If the Russians Successfully Altered the Outcome of the 2016 Election, Why did Hillary Clinton win the Popular Vote?
Even for those of us that believe Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election on behalf of the GOP, a nagging question remains: If Russian interference definitively swayed the outcome of the election, why did Hillary Clinton win the popular vote in a landslide?
The answer to that question may have come from an unexpected source. A source that is usually devoid of all reason and logic, let alone truth; Kellyanne Conway.
When confronted by Clinton Campaign Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri about potentially unethical tactics used by the GOP, Conway emphatically defended herself by explaining,
“…I sacrificed the last four months of my life to do it, excuse me, and we did it. And we did it by looking at the schedule and, yes, the electoral map of 270 because that is how you win the presidency. And we went into places where we were either ignored or mocked roundly by most of the people in this room. I have a smile on my face at all times. And we did it by focusing with Steve Bannon and David Bossie and everybody you see here.”
And for once, she’s telling the truth. But, there’s a catch.
Conway is not lying when she says that the GOP descended on areas that the Democrats left undefended. The election wasn’t lost through the popular vote. It was lost in the Electoral College. Clinton’s strategy was more than enough to beat Trump in a nationwide contest. Presidential Elections, though, are lost in key counties and states. As a result, the election was stolen from Clinton because of 114,000 votes from Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Conway is also being truthful when she says the GOP targeted areas that the Democrats had left undefended. But again, there is a twist. It’s not that the Democrats failed to campaign in key states and counties — it’s that they failed to defend their constituents when the Republican’s strategically purged and suppressed minority voters in those same areas.
It is one thing to say that Democrats did not show up to the polls. This statement blames the victims of the Republican party and reinforces the idea that the solution is to recruit new voters. Both do damage to minority voters and the Democratic Party.
It is another thing to say that minority voters were actively kept from the polls. This statement places blame on those engaging in criminal deprivation of rights. It also reinforces the solution that restoring voting rights for constituents is the solution to both enabling voters to reach the polls and encouraging new voters to vote for the Democratic Party.
Take, for example, the argument that the Democrats lost because they failed to reach voters in the Rust Belt states of Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In a very well researched article by Slate’s Konstantin Kilibarda and Daria Roithmayr entitled The Myth of the Ruse Belt Revolt, the authors explain:
“…Trump did not flip white voters in the Rust Belt who had supported Obama. Democrats lost them.
Relative to 2012, Democrats lost 950,000 white voters in the Rust Belt 5 (-13 percent). This figure includes a loss of 770,000 votes cast by white men (-24.2 percent). Compare that number to the modest gains Republicans made in terms of white voters: They picked up only 450,000 whites (+4.9 percent).
Democrats also lost the black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) vote in the Rust Belt 5, with 400,000 fewer voters in this category (-11.5 percent). While disaggregated exit-poll data on BIPOC voters was inconsistently available across the five states we examined, in those places where numbers were available, Democrats saw losses among both black American and Latino voters. Importantly, some of the greatest losses in BIPOC votes were in states such as Ohio and Wisconsin, both of which adopted voter suppression laws beginning in 2012. But even in states with no such laws, such as Pennsylvania, BIPOC turnout was significantly lower this election cycle. In short, more people of color stayed home in the Rust Belt in 2016 than in 2012.”
There can be no question that voter suppression kept millions of voters from the polls, even though new voter suppression laws were not found in these states. There is another factor that links the Rust Belt states together, though: the Interstate Crosscheck System.
Voter suppression through ID and proof of citizenship requirements, refusal to comply with ADA standards and intimidation through GOP “poll watchers” were all strategies funded and deployed by the GOP in efforts to alter the outcome of the election. Voter purging, though, was also a tactic that successfully eliminated 1.1million voters from the polls in target locations.
Slate’s argument that the Democrats lost far more votes than the Republicans flipped is absolutely correct. Their reasoning behind it, though, is not. More people of color didn’t just “stay home” in the Rust Belt — they were actively prevented from being able to vote. Apathy and laziness didn’t drive minority voters away from the polls — criminal deprivation of rights did.
