Reviewing the Proposition 37 Initiative Campaign in California and
Especially the Vote Counting
as An Example of the Continuing Transgenic Trespass
by Donald Wright Patterson, Jr.
Weak, Limitedly Informed Preference for Transgenic Labeling Against the Organized, Well-Financed Corporate Transgenic Trespass According to one poll, 93% of the U.S. people want labeling of transgenic food, and at least half of them, according to another poll, want it specifically so they can avoid eating transgenic food, but the 93% statistic depended on asking the question in a way that helped the respondents know enough to understand the question being asked and to make sense out of it. It overrides the fact that few people understand the issue or the dangers at stake before they have received the needed explanation.
Another poll showed 92% of Democrats, 90% of Independents, and 89% of Republicans wanted labeling, but when the issue was put on the ballot in California as a voter initiative in 2012, the biotech industry and their allies raised $45.84 million dollars from 62 corporate contributors and three trade associations to make sure the truth would be so muddied and misrepresented slightly more than half of the voters voted against the need for labeling. Arguments were stated against the language of the initiative, suggesting enactment of it would inflate the cost of food, and even spuriously impugning the value of organic food. The outcome showed that many people lacked the information needed to be fully informed on all the interconnected issues related to the healthfulness and environmental safety of transgenic food. Many believed those with the biggest megaphone and thus the greatest ability to project their message over the media and in the press.
Thirteen of the corporate contributors to the opposition campaign gave over $1 million each, with Monsanto providing the largest contribution of over $8 million, almost as much as the entire group of supporters of Proposition 37 was able to raise against them. These 13 contributors provided more than two-thirds of the total money raised. (The 13 leading contributors were: Monsanto, $8,112,867; Dupont, $5,400,000; Pepsico, Inc., $2,145,400; Grocery Manufacturers Association, $2,002,000; Dow Agrisciences, $2,000,000; Bayer Cropscience, $2,000,000; BASF Plant Science, $2,000,000; Syngenta, $2,000,000; Kraft Foods Global, $1,950,500; Coca-Cola North America, $1,700,500; Nestle USA, $1,315,600; Conagra Foods, $1,176,700; General Mills, $1,135,300.) The full list of contributors is found on the Web site of Just Label It, and it is also in the the Ballotpedia summary of the Proposition 37 initiative (see link at the end of this article).
The question is: What conclusions should be drawn when a relative handful of big corporations can freely spend about $8 per vote to prevent people from knowing what they need or want to know about the content of their food—and also denying them informed consent about the food they are eating. What kind of nation do we live in when the people can be persuaded to vote to prevent themselves from being informed about the content of their food they almost unanimously had wanted to know about before they were diverted from this desire as the result of intensive advertising. Some people would call it Fascism; certainly it is a profitable autocratic, pro-corporate tyranny worse than the one King George III had in mind in 1776, but now the people are docile, not as cantankerous and rebellious as they were in 1776. Back then, fluoride was not put in the drinking water to make citizens docile, and the food was naturally nutritious, not designed, as if intentionally, to make them under-nourished and obese. The food was also not loaded with the toxins now found to increase healthcare costs and cause environmental and wildlife damage.
The corporate spending in opposition to Proposition 37 stood against only $8.7 million raised by the “Just Label It-Right to Know” campaign and their allies, a greater than five to one imbalance in expenditure. Industry’s ads went on the air in early October without being answered for most of the month prior to Election Day, and during that month about half of the ballots in California were cast through early voting. This was more pre-Election ballots than had ever previously been cast in California. When the vote tally was announced after the polls closed on Election Day reportedly about a third of the ballots remained uncounted. This number of ballots could have been enough to change the outcome and close the half-million vote gap between “Yes” and “No.” Because of the impact of the pro-labeling ads aired during the days just before the election, the later votes were more for “Yes” than the earlier votes when only the opposition ads were being aired. About 18 million total votes were cast in the election, though not everyone voted on all the ballot initiatives. On Proposition 37, over 12 million votes were thought to have been cast, so a third of the votes would have been more than four million votes. The "Yes" side would have needed to produce more than 55% of the Election Day votes and other late votes to make up the half million vote gap out of a total of four million votes.
Normally, vote counters would assume the voting pattern resulting from counting the first eight million votes would hold in the count of the final four million votes, and on that basis, they would assume the final third of the balloting would not close a gap of a half million votes. But the assumption could have been wrong in this case. Partly, the judgment would depend on where the votes came from. If they were from Santa Cruz, San Francisco, or Mendocino, for example, the assumption would have been wrong. Because the late voting in the urban coastal counties occurred after the pro-labeling forces finally got their ads on the air and their leaflets distributed during the final week of the campaign, the margin of victory was greater for “Yes” among the late voters in these places. That could have made the usual assumption wrong, but citizens have no way of knowing if all of the late votes (including provisional and any damaged ballots) were counted. The answer to that question was not made clear by the Secretary of State.
The Anomalies in the Reported Vote Counting on Proposition 37 The first reported total after the polls closed gave the victory to “No” by 53.1% (4,835,045 total votes) to 47.9% (4,277,985 total votes) with a margin of 557,060 (out of a total of 9,113,030 votes counted), but by December 3rd, following daily updates of the count for almost a month, the difference was reported as 6,365,236 to 5,986,652 or 51.5% to 48.5% with 378,584 votes separating the two sides (out of a total of 12,351,888 votes counted). If a third of the votes had remained uncounted at midnight on November 6, that would have been more than 4.5 millions votes, but the difference on December 3 was 3,238,858 or 1,317,657 less than a third of the total vote suggested in the early reporting. The next day, December 4, the Secretary of State’s Web site briefly showed the “Yes” vote rising above 6 million votes, but then, anomalously, the site lapsed back to the December 3 numbers.
If the Election night vote total of over 9 million votes was two-thirds of the vote, then the remaining one-third would have been 4,556,515 votes. That would have meant about 13.7 million total votes cast on Proposition 37, 1.3 million more than was reported on December 3. With final counting from about a third of the counties (including large and small counties) still awaited, reason existed to believe at least one million more votes would still be expected when the final tallies were reported from all counties.
California Secretary of State Debra Bowen decided on December 4, it was “not cost effective” to continue posting the daily update, even though 10 days remained before the final report on the election was due. She said no more daily numbers would be reported until the final count was released on or after December 14 when the certified vote count was to be reported. The announcement was alarming becaused this could have been the date when the counting of the votes moved under the table to protect the victory for the opposition to the initiative.
