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Greg Palast on “Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps”

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With just weeks until the November 6 election, we are joined by investigative journalist Greg Palast, who has been tracking voter disenfranchisement and election trickery closely over the years. He joins us now to detail how people can protect their vote this year. He is the author of the recently released New York Times bestseller, “Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.” [includes rush transcript]

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StoryOct 09, 2008Greg Palast on Vote Rigging and Suppression Ahead of the 2008 Election
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg, I was wondering, before we go, if you could talk about your latest book, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps. Talk about the whole issue of voter rights, voter suppression.

GREG PALAST: Well, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits is just as the title says. By the way, this story, hunting down Mitt Romney and his money with the vultures, is in Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.

But how do they steal the election in nine easy steps? We’ve been here before. If you remember, I did the story about how Katherine Harris knocked off tens of thousands of black voters off the voter rolls: she called them felons. But their only crime was voting while black. That was in 2000. That felon purge, other purge—purges, are back with a vengeance.

We’ve lost two—3.2 million people off the voter rolls who are citizens who should be allowed to vote. In the last election, 2.7 million ballots—this is the official number, Amy—2.7 million ballots were cast and not counted. They call those, by the way, “spoiled ballots” in the ballot business. But, you know, votes don’t spoil because you leave them out of the fridge; they spoil because someone is challenging those ballots. And right now, you’ve got a massive new challenge machine, created first by the Koch brothers, who have a computer system called Themis, and that’s one of the things they can use to challenge and knock out voters. Karl Rove, who is funded mainly by Paul Singer and his buddies—there we are with the vulture again—Karl Rove has a massive database called DataTrust, which they have used—we’ve caught them—they have used to challenge voters of color throughout the nation.

So, they are using the old purging systems. They are challenging votes; that’s called “spoiling.” You have something called “caging,” in which we have, again, caught Karl Rove sending letters to, if you can imagine, active-duty soldiers. They send letters to these active-duty soldiers at their military bases. In the letters, they write, “Do not forward.” Those letters come back. Those voters, who are active-duty soldiers, lose their vote because they’ve been challenged as fraudulent voters. So, in other words, if you go to Afghanistan and you’re a black soldier in Florida, you can expect to see your ballot challenged. And you don’t even know it. We talked to one of the voters, who said, “I got to mail in my ballot from overseas,” while he was on duty. But he didn’t realize that his ballot had been challenged by the Rove machine.

Now, Bobby Kennedy, who wrote the introduction to Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, is of course a dean of the law school at Pace University. And he has said this is a felony crime. So, some of the nine ways that they burgle the vote are not only creepy, but in fact they’re illegal.

And this is one of the things that we are trying to say. Here’s nine ways that they take your ballot from you, but we also include, by the way—and very important for people is, at the back of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, we have what we call the ballot condom for safe voting. What it is is seven ways to beat the ballots—ballot bandits so that you can protect your own vote. I’m very concerned about this. I don’t want people to say, “Oh, my god, they’re stealing my vote. I’m not going to vote. I give up.” Don’t do that. Don’t let them shoplift your ballot.

For example, one of the things we have said—and I was just talking to some of the people here in the studio—check your registration. We have the seven ways to beat the ballot bandits poster at; you can download it for free to protect yourself. The guy who designed the poster for me didn’t take advice from the—didn’t take our suggestion number three—check your registration. He showed up and was listed as an inactive voter. Nine million people are listed as inactive voters, as if they know that you haven’t been doing your sit-ups or something. You lose your vote. Please check your registration.

That’s why in Billionaires & Ballot Bandits we’re not only telling you the nine ways that they steal the election, but the seven ways to kind of steal it back. And I say “we,” because in the middle of the book, of course, there is a comic book, 50-page comic book, by Ted Rall. So, this is put out by our not-for-profit foundation for the purpose—it’s nonpartisan. We are just trying to get people to be aware that their votes can be shoplifted, and here’s how you could save them.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s interesting. This news just came out today, Greg, came out of Sheriff Arpaio’s Maricopa County in Arizona that Spanish copies of the election information were sent out with the wrong election date. ABC15 reports that the error appears on a document containing a voter ID card. In addition to the ID card, the piece of paper it comes in lists other information, such as important election dates. In the corner of the document, it says “November 6” in English, but in Spanish it reads “8 de Noviembre,” the 8th of November. Of course, Election Day is November 6th, not November 8th.

GREG PALAST: Yeah, this trick has been going on. And by the way, in Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, you’ll see a picture of me going into Joe Arpaio’s famous—or infamous—tent city prison, because he claims that he is not profiling Mexican Americans to charge them with crimes or the act of illegal voting. And so, we went into his prison to see who he was—who he was gathering up. There’s a big sign that I walked by that says, “No aliens allowed.” I went in with my assistant, my chief investigator, with me, who—she is not an American citizen, but she did bring her white skin, so they didn’t even ask her for her papers. So, to say that they don’t profile in Arizona, this is happening all over the place. In fact, we did see—in Wisconsin, during the recall vote, we did see in Wisconsin during the recall vote that the Koch Themis operation did send out letters, again, giving to Democrats false—false information on the date of the election.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg, we have to leave it there. Greg Palast is author of the now New York Times bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy [Steps]. His piece, just out today in The Nation, is called, “Mitt Romney’s Bailout Bonanza: How He Made Millions from the Rescue of Detroit.”

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Bainport, Illinois. That’s what the workers are calling Freeport, Illinois. They’re about to lose their jobs. Bain Capital-owned Sensata plant is closing their plant and moving to China. Stay with us.

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