How To Steal A Democratic Election
Voters are staying away from the polls in record numbers. After 35 years of reform: voting rights, campaign finance disclosure, public financing, easier registration and hosts of other proposals like term limits, fewer and fewer people bother to vote each November. Why?
When Senator Eugene McCarthy, the Democratic Senator from Minnesota who challenged President Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic nomination during the Vietnam War was asked what made him run, he said, "When I went into a bar and could call President Johnson a bum and nobody offered to punch me in the nose, then I knew he could be successfully challenged."
Similarly, when I get into political discussions, I invariably end up saying, "We live in a police state." No one has ever challenged this statement. Have Americans voted to voluntarily give up their liberties and turn their lives over to the government in myriad ways? Not at all. Have they voted for endless traffic jams, no public transportation, school days starting at 7:50 a.m., required commercial television advertising in the classroom, drug tests, and random searches?
While most agree that we live in a police state, few agree when I say the cause is that the elections are rigged. The fact that more and more people don't vote shows that, in their guts, people know that elections are meaningless, that there's nothing for which to vote.
The purpose of this book is to show and prove that democratic elections can and are being stolen. Not all of them, but the vast majority. In 1998, more than 20% of the members of the United States House of Representatives ran without major party opposition. And in many of the other races one party only fielded token opposition. More than 1/3 of the State Senate candidates and 40% of the state representative candidates also ran without major party opponents. That election, not surprisingly, had the lowest turnout in history. In a system that extolls the virtues of choice, having fewer choices at the ballot box is not a reason to vote.
If the political and media leadership of the United States really wanted more people to vote, they would offer them more, rather than fewer choices at the ballot box and during the campaign debates. The truth is that negative campaigning and electoral reforms are designed to keep independent voters home, so that only the two major parties are allowed to win election.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, politicians and media pundits fell all over themselves to declare that the United States had won the Cold War. I have a different opinion. The Soviet Union ended the Cold War when they discovered that the two party elections in the West were no more democratic than the one party elections in the Soviet Union.
This book is going to show you how elections are rigged in the United States.
Chapter 1 - The Right To Vote Is Not A Right To Choose
In 1986, Alan B. Burdick, a registered voter in Honolulu, Hawaii, discovered that there was only one candidate who had filed nominating papers to run for the seat representing his district in the Hawaii House of Representatives.
Mr. Burdick wrote to state officials asking how he could write-in a vote, and received a letter from the Hawaii Attorney General's Office stating that Hawaii's election law made no provision for write-in voting.
Mr. Burdick then filed a lawsuit, claiming that he wished to vote in the primary and general election for a person who had not filed nominating papers. To make a long story short, in 1992 the United States Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 that Hawaii was within its rights in denying its citizens the right to vote for candidates of their choice.
The logic of the majority decision is that denial of a write-in vote poses only "a very limited burden" on voter's rights. The State of Hawaii's interest "in avoiding the POSSIBILITY of unrestrained factionalism at the general election and in guarding against 'party raiding' during the primaries are legitimate and sufficient to outweigh the limited burden that the write-in voting ban imposes upon voters." BURDICK v. TAKUSHI, 504 U.S. 428 (1992)
In 1986, 26% of the Hawaii State Senate and 33% of the Hawaii State House of Representatives ran unopposed. Twelve years later, in 1998, 80% of the Hawaii State Senate was running unopposed. The Supreme Court, in giving the State of Hawaii the power to avoid the possibility of unrestrained factionalism, has given it the power to discourage contested elections. So, voters in Hawaii have the right to vote, but they don't have the right to vote for candidates of their choice.
Basically, Hawaiians are allowed to vote only for Republicans and Democrats. That state's election laws make it so difficult for independent candidates to run that in the 10 years prior to Mr. Burdick's court case, only 8 of the 26 nonpartisans who entered the primary obtained slots on the November ballot.
Hawaii is not alone. States like Louisiana and Oklahoma have open primary elections with provisions for electing candidates at the primary. If a candidate gets more than 50% of the vote at the primary election, he or she is declared elected, and their name never even appears on the November general election ballot.
Write-in voting is not just some technicality with no real meaning in the political process. One reason that Senator Strom Thurmond is still in public office even though he is over 90 years old, is that he has been every kind of candidate possible. He was a Democrat until 1965, when he became a Republican. He ran as a third party candidate for president of the United States on the State's Rights Party ticket in 1948. But more importantly, he was elected to the Senate in 1954 on a write-in vote.
In the 1999 San Francisco mayoral election, a candidate received 25% of the vote through write-ins after joining the race three weeks before the actual balloting. Also, in 1992 Montana voted to approve term limits except if the candidate won in a write-in. Write-in voting is recognized as a rarely used and difficult procedure in elections, but it exists as a safety valve, as insurance to make sure the rest of the system is working as it properly should. Write-in ballots give voters the right to directly intervene in the political process at any stage for any purpose. Denial of write-in voting is a serious threat to free and fair democratic elections.
