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Fooled Again—Who Won in ’04 and Why It Matters Now


February 20, 2006

Journalist Mark Crispin Miller doesn’t mince words. This election year, Miller warns, your vote for or against Republican majorities at federal, state and local levels may not count—especially votes against them. The writer and NYU professor is riding on the popularity of his book, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them)—the paperback version was postponed till this fall due to the hardcover’s impressive sales. In the interview below, Miller discusses why John Kerry probably won the 2004 election; and why Democrats may be robbed in elections to come. Happy Presidents’ Day!

[Joel Whitney for Guernica]

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Guernica: Is George Bush the rightful winner of the 2004 election?

Mark Crispin Miller: Absolutely not. There’s no evidence aside from the official numbers that Bush won the election legitimately. Contrarily, there is copious evidence of widespread fraud by the Bush Republicans.

Guernica: Didn’t Democrats say they would be prepared this time around? Didn’t, for instance, foreign observers come to monitor the election?

Mark Crispin Miller: Yes, there were foreign observers here, and I spoke to the two who tried to monitor the polling places in Ohio. They were not allowed within 100 yards of the polling place by Secretary of State Blackwell. But there were only 11 two-man teams for the whole nation. The fact of the matter is, they weren’t really allowed to see anything. This raises a much more fundamental question: you said the Democrats were prepared for shenanigans, but in an important sense they weren’t prepared at all. Because the Democratic Party refused, and continues to refuse, to face the threat posed by electronic machines. [And that threat] is imperceptible and undetectable fraud. That’s the beauty of it. So what did they do? They flooded the polling places with Ohio and Florida lawyers, standing around looking suspicious; but what good could that do? I talked with Kerry myself three years ago when he was one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination and I tried to urge him to pay attention to the machines. It had no effect on him and the Party refused to face it and it still does. So, no, they weren’t prepared. The fact is, they were grossly unprepared. And that Kerry could have allowed himself to be talked into conceding the next day is clear evidence that they’re in complete denial.

Bush allegedly won New Mexico by 7,000 votes. But over 17,000 Democrats in New Mexico were all unable to cast a vote for president. So we’re supposed to think that 17,000 Democrats turned out to vote and didn’t cast a vote for president?

Guernica: Tell me about irregularities in other states: how was Florida in 2004?

Mark Crispin Miller: Florida was worse, actually, because they used these machines more extensively than in 2000. I have forty pages on Florida and it’s just a chronicle of grotesque frauds—mostly repetitions of the tricks of 2000, like phony felons lists and the use of police blockades and strong-arm tactics; but basically they used every trick in the book to get the machines into the state and to make them un-auditable.

Guernica: And in South Carolina—same kind of thing?

Mark Crispin Miller: Yes, all throughout the South there was tons of stuff like this. And in other regions. New Mexico is an interesting case; it was one of the swing states, and it is one of those places where the exit polls foretold a Kerry victory. Then Kerry lost by the margin he was supposed to win by. The disenfranchisement of Hispanics and Native Americans was epidemic in New Mexico. Bush allegedly won New Mexico by 7,000 votes. But over 17,000 Democrats in New Mexico were all unable to cast a vote for president on the machines they were using. [Their ballots] were “undervotes”—otherwise filled in but with no vote for president. So here we’re supposed to think that 17,000 Democrats turned out to vote and didn’t cast a vote for president. Or, that there was something wrong with the machines they used. Which means that 10,000 Democrats more than Bush’s supposed margin were disenfranchised just through that one tactic alone.

Guernica: And what about other states?

Mark Crispin Miller: Minnesota is a long-standing blue state—Wellstone’s state. I believe there is strong evidence of fraud in 2002, when Norm Coleman surprisingly won over Walter Mondale. In this case the secretary of state, one Mary Ann Kiffmayer, who was an outspoken theocrat, having publicly deplored the separation of church and state, managed the voting system in Minnesota so that the whole system slowed to a crawl beginning from several months before the election. County officials all over the state were complaining that they couldn’t register anybody. So there is abundant evidence there. And the guy who is running against her now is running on the grounds that the election system in that state is currently defunct. There are a number of such races in the offing and that’s good news.

