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Thom Hartmann Interview, Part I

Thom Hartmann

If the Iowa precinct caucuses created doubt about the efficacy of our voting process, we are not the only ones with concern.

Thom Hartmann, the number one progressive-talk-show host in the United States wrote the book, The Hidden History of the War on Voting: Who Stole Your Vote and How to Get It Back. It will be released by Berrett-Koehler Publishers on Feb. 11.

Blog for Iowa reviewed the book here and on Jan. 21 interviewed Hartmann about it and his work as a progressive. Hartmann was engaged and spoke freely about his book, about his concerns about voting in the U.S., and about his work as a progressive writer and radio personality.

We will run the interview in multiple posts, beginning with Hartmann’s comments about this book. The interview was transcribed from audio and is presented with only minor grammatical corrections for clarity.

BFIA: Can you tell me about the background, why you came up with this Hidden History series?

Hartmann: I’ve noticed a couple of trends. One is that people have less and less time to read books, and myself included. But I think it’s just ubiquitous. Spread across the culture. You can blame screens, you know, or phrenetic lifestyle, cause of the bite that Reaganomics is taking out of the middle class. I’m sure it’s a whole bunch of different factors but the simple reality is people don’t just sit down and spend ten, fifteen, twenty hours reading a book like they did twenty-five, thirty years ago.

So I wanted to come out with a series of small books that were books that a person could read in a weekend or maybe even in a long afternoon. I also have been just an absolute history fanatic my whole, entire life. My Dad wanted to be a history teacher when he grew up, a college professor. He had to drop out of college because Mom got pregnant with me and that was the end of that. But he had 20 thousand books in his basement; a lot of them were history. And we talked history all my life, you know, until my Dad died.

I proposed this to BK Publishers, said I’d like to do a series about things that are contemporary issues that have historical roots that most people are unaware of the roots. They don’t know where this came from, how this came about.

The first one we did was the Hidden History of the Second Amendment which is kind of self explanatory. The second was the Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America. That is how the Supreme Court basically flipped us into oligarchy in the 1970s and it also takes on the issue of judicial review, something most people don’t know anything about the background of and how angry Thomas Jefferson was about it. The third one was the Hidden History of the War on Voting. I argued it should be titled “Republican War on Voting” because there is no Democratic war on voting. They didn’t want to make it seem too partisan.

It’s fairly evident when you read the book who’s trying to prevent you from voting and who isn’t.

BFIA: Thank you. In the voting book, which is the most recent one I read, is there anything you would like to highlight in particular.

HARTMANN: I think the big aha! For a lot of people who have read the book has been Red Shift and voter suppression. Red shift is something that started showing up around 2000 in the United States.

Around the world exit polls are the gold standard to determine if an election has been fraudulent or not, whether there is election fraud. Historically, and in fact, most countries in the world vote by paper ballot. They don’t vote electronically. As a result it takes a couple of days to count the vote.

Every European Country, Canada, take your choice. I lived in Germany for a year and when they have elections in Germany they call the elections when the polls close because they do it based on exit polls. Exit polls are never more than one tenth or two tenths of a point off, even though it takes them four days to count the vote. We saw this in the U.K. very recently with Boris Johnson.

In the United States our exit polls had always been within a tenth of a point or so of our election outcome. But in 2000 this strange thing started showing up. It got really bad in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008, when what showed up was that in a handful of states, that started out four or five and now it’s more like ten or fifteen, the outcome of the election is anywhere from two to five percent more Republican than the exit polls. And that’s why it’s called Red Shift toward the Republican Party.

And for a long time, and this is not a secret, the exit polling companies were so freaked out about this they didn’t know what to do. I mean this was a crisis for them in the 2004 election, the John Kerry-George Bush election. There was substantial Red Shift, including in Ohio where George Bush supposedly won that election.

So when we first saw these changes in numbers, how they almost always benefited exclusively Republicans, we concluded and they seem to follow the widespread adoption of electronic voting machines. The first guess of most people was that this was rigged or hacked voting machines.

I think one of the things we have learned in the years since then, particularly over the last ten years or so, that Republicans are more open and up front about their strategies. We’ve gotten access to some of their memos going back 15, 20 years, (showing) that what they have been doing in states where the Republicans control the state they throw hundreds of thousands of people off the voting rolls in the year before an election, in particular they do it in the Democratic cities.

And then when those people show up to vote they’re told, “Oh I can’t find your name on the roll, but here is a provisional ballot you can vote on this.” They don’t realize that provisional ballots are only counted if an election is contested. So those votes literally never get counted, with very few exceptions.

But when they walk out of the voting place and speak to the exit pollster, who says, “How did you vote?” They’ll say “Oh, I voted for John Kerry.” And they write that down as a John Kerry vote, neither the pollster nor the voter realizing that because the voter will be on a provisional ballot that that vote will never be counted.

In most states if you want to your provisional ballot votes to be counted you have to show up at the secretary of state’s office within 48 hours, and prove that you are who you are, and where you live, and you are a citizen, and basically go through the whole process of re-registering to vote, or proving that your registration was inappropriately removed, which most people don’t even know they have to do much less know that they can do.

I think that’s probably a better explanation for Red Shift because the red shifts seem to be the worst in the states that had the most aggressive voter purges.

Click here to order your copy of The Hidden History of the War on Voting.

~ Watch for future installments of this interview coming soon.