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Investigative Reporter Greg Palast on the “Apartheid Ballot Counting System in America”

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As Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell certified President Bush’s reelection on Monday, we hear an address by investigative reporter Greg Palast about the disenfranchisement of black votes in the Nov. 2nd election. [includes rush transcript]

President Bush secured his reelection Monday after Ohio’s Republican secretary of state Kenneth Blackwell certified the victory by a margin of 119,000 votes. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Monday that the presidential voting was widely perceived as “very free and fair.”

But questions remain over the fairness of the Nov. 2nd election. At a forum on Capitol Hill yesterday, voting rights advocates reminded attendees of the more than 414,000 calls made to national hotlines monitoring complaints about the election. Among those calls, according to a new report from the Common Cause Education Fund, were many accounts from Ohio.

Yesterday at the New York Society for Ethical Culture investigative reporter Greg Palast spoke about the fairness of the election.

  • Greg Palast, investigative reporter speaking at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on December 7, 2004.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, at the same forum that Richard Clarke spoke at last night at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, investigative reporter Greg Palast also spoke, who has investigated the 2000 election for the BBC and continues to do that work in Ohio. He spoke about the fairness of the 2004 election.

GREG PALAST: I actually came here tonight to warn you that there are cooks and cranks and crazies out there on the internet who think that John Kerry won. Now, I know because one of those articles on the internet called “John Kerry Won” on, I wrote it. To warn you. But you have to understand, I mean, some things — well, maybe you can explain this to me. See, this is — I got the CNN exit polls, and it said that in Ohio that Kerry defeated Bush among women 53 to 47%, and among men, by — Kerry defeated Bush by 51 to 49%, so who’s the third sex that put our president over the top? So I thought I’d investigate, which is unusual. See, I’m a reporter. My reports appear on BBC Television. I’m a mainstream guy, as they say. And for the big newspaper of Britain, I used to have — the Guardian Observer, I have — I used to write George Orwell’s old column there, and he’d enjoy this, though that information. And so I wrote a story called, “Kerry Won: Here’s the Facts.” And I got a — I actually got a letter, an e-mail, from the New York Times. Here it is. They wanted to follow — they wanted to investigate! Cool! And they asked me, question 1, asking BBC investigative reporter, they said, “Are you a conspiracy nut?” Question 2: “Are you a sore loser?” Question 3: there is no question three, that was the end of the interview. And so they ran a story on the front page saying, “Internet Theories of Bush Loss Easily Debunked.” Okay, but see, that — remember the subtitle called — of “Kerry Won” — “Here’s the Facts.” And since they won’t tell you, I thought maybe I’d share them tonight. And here’s the facts. See, George Bush was declared victor today, by the way, by a Secretary of State of Florida, who — uh, Mr. Blacksick — and of, excuse me, I said Florida. You know, Florida of the North. I was just in Colu — you know, New Kiev, Ohio, two days ago so I get confused. And, of Ohio, Mr. Blackwell, he certified the election today. It’s very convenient for him because he’s both chairman of the republican campaign and the person in charge of the vote count, so he’s wearing two hats. I understand he has two heads, but I’ll investigate. But, see, he certified the vote, but not all the votes. See, 93,000 votes were tossed on the floor, never counted. We’re not talking recount here, we’re talking never count. 93,000 votes are called spoiled. 155,000 votes called provisional. More absentee ballots tossed. And supposedly George Bush won by 119,000. Folks, now what’s going on here? Whose votes were not counted that were twice the Bush margin of victory? Just, you know, was it random? Well, not exactly. Overwhelmingly the votes not counted, not counted, were cast in African American precincts. These are very Black votes, see, and when I use the term “overwhelmingly,” the non-counted votes cast into the machines but not counted for technical reasons — when I say “overwhelmingly Black votes,” that is not my phrase. That’s from Dr. Mark Salling of Cleveland State University who’s been investigating this for the ACLU, and the statisticians and demographers say it’s overwhelmingly Black votes which are not counted. The technical term is “spoiled” votes. Okay, now, how do votes spoil? Do you leave them out of the fridge? What do you do? These are like undervotes, overvotes — they use those technical terms, and in Ohio it’s hanging chads. We’re back to that. Dimpled chads, pregnant chads. Because Ohio is the last state in America to use the old punch card system for 75% of the vote. You’ve heard a lot about the dangers of blackbox voting. I want to talk to you about good old-fashioned punch card voting. 