Cover of the book with picture of a guy voting on one side and a guy programming the voting machine to flip the vote on the other side

Just because a crisis situation seems impossible to address effectively, there is no reason to give up, but every reason to keep wheels turning--inside out, as does this masterful dissection of elections and voting as a system between the Civil War and today.

Quite a time period to cover in less than 100 pages, but authors Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman face this challenge, prefaced and introduced by the famed author and investigative reporter Greg Palast and actress and activist (head of Progressive Democrats of America) Mimi Kennedy.

First readers are told what we must and can do in the short term and then in the long term, including the idealistic six-step "Ohio Plan" that will clean up the entire election system. I kid you not: manual, transparently counted paper ballots, automatic registration, a 4-day "Election Day" holiday, and banning of anything electronic anywhere near the polls, which will be manned by high school and university students paid $15 per hour--that's how to spread the ideals and tasks of democracy to future generations relying on tried-and-true methods from 100 years ago (this time effectively supervised). Pay students stipends for an indescribable experience that they will want to go back to time and again.

In the long term we must 1) ban corporate money from the campaign process; 2) abolish the Electoral College; 3) end gerrymandering; and 4) provide free public media access for all candidates meeting certain universal basic requirements. (Footnote: For all those large states with smaller populations that feel cheated at the Electoral College level, take heart--those of us on the coasts will be migrating to central US to swell your populations and fill your states, so that your Electoral College representation will rise, but at what price? Space is at such a premium, especially when global warming floods over the coastlines. Besides that, all of our votes will be counted fairly once this blight on democracy is eliminated.

The next sections divide the issues into two major parts, "Stripping" and "Flipping." "Stripping" analyzes what's wrong with our system--we are being stripped of our rights; and "Flipping" sketches the history of what exactly has happened, focusing in on Ohio in exquisite, or should I say "harrowing" detail. The latter two divisions comprise five sections focus on various features of Jim Crow: past, present, and projected future.

All in so few pages. Extreme knowledge and brilliant perspectives are needed and the authors, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, more than measure up. Bob is an attorney, academic, and Green Party activist who has dedicated himself to election integrity and the environment since 2004. He is a masterful public speaker--totally riveting, spontaneous, and emotional when he needs to be, calm and forceful otherwise. Harvey, an activist and academic historian, is a commanding presence as a speaker and as a writer, also a member of the Green Party focused on election issues and the environment. He spearheaded people's histories before Howard Zinn created his important series, and what an important genre that is. We all know about John Calhoun and Woodrow Wilson, but Harvey's work and then Zinn's shine a spotlight on the people who made all of the pompous publicized events possible and how they did and what they said and thought to change the system as much as they could and make history in this process that even mainstream authors can't quite ignore. Every act makes history. There is no reason to confine it to property-owning, overeducated and dead white males.

Between their two webpages, and, they span the gamut of worldwide issues that for some reason draw a largely progressive readership with the hope that the word will spread. And it must.

Bob and Harvey's work is also pioneering. In their many books and publications they inform us almost exclusively about events the mainstream media don't go near: unsung heroes and underground or backstage atrocities we are forced to live with every day for as long as we can. Either the Earth will cave from all the abuse we are heaping on it, or else democracy will collapse, burned out by corruption of the super-wealthy aimed like gunfire at the rest of us. And the ripple effect will do a grand tour of the world.

Elections and voting are a prime target, democracy's bottom line. Pull that out from under us and the coup is complete. Keep on fighting, day in and day out, and we can tread water until things get better. Democracy is hard work, warned the Founders. Either do or die. Bob and Harvey show us how. The Recommendations in the third section of the Prologue, "Election Protection 2016: Threats to the Primary Election Vote and Actions for Activists," are herculean. Divide (at least we can divide it up) and conquer, but sweat bullets, from (1) "Monitor[ing of] all directives and advisories from the Secretary of State's office (or highest state election official)" to (15) "[Taking] Screenshots of Election Results."

