The real threat facing the 2020 election isn’t Russian interference or voter fraud, it’s the GOP’s massive voter suppression effort, argues journalist Greg Palast.
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.
President Trump: This will be the most corrupt election in the history of our country.
Speaker 2: What do we want? [crosstalk 00:00:08] When do we want it? Now. [Crosstalk 00:00:08]
Jaisal Noor: We’re less than 14 weeks away from the 2020 general election, which promises to be one of the most consequential votes of our lifetime. The US is being ravaged by the coronavirus, historic economic crisis and record unemployment.
Black Lives Matter protests have entered their third month and they’re being met with growing repression, but at least we’ll be able to cast our ballots in a free and fair election on November 3rd, right? Right? I’m Jaisal Noor and on the first episode of Election 2020, we’ll speak with a leading investigative journalist who says, “The biggest threat to our elections isn’t from the Russians.”
Speaker 4: That the Russian government quote perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and work to secure the outcome.
Speaker 5: Vladimir Putin doesn’t want me to be president.
Jaisal Noor: Or so-called voter fraud.
President Trump: The Democrats are also trying to rig the election by sending out tens of millions of mail-in ballots-
Jaisal Noor: Instead, the election is being threatened by voter suppression, millions of votes aren’t going to be counted.
Speaker 6: Over 2 million ballots, not just absentees are cast and not counted, that’s official. They call it spoilage. How do votes? By leaving them out of the fridge.
There are 10 ways to spoil your vote or wipe way your registration. Think you’re registered? This election, over 3 million of you will find your registration go, poof.
Jaisal Noor: You’re far more likely to get your vote thrown out if you’re African American.
Speaker 6: Who’s votes get thrown in the spoilage dumpster? According to the US Civil Rights Commission, the chance of your votes spoiling is 900% higher if you’re black than if you’re white.
Jaisal Noor: We are joined by Greg Palast, known for his investigative reports for the BBC, The Guardian and Rolling Stone. His bestsellers include, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and his new book, How Trump Stole 2020 also tells you how you can steal it back.
Greg, thanks for being the first guest on Election 2020. You’ve been exposing voter fraud and suppression for a long time. From Gore V Bush, to Georgia in 2018, where you helped Stacey Abrams take on then attorney general, now governor Brian Kemp. A scale of one to 10, just how much trouble are we in with the election less than 14 weeks away?
Greg Palast: One to 10, I’d say 11, we’re in trouble. I’m sorry to bring the bad news to you, but yes, Trump has already stolen 2020. We can steal it back. We can take steps, but this is the most Jim Crowed election I’ve seen in my lifetime. It’s really bad. Well, that’s why I wrote the book, How Trump’s Stole 2020 because I’m trying to get people to steal it back, that is bust the burglar. I don’t want you to steal votes. I want you to unsteal votes.
Jaisal Noor: Trump claims mail-in voter fraud is a huge threat to the election. He tweeted, “With Universal mail-in voting, not absentee voting, which is good. 2020 will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent election history. It’ll be an embarrassment.” He says, “Delay the election until people can vote properly and safely.”
A few things to unpack here. On one hand, his claims about voter fraud are lies. He and his top cronies vote by mail themselves. He doesn’t have power to change the election by himself thankfully. Is there any truth to what he is saying?
Greg Palast: Well, here’s the horrible thing. He’s right in about six words, mail-in voting is dangerous. It’s a huge problem. It is a worst way to vote. The only thing that’s worst is voting in precinct where you die from a virus, okay.
We don’t want to have to die to vote. The problem with mail-in voting is not fraudulent votes from Bolivia. You don’t get ballots from Bolivia. You don’t get people in a basement filling out 700 ballots. It’s easy to catch those guys. Some people tried it a couple times, they get nailed, you go to jail for five years. It doesn’t happen. It’s been studied to death.