93,000 votes tossed in the garbage out of Black precincts. How? Okay? Because when — just like in — Black voters, Black neighborhoods get the bad schools, they get the bad hospitals, they get the bum voting machines, see? And their votes go in the garbage. And they know it. In fact, it should be against the law. And, in fact, it is. The ACLU sued the State of Ohio for a racist ballot counting system. They sued five states. Okay? Before the election. Before the election, four states said, “Well, gee, we’re kind of embarrassed. Yeah, we’re losing thousands of Black votes.” And they all agreed to fix the machines before the election, but one state. The Secretary of State of Ohio said, “Yes.” He said, 'Yes, I know that the machines we use in Ohio eliminate tens of thousands of Black votes on bad machines.' The only — the only state that said, 'Yeah, we'll fix them after the inauguration.’ Now, see, we have to talk about here is when we talk about votes not counted, I just want to — on radio you’re going to have to look at this chart now so imagine with me. There’s a big line, see? If you think Ohio is unusual, if you think Ohio is unusual, here’s the problem. See this big bar there, that’s the number of Black votes which aren’t counted in America and the little bar, that’s the number of white votes which are not counted in America, see? And if you are a Black person — now where is this from? Yes, it’s true, you can get it on the internet, but it’s actually from Appendix 14 of a report, this important information of the U.S Civil Rights Commission that found that if you are a Black person in America, the chance of your vote being tossed in the garbage — you cast your vote and it’s thrown away — the chance of it being thrown away is 800% higher than if you are a white voter, okay? See, and it kind of adds up with 2 million votes which are discarded in America, half of them by Black voters, 1 million Black votes not counted in America. We have an apartheid ballot counting system in America. And we ain’t talking about it. Okay? But now we’re going to talk about it, alright? That’s not all. There’s provisional ballots, see? So the fix this year is supposed to be provisional ballots. The republicans had a plan for that, too. There were 155,000 of them. 2 million votes were not counted in the 2000 election, now we’re pushing up maybe towards 3 million votes, because we have something called provisional ballots, back of the bus bogus ballots. Who gets those ballots? No points for guessing Black vote. Overwhelmingly, 30,000 ballots were handed out, provisional ballots were handed out to Ohio. Urban, as they say, in other words, Black voters, who supposedly voted in the wrong precinct, knowing that those ballots would never, ever be counted. Now, how did this happen? How did all these voters end up with ballots. Well, I was going to show you something on a machine tonight. Something our office received one night, Oliver Shykles, our researcher on the elections, received one night something over the internet through our e-mail. And by the way, if you ever have — if anyone ever has any documents someone wants to shred that says “confidential,” “secret,” whatever, go to Don’t waste it. We’ll use it. Someone sent us lists. By the time we’re done, 30-40,000 names. Golly gee, called caging lists. If you go down the caging list, something interesting. They were all names of voters in African American precincts. This list was put together and handed to the chairman of the Republican National Campaigns — of the state campaigns and the Republican National Committee. What are they doing with these names of the Black folk? We asked the Republican National Committee chiefs and State Committee chiefs on BBC Television: what are you doing with these lists of Black voters — of voters? We didn’t tell them it was Black voters. We just showed them the list of voters. “Oh, those are the lists of our donors.” Oh, I said. Well, we went through — Leni von Eckardt is one of our researchers — went through the list, and golly gee, several of those addresses were homeless shelters. So you get a lot of money for the Bush-Cheney campaign from the homeless shelters. Then they said, “Okay, oh, no, no. We’ve checked again. We just wanted to check to see if people had changed their address.” Every expert told us there was one reason. Because they had a plan, a secret plan, to challenge hundreds of thousands of voters nationwide. That’s what those lists were. They were target lists, challenge lists, ok? Now, by the way people that they were going to challenge, just because their address changed, that doesn’t remove your vote. I mean, Leni went through and found out there were several of them whose address had changed from Black districts because they had gone to Baghdad. These were Black soldiers who had been shipped out. The republicans planned en masse to remover them from the voter — to prohibit their votes from being counted. So you had hundreds of thousands of votes thrown in the garbage by this plan. Now is that against the law? It’s not against the law to go to Baghdad at the commander-in-chief’s command. You don’t lose your vote. But you know what is against the law? Profiling Black voters for challenge.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Palast, investigative journalist with the BBC, made the film Bush Family Fortunes: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. This is Democracy Now! Greg Palast, speaking last night at New York Society for Ethical Culture along with Richard Clarke.

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