And as Conway pointed out — the Democrats weren’t there. It’s not that they didn’t campaign enough in these areas, though. It’s that they weren’t there defending their constituents’ right to vote. They weren’t enforcing these rights at the local, state or federal level. They weren’t filing charges against the individuals and organizations strategically operating to criminally deprive millions of minorities of their Constitutional right to vote.
While the Republicans spent years creating barriers for minority Democratic voters nationwide and in specific states and counties, the Democrats did absolutely nothing.
The figurehead for the Interstate Crosscheck System, Kris Kobach, has a history of working on behalf of conservative organizations to implement interstate legislation that violates the constitutional rights of people of color. In other words, he is one of the GOP’s more successful and racist political reformers. Currently advising Trump on the Muslim Ban, ICE raids and the Wall between the US and Mexico, Kobach has spent his entire career targeting minorities.
Before becoming Kansas Secretary of State, Kobach worked as a lawyer for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR was founded by John Tanton, who is widely recognized as being personally and professionally associated with the Ku Klux Klan. The Federation for American Immigration Reform, who’s mission includes reducing “overall immigration to a level that is more manageable and which more closely reflects past policy. Reducing legal immigration from well over one million presently, to 300,000 a year over a sustained period will allow America to more sensibly manage its growth, address its environmental needs, and maintain a high quality of life” has been labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Largely funded by far right megadonors the Scaife Family, the Donor’s Trust, Charles Koch and David Koch — FAIR and Kris Kobach led the successful efforts to pass what has been called “the most racist law in modern American history,” SB1070.
According to the Center for American Progress,
“Arizona’s S.B. 1070 compels police to ask for papers from anyone they have a reasonable suspicion of being without status. Under this law any person of color, or anyone with a foreign accent, can be required to prove their status and be jailed — regardless of whether they are a citizen or an immigrant — until they can do so.”
24 states, almost half the nation, soon adopted policies modeled directly after this piece of legislation.
The following year, Kobach was charged with ensuring the Interstate Crosscheck System would also be adopted by as many states as possible. His successful efforts began in 2005 when four Secretaries of State, led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, “signed a Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate their offices’ efforts in several areas of election administration. Crosschecking voter registration data was one of the areas cited.”
Using the false rhetorical argument that voter fraud was a major problem in his state and across the nation, Kobach set out to convince other Secretaries of State that Crosscheck would purge illegal voters from the system. And by illegal, he meant minority.
According to a groundbreaking report by Greg Palast,
“Mark Swedlund, a database expert whose clients include eBay and American Express, looked at the data from Georgia and Virginia, and he was shocked….Swedlund’s statistical analysis found that African-American, Latino and Asian names predominate, a simple result of the Crosscheck matching process, which spews out little more than a bunch of common names. No surprise: The U.S. Census data shows that minorities are overrepresented in 85 of 100 of the most common last names. If your name is Washington, there’s an 89 percent chance you’re African-American. If your last name is Hernandez, there’s a 94 percent chance you’re Hispanic. If your name is Kim, there’s a 95 percent chance you’re Asian. This inherent bias results in an astonishing one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans and one in nine African-Americans in Crosscheck states landing on the list.”
The system also doesn’t consider middle names when identifying voters for purging. For example, James Washington in Detroit can be purged for being a duplicate of James Washington in Flint, even if they have different middle names. As a result, all voters with this name can be eliminated as a duplicate in any of the states that are part of the Crosscheck system.
The first Crosscheck was implemented in 2006. By 2011, Kobach had secured the signatures of 27 Secretaries of States. As a reward for his success, Kobach was positioned to implement the next wave of attacks on minority voter turnout — voter suppression.
That same year Kris Kobach boasted,
“Finally, in 2011 Kansas took the lead as the first state to combine three election-security policies: (1) requiring a government-issued photo ID for voting in person, (2) requiring either a Kansas driver’s license number or photocopy of a current photo ID for applying for a mail-in ballot, and (3) requiring a document proving U.S. citizenship when a person registers to vote for the first time. Consequently, Kansas elections are the most secure in the nation against fraud.”
In order to ensure enough states were able to adopt Kobach’s voter restriction plan to secure victory in the 2014 midterm election and the 2016 presidential election, there was only one thing standing in the GOP’s way: The Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The conservatives had a plan for that, though.