On December 14, as of the close of business, no updated numbers were posted but the results of the election were certified on that day and the final results were soon posted as 6,088,714 for “Yes (48.6%) and 6,442,371 for “No” (51.4%) out of a total of 12,531,085 total votes counted. The total vote count at the end was 179,197 votes greater than on December 3, and it was 3,418,055 greater than the total votes counted as of election night. This number was significantly less than a third of the total vote, but maybe the reported “one-third” was just a rough estimate, not a counted number. If it had be been an accurate number, more than a million more votes should have been expected in the count on December 14.
The final difference between “Yes” and “No” dropped to 353,657, showing a movement of 203,403 votes from the Election Day margin toward “Yes.” Thus, the late vote, including damaged and provisional ballots and the late-counted absentee ballots tended toward “Yes” but not by enough to change the winner—unless many votes remained uncounted and they came mostly from counties with a high “Yes” vote. specifically a high “Yes” among the late-counted ballots. As is often the case in many elections, the total counted ballots are those considered to be enough to be determinative, so some group of remaining votes are left uncounted.
On December 3, some counties had not updated their election night report with the late-counted ballots, but no statement was made on December 14about the number of remaining uncounted votes. On December 14at 7 p.m. PST the Secretary of State’s Web site report on county reporting still showed eight counties that had not updated their Election Night totals. The last entered reports were on December 3. The counties that had not reported were: Kings, Lake, Mendocino, Modoc, Placer, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, and Trinity. In addition, as of the last dated entries on December 3, eleven more counties still had not sent in final numbers. They had sent an early update before December 3 but not the final report showing the count was complete. These counties were: Fresno, Kern, Mariposa, Sacramento, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Siskiyou, Solano, and Tulare. (The two groups total about a third of California’s total of 58 counties and they are mixed between big and small counties.)
Reasonable credulity is strained when we are asked to believe that the final report from this number of counties could have added only 179,197 votes when the final counting from the rest of the state’s counties added over three million votes (when they updated their post-election night reporting). From the existing data provided by the Secretary of State, it can be seen that the total vote doubled in Mendocino county between the Election night report and the December 14 report (From 18,577 for all ballots cast as of Election Night to 35,082 votes counted for Prop. 37 on December 14), and that is just one small relatively rural county. Maybe the late vote (provisional, damaged and late arriving absentee ballots) varied widely in number from county to county, but if so, that, too, would be at least potentially anomalous without some explanation.
The reported numbers do not provide enough information to establish transparency on this issue, and that makes Secretary Bowen’s long-standing oral and written commitment to voting and vote-counting transparency less than impressive, even apart from the December 4 announcement about the decision to stop reporting daily updates. They had been reported for 28 days and only 11 days remained, so why would cost have been such a big issue that close to the end of the counting? To establish transparency and answer this question, more would need to be made available on the Secretary’s Web site. In fact, the reported information could not be less sketchy if it had set out intentionally to fulfill that goal. The needed clarification of the story would have to separately provide the totals for the early-counted ballots before Election Day, the Election Day ballots, and the late-ballot count from each county.
The Summary of the Vote Counting to Highlight the Issues Being Raised When the vote on Proposition 37 was reported on Election night the margin was 5.2% (53.1 to 47.9) and when the reporting about the late arriving ballots and provisional ballots was stopped on December 3 with no further daily updates posted even though the final tally was not due for ten more days, the margin had closed to 3% (51.5 to 48.5). Then, on December 14 when final numbers were posted, the margin was 2.8% (51.4. to 48.6) even though the Secretary of State’s Web site said on December 3 that about a third of the counties had not sent final numbers and eight had still not updated their Election Night report of the totals and one of those counties had not reported almost half of their total votes. The final county by county totals are reported on the California Secretary of State’s Web site here. From the December 3 totals, the final numbers presumably or hopefully included all the late ballots from two-thirds of the counties closing the gap by 2.2%, but the final numbers from the remaining third of the counties only closed the gap by an additional .2%. This is anomalous, and nothing stated about votes from the last third of the counties explains the small change. No reason exists to believe the information on the Secretary of State’s Web site on December 3 was wrong, and no reason exists to believe the final totals should not have accounted for more than 2/10ths% under the circumstances. Given a heavier “Yes” vote during the late balloting (after the pro-labeling side finally got their materials and ads into the arena), the expectation should have been that the late voting in the pro-labeling counties where the earlier voting had been for “Yes” by as much as 2 to 1, was more than 2 to 1 for “Yes” in the final tally of late votes. In short, there would be strong reason to believe the late voting from those counties would be even stronger for “Yes” than the early voting and similarly it would have been reasonable to assume the late ballots from all counties would have shown the same uptick for “Yes.”
If the closing of the gap had been proportional across all of the counties, the gap should have closed by an additional 1.1% after the late votes from all of the counties was tallied (instead of only .2%). This would have been reasonable if the final 19 counties represented a third of the total votes that had remained uncounted following the Election Day reporting, which would have been reasonable given the mix of large and small counties. That would have reduced the winning margin down to 1.9% from the Election Night gap of 5.2%, but still not enough to win for "Yes." An explanation of the final counting from the Secretary of State, Debra Bowen is needed to explain why the final tally added so few votes. Again, the early, Election Day, and late tallies from all the counties are needed to understand what happened. In the absence of any explanation, the logical explanation is that someone in the Office of the Secretary of State decided the Yes side was not going to win, so they stopped the final counting or allowed some counties to stop their counting, but in such a close election with the late balloting showing a different split from the early voting, that determination would not be good enough to satisfy a reasonable need to understand exactly what happened. More information is required to know if the correct outcome was certified.
When about half of the ballots cast in California in 2012 were cast early (during October) and that was a higher number than usual (certainly a higher number than the pro-labeling campaign would have known to expect), the need to fully count all the late ballots became particularly acute. With the early ballots on Proposition 37 more for “No” than the Election Day ballots and the late ballots because the voters were not exposed to most of the “Yes” side’s advertising until the final days of the campaign, the outcome of the election could not have been reliably determined by the early and the Election Day ballots. All the ballots needed to have been counted, but it is not possible to know if they all were counted. The pro-labeling ads were needed to answer the blanket advertising throughout all of October by the “No” campaign, but they were only seen by maybe close to half of the voters before they had voted. Late voting shows the late advertising by the “Yes” side was effective at answering issues raised by the “No” advertising, and for this reason a way is needed to be sure all the late ballots were counted, but that assurance has not been provided. Because the late ballots from 2/3rds of the counties showed the winning margin narrowing, the late ballots from the remaining counties could have closed it even more, especially if early voting in those counties was heavily for “Yes.”
