To hear them tell it, West Tennessee Republicans pulled off an electoral miracle in Memphis in August. In a combined primary and general election, even though voters in the Democratic primary outnumbered voters in the Republican primary, Republicans swept every county-wide general election race, taking control of the state’s largest, predominantly black, heretofore predominantly Democratic city. Was this a foreshadowing of the power of the predicted Republican comeback in 2010?
But gosh, then all kinds of pesky questions started to crop up. Many voters had been turned away from the polls because computer records showed they had already voted, even though they hadn’t. In spite of that, the official tally counted over 6,000 more votes than the recorded number of voters. Numbered rolls of printed tape from the machines, the “print record” of computerized votes cast on them, disappeared and were not counted. Poll watchers could tell they were missing because the votes are numbered sequentially, and numbers were missing from the sequence. Furthermore, polling places had not opened on time, and had closed temporarily during the day due to “malfunctions” of the computerized voting equipment. Ah, Diebold! Gotta love ’em!
Somewhere, Boss Crump is smiling. He was a Democrat, but he appreciated good work.
The next act of this drama involved investigators finding some of the missing ballot rolls in trash bags, in the election commission’s trash. There were also disclosures that some of the vote-recording computers involved had not been sealed prior to the election and had been quietly sent home for the personal use of election commission employees after the election, that there had been a “ghost race,” a kind of cybernetic “fifth column” in the voting machines that would have made it much easier for a hacker to switch votes around–and there were many reports of gross vote-switching, when people pressed the touch screen for one candidate, only to have the opponent’s name light up. And, to top it off, the Election Commission refused to allow independent auditors to check their computers on the grounds that the Diebold software in the computers was proprietary. Like I said, ya gotta love them Diebold folks!
And how did the Shelby County Election Commission respond to this? Well, they ‘fessed up that they had “mistakenly” loaded the computerized voting equipment with a program from the previous election, which was why folks were turned away on the grounds that they had already voted. Sorry ’bout that…no big deal, right? Uh-huh. The commission, dominated by Republicans, went ahead and certified the election, with the two Democrat members making nice and going along. This is a foretaste of the November election, all right–rigged by Republicans, with the complicity of clueless Democrats–which may point to another reason why Shelby County’s elections turned out so strangely. If the party’s candidates (think Mike “me-too” McWherter) don’t speak to the real needs of real people, they might not get a lot of voters enthused.
As I’ve written elsewhere, you don’t have to switch a lot of votes in a blatant way to throw an election. A combination of restricting access to the polls and jiggering the voting machines ever so slightly is an excellent recipe for staying under law enforcement’s radar. It worked for the Republicans in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio in 2004. 2008? Let the country go to hell and blame it on the ni-I mean, socialist Obama. But, I digress….
Back in Memphis,the losing candidates have filed a lawsuit–but, in a state increasingly dominated by Republicans, there’s a good chance that will get nowhere. Hey, last winter we Greens filed for a summary judgment to get Tennessee to list our party’s name on the ballot, in accordance with recent court decisions, and we’re still waiting for an answer. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” as Rev. Martin Luther King used to say, and we are not getting justice in this lawsuit. Of course, if they thought the election might be close, the Republicans would probably move heaven and earth to get us on the ballot and, in their minds, divert votes from the Democrats.
Democracy or dirty tricks? Judging by their conduct elsewhere, computerized hi-jinks aren’t the only kind being employed by the Grand Old Party to insure their victory in November. In Arizona, Republicans are taking advantage of a loophole in the state’s election laws to “nominate” Green Party candidates without the approval of the state’s Green Party. In South Carolina, with the possible help of crossover Republican voting and/or those notorious computerized voting machines, an unemployed US army reject (nothing necessarily wrong with that, actually) somehow came up with the $10K filing fee and won the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat held by Republican Jim DeMint. Some people want to how he paid that ten thousand dollar filing fee. I want to know why, in a supposed “democracy,” it costs ten grand up front just to get your name on the ballot.
For that matter, why in this supposed “democracy” are Howard Switzer and John Miglietta, the Green Party of Tennessee’s candidates this year, appearing on the ballot as “independents,” in spite of court decisions that make it obvious that the Green Party has every legal right to be listed by name?
The Green Party does have its name on the ballot in South Carolina, and the good news is that many Democrats are realizing that the Green Party’s nominee, Tom Clements, is a far more viable candidate than Greene, who is currently under indictment for felony sexual harassment. OK, McWherter isn’t that much of a putz.
But, as Republicans strive for control by any means necessary, the whole ossified system is coming apart. Reality will prevail, and those of us who know how to live in reality will be the survivors, while those who believe they can bluff and bluster their way through life, who believe that their fast food, credit cards, SUVs, and air-conditioned McMansions are “not negotiable,” will find themselves SOL, to put it in a radio-friendly way. We will prevail.
music: Bob Dylan, “Memphis Blues Again”