The fact that of the Supreme Court sided with the petitioner, Burdick, shows that his position was not totally without merit, and Justice Stevens dissent makes far more sense than does the majority decision. And Burdick and his supporters may have made a tactical error by characterizing the issue as one of voting rights rather than ballot access (i.e., Burdick should have claimed he wanted to be a candidate.) Most states do permit write-in voting and much easier provisions for independent candidates to get on to the ballot. So, how do these states limit voter's choices?
Choosing the Candidates - Political Parties and Secret Ballots
In those states that permit write-in voting, voter participation can be limited in other ways. The most common practice is to give political parties special privileges in the electoral process.
Political parties select candidates through primary elections. Primary elections, under the best of circumstances, get a turnout of less than half of a general election, usually more like 30%. To participate in primaries voters must publicly declare their party affiliation. Candidates also have to submit petitions to run in the party of their choice: Republican, Democrat, Green, Reform, Socialist Labor, or whatever.
All political parties are the same in one crucial respect. In order to participate in the candidate selection process of any party, the voter must publicly declare which party they support. This means that the secrecy of the ballot box is partially violated. This is another explanation for the decline in voter participation. People don't like to have to publicly declare their political affiliations. Many voters, especially independents, support the idea of a secret ballot.
However, the way political party activity is constructed, in order to fully participate in politics voters must voluntarily relinquish the secrecy of their ballot. So all party candidates and their supporters in primaries or caucuses must give up their right to privacy of political opinions. Voters and candidates alike must tell everyone which political party they support.
Because the majority of people are reluctant to publicly disclose their political affiliations, this puts the entire political process and the government selected by it in the hands of about 30% of the voters. Consequently, electoral reform as written by people who voluntarily relinquish their right to a secret ballot often includes compulsory surrendering of other rights.
Although the theory of American democracy is that it should be a government of the people, by the people and for the people, the effect of the current system is to create a special class of rulers who have little in common with the people they rule.
For example, tax returns and financial information is supposed to be secret. To run for public office today under the campaign reform laws, candidates are required to disclose their entire financial holdings. Public disclosure of finances, like public disclosure of political affiliation, not only sets political candidates apart from the voters, it also discourages many qualified people from public service. A medical doctor in Rumson, New Jersey, who served in an unpaid position on the health board, resigned rather than disclose his financial assets in the wake of a law requiring all public officials to disclose their assets.
Although people are allowed to spend their money in the economy however they like, when it comes to supporting political candidates, the opposite is the case. Financial contributions to political candidates are limited by law and must be publicly disclosed.
As elected officials and their affairs become more and more theoretically transparent to the voters, is it really possible for the people's innermost affairs to remain secret from the government they run? Elected officials' relinquishing their right to privacy in political and financial affairs creates a climate where ordinary people are then expected to accept the same level of intrusion. Hence, the proliferation of new crimes like hate crimes and speech crimes. The people who favor the effects of these laws overlook the danger of granting government the power to criminalize thought. Isn't the death penalty enough for killing someone? Or should there be an extra penalty for killing them because they're black, or gay?
Just as elected officials have created themselves into a special class by voluntarily relinquishing important rights, their laws are now creating other classes of special people: law enforcement officers (which can include animals like dogs); racial groups, religious groups, life-style groups.
Keeping Candidates Off The Ballot: The White Collar Dictatorship
Even when candidates are willing to declare their party affiliation and disclose their assets, medical records, criminal records and every other manner of private information, that is still not enough to become a candidate. Ballot access is controlled by elaborate Election Laws, and these laws, which are written to ensure fair and honest elections, can and are used by the party officials who administer them to keep bona fide candidates off the ballot and to create beneficial ballot positions for candidates they favor.
In New York State in 1976, there was a five-way Democratic Primary for the nomination to run against the incumbent Conservative-Republican Senator James L. Buckley. Buckley had won a narrow victory as a Third Party candidate six years before when he was elected to the Senate seat left vacant by Robert Kennedy's assassination. The five candidates vying to oppose Buckley were: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a functionary in John F. Kennedy's administration; Bella Abzug, the feminist anti-war Congresssional representative from Manhattan's liberal West Side; Ramsey Clark, the son of a Supreme Court Justice and Attorney General during Lyndon Baines Johnson's administration; Paul O'Dwyer, the brother of a former Mayor of New York who, in 1968, had unexpectedly won the Democratic nomination for Senate to run against Republican Senator Jacob K. Javits by coming in on Eugene McCarthy's coat tails during the primary; and Abraham Hirschfeld, a wealthy businessman.
In New York State, there are two ways to become a candidate for statewide office in the Democratic Party primary: via the state convention or by a petition drive. The New York State Democrats hold a statewide convention, and any person who receives votes of 25% of the delegates is automatically listed on the ballot. Circulating a petition is far more complicated. A minimum number of signatures is required to be collected from each of the state's 62 counties, plus a total of many thousands. Only Bella Abzug and Abe Hirschfeld, who were pariahs within the Democratic Party establishment, circulated petitions. Moynihan, Clark and O'Dwyer each managed to get the 25% vote of convention delegates to appear on the ballot.
However, state election laws stipulate that, at the end of the state convention, the Secretary of the Party must send the list of candidates who received 25% of the vote to the New York Secretary of State, who at that time was Mario Cuomo, within 9 days. Through some oversight, whether deliberate or not is unclear, the documentation for Ramsey Clark, a lawyer and former United States Attorney General, failed to be delivered within the requisite time period. Ramsey Clark would now have to mount a petition drive.