Guernica: For the skeptic on the right or the left with the tape loop playing in their head that says, ‘get over it,’ ‘sore losers,’ ‘sour grapes,’ what evidence would you point to first?

Mark Crispin Miller: First, let me respond to the ad hominem attack on those who are trying to call attention to the irregularities of the last election. For one thing, I’m not a Democrat. I’m an independent. I think both parties are equally culpable in permitting the disastrous erosion of American democracy. The Democrats aren’t doing anything about the dangers of election fraud.

But one of the most startling facts that we know of was the systematic flipping of Kerry votes to Bush votes on the electronic touch-screen machines. I have not heard of a single case of a machine doing the opposite. Not that it didn’t happen. There was also widespread intimidation, obstructionism; groups like the Texas Strike Force were sent into Ohio and other states specifically to frighten African-American voters away from the polling places. If one wants firsthand evidence of the epidemic of anti-democratic fraud, all one has to do is go to the Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS)—you can do a Google search of “EIRS,” then type in the name of any city or county and you’ll get a log of all those complaints that came in from voters on Election Day. It’s only partial because the system was seriously overloaded with so many problems that day. This can give you a clear sense of what happened on the ground level.

For four years, the CEO of ES&S was Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who quit the job to run for the Senate from Nebraska; and in Nebraska they used ES&S machines to count the votes.

Guernica: Who or what is Diebold?

Mark Crispin Miller: The most sophisticated aspect of the election fraud in 2004 was the electronic touch-screen voting machines. Computers have actually been used to steal votes for a few decades but never on this scale. There are three large companies that manufacture these touch-screens which are completely unreliable, easily hacked, provide no paper trails, and whose programming codes are kept a secret. Using these machines is tantamount to having a secret vote count. Now all this is bad enough. But what’s especially alarming is that all three of the companies that make these machines—Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia—all have longstanding, tight links to the Republican Party. They’re managed and run by highly partisan Republicans. It’d be no more proper if they were Democrats. The whole setup is completely unacceptable. And let me add that just yesterday there was an AP story that reported that four out of five voters will be voting on these machines [in the 2006 elections]. This is a serious problem. The three companies have divided up the United States into territories, and there is all kinds of evidence of the companies’ partisan character. The CEO of Diebold, this guy Wally O’Dell, who has now resigned, sent out a letter several months before the 2004 election to Ohio Republicans promising to do everything he could to deliver Ohio’s electoral votes to the president. That’s the CEO of a voting machine company. For four years, the CEO of ES&S was Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who quit the job to run for the Senate from Nebraska; and in Nebraska they used ES&S machines to count the votes. And Hagel did surprisingly well in places like African-American precincts. If any of this happened in a place like Iraq under Saddam Hussein, we would waste no time tap dancing around the possibility of fraud.

Guernica: If you had to guess, what percentage of Americans do you suppose has heard of the Conyers Report?

Mark Crispin Miller: (Laughs/coughs) I reckon, optimistically, maybe five percent.

The Republicans actually went so far as to repress it—they actually prevented the government printing office from making any copies, which is illegal; so that the Democrats were forced to Xerox it and send it around and email it around.

Guernica: And what is the Conyers Report?

Mark Crispin Miller: The Conyers Report was a report by the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee that was supposed to be a full [bi-partisan] committee, but the Republicans boycotted the inquiry. It was after Representative John Conyers of Michigan heard so many accounts of problems that prevented people from voting in Ohio that he decided to call for hearings. The Democrats had a couple of months of hearings, did a lot of research, and wrote up a report that was used as the basis for the challenge to the official electoral vote in Ohio. By law, on January 6, the Congress meets to do a formal vote count and tabulate the electoral votes. So there was a challenge mounted to Ohio’s vote count based on the findings of this Conyers Report. And it was a successful challenge, requiring a senator to stand up with the representatives, and Senator Barbara Boxer stood up. So it was obviously a historically significant report. It was a timely report, a clearly written report. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s an unassailable report that documents, with few errors, all the stuff that went down in Ohio, starting from the prevention of registration of Democrats, to the court-ordered recount which never took place. And the press buried this report; they barely mentioned it. The Republicans actually went so far as to repress it—they actually prevented the government printing office from making any copies, which is illegal; so that the Democrats were forced to Xerox it and send it around and email it around. (It’s been published as a book by my parents’ little printing company in Chicago, and it’s sold maybe 20,000 copies.) But it’s easily as important to American democracy as the Starr Report (laughs) and most Americans don’t know it exists. And many of those that do assume it’s a pack of speculations or exaggerations.

