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400 Arrested in DC Protests Calling for "Free and Fair Elections," Sanders Voters in NY Complain About Primary Fraud

Updated on April 14, 2016
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Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He has published in the Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun.

Unveiling a well-organized, well-articulated mass movement which is the collaboration of dozens of political organizations including the AFL-CIO, the National Organization for Women, Public Citizen, Demos, People for the American Way, and MoveOn, hundreds of people are getting arrested today on the steps of the US Capitol calling for "free and fair" elections and getting the influence of big money out of politics.

A detailed platform of demands is published at DemocracySpring.org. Key among the demands are passage of legislation which ceases the treatment of corporations as entities with the rights of persons, the overturn of the Citizens-United US Supreme Court decision, and instituting a stringent system of election audits in federal office elections. Today Young Turks host Cenk Ugyar was arrested, along with at least 400 other people according to latest reports.

Right-wing websites have begun to attack the protest as a collection of "leftist" groups, Breitbart.com reported:

"This reporter penned a widely-read article last week documenting the operation, calling itself Democracy Spring, which is threatening “drama in Washington” with the “largest civil disobedience action of the century.” The radicals believe this will result in the arrest of thousands of their own activists."

In response, Democracy Spring sent out the following tweet about the audience of Breitbart News.

Hey @AaronKleinShow–thanks for the press on @BreitbartNews yesterday! We know lots in your audience are with us. :) https://t.co/Q9QaIs4JGV

— Democracy Spring (@DemSpring) March 17, 2016

The section called "Our Demands" at the website begins:

"Democrats and Republicans alike want fundamental reforms to restore the people's voice in government. We have identified four reform bills that are already pending before Congress as exemplary actions that can be taken. These include proposed legislation that would implement robust small-dollar citizen-funded elections, combat voter suppression, and empower citizens with universal suffrage; it will also introduce a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. We are also demanding Congress confirm a nominee to SCOTUS who will ensure an end to legalized political corruption and support equal voting rights for all: one person, one vote."

The "Demands" page then goes on to list a series of proposed or already introduced legislation which the protesters believe would accomplish these goals. One section regarding voting reads:

"Requires each state, except when the winning candidate had no opponent or received 80% or more of the votes, to administer audits of federal election results, without advance notice to the precincts selected, consisting of random hand counts of the voter-verified paper ballots...Prohibits certification of the results of any election until completion of audits."

Sanders Supporters Complaining of Voter Roll Tampering Before Primary

The protests come as the results of numerous Democratic presidential primary contests are hotly disputed, such as in Arizona where enraged voters who did not get to vote in the primary flooded a public hearing. A lawsuit has been filed a group consisting of disenfranchised voters, who say extraordinarily long lines and up to six hour waits to vote drove many away from the polls. The Arizonans state that many people had work or family commitments and simply could not take the better part of a day to vote. The citizens in the lawsuit also say that many of them found themselves dropped from the voters rolls or incorrectly registered, even lifelong Democrats who say they had voted in every election.

Now in New York, in the week before a critical Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, some are fearing a repeat of Arizona. The popular online magazine Heavy reports in "New York Election Fraud: Is Arizona Happening Again?":

"Huge problems plagued the Arizona primary earlier this week, with allegations of election fraud resounding across the Internet. People who said they were previously registered Democrat suddenly found their registrations inactive and couldn’t vote in the primary. Now people are discovering the same thing in New York."

New York voters, mostly Bernie Sanders supporters, have been complaining that they appear incorrectly on the voters rolls or not all. The New York-based Gothamist reports:

"Since shortly before the late deadline to register to vote in the April 19th presidential primary in New York, state Board of Elections spokesman Tom Connolly said his office has been fielding nearly 100 calls a day from voters who are "pissed off" about their registration status, for one reason or another. On social media, there are dozens of reports from voters who say they checked their registration online recently and found that their party affiliation had been switched, which is disqualifying because New York's primaries are closed, or that that their registration couldn't be found altogether."

At Sanders campaign Facebook pages, Sanders supporters are keeping an eye on and weighing all their options should irregularities appear next Tuesday, primary day, such as exit polls showing large discrepancies between the official count and other data. In the Massachusetts Democratic primary one analyst noted that, in hand-counted ballot towns, Sanders won by 17% over Clinton, but in machine-counted towns, Clinton won by an average of 2%. In addition, early unadjusted exit polls in MA showed Sanders winning by 52.3-45.7%. The blog by Richard Charnin notes exit polls can be later adjusted to match the official totals. The blogger writes:

"Sanders led the Unadjusted MA Exit Poll Gender (1297 respondents) by 52.3-45.7%. The poll was captured from CNN at 8:01pm .

Clinton led the adjusted exit poll (1406 respondents) by 50.3-48.7%, a near-exact match to the 1.4% RECORDED vote margin. But her 50.3% share was IMPOSSIBLE. The proof is self-explanatory: How could Clinton gain 114 respondents and Sanders just 7 among the final 109 exit poll respondents?"

One measure Sanders supporters could take in NY is to petition the court to order an audit, or even an entirely new primary election, if discrepancies are compelling. New York state law allows a court to "reassemble" any convention or primary election where it finds that:

"there has been such fraud or irregularity as to render impossi­ble a determination as to who rightfully was nominated or elected..."

Article 16 of the NY election law states that the court can order an audit of any precinct, reading:

"direct a manual audit of the voter verifiable audit records...where evidence presented to the court other­wise indicates that there is a likelihood of a material discrep­ancy between such manual audit tally and such voting machine or system tally...which creates a substantial possibility that the winner of the election as reflected in the voting machine or system tally could change if a voter verifia­ble record audit of additional voting machines or systems or of all voting machines or systems applicable to such election were conducted."

Sanders and Clinton are set to debate in NY tonight.

ON THE WEB: Cliff Notes for the Bernie Sanders Platform

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