To save Clark the trouble, Democratic Governor Hugh Carey introduced a bill in the legislature to change the deadline for filing nomination papers with the Secretary of State. The bill to change the deadline was introduced, passed and signed in three days, enabling Clark's name to appear on the primary ballot without circulating a petition.
At the same time that the state government of New York was bending over backward to accommodate Ramsey Clark, Eugene McCarthy was running for President as an independent and circulating a petition to get his name printed on the November ballot.
Under the ballot access rules of New York, the name and address of every petition signer must be accompanied by their Election District and Assembly District. When there is a dispute as to the validity of the petitions, the issue is resolved by the State Election Board which is composed of 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats.
McCarthy circulated his petition and it was signed by the requisite number of voters from the proper locations. These facts were not in dispute. But many of the signers did not include their Assembly Districts and Election Districts on the petition, and due to the amateurish nature of McCarthy's campaign, the staff that submitted the petition did not bother to fill them in. As a result, the validity of the petition was challenged on the basis that the absence of the AD's and ED's rendered the signature invalid and the State Election Board ruled the petition invalid.
So, in New York State in 1976, voters were deprived of their right to nominate candidates because of clerical considerations, like marking students off for punctuation, penmanship or spelling errors. The AD and ED requirements on the petition are there specifically to make petitioning a more difficult and arduous task. After all, any approved candidate can be nominated by the state convention and doesn't need to circulate a petition at all. Then, the happily bi-partisan State Election Board is on hand to use clerical technicalities to disqualify any pesky independent candidate who, in spite of the arduous requirements of the petition process, still manages to successfully get the proper number of signatures. Clerical technicalities are used to deprive voters of their right to nominate independents.
In 1996, even Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole had to spend $1 million in order to make it on to the New York State Republican primary ballot. And now in the year 2000, the same arcane rules are being used to keep John McCain's name off the ballot in 8 congressional districts. The Republican Party procedures are so difficult that even George W. Bushes campaign had to resort to forged signatures to get his delegates names on the primary ballot in some Congressional Districts. So, the power to regulate elections to make them fair, is being used by the parties and the legislature to create obstacles to ballot access for candidates and to deny voters their right to nominate and vote for candidates. Finally, in the year 2000, after 70 years of this, a federal judge has ruled the Republican party rules invalid and opened the primary up to all candidates.
And then, to make matters worse, the legislature changes the rules every year. Therefore, only people who are already in the state capital or in the legislature or in government are aware of the rule changes. It's a closed system, even in a supposedly liberal state like New York. And the hatchet men like Mario Cuomo, who one year deny tens of thousands of voters the right to nominate independent candidates, then goes on to serve as a three term Democratic Governor, his son gets to marry a Kennedy who is then appointed to a cabinet post in the Clinton Administration. Loyalty to the party comes before all else.
This kind of election corruption isn't exactly the same as killing people, but it is the same as killing some of the people's rights, and as such it is an act of violence which voters resent and which turns them off politics. When voters respond to polls by saying "they're all liars," this is what they're talking about. That the rules are rigged to begin with, and then unfairly applied. So, the voice of the people is rarely heard. The United States is a white collar dictatorship rather than a blue collar dictatorship, the difference being that in the former candidates are prevented from getting on the ballot, while in the latter they are eliminated physically.
Using Details to Defeat the Purpose of Election Laws
And the reverse is also true. While some candidates are kept off the ballot through technicalities even though they have met the requirements in substance, other candidates are allowed on the ballot even though they have failed to meet the requirements.
In 1988, voters in New Jersey were deprived of their right to fill vacancies in the legislature through fraud by the legislature. For the entire history of New Jersey, vacancies in the legislature were filled by voters in a special election. In 1988, a Constitutional Amendment was put before the voters to allow the political party committee of the candidate who held the office to appoint a replacement. The explanatory statement that appeared on the ballot explaining the amendment is part of the bill passed by the legislature.
Asking people to give up their vote in a special election and let political party committees appoint a replacement would certainly have gone down to defeat. So, the legislature misrepresented the Amendment in the Explanatory Statement. Instead of telling the voters that the amendment gave the right to fill vacancies to the political party committee of the office holder, they said that the amendment "requires the political party committee of the former representative to appoint a replacement within 90 days." Now that makes sense, right. Reading the explanatory statement, which is technically correct, would lead any rational person to conclude that the current law allows the party committee to delay and delay, or only allows them a short time, like 10 days. But in fact, the then current law allowed only the voters to fill vacancies. The fraud was perpetrated on the voters by not telling them the real effect of the amendment. The amendment was made to appear as a deadline change when it was really a change of powers. The "free press" with their investigative reporters failed to alert their readers to the true nature of this amendment. And the New Jersey League of Women Voters also supported the amendment to "save money." It was later suggested that the League change their name to the League of Women Money Savers, because it obviously thinks saving $250,000 is more important than letting people vote.