In fact, FBI agents, everyone has been hunting this down. They can’t find these fraudulent voters, but the voters get defrauded. The voters are the victim of fraud. Are you ready for this number? From How Trump Stole 2020, I site the MIT study, which says that, “22% of mail-in ballots never get counted.” One in five, 22%. That’s MIT’s number. This is the problem that we’re going to see. We saw 3 million ballots mailed in that were chucked and never counted in a 2016. Key to Trump’s being president by the way.
Then now you multiply that by five. I’m very concerned about people never getting their ballots. That’s one in 10 voters who asked for a mail-in ballot and never get them. Pretty hard to vote. Mail-in your ballot if it’s never been mailed out to you.
The second is, one in 10 ballots that are mailed in, are never counted. They’re rejected, they’re challenged and the vote doesn’t get counted. People don’t understand our mail-in voting system. People don’t get the ballots. When they get them, they get challenged for goofy things. I’m talking about my mother, a school teacher, lost her mail-in vote. My sister, a lawyer, lost her mail-in vote. Why? They didn’t properly fill in a bubble. Their ballot was challenged by the Republican Party and was rejected. By the way, that flipped an election. That was a mayoral contest in San Diego in which the Democrat won.
Then the Republicans went to court and disqualified 5,000 mail in ballots for various mismarkings. They didn’t like your signature. Postage due is a big one. 100,000 voters in ’16, lost their vote for postage due. By the way, and when I say postage due, like in Ohio, go ahead and mail-in your ballot. If you put one stamp on it, you just lost your vote, you need two. It doesn’t say that, but you better put on the second stamp.
Wisconsin, you got to have a witness signature and you’ve got to mail-in your ID, your student ID or whatever ID you have. If you’re voting by mail for the first time, that’s most voters. Isn’t one more damn thing to do so that you end up losing your vote because they say, “Oh, that’s the wrong ID. Did you know that in Wisconsin, now that’s a swing… This is really important. Wisconsin is the state that’s most likely to determine who is president of the United States in November. That is the swing state.
For a student to vote, they’re going to have to mail-in a photocopy of their student ID. They’re also going to have, if they want to register.
They’re going to have to have ready for this, proof of enrollment in good standing. The third thing is 182,000 University of Wisconsin students have voter ID, state photo voter ID, but it’s not legal to use in the election. They have to get a special voter student ID from their dean of students whose office is closed right now. They’re knocking out over 100,000 student voters who are going to have trouble getting their ballot or getting their ballot counted.
Alabama you’re going to have to notarize your ballot. I mean and by the way, you say well, “Alabama’s going to vote GOP.” I don’t know because right now democratic Senator Doug Jones is running for reelection. He’s fighting for his life and the only way he can win is by massive mail-in vote and they’re going to make people notarize their ballot.
Jaisal Noor: During a pandemic.
Greg Palast: During a pandemic. By the way, a federal judge said, “That’s insane.” Oh, you have an alternative. You can have two witnesses. Better make sure that they get tested first. Two witnesses or a notarized ballot. A judge said, “That’s insane. That’s literally dangerous,” but the Supreme Court overturned it and said, “No.”
Notary, hey that cost you 20 bucks, poll tax, hey, too bad. Having to get two witnesses, that’s going to kill grandma when they bring in the virus, too bad. The GOP wants to win this election by blocking mail-in votes and blocking the count of the mail-in votes. They’re creating all this distraction by saying it’s fraudulent, blah, blah, blah so they can go in with their guys with the Hawaiian shirts can go in and challenge votes. That’s what I’m worried about.
Jaisal Noor: You cite the US Civil Rights Commission that says, “You’re 900% more likely to get your vote thrown out if you’re black than if you’re white.” In your book, you talk about Martin Luther King’s cousin who had their vote challenged.
Greg Palast: Well, I was in Atlanta in 2018 when the GOP took this system of purging voters from the voter rolls, which they’ve done for years, but now they’ve got a whole new system. They took it for a test drive in Atlanta, in Georgia in 2018. When Brian Kemp was secretary of state of Georgia, the Republican, but he’s also running for governor as the Republican against Stacey Abrams.