From the reported numbers, the possibility exists that someone decided the remaining late ballots did not need to be counted because even if they might bring the margin down to 1.9%, it was not considered likely, based on the already counted ballots, to erase the gap completely and change the outcome, but that decision might depend, in part, in this case on where the ballots would have come from and by how much the Yes vote had increased among the late ballots. The Secretary of State needs to make clear what was actually going on, even if she must be called before a committee of the state legislature to get the full story released and told to the public.
When anomalies also showed up in some precincts in the larger counties, an election transparency activist decided to ask for a private recount under the applicable state law. In California, such a recount must be privately paid for and the counties have latitude regarding the amount they decide to charge to recount the ballots in their county. but before engaging that part of the story, clarification is needed from Secretary Bowen to make sure the rising tide of “Yes” votes was not suppressed either in the Sacramento on in some counties. Without that, speculation about the possibility of a shady decision-making process on the final tabulation is justified. A report is needed to explain what happened during those final eleven days before the final totals were reported. Detailed information from all stages of the vote from every county would be needed to even begin to move in the direction of transparency, and no reason seems apparent why that information should not be demanded because of the unique way the count unfolded on Proposition 37. Without detailed information clarifying these issues, it seems possible something might have been happening under the table at least in some counties.
In summary, if a million votes somehow were not counted on Proposition 37 because they were assumed to be divided about the same as the already counted ballots, that decision could have been wrong. If the uncounted late votes approached a 2 to 1 split for “Yes,” the outcome of the election could have been changed or the margin could have fallen to maybe tens of thousands of votes. If the margin was narrowed significantly, the pressure for a state-wide, state-paid-for recount would have increased. Over six hundred thousand additional “Yes” votes would have helped to close the gap. It would have matched the additional “No” votes and eaten significantly into the remaining margin of over 300,000 votes that was the gap between the two sides on December 14.
Examining Eight Counties in the Search for Anomalous Details In an effort to discover anomalies from the reported information on the final count and the small number of additional ballots added between December 3 and December 14 the available numbers for the eight counties that had not filed any post-Election Night update by December were examined to see what might be determined from the provided numbers: ･Kings County filed a report on November 7 at 4:03 a.m. showing 30,799 votes total or 64.6% of the registered electorate. In the final count on December 14, their total votes are 30,891, adding 92 votes tallying 64.8% of the total registered voters. The vote split was 32.8% Yes and 67.2% No. The question to ask in this case is: Why was the late vote so small, so much smaller than in other counties? Could late ballots have been left uncounted? ･Lake County filed a report on November 7 at 12:07 a.m. showing 16,622 total votes or 47.6% of the registered electorate. In the final count on December 14, their total votes were 22,952, adding 6,330 votes to tally a total of 65.7% of the registered voters. The vote split 45% Yes and 55% No.The question to be asked here and for Kings County is: Why is the turnout percentage so much lower than the percentage in the other six counties. ･Mendocino County filed a report on November 7at 1:20 a.m. showing 18,577 total votes or 37.3% of the registered electorate. In the final count 11 days later, their tally showed 35,082 total votes, adding 16,505 votes to reach a total of 70.5% of registered voters. The split: 60.1% Yes and 39.9% No. Question: How was it that so many of the ballots were counted late when the number of late ballots was much lower in the other counties? Maybe they did not count any absentee ballots before Election Day. Full numbers on early, Election Day, and late counts would clarify this. ･Modoc County showed on November 7 at 12:27 a.m. 4064 total votes or 75.8% of the registered electorate. In the final count, they showed only 3929 votes, 138 votes fewer than they reported on November 7. This is 73.3% of the registered voters, split: 30.5% Yes; 69.5% No Question: How would it have happened that the late count was actually lower than the earlier reported total number of votes? It's a small county, but the numbers are odd. If double counting occurred in the numbers reported on Election Night, how did they happen, and how was the error found? ･Placer showed on November 6 at 11:47 p.m. total votes of 127,593 or 61.2% of the registered voters, and on the final count, they showed 166,461 votes, adding 38,868 votes. This is 79.8% of the registered voters. The vote split: 36.8% Yes and 63.2% No. Question: Would this above average turnout be credible in this county? Would it be possible that they padded the late vote for “No.” ･Santa Cruz reported on November 7 at 12:51 a.m. total votes of 82,271 or 51.9% of the registered voters, and on the final vote count their tally showed 117,113, adding 34,842 votes. This total is 73.9% of the registered voters. The vote split: 67% Yes and 33% No. ･Sonoma reported in on Election Night, November 7 at 2:23 a.m. with 177,661 total votes or 68.2% of the registered voters, and on December 14th , their total was 209,369 total votes, adding 31,708 votes. This is 80.7% of the registered voters. The vote split: 53.8% Yes and 46.2% No. Question: Both Santa Cruz and Sonoma seem reasonably balanced between early and late counts, but the turnout percentage on Propositon 37 was remarkably different: almost 7% different. ･Trinity showed 5,156 or 64.1% on November 6 at 10:05 p.m. and 5,660 votes on December 14, adding 504 votes. This is 70.3% of eligible voters, split: 47.7% Yes; 52.3% No.
The total number of added voters from this group of counties is 128,711 or 72% of the total of 179,197 votes reported to have been added between December 3 and December 14, but no clear pattern emerges from the “Yes” counties or the “No” counties. In fact, there is no consistent pattern anywhere. Without more details on the early ballots, Election Day ballots and the late arriving ballots, it is hard to know what could have happened. It is only possible to speculate and suggest hypotheses. The other 11 counties are even harder to figure out, because they submitted interim tallies after the Election Night report. Most of them voted or were counted heavily for “No” with only San Mateo, Santa Barbara, and Siskiyou voting “Yes.”
Fresno voted 61.6% “No,” so it is easy to see why it would have been popular there to try to deter a pro-“Yes” ballot recount, as did happen later in this story. This is an agricultural county where the politics of the Farm Bureau would be influential. The Farm Bureau has continuously been a key Monsanto ally. Also, the “Yes” advocates likely had very limited message penetration in the rural areas beyond the reach of urban broadcasting stations. A doctoral thesis could probably be written about the media penetration and the ad buying patterns of the two sides.