The roots of the first Jim Crow, recently revived since 2010 with the advent of the Tea Party invasion of Congress and the Citizens United decision, are slavery, pure and simple, which has existed since the era of "civilized" humanity began. After the Civil War, to appease the "rebel" states that feared being overpowered by the far more populous North, each of their slaves was counted as three-fifths of a person for presidential elections, though themselves not allowed to vote. The issue was "equitable" distribution of electoral votes since the North was far more heavily populated than the largely rural South.

Nostalgia for the antebellum status of blacks, with the slave code fully reproduced by the authors in their text, revived it. Jim Crow I turned being black into inhabiting a concentration camp in many ways in the South: confinement to certain ramshackle neighborhoods, unpunished murders and lynchings, imprisonment for no reason except to mark them as felons and thus exclude them from the vote, slave wages and sweatshop-level employment, and worse. Several voting laws originated in this climate, virtually undoing the 13th through 15th Amendments soon after they were enacted. What resulted was disgustingly unconstitutional.

African Americans had integrated into white society with enthusiasm, soon reaching congressional offices, before the clock was turned back and while the Ku Klux Klan rose up to run things their way. Some may say that what followed was worse than slavery. Registration, felon status (an old law that was revived in Florida 2000 to keep as many as 94,000 voters from the polls), and other laws still on our books originated then to further isolate blacks from the system. Even the Australian ballot, introduced in the late 1800s, served to weed out more under-educated populations from the voting process.

Jim Crow 2 encompasses further features of segregated society: "The election of 1876, in which stolen electoral votes selected Rutherford B. Hayes, brought the end of Reconstruction and stripped away federal protection of freed former slaves." After blacks' brief breath of freedom, poll taxes and literacy tests kept even more of them from voting. The nearly unanimous SCOTUS decision Plessy V. Ferguson "enshrined [the first Jim Crow's] 'separate but equal' segregation."

The pushback nearly 100 years later may have occurred when black veterans returned here from fighting World War II, where they had fought alongside whites, and refused to bow to Jim Crow. The Brown v. Board of Education decision to integrate schools came next in 1954. The following year, when Rosa Parks refused to yield her bus seat to a white man, the Montgomery bus boycott, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and other nonviolent actions followed. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. now leading the movement, made contact with JFK, and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts seemed to spell out the demise of Jim Crow.

"The Civil Rights movement succeeded in raising black voter participation. African American registration rates soared in Georgia from 19.3% to 60.4%; in Alabama from 19.3% to 61.3%; in Mississippi from 6.7% to 66.5%; in Louisiana from 31.6% to 60.8%," write Fitrakis and Wasserman.

Jim Crow 3 assumes a strange, unexpected guise indeed. He became the War on Drugs--really a war on blacks--which filled prisons to the breaking point. Privatization of prisons exacerbated the suffering of the by-far largest numbers of "criminals" in the world." Americans serve essentially as cash flow, regardless of the impact of their imprisonment on society as a whole" and "The particular focus on the black community has become an organized assault not unlike US oppression of Third World countries around the world." Fitrakis and Wasserman call this blighted system "the prison-industrial complex."

Everyone smoked pot, but, since Nixon's push in 1971, somehow blacks and Hispanics were rounded up in far greater numbers than whites. The recent push to legalize marijuana is slow indeed, with just a few states having signed on, but citizens are rallying for it in large numbers in many other states. And voting laws are becoming more lenient toward nonviolent felons, many of their convictions drug-related, also gradually but farther along since the 1990s, incentive for some amount of optimism in the midst of this racist morass.

This section, on the Drug Wars as a form of Jim Crow, is the most compelling since it forms a new and shocking chapter in the history of oppression.

"As of 2016, roughly one in every three young African American men are under control of the criminal justice system, i.e., in prison, in jail, or on probation or parole. Millions have lost their right to vote, skewing the electorate strongly toward the GOP"; and "In 2009, according to the Department of Justice, African-Americans made up 12% of the general US population but 60% of the prison population."

