Voter suppression in the Democratic primary

The line to vote in the Democratic presidential primary at 9:25 p.m. March 3 at Texas Southern University. Photo: Texas Observer

I don’t blame voter suppression for Bernie Sanders’ losses in the Democratic primary.  Not entirely.  There were a lot of reasons he lost and Joe Biden won.

Sanders appealed to young, first-time voters, and registering to vote for the first time can be complicated and time-consuming, even under normal conditions.

Voter registration is especially difficult for renters, because you have to re-register every time you move to a new district.  Young people, poor people and minorities are disproportionately renters.

In most states, you have to register by a certain deadline.  Michigan had same-day registration, but there were long lines of would-be new voters yesterday several hours after the polls closed.

Some state governments have closed polling stations in places where there are high concentrations of college students, minorities and poor people.  This is mainly a result of a Republican effort to discourage voting by core Democratic constituencies, but it worked against Sanders.

Also, voting in most places is done with electronic voting machines that can be tampered with.  I’ve been writing about this for years.  There are suspicious discrepancies between exit polls and the actual vote.

The only way to guarantee this won’t happen is with paper ballots counted by hand in public.  In New York state, where I vote, there are paper ballots scanned by machines.

In principle, these ballots could by hand-counted if there was a question as to whether they were scanned correctly.  But in practice, the verification would almost certainly be done in a second scanning by a different machine.

Aaron Maté of The Grey Zone described some of the irregularities—

The Democratic primaries have been the scene of severe discrimination against minority, poor and elderly voters.  Throughout the contest, voters have had to travel unusually long distances to reach polling places, then forced to stand in long lines for as long as four hours to cast their votes.  The problem has been particularly pronounced in impoverished and minority-heavy areas, as well as within the student population.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) – the oldest Latino civil rights organization in the US – denounced a “calculated effort to suppress the minority vote during [the March 3 primaries on] Super Tuesday,” calling the organized voter suppression campaign “a danger to democracy.”  LULAC said it documented voter suppression incidents in minority-heavy areas throughout [the March 3] primary elections in 14 states.

During the California primary, voters across Los Angeles County reported seemingly endless lines at newly designated vote centers, forcing many voters to wait up to three or four hours to cast ballots.  “I have never seen such a long line for voting. At 7 p.m., it wrapped almost to the parking garage,” one reporter observed.

In Texas, the Leadership Conference Education Fund found that 750 polls had been closed across the state since 2012, obstructing voting access for poor and minority voters.  By 2018, only one voting center existed for every 7,700 residents, down from one for every 4,000 before the mass closings of polling places six years earlier.

Though the results of the primary in Texas were announced on March 3, it has since been revealed that a full 10 percent of votes in 44 precincts of Dallas County were not counted.  “This is tremendously damaging to our local democracy,” the Dallas county commissioner lamented.

The 2020 Democratic presidential primary has also been marred by unusual disparities between exit polling and difficult to verify computer counts.

For example, computerized vote counts in the South Carolina primary differed substantially from the exit poll, exceeding the margin of error yet again.  It was there that Biden’s vote count exhibited the largest increase (+8.3%) from his exit poll projection.

In New Hampshire’s primary, meanwhile, computerized vote counts were substantially greater than the exit poll margin of error.  Buttigieg’s official unverified computer-generated vote totals represented a whopping 12% increase from the exit poll.

Voting irregularities were also apparent in the Iowa caucuses, where Sen. Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg received the same number of delegates in one precinct despite Sanders winning a significantly larger share of votes.  Rather than awarding Sanders a delegate count commensurate to his vote total, the precinct contest was settled by a coin toss.

Source: The Grayzone

This list of problems is probably not exhaustive.  I have no doubt that there are a lot of other irregularities that haven’t been written about as yet.

The problems are not random.  They all tilt the results one way—in favor of established power and against the insurgency.

I do not bring this up just because my favored candidate lost.  I’ve been writing about these issues for years.


Block the Vote: Voter Suppression in 2020 by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Grayzone and CODEPINK demand emergency OAS election observers in 2020 Democratic presidential primary by Aaron Maté for the Gray Zone.  Maté wrote that the Organization of American States has sent observers to other Western Hemisphere countries when voting irregularities were less blatant than in the United States currently.

The Student Vote Is Surging – So Are Efforts to Suppress It by Michael Wines for the New York Times.

Democratic Voters Surge in Texas Primary, Waiting in Punishingly Long Lines as Officials Struggle to Keep Up by Michael Barajas and Lise Olsen for The Texas Observer.

As polls close, some young voters still waiting in line to vote in Kalamazoo by Kendall Warner for

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One Response to “Voter suppression in the Democratic primary”

  1. Alex Page Says:

    The more I see about this stuff, the more it resembles something America would support a coup in another country over. Bolivia got coup’d because of supposed ‘discrepancies’ with a delay in results of a few hours. The Iowa primaries alone were just cartoonish.

    Places with over 100,000 people to one polling station, lines so long people have to give up and go to work, deciding which way a result goes with a coin toss!

    That’s without even considering superdelegates (hell, why are there even delegates? Just use vote numbers!) and, when it comes to the general, the electoral college.

    When I vote in a general/local election I walk round the corner and get back in ten minutes. I voted in the Labour leadership election recently and it took five minutes online.


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