One possible hypothesis assertable from the perspective of those accustomed to voting and vote counting manipulations (people who grew up years ago in Chicago, for example, in the days of the old Daley Machine) is that some counties, especially those showing a low voter turnout waited until late in the process to finalize their totals to see if more votes might be needed. This would depend on having a clever way to hide new votes in the course of the counting process or having boxes of late arriving ballots they did not want to bother to count unless they would be needed in the event of a close election. This strategy would depend on only needing a small number of additional votes. When a close election unfolds in California, and there is more than a month with daily postings of the count, it provides many days to accomplish what Mayor Daley’s operatives in Chicago had to accomplish in a couple of hours at most after the polls closed on Election Night. Counties on both sides of a ballot initiative like Proposition 37 could go to work seeking additional ballots in the woodwork, or they could want to save themselves the cost of counting the late ballots until they could be sure they would be needed to determine the outcome of the election.
Note that the voter turnout percentages for the counties that were heavily for “Yes” are higher than the counties where the vote was heavily for “No,” except in the case of Placer County. That could mean that every possible “Yes” vote was counted in the pro-labeling counties and every possible “No” vote was counted in Placer County, because they were doing everything they could to increase their numbers through the use of the late ballots. On the other side, some of the counties supporting the “No” outcome could have wanted to avoid counting their late ballots just because they would know that the late vote for Proposition 37 was more for “Yes” than the early vote. They could have been happy to have someone decide the already counted ballots were enough to decide the election with no chance the remaining ballots might change the outcome. This could have happened in Fresno County, and it could have been a reason they did not want to have a recount there. Nonetheless, it has to be stressed: this is only a speculative hypothesis. There is no proof available to establish any wrongdoing. Only the perceived incentives are being explained. Nothing can yet be known about what actually happened, but reports on the early, Election Day, and late votes would provide a clue.
Generally, as a matter of standard election truth nationwide, Republican turnout is greater than Democratic turnout, and as a corollary Conservative turnout is greater than Liberal turnout, but on Proposition 37, the anti-labeling Conservative counties showed mostly lower turnout at least in the eight counties examined while the pro-labeling Liberal counties showed greater turnout. An explanation for this observation is needed, and it could lie in the demographics of the particular counties, but it must be noted that no clear pattern is perceived, and there are no counties in the group that are truly similar to each other. There are pro-labeling counties with higher and lower turnout, and there are anti-labeling counties with higher and lower turnout. The counties with the highest turnout among the eight that did not report any Election Night update until after December 3 were Placer and Sonoma with Placer almost 2 to 1 for “No” and Sonoma with a much closer vote for “Yes.” The two counties with a higher percentage of “Yes” votes, Mendocino and Santa Cruz counties, showed much lower turnout, down in the low 70s.
Also in the low 70s were Modoc with a 2 to 1 vote for “No” and Trinity with a much closer vote for “No.” Meanwhile, Kings and Lake with turnout in the mid 60s produced strong votes for “No.” This might suggest that the late ballots in those counties were left uncounted because the “Yes” vote came on stronger in the late count, but the final vote tallies and the level of detail in the reports fails to allow any way to know. This is a failure in the transparency of the final reporting of the count, even though too much transparency between Election Day and December 14 could have allowed greater opportunity for abuse in the balloting and the counting of the ballots. These issues merit examination by the California state legislature, and hopefully they will want to advance such an examination. Perhaps, it was not “cost effectiveness” that caused Secretary of State Debra Bowen to terminate reporting of the daily count 11 days early. Maybe, it was a desire to prevent the potential manipulators from knowing their target. In the old days in Chicago, the Daley Machine could not go to work until they knew the down-state totals. That gave them the total number of votes they needed to “find” from somewhere to provide the needed victory margin.
Better in any election is to win by a wide margin because close elections can open a Pandora’s Box of malfeasance and election fraud. To win by any margin the pro-labeling forces would likely have needed enough resources from late September through Election Day to go head to head with the industry advertising expenditures or they would have needed to work much harder at increasing turnout in their stronghold counties. To do what they would have needed, they would have needed friendly billionaires on their side. If they were going to make up with shoe leather what they did not have in money, they would have needed a very large group of well-organized and highly-visible volunteers throughout the month of October at least in the urban and coastal counties if not in all counties. Without that, the campaign became an object lesson in how to buy an election for the “No” side or at least how to disrupt one that looked unwinnable for them in late September, based on a nearly 3 to 1 polling split.
For the “Yes” side, the campaign was a lesson in how to lose a campaign that looked in September virtually impossible for them to lose, but they did lose even if their opponents gained only a temporary Pyrrhic victory. The pro-labeling side lost partly because the support for their side was soft and not fully enough informed to resist the industry advertising. The next rounds in this battle are awaited in other states, and reports have been published suggesting that some of those who funded the anti-labeling campaign have already asked the FDA to support transgenic food labeling just because they do not want to continue to spend money on one election after another until they finally lose as consumers become more demanding and informed. Their profitability depends on keeping the consumers uninformed on more than just transgenic labeling, so the more consumers become informed on one issue, the more likely they are to want to inform themselves on others as well. If they could get a watered down labeling rule from the FDA, they might hope it would be sufficient to get people to go back to sleep.
Especially when national boycotts have been launched against the companies funding the opposition to Proposition 37, companies begin to have a harder time explaining to shareholders why such expenditures should come out of their dividend checks even when sales have depended on keeping the people in ignorance about the transgenic content of the food they eat. Some political expenditures on campaign contributions and lobbying can be cost effective investments, but many can have only short-term value until the public cost of the corporate agenda is learned. When Monsanto was unable to get what they wanted from the government to suppress opposition to their transgenic bovine growth hormone rBST, they sold that division of the company (before the market collapsed entirely) and focused on transgenic seeds instead.
The Larger Possibility of Voting and Counting Manipulation The cloud hanging over the final numbers from the last 19 California counties to report their late ballot count and especially the eight that had not updated their Election night numbers by December 3 increases suspicions about a vote-counting manipulation and the possibility of collaboration with it from within the office of the Secretary of State. If a vote manipulation scheme was aimed to produce a victory based on Election night projections, and the late vote was stronger for “Yes” than the manipulators expected, counting all of the final ballots would not have been in their interest even if the final count only narrowed the gap down to tens of thousands of votes and did not produce a win for the “Yes” side. The schemers would have needed a way to change the count in multiple counties operating a wide range of different equipment and software; they could probably not have worked a “man-in-the-middle” hack at the state level like the one perceived in Ohio in 2004, but if something had been possible, a full recount could put a vote manipulation project at greater risk of being found out. That could have increased a desire or incentive to leave hundreds of thousands of votes uncounted just so the margin would not close more than it already had by December 3.
If a state-wide hand recount were to occur, especially if it was supervised and closely observed by an objective, bi-partisan group, it could have smoked out any counting manipulation like the ones observed in Ohio in 2004, but it might not have found a more clever electronic hack generating complete ballot votes to go with the count on Proposition 37. In Ohio, the evidence of manipulation in some counties was quickly thrown away, but California laws requires ballots to be kept. Once all the preliminary questions are asked and answered, a full state recount still might be required to fully understand everything that happened. That might or might not be politically possible given the power of pro-biotech agribusiness lobbyists in the state capitol.