A further outrage was that this appointive power applied only to party candidates. If voters elect an independent candidate and then the seat fell vacant, the seat would remain vacant until it could be filled in a special election. So, here is an election law that actually punishes the voters for voting independent. If you elect an independent, the law states, you will have no representation if the office holder dies or leaves office. Only by electing a party candidate will you be sure to be represented. This is clearly a violation of equal protection of the laws, but who has the money or expertise to challenge such an outrage in court?
The amendment allowed the interim appointment only until the next General Election in November. So, there was a technical difficulty. If the vacancy occurred in a legislative election year, there needed to be a way to distinguish between the regular legislative seat being filled at the General Election, and the special election for what would be the remainder of the term of the seat which had become vacant.
The solution to this problem was to make the filing deadline for the special election one day earlier than the filing deadline for the regular legislative elections.
In March 1988, New Jersey's Congressman James J. Howard died of a heart attack on a Maryland golf course. At the November General Election, his seat was filled by State Senator Frank Pallone. Because Pallone was simultaneously elected to the remainder of Howard's unexpired term, his State Senate seat would become vacant once the State Senate convened..
The question then arose of how to fill the vacancy in Pallone's State Senate seat. The Amendment requiring the party committees to fill vacancies within 90 days had been approved at the same General Election. However, under the New Jersey Constitution, amendments don't take effect until 10 days after their passage. So, Pallone's State Senate seat would have had to be filled by a Special Election under the old law. As soon as the State Senate convened, Pallone's seat would have been declared vacant because he had become a United States Congressman upon winning the race for the remainder of Howard's term.
In order to prevent the voters from filling the State Senate vacancy, the New Jersey State Senate declined to meet until after the ten days had elapsed so the amendment could take effect. By declining to meet for 10 days, no vacancy was declared until the new amendment was in effect and the seat could be filled by appointment.
Pallone's State Senate seat was then filled by John D'Amico, a Monmouth County Freeholder and graduate of Harvard Law School, who is now a judge in New Jersey. Of course, John would have to run in a special election the following November. As previously mentioned, to distinguish between the election for a regular State Senate seat and the special election to fill the vacancy (which was for the remainder of Pallone's term) the filing deadline for the special election was one day before the filing deadline for the regular election.
The incumbent State Senator, Harvard Law Graduate John D'Amico, filed his petition for the Special Election one day late, before the filing deadline for the General Election. His independent opponent, Joshua Leinsdorf, filed a complaint, saying simply that D'Amico had missed the deadline. A Republican opponent would never file such a challenge, because the administrators of elections are biased toward both the Republicans and Democrats.
In the end, Senator D'Amico's candidacy was permitted to move forward because, according to an opinion issued by the Secretary of State's Office, there are TWO deadlines for Special Elections, one for Republicans and Democrats, and another one for independents. Mr. Leinsdorf's attorney, Katharine White, then urged the independent candidate to fight on in court, to get the two deadlines declared unconstitutional.
This is another time honored tactic of the Republicans and Democrats, to see if independents or poor candidates can be sidetracked into the corrupt court system where they will waste their little money and all their time fighting sham battles which uses all their energy and prevents them from mounting a real campaign with the voters. Mr. Leinsdorf's contention was that the statute was not unconstitutional. It did not provide for two different filing deadlines. The Secretary of State was just a crook, like any mugger or robber. Just because a public official doesn't gain personally from their dishonesty, doesn't make them any less a criminal. (Although they can always claim incompetence, rather than malfeasance, which makes their criminal conduct more difficult to prevent. That is why, in the end, the honesty and integrity of the candidate is a more important consideration for voters than their stands on particular issues.)
This use of details to defeat the purpose of election laws applies to ballot issues also. In 1993, the new Jersey Legislature passed, and outgoing Democratic Governor James Florio signed, a constitutional amendment to create a permanent redistricting commission, composed of 6 Republicans, 6 Democrats, and 3 others. This commission would be permanently constituted, even though it only works one year in ten, after every census.
When Governor Whitman's Administration took office, for some reason this amendment to create the permanent redistricting commission never moved forward. The Republicans claimed that it was never listed in the transition book. Nevertheless, the Republicans were in the majority in the Assembly which passed the amendment, so they should have known about the amendment which they themselves passed. Here again claims of technical defects are used to explain what could easily be misconduct.
The New Jersey Constitution clearly states that amendments must be presented to the voter at the "general election NEXT" following their passage by the legislature. There are other requirements as well, such as advertising the amendment. For whatever reason, the head of the election section, Kyle Bergeron, a former Republican State Committee employee, failed to list the Permanent Redistricting Commission amendment for the 1994 General Election Ballot. This was discovered one week before the election.
So, the amendment should have been dead. It should have had to be resubmitted to the legislature, passed another time, signed by the Governor and then submitted to the voters in 1995. But, because Governor Whitman didn't want to have to be associated with what was plainly a partisan, wasteful and shoddy piece of pork barrel legislation, she didn't want to have to sign that kind of a bill. So, instead of the amendment being left to die, it was resubmitted and listed for the 1995 ballot, the SECOND general election after its passage by the legislature, on the grounds that it hadn't been advertised properly.
