One reason I like Heather Baum's Born Again Jim Crow essay is that she makes a clear connection between old Jim Crow practices and right wing corporate control of the voting technology industry. This connection is important for understanding the present and it is important for understanding the past.
The irrational race hatred that was (and is) used to enforce Jim Crow keeps some people from seeing the purpose of such discriminatory tactics: to keep power in the white hands of a select few. In his book The Making of Black Revolutionaries James Forman, former Executive Secretary of SNCC, recalled the comment of a white southerner in the 1950s:
"Why, in the county where my friend lives, the Negras are nine to one and his father is the sheriff of that county. Do you think if the Negras had the right to vote that they would elect his father as sheriff? We got the power and we intend to keep it." (92)
Decades ago, before companies like Diebold and ES&S controlled the ballot casting and vote tabulation processes in a staggering number of US counties, there were methods like Georgia's "county unit" system, as described by former SNCC worker Joan C. Browning, in "My vote was counted …. At least once."
The county unit system of weighing votes meant that it took more than a hundred Fulton County (Atlanta) votes to equal each Telfair County vote.
James Carmichael and my Telfair County neighbor, Eugene "Gene" Talmadge, contended for the Democratic party’s nomination for governor in 1946. Gene, "The Wild Man of Sugar Creek," was financed by the keep-taxes-and-government-services-low corporations – the railroads, Coca Cola, Georgia Power Company. He campaigned on the single issue of keeping African-Americans disenfranchised.
Carmichael received more popular votes statewide than Eugene Talmadge, but under the "county unit" system, Talmadge won the Democratic primary anyway.
In the General Election that fall, the Talmadge Telfair County Courthouse Crowd certified a consolidated county return showing 1,788 voters. Although Gene Talmadge was the only name printed on ballot for governor, 77 of the 1,788 ballots were tallied as write-in votes for his son, Herman Talmadge for governor. In addition to the official countywide voter turnout of 1,788, though, an extra 48 write-in votes were counted for Herman for governor. The 48 extras came from Helena precinct, where those 48 voters "over voted" for both Talmadges for governor. Both votes were certified.
Atlanta Journal reporter George Goodwin found that the last 34 of Helena precinct’s 103 voters had voted in alphabetical order, beginning at the letter A and continuing through the letter K.
Goodwin couldn’t locate fourteen of those 34 voters. The twenty he did find denied having voted at all.
Six of them had lived in Telfair County but had moved away more than two years before the election. Two were dead, one for four years, one for seven years. A Marine had been out of the county more than a year. One was reported to be a fictitious person.
Of the real Telfair County residents Goodwin found, one said he did not vote, and he did not have a wife although his wife was listed as voting. The wife in another couple said, "We never voted for nobody," and that she had never voted in her life and as far as she knew, she had never been registered to vote.
One name was listed twice. Another said that he had once been erroneously registered under the name on the list and that he had corrected his registration, but "neither me nor my wife voted in the general election," he said. "I remember it was raining that day and the windshield wiper on my car was broken, and neither of us went to the polls."
When the Courthouse Crowd certified the county election returns, they added votes: Cobbville precinct listed 86 persons on the voter list, but reported 186 votes; in Jacksonville, 27 became 127; Temperance’s 24, certified as 124; Milan’s 242 was crudely erased and "4" had written over the "2", making Milan’s certified total 442. Telfair County certified 600 "phantom" votes.
Under the county unit system, it would take more than 65,000 Atlanta votes to merely equal the fraudulent votes in Telfair County.
A combination of a discriminatory system, which counts some votes more than others, and an array of underhanded practices controlled the outcome of the 1946 Georgia election for governor, which should sound familiar: high tech and low tech Republican election fraud tactics were brought out in amazing force in swing states like Ohio and Florida, which each cast enough votes in the Electoral College system to have disproportionate control over the outcome of the 2004 presidential election.
The following three videos from Bev Harrris' organization Black Box Voting provide a nice primer on the basics of what is wrong with allowing Diebold and ES&S to control 80% of the electronic vote count in the US.
(All should realize that optical scan ballot counters are also electronic voting equipment with many of the same vulnerabilities and problems as DREs (aka, touch-screen machines). Unless the paper ballots that we stick into the optical scan machines are the ballot of record and are counted by hand in every precinct, they are no better than Diebold's infamous DREs.)
- Vendors Are Like Family
- Security Through Obscurity Is A Joke
- Address The Issue . . . Don't Shoot The Messenger
- Ellen Theisen, The Privatization of United States Elections [pdf]
- EllenTheisen, Voter-Verified Paper Balllots are not enough to fix DRE Problems
- CountTheVote.org, "Shocking" Election Practices Revealed In Georgia (July 18, 2005)