But the next two sections shock again: Part 2, "Flip," is subtitled "The Fourth Jim Crow: Race-Based Election Theft Goes Global":

"William Blum's book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions since World War II lists 57 instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the World War II.

Our military and intelligence agencies have regularly interfered in elections, overthrown or killed the rightful victors and installed regimes friendly to the financial interests of American corporations.

The blowback has reshaped our own political system.

The art and science of subverting foreign governments has come home to roost."

The authors expand Blum's list of 57 events hereafter, as endless as human corruption and suffering itself; it begins in 1804, when Haitian slaves overthrew their masters and US intervention subsequently installed puppet dictators, the Duvaliers, at the end of the twentieth century, denying the people their basic human rights; and ends with the rise of ISIS and other terrorist organizations and how they have come to shape our elections "as candidates outdo each other in demanding military solutions to complex problems where armed intervention often makes things worse."

After 200 years, US forces have acquired massive training in how to rig elections, including corruption by means of poll books and easily rigged voting machines. The same skills have been effectively applied to the "Drug War at home."

After 200 years, the CIA brought another skill home to roost: "the use of electronics to overturn elections"--

"Under Ronald Reagan, it became available for use in elections here at home. In 1988, former CIA director George H.W. Bush became the first to benefit." But before this crucial point, which essentially begins the era of modern election corruption in the US, many steps--bullet points--were entailed, including the establishment of the Federal Election Commission, the Election Center, and any number of warnings from experts on the permeability and corruptibility of electronic voting systems. When Bush ran for president in 1988, in the New Hampshire primary, the first large-scale use of electronic voting machines, "the former CIA Director trailed Bob Dole by eight points in polls taken on Election Day. But when the votes were electronically tallied, Bush beat Dole by nine points. Such a 17-point turn-around qualifies among mainstream election statistical analysts as a 'virtual statistical impossibility.'"

More warnings from computer experts Roy Saltman and Ronnie Dugger are cited, along with other milestones of far-reaching election corruption, including 1996, when former Secretary of Defense and Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) stepped down from his position as part-owner of ES&S election systems to run for senator in his home state, where the company is located. He won by a landslide since the state nearly uniformly uses ES&S machinery. The authors warn that such systems, in use 10 years or longer, are too old not to malfunction, making space for even more illicit intrusions where it functions at all.

More crucial anecdotal information is shared, including the upset defeats of two popular Democrats, Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA), who lost three limbs fighting in Vietnam, and Alabama's Don Siegelman, who was not only defeated by skullduggery at the eleventh hour, but has since then been imprisoned for trumped-up causes by opponents, Karl Rove allies, who simply want this champion of learning and education out of office, out of commission.

The Iraq invasion was invented in order to keep George W. Bush in office as a "war president," a category that historically has been re-elected.

Then we reach Election 2004 in Ohio, the ramifications of which, as a reincarnation of Election 2000 in Florida, occupy much of the rest of the book of these "Ohio heroes" who have labored exhaustively to exorcise still-dormant demons from what can easily be called one of the most atrocious elections ever. Their three books that background this section make them the magisterial authorities on the Buckeye State atrocities. Fitrakis and Wasserman had predicted this massive train wreck beforehand. To this day, thousands of votes remain uncounted but it is certain that Kerry won. The current Secretary of State took little interest in "making every vote count" even though this had been one of his oft-repeated campaign mantrass.

Fully 83 bullet points elaborate on the Ohio debacle. Skullduggery assumed more forms than in Florida 2000, by far. The secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, also, like Florida's Katherine Harris, co-chair of the Republican National Committee's campaign to re-elect Bush, freely resorted to countless devices to be sure that his former employer (in Florida in 2000) would win the race, a dedication echoed by Walden O'Dell, owner of Diebold, the other of the two largest voting machine vendors in this country (along with ES&S). "Wally" promised Bush that he would "deliver" the Buckeye State to him, without which, in the previous 100 years, no Republican has ever won the presidency.