Now, the requirement for amendments to be submitted to the voters at the "general election NEXT" following their passage by the legislature makes sense, otherwise, the state bureaucracy could delay them for years, in effect killing them. But, to spare the Republican Governor the embarrassment of having to support the Permanent Redistricting Commission, the Secretary of State's office decided to ignore the plain language of the New Jersey Constitution and list the amendment for the 1995 General Election anyway. So, Deborah Poritz, the Secretary of State, decided to ignore the plain language of the Constitution to accomplish a clearly political result.
What was her punishment? She was appointed Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. Poritz was appointed as a reward for breaking the law for nothing more than Governor Whitman's political convenience. What kind of decisions will come from the court she heads? Clearly ones that put political expediency ahead of obeying the law.
So, claims of incompetence are routinely used to conceal criminal conduct in the public sector.
Getting On The Ballot Is Not Getting Into The Race
Theoretically, political parties are not necessary. No mention is made of political parties in the U.S. Constitution, which makes the Supreme Court's support of Hawaii's interest in avoiding the possibility of unrestrained political factionalism strange indeed.
Candidates can always run as independents. They can circulate petitions and get their names printed on the ballot without disclosing any political positions at all. However, just as the right to vote is not the right to choose, the right to run and get on the ballot is not the same as the right to be heard or participate in the campaign.
Most people think newspapers and television stations are required to cover all candidates in a race. This is not true. Although both newspapers and broadcast media receive massive public subsidies, the broadcasters through the award of licenses to use the airwaves and the newspapers through special mailing rates and legal advertising; when it comes to determining content, suddenly it's the free market.
Even the government is not required to be fair. For example, in Bill Clinton's home state of Arkansas, the Arkansas Education Television Commission ran a candidate's debate from which a candidate named Ralph Forbes was excluded.
In the spring of 1992, the Arkansas Educational Television Commission staff began planning a series of debates between candidates for federal office in the November 1992 elections. On June 17, 1992, AETC invited the Republican and Democratic candidates for Arkansas' Third Congressional District to participate in the ETC. debate for that seat. Two months later, after obtaining the 2,000 signatures required by Arkansas law, Ralph Forbes was certified as an independent candidate qualified to appear on the ballot for the seat.
On August 24, 1992, Forbes wrote to ETC. requesting permission to participate in the debate for his district, scheduled for October 22, 1992. On September 4, ETC. Executive Director Susan Howarth denied Forbes' request, explaining that ETC. had "made a bona fide journalistic judgement that our viewers would be best served by limiting the debate" to the candidates already invited. The viewers, who are voters, would be best served by having the television station, which they are paying for and which broadcasts on public airwaves, reduce the number of candidates they are allowed to hear about from 3 to 2. The two they are allowed to hear about are party candidates, the one they are best served by being kept in the dark about is an independent - surprise, surprise.
Forbes filed suit and on May 18, 1998, the Supreme Court held that it was alright to exclude Forbes from the debate. The grounds on which this decision was made was that the debate was a "non-public" forum. Now, a government license is required to operate a television station. The Arkansas Educational Television Commission is a public body, paid with public funds, whose eight members are appointed by the Governor (in this case, Bill Clinton.) Yet, the Supreme Court held that a debate sponsored by a public television station over the public air waves with public money run is a non-public forum.
The Supreme Court said, "Public and private broadcasters alike are not only permitted, but indeed required, to exercise substantial editorial discretion in the selection and presentation of their programming." The Supreme Court makes it seem like not only is it alright to exclude Forbes from the debate, but implies that it's almost required.
The Supreme Court is reducing Forbes candidacy to the level of pornography. The powers given to broadcasters to prevent offensive and inaccurate information from being broadcast is being used to prevent voters from hearing the G-Rated views of all the bona fide candidates whose names appear on the ballot. The supreme court, under the rubric of journalistic discretion, has given broadcasters the right to, in effect, edit the ballot.
So there is no difference between public television, which should really be called government television, and commercial television when it comes to covering political candidates. Both can and do exclude candidates from the public forum.
This kind of exclusion is not limited to broadcasters. Newspapers exclude candidates all the time, sometimes even party candidates. In 1976, Maurice Ploscowe, the Republican candidate for Congress on Manhattan's West Side, killed himself by jumping off his Central Park West apartment balcony 10 days before the 1976 General election. The district in which Ploscowe was running included the editorial offices of the New York Times and Village Voice, plus the news studios and offices of the CBS and ABC networks. The New York Times article about Ploscowe's suicide was the first mention of his name in that paper that year. In other words, the Republican candidate for Congress on Manhattan's West Side had to kill himself to get covered in the New York Times. Where did the New York Times get the power to impose a one-party dictatorship on the people who live around its plant and offices? Certainly, the editors of that newspaper would never permit the Republican candidate not to be covered in the races where they themselves live, which is in Westchester and on Manhattan's East Side.
Public Finance of Campaigns Is Just A Special Interest Subsidy
It is not just the television stations and newspapers that exclude independent candidates. The governmental bodies charged with running fair elections use their power to discriminate, too.