Guernica: Democrats have stolen elections themselves, no?

Mark Crispin Miller: Yes. I’m from Chicago, so I know full well what Democrats can do. In fact, in the last election the Christian Right played a lot of [Mayor Richard J.] Daley’s tricks. Democrats have a history of election fraud, but the fact is they didn’t commit any in 2000, 2002 or 2004 (aside from isolated incidents). The reason they didn’t commit any was not because they’re morally superior, but because they didn’t really need to. The Bush agenda is a deeply unpopular agenda. Even if the number of small-scale accusations against Democrats of what Republicans call “voter fraud” are true, the aggregate numbers pale compared to the thousands and thousands of votes the Republicans managed to prevent or steal. But the fact is that most of the stories [about fraud by Democrats] are urban legends.

Guernica: Would you describe yourself as politically left of center?

Mark Crispin Miller: On many issues, but not all.

Guernica: Would you consider yourself more prone to accept Democrats’ claims of malfeasance than Republicans’?

Mark Crispin Miller: No, I wouldn’t actually. General statements that come from partisans are valueless, as far as I’m concerned. The evidence is all that matters to me.

Guernica: Speaking of which, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of this Republican-controlled Congress late last year—after your book came out—issued its own report about the election. What did they find?

Mark Crispin Miller: They issued a report about the reliability of voting machines. They found abundant evidence that these machines are unreliable and shouldn’t be used. This was a bi-partisan report. It was very damning on three different technical grounds, and it got no coverage. At all. I think some months later it finally got mentioned in some AP story. It was an astonishing blackout considering the magnitude of the issue. It only re-confirmed my study. The Democrats made nothing of it.

Guernica: And this is the voting method of the future?

Mark Crispin Miller: Yes. As I was saying, four out of five American voters will be voting on precisely these machines. Let me also point out that Zogby did a poll a few weeks ago which found that over 80% of the American people think we should go back to paper ballots. Even if it’s exaggerated from, say, 65%, the fact is there’s no good reason to use electronic voting machines. Even a “paper trail” is problematic because [the machines] can be programmed to make the paper trail say whatever the programmer wants it to say!

Guernica: From what you’re saying now, and what you said in your book, along with what the Conyers Report and the more recent GAO study found, and what some newspaper articles have found, it would seem that Democrats’ soul searching over their message, their identity, and their positioning is moot if they can’t assure the integrity of the elections.

Mark Crispin Miller: Bless you. That’s exactly right. All the crap they talk about is completely irrelevant. Even now they’re starting to chortle to themselves as the Republicans are in big political trouble. They don’t seem to understand that if you have a lock on the system and you play your cards right propaganda-wise, you can make theft look like just a surprising upset victory. You do this by blanketing the whole polity with negative campaign propaganda. That way, when the Republicans surprisingly win and pull all these Republican voters out of a hat, the media will say, “Well I guess that last-minute negative drive really worked.” That’s what happened in Georgia when Max Cleland was surprisingly defeated by Saxby Chambliss. It’s what happened when Coleman won over Mondale [in Minnesota]. They said, “Well that Wellstone memorial really turned off a lot of Minnesotans.” That’s a very unscientific conclusion.

Guernica: You said you warned Kerry at a fundraiser in New York before he was picked by the Democrats. What was his reaction?

Mark Crispin Miller: He wore a look of great concern, and then said and did nothing about it. He was one of the last Democratic candidates to even mention the issue. The first was Howard Dean. The second was Kucinich.

Guernica: What does this mean to you?