The only way he won was by removing, are you ready for this? A third of a million voters whom he said had moved. Now, obviously, listen, if you don’t live in Atlanta, you can’t vote in Atlanta, but I had experts go through the list and they found out that a third of a million people had never moved. Their only crime was voting while black or voting while young, in other words.
I went to the Atlanta polling stations on election day and there was Raheem Shabazz went into vote, thrown out. They said, “You’re no longer registered.” Jasmine [Bactiare 00:09:55] thrown out. “You’re no longer registered.” Then Christine Jordan, 92 years old, been voting at the same school house 50 years said, “You’re no longer registered get out.”
This Martin Luther King’s cousin. Yes, so since Martin Luther King’s cousin, you heard the name Raheem Shabazz and Ms. Bactiare in other words their main crime was voting while black, but they were all accused of not being proper Atlanta voters anymore. Understand this is how they stole the election in ’18, but that was the test drive for 2020.
Now, we are all Christine Jordan, we’re all Martin Luther King’s cousin being thrown out of the polling station. We’re all susceptible, 16.7 million people have been purged from the voter rolls in the last two years of records, 16.7 million people and you ain’t getting your ballot if you’re on that list because they will not send a ballot to someone who’s been purged from the voter rolls. You cannot get a ballot and you won’t even receive that little card that says, “Would you like a ballot?” Anyone listening by the way, better check their registration right now. That’s defense rule number one.
Jaisal Noor: In the title of your book, you argue Trump’s already stolen the election. What is it going to take to steal it back? Are the Democrats going to save us?
Greg Palast: Forget Congress. Congress, ain’t going to save your vote. Why would the GOP vote to allow millions of nonwhite people to vote? They know who they’re voting for. They know the color of their vote. They’re concerned about blueish voters. They’re not going to save your vote.
They know that there aren’t enough white guys to reelect Donald Trump’s. So they got to get rid of the non white guys and then it’s certainly not going to let you mail-in your ballot easily. That’s the difference.
You noticed that Trump made a distinction between absentee ballots and mail-in ballots. Absentee ballots require a whole process. They refer to the states that require you to have an excuse, to mail-in an excuse. In some states like Texas, you have to have the doctor notarize a ballot, notarize your excuse. It’s crazy stuff, but simple mail-in voting, which would just save a lot of lives, no they’re going to block that.
You’re going to have to take care of your own vote, don’t count on Congress. Don’t count on the democratic party. Certainly don’t count the Republican party. Don’t count on anyone, but you and voting rights activists and organizations to do anything. You start with making sure you are still registered Mrs. Jordan, 50 years at the same polling station. If they can remove her, there’s a good chance they removed you.
Check your registration and ask for your mail-in ballot as early as you can. If it doesn’t arrive within three weeks of the election, you call up your county board of elections say, “Where is my ballot?” You make sure that you get that ballot. If necessarily go in and get that ballot from your county board of elections. I’m sorry it’s not easy to vote anymore. They’re making it difficult. Well, too bad. Democracy’s going to take some effort this time my friends.
Jaisal Noor: You mentioned the need to check your voter registration. You’ve made a printable guide called the Condom Ballot. Talk about the other steps we should all be taking to make sure our vote is protected.
Greg Palast: Yeah at the back of How Trump Stole 2020 is literally what I call the Ballot Condom. Obviously, no, you don’t wrap it around your ballot. What you do is you read the instructions to make sure that you don’t lose your vote.
Number one, I’m going to say it for the fifth time, check your registration, which you can do at vote.org or your state secretary of state. Check your registration, if you’re not registered re-register right now online. You can do it in every state.
Now, then you ask for your mail-in ballot. If you don’t see that little card in the mail, most states you have to ask for a mail-in ballot. In some states they’ll send you a card saying, “Do you want one?” In some states they don’t. You contact your county board of elections and ask for that mail-in ballot.
The other reason to do that by the way is that they’re not sending out even those request cards for mail-in ballots to people who miss the last election, they call them inactive voters, that could be you. Most people don’t vote in midterm elections, so look out. Ask for that mail and ballot.