New Jersey has a public financing provision for Gubernatorial elections. In 1997, Repbulican Governor Christine Todd Whitman was given $1.86 million in state matching funds to run unopposed in the Republican Primary. Governor Whitman had no opponent, yet she was given $1.86 million in taxpayer funds. Governor Whitman personally is a millionaire. She is the daughter of a former Republican State Chairman. Her political career is built on both inherited political power and the inherited wealth which enabled her to spend years cris-crossing the state campaigning for public office while her children attended elite private schools.
That same year, there were four candidates running in the Democratic Primary for the right to challenge Governor Whitman. Under New Jersey's public financing provisions, public funds go only to candidates who can raise $250,000. In other words, public funds go only to candidates who already have access to substantial private money. What is called public funding is really a special interest subsidy for the rich. Private campaign contributions are matched by money taken from ordinary taxpayers. If a millionaire gives $250 to a candidate, then the state takes money from the treasury to match it.
The key here is that candidates who can't raise $250,000, get no public money. So the public money goes only to candidates who already have access to large amounts of private contributions.
In exchange for receiving public funds, candidates are required to participate in state sanctioned debates. In 1997, three of the Democratic candidates raised enough money to qualify for for public matching funds. One candidate, Frank C. Marmo, raised only a few thousand dollars.
Consequently, Marmo was not allowed to participate in the state sanctioned debates. Why? Because he hadn't raised and spent $250,000. So, public financing and the mandatory debates which candidates must attend in order to get tax subsidies sound good on paper. Public financing and mandatory debates sound like reforms to make elections more open and fairer. On their face, public financing and mandatory debates sound like reforms which favor unknown candidates with no money.
In fact, public financing is being used to exclude poor and unknown candidates from consideration. There is no way to diminish the effect of money in politics if voters are not permitted to hear from the candidates who don't have any. It's amazing that these elected leaders can then stand up and face the public with a straight face and talk about campaign reform. The elections are a fraud. Special interests are given multiple opportunities to place unfair obstacles in the paths of some candidates and to boost others, that by the time the General Election rolls around, voters know in their guts that there's nothing worth going to the polls to vote for. That's why voter turnout is declining.
Changing The Results
So elections are neither free nor fair. Voters can't vote for who they want in some places, must give up their secret ballot to participate in the nominating process in most others, and are not allowed to hear from candidates who are either independents or have no money. But in case the voters get out of hand and still elect a non-favored candidate, there is still resort to the courts which can change the result.
This happened in the 1997 Miami mayoral race. Miami has a run-off provision in the election law. A candidate must receive 50% of the vote for Mayor in order to avoid a run-off. On November 4, 1997, a mayoral election was held between five candidates including: Mayor Joe Carollo and his major challenger, Xavier Suarez.
Only 38% of the registered voters went to the polls in the election. Mayor Carollo received 49.64% of the vote, to Suarez's 46.82%. Mayor Carollo fell 158 votes short of avoiding a run-off.
The key point here is that the 2,101 legal voters who voted in the election, but who didn't vote for mayor, did not have their votes counted in the 50% threshold.
That means that the election law itself disenfranchises voters who don't vote for mayor. Undecided voters don't count. In states like Wyoming, for example, a Constitutional Amendment does not pass unless it receives a majority of the votes cast in an election. In 1984, Wyoming voted on an amendment to allow officers appointed by the Governor to serve at his pleasure. It received 87,920 Yes votes to 86,829 No votes, or 50.31% of the vote on the Amendment were for passage. However, because 196,153 votes were cast in the entire election, because 21,404 voters did not cast ballots on that amendment, the measure failed. It required 98,077 votes for passage.
In Wyoming, voters have three options when voting on Constitutional Amendments: Yes, No and maybe or undecided. The undecided votes don't count as much as the Yes and No votes, but they do count. If there are enough undecided votes, the measure will fail. Run-off provisions, which are supposed to favor majority rule, should not disenfranchise bona fide voters who are undecided about two closely matched positions. This is especially true in a city like Miami where, because of the low turnout, Mayor Joe Carollo only received 18.00% of the ballots of registered voters compared to 16.98% for Suarez.
In the November 13 run-off, Suarez won by a convincing 2,914 vote margin, or 53.27% of the vote for Mayor and 51.65% of the votes cast in the election. Suarez was then sworn-in as Mayor.
On November 14, the day after the run-off, Mayor Carollo filed a suit protesting the election results. Mayor Carollo alleged that there had been massive voter fraud in the manipulation of absentee ballots in District 3. A hearing was held. A judge decided that there had been voter fraud and ordered a new election.
That order was appealed, and in the appeal the judge did something else. Although subsequent investigation revealed that 225 illegal absentee ballots were cast, they still did not affect the validity of the result because there had to be 316 fraudulent ballots in order for Carollo to have won a majority in the first election. Neither that fact, nor the fact that even granting all of Carollo's claims, the Mayor received only 48% of the votes cast in the whole election, the Judge declared Carollo the winner.
Here's how he did it. First, he threw out all 45,951 votes that were cast in the run-off election that Suarez won. Then, after examining the law, he found that in Florida, casting an absentee ballot is a right, not a privilege. Consequently, the Judge then threw out all 4,799 absentee ballots that were cast in the General Election. That left only the 39,281 ballots cast for Mayor in the machines which Carollo won with 51.42% of the vote. Carollo was declared the winner.
