Friday, April 22, 2016

What Happened to the Vote in New York?

Without fair voting, we have no democracy. Without a fair democracy, we see special interests ruling our political establishment, and we have an oligarchy. We have witnessed this firsthand as billionaires use their money and influence to push untested Common Core curriculum on our children, to push forward an education reform agenda that threatens to fire teachers and close schools, to push us closer and closer to going over the cliff and destroying public schools in favor of a privatized system that will be the next great profit market for the 1%. We have hope that our votes will matter, that we will be able to elect representatives who will listen to our voices. This is why each and every election, each and every vote, matters and we must zealously guard against those who would rob us of this constitutional right. 

I have voted in New York State for more years than I'd like to admit.  Never have I seen the irregularities that occurred during the recent presidential primary. What was most striking to me, is that the problems were not confined to a single type of error, but that there were multiple levels, different types, of errors that had the apparent singular effect of vote suppression.Yet when people discuss the events of April 19, comments are usually focused on the purging of voter rolls in Brooklyn and miss the bigger picture. Here is why I believe this to be a larger pattern of vote manipulation and suppression:
  • Voter purges were widespread and not limited to Brooklyn, though that is where the largest number of voters were wiped from all records, with reports of entire buildings and city blocks being erased. Media reports try to placate us with the public shaming and possible firing of the person held responsible. Diane Haslett-Rudiano, the Brooklyn Board of Election's Chief Clerk, apparently "skipped a step" in cleaning the rolls of those who had died or moved, leading to a "chain reaction" and wiping out 102,717 active voters. I do hope someone is investigating her financials to see if she has received any unexplained windfalls recently, because she has had this job for a number of years and it is hard for me to believe she could make such an egregious error without noticing her folly. News reports also tell us that this is "the only county that lost voters," in an apparent attempt to have us disregard the scattered reports coming from other areas. A friend of mine in Queens tweeted that her 90-year old Democratic mother, who votes regularly, had been purged from the rolls. One of my friends in White Plain witnessed a woman, who had proof of her registration with her, being denied the chance to vote and also being denied an affidavit ballot.
  • There were widespread reports coming from throughout the state, of voters whose party had been changed without their knowledge, including those who upon investigation discovered a forged signature on the form making the change. A friend of mine in Albany witnessed her neighbor being turned away because her registration had been changed without her consent. This is the same pattern of election fraud that occurred in Arizona, and my prediction is that this will continue to be a problem in all states with closed primaries (the only states where such a change would matter). How could this happen, and how could it be a pattern carried on from one state to another? How could forged signatures appear on forms that are filed with the Board of Elections? From these reports we can deduce that someone is hacking our political databases, doesn't that demand an immediate all-out FBI investigation? What political candidate or party benefits from these changes? Is there a way to track the hack? Are our voter records vulnerable? We know that in December 2015 a whitehat hacker discovered 191 million voter registration records on the internet, left open to anyone. An estimated 300GB of nationwide voter data that included name, address, phone number and party affiliation would have made it very convenient for those who wish to orchestrate a targeted attack on voter registrations. 
  • New York's archaic voting laws require people who wish to change their party to vote in the primary to have done so in October, six whole months before the primary date. That means that if in March you discovered, as so many did, that your party had been changed without your knowledge - you were out of luck pressing for a correction. This was partly the basis for a lawsuit filed by Election Justice USA on behalf of New York voters.
  • As if the voter registration/records problem is not enough, there are also reports of polling places in Queens and Brooklyn that were still not open HOURS after their 6 am opening time. Those who had to vote before work were out of luck. There were reports (at least two) of polling sites in Queens that had NO WORKING VOTING MACHINES, and one where there WERE NO MACHINES AT ALL. At these sites people were forced to make out a paper ballot and put them in a box, hoping someone would be honest enough to eventually feed them into a scanner in the right way and without tampering with the vote. There were also reports of people being notified of the wrong polling location. The locations of several polling places on the upper West side were changed.
  • Mailers that went out in March from the Brooklyn Board of Elections told people that the primary date was in September.
  • Election officials at the polling places gave out incorrect information. Some were told they did not have to vote for delegates. Erroneous information on the ballot in some locations told voters to select six delegates, when Bernie Sanders only had five. This would have persuaded voters to vote for one of the Clinton delegates.
As we have been told over and over, when voter turnout is high, progressive candidates have a better chance of winning. Voter suppression works in the interest of the status quo establishment, whether you are a Democrat, or a Republican. Though there were admittedly some issues with Republican voters, the majority of problems seem to have occurred in those who identified themselves as Democrats, and from the reports posted on the internet, many of those voters were Bernie Sanders supporters. Brooklyn, where most of these problems were centered, was Bernie's home ground and a place where he had overwhelming support. 28,000 people gathered at Prospect Park in Brooklyn to see Bernie speak, with a reported additional 20,000+ overflow. Don't tell me that voter suppression did not have something to do with the outcome of the race, at least in Brooklyn and perhaps in Queens as well. If you truly believe that, I've got a Brooklyn bridge I can sell you.

UPDATE April 24 2016: Regarding my comment that someone should investigate the financials of Diane Haslett-Rudiano: I was intrigued by internet reports that in 2014 she sold an upper West side property to Dana Lowey Luttway, the daughter of Representative Nita Lowey. Lowey is a Democrat and also a superdelegate pledged to Clinton. I did some light investigating and found some troubling things that deserve to be thoroughly investigated (Preet Bharara where are you?). First of all, the property, on 118 West 76th Street, stood abandoned for decades and was an eyesore that the neighbors called "the rat house." Secondly, according to Zillow the average price for similar housing (that are not rat houses) in that area is $4.7 million. Yet, Haslett-Rudiano sold this one for $6.6 million!  

Another puzzling piece. Haslett-Rudiano was involved as owner of another property, at 44 West 73rd Street. The property was reportedly sold to Kojo Global Property Developers. The ownership records are very confusing. Haslett-Rudiano bought the building, which was close to foreclosure, in 1975. A local blog gave an apparently erroneous report not too long ago that Haslett-Rudiano was seeking $5 million for the building, but others said she no longer owned it. The history of this property is very murky and confusing, with various owners and corporations claiming to own it and apparently two deeds created - one for the land and one for the building. John Kojo Zi was indicted on June 18, 2015 for deed transfer fraud. Apparently his MO is to go in and steal abandoned properties right out from under the legal owner, register it in someone else's name, and then buy the property from the new owner of record. Something else to investigate...

No comments:

Post a Comment