Published: June 10, 2016

By Jim Lichtman
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While Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders has been mathematically eliminated from the 2016 election, for weeks he has complained that the election process is rigged. While many brushed his remarks aside as a non-story, many, including Sanders own campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, stated that Nevada Democratic officials “hijacked the process…”

Are they right?


On May 16, The New York Times writes, “Thrown chairs. Leaked cellphone numbers. Death threats spewed across the Internet.

“…angry supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders … were directing their ire at the Nevada Democratic Party — and its chairwoman, Roberta Lange — over a state convention on Saturday that they think was emblematic of a rigged political system.

“ ‘It’s been vile,’ said Ms. Lange, who riled Sanders supporters by refusing their requests for rule changes at the event in Las Vegas. ‘It’s been threatening messages, threatening my family, threatening my life, threatening my grandchild.’ ”

A day later (May 17), National Public Radio (NPR) reported, “The Sanders campaign says that in Nevada on Saturday, ‘the Democratic leadership used its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place.’ It is alleging that the chair of the convention incorrectly ruled on a voice vote, unfairly deeming 64 of its delegates ineligible, ignored floor motions from his supporters and wouldn’t accept any petitions to change the rules.

“ ‘If the Democratic Party is to be successful in November, it is imperative that all state parties treat our campaign supporters with fairness and the respect that they have earned,’ the Sanders statement continued.”

On May 18th, NPR reported more controversy.

“NPR’s use of the word ‘violence’ and claims of thrown chairs in recent stories about Saturday’s Nevada Democratic Party state convention have come under criticism by supporters of candidate Bernie Sanders.

“Listener Ya’akov Sloman, of Mishawaka, Ind., writes: ‘In the aftermath of the convention a single report of “throwing chairs and rushing the stage” by an openly partisan “journalist” became the story for every major news outlet. In particular, the dramatic image of “throwing chairs” seemed to strike reporters as great stuff; so it was repeated.

“ ‘As far as my extensive research can determine,’ Sloman writes, ‘(and I am still looking) there is no other evidence of “thrown chairs.” This one counterfactual account changes the tone of stories containing it dramatically. If it did not happen, claims of “violence” which depend on it are simply not sustainable.’ ”

On Thursday, May 18th, Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-check organization, took a closer look.

“Nevada’s delegate allocation process is complex, but Sanders supporters have accused the state Democratic Party of various crimes including ignoring attempts to change the rules, rigging the process in favor of Clinton and disqualifying several dozen delegates that supported Sanders. …

“The fight over rules had been going on since April,” Politifact writes, “according to an email chain posted by Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston, between Sanders super delegate Erin Bilbray and party chairwoman Roberta Lange.

“Supporters of Sanders believed that the convention rules, which have been largely the same since 2008, gave an unfair amount of power to Lange, the convention chair. The rules specifically lay out that all convention votes must be done by voice vote, and that only the convention chair can declare the winner or call for a more specific method of voting among the thousands of delegates.

“The rules… also state that any amendment attempts must be approved by two-thirds of the convention delegates — which would be difficult given the nearly even number of Clinton and Sanders backers present.

“Sanders backers say the continuing nature of the presidential primary necessitated more rule changes.

“The Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment. In a previous statement, the campaign detailed several allegations of misconduct from the state party, which we considered as part of this fact-check. ‘At that convention the Democratic leadership used its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place,’ the campaign said in that statement.

“However,” Politifact points out in a very detailed story that I encourage all concerned to read, “there were no last minute rule changes sprung on convention-goers — the rules had been publicly available weeks in advance, largely unchanged for three presidential cycles, and given to both campaigns.”

The ruling from Politifact?

“Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said Nevada Democratic Party leaders ‘hijacked the process on the floor’ of the state convention ‘ignoring the regular procedure and ramming through what they wanted to do.’

“Caucuses and delegate math can be incredibly confusing, and the arcane party structures don’t reflect how most people assume presidential selection works.

“But the howls of unfairness and corruption by the Sanders campaign during Nevada’s state Democratic Convention can’t change the simple fact that Clinton’s supporters simply turned out in larger numbers and helped her solidify her delegate lead in Nevada.

“There’s no clear evidence the state party ‘hijacked’ the process or ignored ‘regular procedure.’

“We rate this claim False.”

Rumor website Snopes also examined the issue (May 19), of thrown chairs and violence and concluded that it was false.

My assessment?

While I’ve always been a strong believer in states’ rights, in every presidential election cycle the issue of voter registration, fraud or dishonesty in the process comes up in one form or another. If individuals really want a fair, accurate and transparent system, they need to start a petition in each state asking their U.S. Representatives to set-up one unified system for voting. During 2016, I’ve seen too many news stories showing long lines of citizens waiting to vote. In this digital age, it seems both sensible and practical to me that a system could be made to work that would make the process easier and reliable for voters to cast a vote.

However, when it comes to the selection of delegates, both parties are to blame for a flawed system and both parties need to clean-up their respective acts. (I wrote about this in 2012.) With so much control in the hands of party leaders, citizens need to get involved to change the delegate selection process, and I would start by eliminating the “super delegate” system in the Democratic Party, while not officially hurting Sanders (before Washington, D.C.’s primary, Clinton has received 15,729,913 popular votes to Sanders 12,009,562) it gives the appearance of unfairness.

NEXT WEEK: Those e-mails… again!


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