This is an example of using a technicality, the phrase "majority of the votes for Mayor" to thwart the clearly demonstrated political will of the majority. Carollo never got a majority of the votes cast in the Mayoral election, even granting all of his allegations. Only by enforcing the disenfranchisement of the 2,101 legal voters who either couldn't make up their minds, or wanted to take a second look, or who just felt that both candidates were unacceptable, could the court conclude that there had been "massive fraud." All Carollo's allegations combined came to less than 2% of the votes cast in the election. The courts called this "massive fraud" and then threw out 60% of the votes cast in both elections in order to make Mayor Carollo win.
So it's no surprise that Judge Rosa Rodriguez, the elected judge in Miami would be willing to ignore the law and award custody of Elian Gonzalez to his great Uncle when the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the United States government ruled otherwise. Corrupt election practices spawn corrupt officials and illegal policies in their wake. Judge Rodriguez is an accomplice in the kidnaping of Elian Gonzalez, the six year old Cuban who was rescued after his mother drowned at sea. This taking children from their parents for political purposes was the policy of Stalin and Hitler. And seeing as neither Stalin nor Hitler came to power through the democratic process, it's completely consistent that when democratic norms are violated, even in the United States, fascist policies are the result.
The Government is Selecting Itself - Negative Campaigning
Just in case an independent or unapproved candidate makes it past all the unfair obstacles just described, there's always the old stand-by, negative campaigning. Turnout in elections is declining year after year. Even in this presidential year, 2000, all the candidates, while savaging each other on legislative details, all repeat the same lie, "turnout in New Hampshire was the largest in history."
Technically, this is true. More voters voted in the New Hampshire primary than ever before. But New Hampshire is a small state which is growing fast. The number of registered voters has increased almost 30% since 1992. So, while the total number of ballots cast is the largest in history, as a percentage of those eligible to vote, the turnout in New Hampshire's 2000 presidential primary declined from 1992.
So turnout in elections is declining and negative campaigning is one reason why. It is a deliberate tactic to turn off independent voters and leave the political decisions to the people who are faithful to the parties. As more and more people become independents, they not only determine the contest between party candidates, but they could also elect independent candidates outright, if they could organize themselves.
Negative campaigning is a tactic designed to turn off independent voters. The net result is that the government ends up selecting itself, exactly the opposite of what's supposed to be true in a democracy. For example, in 1999 in New Jersey, the voters elected a new State Assembly. The turnout was the lowest in history, around 31.2%. A total of 1,389,864 ballots were cast. There are 571,700 government employees in New Jersey. That means that there are less than 2½ voters for every government employee. The government employees have husbands, wives, children and parents.
In other words, when 1.3 million ballots are cast and there are 571,000 government employees, virtually all the ballots are being cast by the government employees, their families and their friends. Only government employees are sufficiently informed about the issues and candidates to make an informed choice. Only people with an immediate personal stake in the election outcome are voting. The 3 million registered voters in New Jersey who didn't vote. The rest of the voting population, which must rely on campaign materials and newspaper coverage are basically left in the dark. This is by design, because the newspapers and broadcasters also have a direct personal and financial interest in the outcome of the elections. The Two Party System has achieved what the Communist Party achieved in the Soviet Union, a minority of the people controlling all the government jobs and also making government policy without input from the populace. The United States has become a police state through the back door.
The Purpose of Elections
Without impugning the motives of the Supreme Court or Congress or the newspapers or broadcasters, the problem is one of philosophy. The supporters of the current system claim to be on the side of stability. Voters can't write-in Hawaii to prevent the possibility of unrestrained factionalism in elections. The fact that this power can and is used to prevent contested elections is irrelevant. It's still a stable government. Many people would say, too stable. Dictatorships are stable, too; that is until they collapse into chaos.
One of the grounds for excluding Ralph Forbes from the debate on a public television stations was that he was not a "viable" candidate. What exactly are the standards for determining a "viable" candidate in advance of an election?
New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman could receive $1.86 million in public funds to run unopposed while Frank C. Marmo was not allowed to participate in the state sanctioned debates required of candidates who receive government subsidies was based on the idea that only "viable" candidates need be considered by the voters.
So, what is the purpose of elections? According to the prevailing philosophy in the Supreme Court and the media, it is to elect people. All that matters is who wins. People who can't win need not be considered. Using viability as a standard can easily become self-fulfilling. The Constitution of the United States and the Election Laws of the 50 states make no mention of viability as a qualification for being a candidate for public office. If a candidate can be excluded from debates while her opponents receive public subsidies and massive media coverage, the non-viable candidate has no way to become viable. If campaign finance reform is used to establish extra-legal criteria for viability, that candidates need not be considered unless they can raise a certain amount of money, then poorly funded candidates can never win and the net effect of campaign finance reform is, not surprisingly, that money counts more than ever in the political process.
If the ballot is, in effect, being edited by the media and the government run election machinery, then there is no way to change the system nor the direction of government policy. This view holds, basically, that the winners of elections are merely administrators who are supposed to execute the laws. Stability counts for more than democracy or freedom of speech. No wonder turnout is declining. Like consumers in the marketplace, most voters don't see any product that fits their needs.