To answer the questions raised by this situation, a report is needed to show how much each county added in the days between their Election Night Report and December 14. Also valuable, if transparency is as important as it should be, would be columns in the state election reporting tallying the early vote, Election Day polling station vote, and late vote for all counties. This is important partly because the possibility of vote manipulation is being investigated by qualified statistical professionals, and others should be able to join them in evaluating both the balloting and the counting. In many cases in the past, anomalous differences betwen the early and late voting has been looked at to provide an indication of manipulation.
An action of the legislature might be needed to get the needed report, and that might be hard to get given the way lobbying forces are arrayed on the issue. The request should be made no matter how hard it would be to get it, and a vote on the issue should be recorded. Some battles are worth fighting even if they cannot be won. In this case, it would be important to see which side of the issue legislators and other officials line up. It would be valuable to try to know why people lined up as they did even if only speculation might be possible about that.
Every citizen should have the information they need to understand all the balloting and all the counting in all the counties, if not all the precincts in the state. A member of the California legislature is needed to introduce a bill requiring this information in the case of all close elections, even if the legislature would be lobbied heavily by industry to prevent the bill from passing. The matter should be put on the record no matter what the outcome is likely to be both in committee and on the floor. Most important is a response from Secretary Bowen, because her reputation for promoting transparency is in the dock right now. Feet need to be held to the fire even if picketing and marching in the street are necessary to get action.
The independent statisticians examining the vote have reported Proposition 37 anomalies similar to those seen in Republican primary elections in some states using digital vote tabulation like that used in some California counties. The analysis is made by comparing the early vote, the Election Day vote and the late vote (consisting of provisional ballots and late arriving absentee ballots) at the precinct level to find the anomalies. Normally, in any precinct, all three should show a consistent pattern. For example, in the South Carolina primary in 2012, more Santorum voters would not have been expected early on Election Day voting while more of the Romney voters voted late, and if a pattern like that showed up, it could be an indication of manipulation by the Romney forces.
The increased Romney vote at the end could show an effort to make up votes after the total for other candidates was known or suspected, possibly based on exit polling. Voting machine technology can be employed to accomplish this kind of manipulation of the final counting, and the votes can be hidden in places where they can be hard to find unless there is a full supervised recount of all the actual ballots without any ballots being discarded before the recount is possible. When the balloting and counting is entirely electronic and people with an interest in election outcomes, like the Romney family and their associates, who have taken ownership positions with voting machine companies like Hart Civic, selling and designing voting machines and software, a red flag is raised.
If manipulation can be seen in a changing pattern from early to late, the difference will emerge in the late voting much like it did many years ago in Chicago under Mayor Richard J. Daley, when they would send operatives out to certain precincts to cast the needed graveyard vote to close the gap. Certain parts of the city were well known for late reporting of the vote because time was needed for the votes to be cast and the manipulation to occur. In those days, people needed to stand in the booth and cast the votes until the needed number was reached. This happened after the polls had been closed to all other voters and any election observers had been escorted out.
Now the manipulation occurs electronically and much faster, but it can still show up in the voting patterns. The manipulators do not want to provide more votes than they need, because that would risk providing more votes than would be believable in the turnout percentage. For this reason, they would focus on large precincts where more votes can be cast without greatly impacting the turnout percentage. Sometimes these could be precincts with lower than average turnout, because that provides a margin for the manipulation to remain credible. The anomalies in the voting pattern on Proposition 37 were seen in the large counties by the analysts, but little opportunity to check them out resulted, because the recount was shut down prematurely.
How Election Manipulations Have Been Accomplished Election manipulators need to operate at the margins, and they could only alter close elections without greatly increasing the risk of getting caught; they cannot produce a landslide, so the first requirement is to do everything possible before and during Election Day to keep the election close. In Ohio in 2004, they had to produce somewhat more than 100,000 votes at the end of the voting (and counting) given all the other manipulations accomplished on the ground during the day to prevent many people from voting, but the number of votes needed was large enough, according to investigators who have reviewed the tallies, to cause the manipulators to cast more votes in some precincts than there were registered voters in that precinct. This seemed to have been accomplished using a mirror site allowing the changes to be made out of state at a Republican computer center in Tennessee, but this could not have been accomplished if the Secretary of State in Ohio had not been a collaborating Republican who was also state co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign. He had to allow the hack to be inserted into the code.
The voting machine software in some Ohio counties was also found to have flipped votes from Kerry to Bush, and it was the record of these flipped votes that was thrown away immediately after they were counted. In California, we do not yet know how a hack might have been accomplished, but it may have been part of an effort to increase the Romney vote in some precincts. Even though Romney was not going to win in California, an effort may have been made to narrow the margin of his loss there. The goal would have been to improve Romney’s vote totals wherever that might have been possible just to make it possible for him to win the nationwide popular vote. Because of the time zone difference, it also could have been an early evening effort to swim against the tide being seen in the eastern battleground states.
In many counties, “No” on Proposition 37 correlated with the Republican vote for President, and the “Yes” vote correlated with the strongly Democratic areas of the state, so down-ballot races could have been manipulated along with the Presidential vote just to avoid raising a red flag about an anomalous rise in the number of bullet-voted ballots casting a vote only for the Presidential candidate at the top of the ticket. Electronic manipulation can be much more sophisticated and thus harder to detect in the numbers, but it is not impossible to detect as long as no other explanation for a late vote swing exists.
In this case, an alternative explanation did exist—in the “Yes” direction on Proposition 37. Perhaps, a need was felt to counter that movement as a way to assure the victory; it might have showed up in the Election Day voting as well as in the late vote. The manipulation in favor of Romney could have intentionally helped the “No” vote on Proposition 37. This would have been consistent with the Romney campaign’s pro-corporate, pro-elite political stance as well as the similar stance of the Republican Party. Early in his career after graduating from Harvard Business School, Governor Romney gave a great deal of personally supportive assistance to Monsanto as their business plans were being worked out. At the time, Romney was working for Bain Consulting and Monsanto was one of the company’s clients.