Bush won Ohio, indeed, most notoriously by means of the man-in-the-middle structure discovered four years later by a Republican security expert, Stephen Spoonamore, who mapped out an elaborate path that the vote count took--down from Blackwell's office to the GOP server in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the count was altered from Kerry's column to Bush's by hundreds of thousands. This total was then sent back to Ohio while the system was supposedly down for an hour around midnight. Where Kerry had led by 200,000 votes he was now behind by 100,000, while Bush ultimate "won" Ohio by around 120,000 votes.

This is the closest scenario I have ever encountered where I can honestly say that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It is truly an education in electronic voting and other forms of ingenious skullduggery. Read the bullet points and cry, or read them and die, but they are well worth the chamber of horrors you will discover and have trouble ingesting.

Similar "red shifts" occurred in 10 out of the 11 remaining swing states, states that can vote Republican or Democratic in federal elections, results hard to predict in many cases despite advance polling. The term "red shift" itself was born out of this morass, a coinage of exit poll specialist Jonathan Simon of the Election Defense Alliance.

Twelve additional bullet points are generated by the authors' lawsuit King-Lincoln-Bronzeville v. Blackwell, whose bottom line is the horrendous and multiple forms of corruption that kept blacks and Latinos who lived in the plaintiff neighborhood from voting. That case is ongoing, despite the very compelling evidence provided by Spoonamore and despite the subpoenas served on Karl Rove, boss of the late Michael Donnell, creator of the man-in-the-middle structure, by House Judiciary Chair John Conyers twice as well as lead attorney Cliff Arnebeck in New York City in full view of passers-by. Rove dropped the subpoena on the sidewalk, but it nonetheless "counted." How has he avoided incrimination after all that? "Clever lawyers," Fitrakis told me. "Clever lawyers." None that I can afford.

Further bullet points take us on a quick but fact-filled and crucial, incredible series of events that transpired between 2004 and 2016!

What was legal about those years? That somehow the people's choices managed to triumph a few times, but the wins are always detracted from by "fixes" to eliminate as many as possible of the classes of qualified voters guaranteed to vote mostly Democratic. The first chapter of my forthcoming (CICJ-published) Ballots or Bills: The Future of Democracy details how Obama's victory in 2008, though substantial, really represented an overwhelming landslide. Where a victory is won by more than 10 percent of the vote, skullduggery is less suspect and accuracy is grudgingly let through. Where the percentage of victory is lower, research is mandatory, though usually ignored. Elections 2010 and 2014 attracted historically low numbers of voters, thus awarding large majorities to the GOP according to Paul Weyrich's axiom that the fewer who show up at the polls, the more likely the GOP will win. In his historic speech in 1980, he makes fun of the Democratic preference for "good government," which he names "the goo-goo syndrome."

More power to it.

The frequent bullet-point format, 100% legible and accessible shortcuts to crucial points in recent history, are easy to ingest in little time, giving readers time to react and act rather than mull over details as we advance toward Election 2016 well armed by this book, well prepared.

THE STRIP & FLIP SELECTION OF 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft inspires, mandates, angers, mystifies, amazes, and revolts readers enough, like pepper spray, like a shot of Red Bull that, as I read it, I could hardly keep my seat to write this review. The book will be available to the public next week (around May 20), at an extremely accessible price. Once again, its underlying theme is "Yes, we can."

And this time, we will.

Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for since 2006. Her original website,, first entered the blogosphere in 2003. She recently became an editor for She has in the past taught college and worked as a full-time as well as freelance reporter. She has been a peace and election integrity activist since 1999. Her undergraduate and graduate educational background are in Spanish, classical philology, and historical and comparative linguistics. Her biography was listed in "Who's Who in the East" in 2000.

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