Mark Crispin Miller: Democrats are in denial. Some of them are corrupt. Some of them are Republicans, frankly—this is another of Mayor Daley’s old tricks. You would see these Republican election judges in Chicago who were actually Democrats. Theresa Lepore was a fake Democrat. She changed parties so people would say, “See, the woman who designed the butterfly ballot was a Democrat.” It’s very clever. But by and large I think the Democrats are in denial.

Guernica: Wait, who are some other Democrats you suspect of being fakes?

Mark Crispin Miller: Oh, I don’t suspect. I know. She said so herself.

Guernica: But what others?

Mark Crispin Miller: There was a woman who ran against Katherine Harris in Florida and her motto was “anyone but Katherine.” She was ostensibly a Democrat; she ran in the primary and then, when Katherine Harris won, this woman was at the press conference and they were hugging and kissing each other. She was a friend of Harris’s.

Guernica: Isn’t there good news here for (real) Democrats? If you’re a Democrat and you accept these reports, including one by a Republican-controlled Congress’s investigative branch, then you can stop saying the 2004 upset was about ‘values’ and feel some relief that the Democrats actually beat an incumbent so-called war president. You’re saying the Democrats won the election.

Mark Crispin Miller: I believe they did. I don’t even think it was close.

Guernica: Isn’t that good news for Democrats from this point of view—because there’s one thing to focus on: the electoral system?

Mark Crispin Miller: It is to me. That’s exactly right. Not only that, it also means that Americans aren’t so stupid as to re-elect this guy.

The person doing the exit polls (Warren Mitofsky), hired by a consortium of mainstream media outlets, decides to adjust the exit polls so they suit the final tally.

Guernica: The British newspaper headline, ‘How can 59,000,000 people be so stupid?’, comes to mind…

Mark Crispin Miller: Right, exactly. You know, people assert that Bush won, or that it was close. I’m working with Steve Freeman, a statistician at Penn. He’s got his own book on the election coming out shortly. He and I are working to quantify the whole range of frauds to see how many millions Kerry actually won by or would have won by. But I don’t think it was necessarily close. I think it might have been by a margin of 8 million or more. If you look at the expatriate vote alone, this is up to 7 million ballots. And it skews Democratic by three to two because it’s a cosmopolitan population. Something like 43% of them, according to the Overseas Voting Foundation, claimed that they didn’t get their materials to register at all or on time. The website, the Federal Voter Assistance Program [FVAP], had actually been upgraded under HAVA [Help America Vote Act of 2002]; it was supposed to be this great one-stop shopping site for people who wanted to vote overseas. Suddenly the servers in countries with large American populations are blocked and would-be voters can’t get to the FVAP website in the weeks leading up to and through the deadline to register. The explanations given by the military, which runs the site, were patently ridiculous.

Guernica: In 2004 there was a huge discrepancy between exit polls and the official count. How much should be made of this? Had this ever happened before?

Mark Crispin Miller: No, it hadn’t. There were questions raised about exit polls in 2000, too. They weren’t used in 2002 because they broke down at the last minute. Exit polls are notoriously accurate. I’m not saying they’re flawless, but they’re notoriously accurate. They’re kind of like the gold standard of polling. And, in this case [2004], in five of the states where Kerry lost—four of which were swing states controlled by Republicans (Ohio, Florida, New Mexico and Iowa)—in all five of these states the exit polls were out of whack with the official tally. And the person doing the exit polls (Warren Mitofsky), hired by a consortium of mainstream media outlets, decides to adjust the exit polls so they suit the final tally, which is completely preposterous. I mean, we backed the Ukrainian resistance to their own election results based on exit polls. Why are they good there and not here?

Guernica: What do you think will happen in 2006 and in future elections?

Mark Crispin Miller: Good question. Unless there’s an explosion of coverage, which I think is unlikely but not impossible, the 2006 election will just be a repeat. Everyone will be surprised how well the Republicans did despite their political problems. Perhaps we need some kind of grassroots exit polling operation just to provide a rough basis for comparison. We can’t put up with this indefinitely.

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