When you get it for God’s sake, be so careful. Don’t be like my lawyer sister and screw it up. Don’t put a check mark where it says, “Fill in the bubble.” Don’t put a smiley face or an X, fill it in. Use a blue or black pen. Never a red pen, never crayon, never lipstick or jelly. Use a darn black pen.
I’m not joking about this? I was in Michigan when Hillary Clinton’s presidency went down the drain when they throw out the red mark ballots, I’m not kidding. Fill it out super carefully. Have someone check it over, make sure your signature is the same as when you registered. If you’re not sure, re-register. So all I’m telling you, you got to be super careful, but make sure that you’re super safe. Do ask for that mail-in ballot. Get it in as early as possible because the post office is going to implode under the weight of these ballots.
If you can take it in personally to a drop box, a voting center or your County Board of Elections. I don’t know of any county that won’t accept your ballot over the counter or put out a drop box. In other words there’s steps you can take.
I’m sorry it may involve driving, et cetera and try to do this early. Most states have early voting. Drop off that ballot if you can. These are all the simple ways to try to stop them from stealing your vote. In the case of like I say, 16.7 million people, they’ve already stolen your vote and you’re going to have to steal it back by re-registering.
Jaisal Noor: Joe Biden currently maintains a large lead in the polls over Trump. Are you worried about voters getting complacent ahead of the election?
Greg Palast: I’m tired of listening to guys like James Carville say, “Oh, forget about it. Trump doesn’t stand a chance.” Well, but guess what? Polls don’t vote.
Here’s the thing, Hillary Clinton not only won in the polls before the election in July. In July 2016, she was crushing Trump. He was a joke. In fact, she was so far ahead that some pollsters weren’t even bothering polling her against him.
We’ve been here. It’s deja vu all over again guys, they steal the vote and they stole in Wisconsin, and Michigan, and Pennsylvania and in other states, we know that from the exit polls, which the United States State Department says, “Trust the exit polls, not the official count.”
In every state, American determines whether an election is fair or not by the exit polls. Do they match the official count? In America, we don’t because the exit polls show that Hillary Clinton won Michigan. She won Wisconsin. She won Pennsylvania because people know if they’ve voted and they tell the exit pollster how they voted. What they don’t know is if their vote counted. 1.9 million votes and that’s official were cast in precinct in 2016 that were rejected, challenged, never counted.
Including 75,000 ballots in Detroit, seven times, seven times Trump’s 10,000 vote plurality. In Michigan, he didn’t win that state. 75,000 ballots in Detroit, black ballots, Hispanic ballots. I was there in Detroit. Those votes were not counted and that was the presidency.
It’s the vote count, my friends. It is not the polls. It’s who counts the vote. Stalin said it, by the way I checked it. It’s actually not apocryphal. Joe Stalin really did say, “It’s not who wins the vote. It’s who counts the vote. That’s what counts.” That’s it.
You protect your vote, but they can’t steal all the votes all the time. If there’s one point I have it in How Trump Stole 2020, they can’t steal all the votes all the time. What do you think they didn’t steal votes for Barack Obama? We calculated, when I say we, I was writing for Rolling Stone with Bobby Kennedy, we calculated 5.9 million votes were stolen from Barack Obama. He just overwhelmed the steal, but don’t expect anyone to protect your vote, but you and your family.
You’re going to have to protect your own vote and fight for others votes. Help others make sure that they check other people’s registration in your family, please.
Jaisal Noor: Greg Palast, thank you so much for joining us and informing us about the threats that face us on Election 2020.
Greg Palast: You’re very welcome.
Jaisal Noor: You can follow me on Twitter for updates to this new show on The Real News, Election 2020 with Taylor Hebden, I’m Jaisal Noor.
General Assignment Reporter
Jaisal is a host, producer, and reporter for TRNN. With his expertise in education policy and systemic inequity, he focuses on Baltimore, Maryland. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio News, Democracy Now! and The Indypendent.
Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years.