wish that Greens would vote for a Democrat or a Republican or some other party, but they will not. So, the reality is when you actually apply this new tool called mathematics to the numbers, you see that in no state would the Green vote have made the difference for Hillary Clinton. Because, actually, of the remaining 39% of Greens who would have come out to vote, over 1/3 of them would have voted for Donald Trump. So, you know it’s, what shall I say, it’s obsolete thinking and it’s sort of pre-mathematical thinking to wish that Greens would just vote for Clinton.
You could have also wished that Trump voters would have voted for Clinton but wishing it doesn’t make it happen. We need to have candidates that actually earn our votes, that don’t simply intimidate us into voting for them. And we need a voting system that allows us to actually vote our values because, as we see, the politics of fear in which we’re voting based on our fears, it keeps delivering what we’re afraid of. All the reasons that we were told to be good little boys and girls and keep voting for the lesser evil, unfortunately, it keeps delivering all those things that we were told we wouldn’t get — whether it was expanding wars, the offshoring of our jobs, the melt-down of our climate. Even under a Democratic White House with two Democratic Houses of Congress, you know, we were going in the wrong direction. And people are tired of being thrown under the bus.
So, rather than saying, that we should silence political opposition, which is what you’re saying when you’re telling me and Gary Johnson that we should just disappear ourselves, you know, that’s not good for democracy. Democracy depends on vigorous opposition — and the problem is that the Democrats and Republicans have too much in common. Historically, they’ve been pretty much on the same side of Wall Street and the insurance companies and the war profiteers.
So, you know, instead of silencing political opposition which is the death knell of democracy, how about we have a voting system that actually allows us to vote our values without dividing our vote? You know, the first time I ran for office in Massachusetts back in the year 2002 against Mitt Romney, running for Governor, we proposed ranked choice voting to ensure that there would be no splitting of the vote, no divided vote, nothing to wring hands about afterwards. And the Democrats which controlled the Legislature in Massachusetts, 85%, they refused to let that bill out of committee. Why did they refuse to solve this problem? Because they rely on fear. The fact that they rely on fear to intimidate you into voting for them is reason enough not to give them your vote. They are not going to solve the incredible crises that we face.
We have been trying to fix the Democratic Party ever since I can remember. Going back to the ’60s, we had the Realignment Campaign which was an effort for labor and the Civil Rights Movement together to reform the Democratic Party — and it failed. It failed on the catastrophe of the Vietnam War because suddenly it had to be a supporter of the war in order to be a bona fide Democrat to critique the party. And this has been played out over and over again.
It wasn’t just the sabotage of Bernie Sanders, it was the sabotage of Dennis Kucinich before him, and the sabotage of Jesse Jackson going back decades. The Democratic Party, unfortunately, has been bought and paid for by the war profiteers and the predatory banks and there may be figureheads who are, you know, real wonderful spokespeople for a better vision but they continually get sabotaged.
So, we’re saying, like most of the American people now have divorced both the Democratic and Republican parties. It’s time for us to stand up with the courage of our convictions and push for ranked-choice voting but also push for the real solutions we deserve, that we will not get, through the corporate-sponsored, predatory political system.
KIM BROWN: Dr. Stein, we have time for one more question from Facebook. This one from Patricia Ann Donahue. She wants to know: “Will it take laws to get big money out of our voting system and get the debates and information services back to the people?”
So, when we talk about the big money in the elections, obviously, we’re talking in part about the Citizens United decision. Is there a way to either legislatively work around Citizens United? Because it seems a little unlikely that, that decision could be overturned, given the political climate that is coming towards Washington now with a Republican-controlled White House and Congress. So, what can the average person do, or help to encourage their elected officials to do, to make sure that big money is not playing such a tremendously huge role as it does currently in politics?
JILL STEIN: Well, let me just add that decades ago what made me a confirmed Green, in fact, was the fact that the Democratic Party killed public financing of elections in my home state in Massachusetts. We passed public financing and the Democratic Legislature killed it. We passed it as a voter referendum. So, I just want to note that this has been a bipartisan problem that goes back a long time, well before Citizens United, as well. And there are many ways to solve this problem.
So, Citizens United does not preclude public financing for qualified candidates. So, having public financing would help level the playing field. But, beyond that, reclaiming the public airwaves for the public and establishing a Debate Commission and required coverage, public airwaves used for public coverage of qualified candidates in elections. The cost of campaigns would plummet and we could afford to publicly finance them.
So, let me just say the real solution here, it comes in many forms but it is essential that we build a movement. Public financing alone cannot be a stand-alone and, in fact, none of the issues — whether it’s saving the climate, or a healthcare system, or ending student debt, or stopping the wars, or ending the corruption of our campaign finance system — none of this can stand alone. What the political system establishment wants to do is to keep us divided and conquered. This is about coming together as a unified movement that puts people, planet and peace over profit and we stand up with the power that we have. This is fundamentally a political battle. You cannot fight this one issue at a time and you cannot hold a coalition together without actually working on it. A coalition that coheres over time and over geography, that is by definition a political party.
So, I encourage people to think big, the clock is ticking. This is the Hail Mary moment, whatever you’re looking at — the climate or our economy or immigrants facing deportation. This is time for us to stand up with the courage of our convictions, and I urge you along those lines, to join us at Occupy Inauguration where we will be standing up to say, “We do not consent to a government based on austerity, on endless war, on endless student debt, and the kind of brutal police racism that’s hard-wired into our mass incarceration system.” This is the time for us to stand up, stand strong and stand together, and make some things happen.
Remember what we did under Richard Nixon, one of the most corrupt and regressive Presidents out there. We passed the Clean Air and Water Act. We brought the troops home from Vietnam. We got women’s right to choose from a very conservative Supreme Court. There’s so much that we can do when we do stand up with the courage of our convictions and we stand together for the radical agenda that we deserve.
KIM BROWN: The Count My Vote Campaign was launched Tuesday in Madison by the Wisconsin State Green Party and along with 2016 Green Party Presidential Candidate, Dr. Jill Stein. Dr. Stein, we appreciate you taking some time out today, and best of luck to you.
JILL STEIN: Thank you so much, Kim. Good to talk with you.
KIM BROWN: And thank you for watching and tuning in to The Real News Network.