The Scaife Family and the Koch brothers teamed up once again to launch a legal attack on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Once this Act was neutralized, they would be able to pass voting restrictions across the nation without direct interference from the federal government. This time, they brought on Bert Rein and Ed Blum to lead the attack as the Project on Fair Representation.
Scaife and Rein had both been active in the Nixon administration during the Watergate Era. They were not strangers with pushing, and breaking, the boundaries of federal legality. Rein was a member of the Key Issues Committee during the 1968 Nixon campaign and served as the Assistant Deputy Secretary of State during his presidency. Scaife, who has been referred to as the Funding Father of the Right, contributed close to $1,000,000 to the Nixon campaign by setting up 300 dummy organizations to funnel money into the Nixon campaign without having to pay the federal gift tax. He also contributed $45,000 to a secret fund tied to Watergate.
Specifically, the Project on Fair Representation sought to remove the provision that required certain jurisdictions to gain approval of the federal government before making changes in their voting policies. The removal of this restriction would allow states to make adjustments to their voting policies that directly benefitted the Republican party. Preparing to gut the VRA in order to make adjustments to state voting policies nationwide, Rein and Blum went to court to render Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act completely useless. (Shelby County vs. Holder) And they were successful.
Not only were they successful, but they were not countered. Once again, rather than work to restore the integrity of the VRA, the Democrats were nowhere to be found. Rather than press charges against those conspiring to criminally deprive the rights of millions of voters, they did nothing.
As a result, while only 4 cases of voter fraud had ever been validated, over 7 million voters have been targeted by Crosscheck for purging, and approximately 1.1 million voters were successfully purged from the system before the presidential election in 2016. 868 polling places were reportedly closed (nearly half of the counties that closed polling places would have been prevented from doing so if Section 5 the Voting Rights Act had not been neutralized), over 75% of polling places were inaccessible to voters with disabilities, 31 states adopted voter id restrictions, and a number of states attempted to enforce proof of citizenship requirements. False information about voting — including ads suggesting Democratic voters could submit their votes through text — were publicized. Conservative poll watching groups appeared in multiple states and Donald Trump himself made a public call for his supporters to employ voter intimidation tactics stating at a rally:
“You’ve got to go out, and you’ve got to get your friends, and you’ve got to get everybody you know, and you gotta watch the polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania, certain areas.”
When asked about the relationship between the Shelby County decision and the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, Bert Rein replied:
“Were those changes sufficiently impactful to really influence the outcome? I don’t know the answer. Some people would say sure because it dissuaded some Hispanic and other voters who would have voted. But maybe some illegals would also have voted and that’s not good…I’d love to take credit for it and then Donald Trump could write me a nice letter.”
Conway was right. The Democrats were not there. They had not fought to stop Crosscheck. They had not fought to restore the Voting Rights Act. They were not there to counter voter purging, suppression or intimidation in key counties and states that the GOP had focused on for years in attempts to flip from blue to red. They were nowhere to be found.
It would be difficult to argue that the outcome of the 2016 election was not altered by voter purging and suppression in key battleground states. It would also be difficult to argue that Trump would have won if these strategies had not been implemented.
In Arizona, Trump would not have been able to secure the state’s 11 electoral votes without purging almost 271,000 voters. The difference in votes between candidates in this state is approximately 85,000. In Michigan, the difference between candidates vying for the state’s 16 electoral votes was well under 11,000 — almost 450,000 voters had been purged. And in North Carolina, Trump won 15 electoral votes by approximately 177,000 votes. Close to 600,000 votes had to be purged from the system to accomplish this. It is also very likely, if not undeniable, that voter purging and suppression played a large role in the loss of Democratic voters in the rustbelt states of Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
This is not to say that the Trump Administration and the GOP did not collaborate with Russia in attempts to alter the outcome of the election. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest they did, and every effort should be taken to investigate these relationships and file charges accordingly. In fact, Russian influence is likely to be tied to voter purging and suppression efforts through Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah. Only an official investigation by a specially appointed committee can clear Trump and his network of these accusations.
It is to say, though, that the success of this collaboration was guaranteed by the voter purge and suppression efforts of the GOP. These efforts may or may not have been designed and implemented with the assistance of those tied to Russian authorities. In either case, they are illegal, deserve investigation and charges need to be filed accordingly.