The Story of the 2012 Election in California, the Earlier Elections, and Hypotheses about How a Manipulation Could Have Been Accomplished For the first time in California in 2012, more early votes were cast than were cast on Election Day, and a disproportionate number of the early votes on Proposition 37 were for “No” just because the industry arguments were the only arguments being heard by voters on the airwaves during those October weeks preceding Election Day. In contrast, the late vote was influenced by the appearance on the air of the advertising from the pro-labeling campaign, so a tilt toward the “Yes” side showed up both on Election Day and in the late votes that were not counted until later. Evaluating the changes is tricky, because variations were apparent from county to county. For example, if a manipulation was occurring in a particular county where it was possible, it could cause results to diverge from the average pattern in the late voting seen in other places with similar demographics.
Further, much would have depended on when the hack would have occurred and what was its primary objective. A pro-Romney hack would have been made from looking only at the early and Election Day voting, but an anti-Proposition 37 hack could have occurred at any time before December 14 in any county. It could have attempted to close or enlarge the gap seen after the Election Day votes were cast. The gap would have been enlarged if the outcome of the late count was feared. That would be the case if a manipulation was made to enable a victory for “No” on Proposition 37, but if the manipulation was a by-product of an effort to manipulate the vote for Romney, the vote on Proposition 37 would have been part of an effort to make the ballots look credible. In contrast, if the manipulation was aimed at winning for “No” on Proposition 37, Governor Romney and others could have been beneficiaries of an effort to make the manipulation look like normal balloting, but that work could been beneficial to Romney only if it occurred on Election Day.
In Florida, during and after the 2000 election, the post-election recount found the places where the manipulation had been hidden, but a full official recount was not accomplished before the U.S. Supreme Court interceded to decide the election outcome preemptively. The manipulation occurred in places where the Democrats did not suspect them when they called for the initial post-election recount. The Florida state Supreme Court clearly thought a full recount could have been accomplished before the Electoral College met, but the 5-4 majority of the Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court decided that should not be allowed to take place.
How much the five members of the U.S. Supreme Court majority might have known about the manipulation in Florida is not known, but they did facilitate its clearly intended result. That day was not a proud one for the image of U.S. democracy at home or abroad, but unfortunately the people of other nations take similar events for granted along with others that are far worse in their disservice to the public interest. The United States should be setting an example for other nations, but it has not been doing that during key recent election campaigns or in between them either.
Some U.S. election analysts now allow for as much as a 5% fraud factor in making their projections about election outcomes, and this would mean the opposing margin of victory would have to be as much as 5% greater to overcome the potential or expected fraud. That may be considered to be the outer limit of the ability of manipulators to overcome the gap produced on Election Day by their opponents, and in 2012 for President, they could not ultimately overcome the margin provided by the turnout of minorities, the young, and unmarried women. The Obama-Biden campaign worked hard at producing the turn-out through a sophisticated Get Out the Vote effort that stayed closely in touch with their voters throughout the campaign season.
As a result of the 2012 experience, with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), white male legislators in many states were already active in late 2012 introducing bills to enable the suppression of future votes from these groups. In 2012, the gap was bigger in many places, particularly in Ohio, than the Republicans could have overcome, so they seem to have abandoned the attempt. Increased vigilance on the part of election watchers may have also been a factor in deterring manipulation. Lawyers and law students were dispatched to polling stations in the key states to watch for anything anomalous, and they were also watching the vote counting and tabulation after the polls closed.
Nonetheless, Karl Rove on Fox News was clearly expecting something to occur when he protested the early calling of some races by the Fox statisticians. That showed that time would have been needed to accomplish whatever manipulation of the votes and the count that might have been possible. Rove was likely doing whatever he could to try to preserve the needed time, especially in key states. Ohio was the most important of the states for Romney, and Rove would have known in detail about the vote manipulation accomplished in that state in 2004. He would have known what the manipulators would have needed to know before the manipulation could have started. Most importantly, they would have needed to keep the gap narrow enough for a ballot counting manipulations to close it.
In California on Proposition 37, a recount request was filed based on the observed statistical anomalies even though the expected patterns were different than they were for the Presidential vote. Because the circumstances affecting the two races were different, the pattern between early and late voting was different. The manipulation would have needed to be spread widely to avoid being detected, but it had to be accomplished in the places where the voting equipment and/or the personnel made it possible. In California, the employed equipment and software vary widely from county to county.
Electronic manipulation may be more difficult to find than the notorious Chicago-style or Texas-style manipulations of the past, but recounting of the ballots may be able to find it if a record of all the balloting exists, and in this case, the anomalous patterns were seen in large precincts where votes would likely be more easily hidden. Only a recount could determine if the suspicions aroused by the observed patterns were justified, and that means, they must start in key, carefully determined counties and proceed in an order of perceived priority. The project could have taken a long time, depending in part on the resources available to undertake the work, but as it happened the recount was cut short after counting only two counties, one large and one small.
The requested recount in California was initiated by Lori Grace of the Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity, who is also the founder and director of the Sunrise Center that advocates for “green” and healthful lifestyles. Thus, she was supporter of “Yes” on Proposition 37 as an advocate for greater voting transparency and as an advocate for healthy eating. The recount began in Orange County on December 18, 2012 at a cost of $600 per day, per table following payment of a $3,600 set-up charge. The greater the number of tables paid for the faster the recount can go. The county may have been targeted because it is one of several using Hart BallotNow and Hart eSlate systems or some variation of the Hart Civic digital balloting and ballot-counting technology.
Because the Hart company is owned by investment interests with close Romney family connections including people involved as funders and bundlers for the Romney campaign, suspicions would have been raised. Orange County used a version of the software that has been updated in other places, so that might have raised a red flag. The amount of time needed for the recount was not established at the outset and it likely could not have been, but nothing was found to be amiss in Orange County during the recount. Orange County is the state’s third largest county, and the recount went on to recount the state’s smallest county, Sierra, also without finding anything amiss. That either means nothing existed to be found, or it could have meant that the manipulators were very effective at hiding their work.
The total cost in Orange was $5400 and the total cost in Sierra was: $500 to count all of the county’s 1,822 ballots. Next, they intended to go to Fresno County, but there they ran into a roadblock. The Republican Registrar of Voters in Fresno, Brandi Orth wanted to charge $14,000 for the set-up and over $4000 per day for counting the ballots. In addition she planned to charge for her own time on the phone discussing the costs of the project. A first day payment of $18,000 was demanded. It seemed as if the recount was being used to recover funds lost as the result of a county budget cut.
While the effort was made to work something out in Fresno under the argument that the proposed charges did not fit within the state guidelines governing recounts, the clock ran out on the Plan B to continue the count in some other county. Orth refused to lower the costs, and that served to raise suspicions that something could have been amiss with the balloting or the counting in Fresno County. The only remaining recourse was to the state legislature or the courts, and the legislature seemed to be the better place to start. The next scene in the play is awaited.
Straightening Out the Potential Abuses—If That Is Still Possible In most elections many ballots remain uncounted if the number of uncounted ballots is deemed to be insufficient to overcome the margin in the tallied vote at the time it needs to be reported. For example, absentee ballots may be left uncounted if they could not impact on the outcome, but on Proposition 37, all of the votes needed to have been counted because of the narrow margin of victory, the uniquely different pattern seen in the early and late voting, as well as the significant closing of the winning margin during the counting of the late votes.
The late vote was not influenced only by the late appearing ads but also by the late leafleting. Some of the volunteers did not even receive their leaflets and other materials until the end of October or early November, and the money needed to pay for them may not have been available earlier because the early polling in September may have suggested additional money would not be necessary. At that time, “Yes” seemed to be definitively ahead and by such a wide margin that both funders and organizers closed their wallets and dropped their guard.
The organizers of the campaign and their supporters may have been overconfident as a result of the early polling before the “No” ads started to run, and they may have underestimated the impact the “No” ad campaign could have. That could have been the result of inexperienced organizers, because the organizers of the opposition campaign seemed to be clear about the amount of money they would need to spend to change the expected outcome. That would have been learned through experience in many places. They went about their work methodically, and they seem to have been confident from the start that they could change the outcome of the election if they spent enough to get the job done.
Future developments on the recount in key places or in the legislature may still make it possible to figure out what actually happened in the counties where the possibility of balloting or counting manipulation was perceived from the statistics, but it would depend on some legislative or court action to enable the recount to be restarted. That would not explain whatever might have happened in the Secretary of State’s office on December 4 and thereafter, but it could have opened up greater transparency in the counties directly.
The numbers provided so far do not allow enough clarity. A need to seek possible manipulation in the counties seems as important as the need to investigate it in Sacramento. If influential political forces or people with the ability to buy a fix and move legislatures on key matters of policy were concerned about the possibility of closing the victory margin and changing the outcome of the election if all of the late ballots were counted, they could have sought a way to shut down the final counting of the late ballots in some places. Maybe they succeeded. Investigations would need to be conducted in the counties as well as in the offce of the Secretary of States.
Perhaps, late ballots remain uncounted in many counties, especially in counties where county officials were thought to be favorable to the “No” outcome. All we know is that the small number of additional reported votes from one-third of the state’s counties added to to the state tally without any easily transparent explanation between December 3 and December 14, and that raises a red flag about the possibility of manipulation either at the county level or maybe in the office of the Secretary of State. In short, adding less than 200,000 total to the state count from so many counties after nearly two weeks of potential under-the-table activity could be troubling, and the details need explaining.
The best way to know what happened is to fully and reliably count or now recount all the ballots or at least those from a significant cross-section of counties selected on the basis of perceived anomalies. As part of this effort, it would be important to make sure any and all voting or counting manipulation is ferreted out and corrected with the guilty prosecuted—as has not happened in other recent cases. The recount was started in the place where possible manipulation seemed most likely, but no investigation in the office of the Secretary of State has been reported. To the contrary, both Secretary of State Debra Bowen and the Fresno Voter Registrar Brandi Orth refused to appear on Pacifica radio to explain themselves and talk about what happened. That made the situation smell louder.
Triggering Recounts and Fixing the Other Observed Dysfunctions If election analysts feel justified in using an 5% fraud factor to adjust their analysis, then a full report on the voting and vote counting should be required in any election with a final margin of victory of less than 5%. That would be a reasonable statutory requirement if respectable and transparent democratic government matters. The ability to find manipulation will depend in part on how well the hacks could have been hidden. An examination of the software could be as important as an examination of the ballots. In Ireland, all digital systems have been discarded now just because of the potential troubles they introduce. Maybe the Irish know something others do not about the difficulty in assuring an accurate vote when electronic equipment is used. Maybe the Irish are just more concerned about their moral and democratic reputation than people in the U.S.
If ballots were cast as part of a manipulation, and the fraud was not just in the counting, the recount would have to connect all the cast ballots to real people who provably voted their own ballots. In addition, a review of vote suppression tactics should be required. If Florida was able to suppress about 60,000 Obama votes in 2012, as has been alleged in a study conducted by investigators at Ohio State University, then that aspect of manipulation also needs to get more thorough investigation and remedy even if it would not have been a factor on Proposition 37. In that case, sowing voter confusion could be seen as a form of voter suppression.
A prominent tool of election manipulators is to get people on the other side disgusted enough to stay home on Election Day. In California attitudes against the Initiative process have been cultivated even by prominent newspapers. They editorialized for having the matter handled by the legislature, but if the legislature was going to handle it, it would have been handled. Voter initiatives are needed when elected officials fail to act.
In Chicago in the past (and no doubt some other places, too; Texas is one other place where manipulations have been reliably reported in the past, for example), the manipulation involved casting votes on behalf of people who did not personally cast them, but more recently the manipulations have been in the counting, not in the casting of ballots. That kind of manipulation is found by recounting the actual ballots, if they exist. No report has been seen suggesting the voting records have been been destroyed in any California county, but maybe late arriving ballots could have been destroyed in some places without anyone learning about it. They would not likely be found in a dumpster or shoved into a corner, so if they were destroyed, someone would be needed to stand up and tell about it. Whistleblowers can be hoped for if they would be needed, but they cannot be expected. Most of the operating incentives are likely to be on the side of staying quiet and suppressing anything designed to discover the truth.
The point of this discussion is that there can be more to Transgenic Trespass than just a trespass against farmers’ crops and consumers’ health; there has been also continuing trespass against the U.S. political system and against the democratic ideal—and now possibly also against honest and transparent voting and vote counting on Proposition 37 in California. If a hack of the vote on behalf of Governor Romney could have incorporated a manipulation of the votes on Proposition 37 (or vice versa) with other candidates also benefiting from the effort, the Romney political profile would need to recognize the story as part of the protection of established interests. Few Presidential candidates in history have ever worked so prominently in support of the “one percent,” and the campaign to defeat Proposition 37 was elementally important to a politically active corporate element of the one percent. They would have been likely Romney allies he could have wanted to assist through policy, even though the Romneys reportedly eat organic food at home just as the Obama’s do.
Thus, the results of the recount controversy and the related analysis is awaited, if more is still possible and Brandi Orth did not succeed in killing it permanently or at least until some historian is able to tell the full story in greater detail, maybe after state or county employees reveal their part upon retirement. Perhaps, it will never be possible to know everything that should be known about the management of the ballot counting and reporting by the Secretary of State.
California is one of the better states on election management, or so it has been possible to believe up until now. If problems are found there, more of them are likely to exist in other places, but that does not mean manipulated votes and vote counting in California could have been impossible or impossible to hide. In fact, in the current environment of digital balloting and vote counting makes manipulation much easier than it has been in the past, and that will be the case until full trackability and accountability of all votes is possible—or the digital system is scrapped entirely as it has been in Ireland. If it is possible to track a package from one location to another and at all the intermediate points along the way, it should be possible to track votes similarly if the political will existed to do it.
For example, it should be possible for a voter to go on the computer to find out when his absentee ballot was received or when his ballot was cast in person and when it was counted and added to the county total. Above all, it should be possible to learn the tally of the early voting, Election Day voting, and the late counted ballots, including the provisional, damaged, and late-arriving absentee ballots. People should be able to find out if their ballots were not counted as a result of election management expediencies at the county or state level.
Whatever is needed to establish, restore, or maintain voter confidence in the system must be advanced, and if it is not, then U.S. democracy will itself be seen as fraudulent. In the end, voters can demand better than they are getting, but they must get organized to do that effectively and collaboratively; the powers in charge of the system will not make it easy if they have the system rigged to suit their own empowerment and advantage. Secretary of State Bowen in California has campaigned on the principle of election transparency, but she needs to work harder to deliver it—if the election on Proposition 37 is a fair test of her administration.
More Fixing of the Systemic Failures, Dysfunctions, and Trespasses Against the Constitutional Rights of the People The advertising of the Just Label It-Right to Know campaign did belatedly counter the industry arguments and change people’s views during the final days of the election campaign, but it could not counter the large early vote, the heavy October advertising on the other side, and the possible impact of the editorials in the large urban newspapers. The “No” side might have won just because of the questions people had about the provisions of the initiative, and some in California are known to vote against all initiatives just because they want everything to be handled in the legislature or they think that anything passed by initiative is going to raise their taxes. These views have been documented. They are well known, and they are certainly cultivated for a reason.
Finally, the closeness of the election only provided an opportunity for manipulation; it did not prove the existence of it. Questions need to be asked in all the appropriate places even if they need to be printed on placards, banners, bumper stickers, and lapel pins or shouted through bull-horns at demonstrations and rallies. That is easier than conducting a new election whenever that may become possible if the issue is not resolved by action taken in other states. In any case, it is better to get all the questions about the most recent election answered if they can be. Full clarification of the counting during time between December 3 and December 14 is essential to enable voters to have confidence in the election system as it was managed by Secretary of State Debra Bowen.
In 2000 in Florida on the Presidential vote, the needed amount of time was not available to ferret out all parts of the manipulation because the U.S. Supreme Court prevented that, but Vice President Gore was probably also wrong when he said there is nothing possible in between a Supreme Court decision and violent revolution. If he is wrong, the people need to show him what the alternatives are. He probably could not have organized a massive demonstration on the steps of the Supreme Court on his own behalf, but others might have. With the benefit of hindsight many might wish they had done that. Maybe they will be more prepared next time, but in the meantime, most people proved docile in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on Bush v. Gore. Rightfully, they are in awe of the careful reasoning hopefully found in a Supreme Court decision, but they should be careful not to enable that awe or confidence to be abused when the needed reasoning is AWOL.
In 2004, Senator Kerry conceded the election quickly, almost as if he really did not want to be President, so the back story behind the outcome that year did not get far enough to be thoroughly examined by certifiably objective and independent people—or decided by the Supreme Court either. A full investigation probably could not have been accomplished in the time before the Electoral College was scheduled to decide the victory, but a Congressional investigation was launched and a damning report was issued later by House Democrats, even a bi-partisan investigation would have been better. Most importantly, the media, apart from Rolling Stone and some online sources, let the matter drop. The dominant establishment attitudes have been reminiscent of capricious morality seen in too many other places, many of them corporate places.
Now in California, unless all the questions and anomalies are answered through inquiry about the recount or addressed and maybe adjudicated in other ways, the full campaign must be waged again in the future—if the need for food labeling is not resolved elsewhere. Maybe the anomalies will prove significant enough for a revote on Proposition 37 to be mandated by the legislature or the courts. Meanwhile, bills to require labeling are being introduced again in state legislatures; two bills have been passed in Connecticut and Maine, and action in other states seems likely. Because of the lobbying power of agribusiness and its allies, that may not get much farther in 2013 than it did in 2012, but the people could rise up against that also if they were informed enough and angry enough to want to do that.
If action had been possible in many state legislatures, the need for state ballot initiatives would not have been felt. That is the reason the newspaper editorials calling for the matter to be handled by the legislature are viewed as a strategic, pro-industry, anti-labeling ploy by the corporate media. That could have been a factor in moving the outcome of the vote toward “No,” and it would not be unreasonable to think that the editorials in the state’s major papers could have moved as many as 500,000 votes—or more.
The trouble is: the combined outcome of many factors left hanging any constitutional right people should possess to know what is in their food and if it is unhealthful. Unfortunately, no law requires anything called food or designed as equivalent to food to be safety tested. People are left on their own about that, and they are also left without the information or the education they would need to protect themselves. Meanwhile, food additives do have to be tested for safety, and the argument has been advanced to propose the testing of any transgenic product as a food additive. Yet, no action on this idea has been taken. In the absence of it and for more reasons than that, transgenic content should be labeled. Failing to label it is unconsionable regardless of the number of votes the industry forces are able to win.
The California newspapers said the legislature should act, but if it does not act, the fact should be obvious and embarrassing. Actually, it is the Congress that should act, and if it did, the matter would not need to come up state by state. If a ballot initiative is needed to overcome the excessive political power of corporations in state legislatures and the Congress, that should not be off limits to full public debate. Newspapers have a constituency the same as politicians do, and if they do not serve their constituency wisely and responsibly, they can be put out of business. That is happening at the hands of people who now trust Internet sources more than they trust newspapers and the other corporate media. The right to know about what is being eaten is, after all, a more important right than any of the rights the War of Independence in 1776 or any other subsequent war was ever fought over. It is more important than anything in the Bill of Rights because it is about the question of whether or not life can be sustained without being rendered dysfunction genetically.
Brad Friedman also was on the story both via his program on Pacifica radio and in a Bradblog article first posted on February 4, 2013 and then updated later with additional information. The article, “Forget About Fresno: How One CA County Clerk Stopped Prop 37’s Oversight ‘Recount’ and Why Secretly Tallied Paper Ballots Undermine U.S. Democracy,” is at: http://www.bradblog.com/?p=9848