The irreverent investigative reporter Greg Palast has written perhaps the most important book of the year, which I recommend everyone run out and get (preferably from The Book Table). The first page of Palast’s How Trump Stole 2020 should shock you out of complacency about this upcoming election, as it shook me.

“The End. Donald Trump was re-elected President on November 7, 2018. Two years before a single ballot was cast.”

Palast demonstrates that in key swing states of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, the Republican Party has wrongly removed hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls based on the false assumption that they’ve moved out of the state and thrown out hundreds of thousands of provisional ballots filled out by those people who must prove their eligibility, since they were falsely removed from the rolls in the first place. 

Palast calls this the “purge.” It’s how Donald Trump “won” in 2016, which is to say he didn’t win, at all. 

“Trump didn’t win in 2016,” Palast writes. “And I’m not talking about Trump losing the popular vote. Trump lost the Electoral College. That is, he lost if you count all the votes burgled, jacked, swiped, shoplifted, purloined, filched, fiddled and snatched from citizens not of a whitish hue. And unless we wise up, 2020 will be deja vu all over again.” 

One of the most notorious purges happened in Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp removed more than 340,000 voters from the rolls — most of them Black and Brown — because they allegedly moved away, when in fact they never moved; indeed, were still paying Georgia income taxes. 

That’s how Kemp, the former Secretary of State who pulled off this purge while he was running for governor, ended up eking out a “win” against Stacey Abrams, his Democratic opponent — which is to say, he didn’t win at all. 

“Federal law requires Georgia and other states to give a provisional ballot to anyone who claims to be wrongly missing from voter rolls,” Palast writes. “But Georgia law does not allow those ballots to be counted if the voter is not on the rolls, right or wrong. Tough luck, Raheim.”

Or Christine Jordan, a 92-year-old woman who likely would have voted for Abrams in 2018, if she hadn’t been thrown out of the polling station, because her name had mysteriously vanished from the state’s voter rolls. Jordan, by the way, is the cousin of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“There were enough provisional ballots and other ballots and uncounted absentee ballots to defeat Brian Kemp — if only they were counted,” Palast writes. “However, whether provisional or challenged ballots are counted was up to the Secretary of State: Brian Kemp.” 

According to former president Barack Obama’s Presidential Commission on Elections, “Black and Hispanic voters are twice as likely as other voters to get the provisional ballot.” 

And voting by mail presents even more challenges, Palast writes. In 2016, according to the Elections Assistance Commission, half a million mail-in ballots “were simply rejected, not counted.

“But that’s the tip of the ballot-berg of uncounted mail-in votes,” Palast writes. “The MIT study Losing Votes by Mail puts the total loss of mail-in votes at a breathtaking 22 percent. Move to 80 percent mail-in voting and 25 million will lose their vote.” 

How can they do this? Well, they make laws that make tossing ballots out a highly partisan and subjective affair, and that make voting deliberately tedious. 

Voting by mail “is not as simple as ‘pick and lick’ — choosing a candidate and sticking a ballot in an envelope,” Palast writes. “Eight states, including the swing states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Carolina, require mail-in voters to have the ballot witnessed by a registered voter.” And all but six states “‘verify’ your ballot signature against your registration signature. Partisan officials decide if there is a ‘match.'” 

By the way, Illinois is a “verify” state … OK, enough of this. I’m terrified, and I haven’t even made it to the middle of the book, yet. Go out and buy it. Brace yourself. Read it through or skip to the end, where there’s a super helpful guide to protecting your vote. 

I’ll summarize it now.

  • Read the directions the ballot and follow them.
  • Check your registration now.
  • Don’t mark ballots with red pens, pencils or crayons. Don’t use an ‘x’ or checkmark unless it says so. If using a machine, check your choices before sending your ballot off. If using a punch card, turn it over and scrape off the chads.
  • Vote early in-person when no one’s around, weekdays if possible.
  • Avoid filling out provisional ballots like the plague.
  • Act out (join voting rights action groups like rainbow/push.
  • Stay alert! 
  • Relay this message to your friends, loved ones and enemies in swing states (this last tip is my own).

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