There is a different view of the function of elections. Elections are supposed to allow the people to influence the direction of government policy. In this view, whether or not a candidate can win is less important than what that candidate stands for. Excluding certain candidates from debates and election campaigns presupposes that certain candidates have all the answers and that the other candidates have nothing to contribute. It deprives voters of the chance to consider extra alternatives and approaches to solving problems. In economics, every politician lauds the virtues of the free market system. But in political contests, the system tells the 100 million voters in presidential elections that they can't consider more than two candidates. Under extreme conditions, a third may be allowed into the forum, as long as he isn't too different from the Republican or Democrat.
How many times have candidates run on a platform only to do the opposite once elected? Most people think the winner was either a liar or an ignoramus. There is a third option. The common view of election campaigns is not the correct one.
Electing the Problem
The common view of political campaigns is that candidates run on a platform and if they win, implement the program on which they ran. When the promises fail to be kept, voters feel betrayed and call the candidate liars.
Until the 1930's, government was almost irrelevant. It consumed only 10% of the GNP and was strictly limited in its activities. With the coming of the Great Depression, government became more activist. In addition to creating employment, major political issues revolved around things like road building, public education, public health and rural electrification. These issues dominated politics worldwide.
Government power and activism were based on and supported by the fact that the major threats to human survival were natural forces and that people needed to band together to survive. So widespread public works like building schools, dam construction, stringing telephone and electric lines were all the rage. During these years, candidates ran on public works platforms and generally won. Only the rich, who resented the taxes, elected people opposed to activist government.
World War II changed everything. Today, government spends about 40% of the GNP, so it is much more import than it was 70 years ago. Also, the atomic bomb changed, for the first time in human history, the balance between man and nature. Now, the biggest threat to the survival of the human race is not natural but man-made forces. Nuclear war, even between so-called minor powers like India and Pakistan could easily spell the end of the human race. Pollution from toxic wastes and greenhouse gases is changing the environment and climate with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Politics, too, has changed as a result. In years past the purpose of elections was to elect people to solve problems the solutions to which, even at their worst, could only do minor damage. But today, government mistakes can have catastrophic consequences. Beginning with World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, Chernobyl, pollution from atomic wastes, all the way to greenhouse gases; the major problems of the 20th century were created by man and not by nature. This trend can only accelerate in the 21st century. Today the goal of politics has become to elect people who aren't going to make catastrophic mistakes. So people have a tendency to stick with the devil they know, unless it can be clearly proved in advance that the proposed changes won't be worse. Politics is about electing both the problem and the solution. Every candidate is a combination of both.
The way to change obsolete ideas is to elect candidates who hold those ideas and force them to govern. For example, Richard Nixon ran as a hard line anti-communist during his entire political career. He favored United States intervention in Vietnam as early as 1954, to save the French from defeat. Yet, it was Richard Nixon who normalized relations with China, went to Peking, and met Mao Tse Tung. No wonder he was forced from office. Richard Nixon was a man who changed his outdated ideas when faced with the actual task of ending the Vietnam War (which was started by the party that had advocated normalization of relations with China since the mid-1950's). Similarly, Ronald Reagan, another staunch anti-communist, moved the United States on to the path of total nuclear disarmament.
Atomic bombs have changed everything. The President of the United States can destroy the human race. Given such power, isn't it better that every candidate, no matter how kookie, be given a chance to be heard? Even if a candidate can't win, perhaps what they have to say can still contribute to a successful policy by those who do win. Or, even if the idea is nuts, it may contain a small grain of truth that serves as a catalyst to help the candidate who does eventually win to solve a problem. The current system presupposes a monopoly on wisdom in the Democratic and Republican parties. As a result, the American political system and the government that flows from it hasn't had a really new idea or program in 50 years. Both major parties now favor reducing the role of the government in combination with increasing the powers of the police.
In an era of weapons of mass destruction and mass communication, a properly operating political system is more important than ever before. Misuse of rules and election laws to favor some candidates over others can have catastrophic consequences. Hitler, Stalin and Mao all came to power legally, but none of them came to power democratically. As voter participation declines, the United States is in the same danger. A democratic government requires the advice and consent of the governed. This isn't happening in a system where, for example, only 31% of the voters cast ballots (which is only about 25% of the adult population, because not everyone is registered to vote.)
So, that's the problem. The two party system is based on the assumption that the purpose of elections is to pick winners from among viable candidates while preserving social stability and avoiding the possibility of excessive partisanship. These goals are more important than freedom of speech or the right to vote for the candidate of one's choice. That's not what the Constitution says.
As a result, the American political system has mechanism for the government selecting itself. It is a mechanism for preventing change, not permitting it. Eventually, even the best solutions become obsolete. Without a way of changing old policies, societies stumble on into disaster. That is the lesson of history. The only safety from the dangers of a high technology economy is a high level of public technical education combined with democratic decision-making. The United States is moving in the opposite direction.
Most people don't care who wins an election. All they care about is the policies and programs that flow from that government. The purpose of politics is to permit people to influence the direction of policy. This will be proved in The Discovery of Psephology, the next chapter in How To Steal A Democratic Election.
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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf