BALLOTS NOT BULLETS
"Ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors to
Accept the idea for a few hours that your vote is, in
fact, being stolen before your eyes. Put aside your beliefs or disbeliefs in
the rectitude of the federal, state and local governments. Journey back to a
time just a year after "Woodstock," when today's new grandfathers
were in their twenties and both Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison were still
We are two brothers from Michigan at play in Miami in
1970. The Cuban refugees have not yet taken political control. We have shared
professions as rock and roll empresarios, drug store owners, suntan lotion
manufacturers and journalists.
When Jim Morrison of "The
Doors" executed his notorious simulated jerk-off jump from the stage into
the crowd,, and set in motion the chain of events that plagued him until his
death in Paris, it was us, Jim and Ken Collier, who promoted that historic
show. We also swallowed the financial consequences after Morrison and "The
Doors" left town.
It is after "The Doors"
hysteria that we are in Miami trying to decide what to do next. We want to do
something that just might raise eyebrows and blood pressure in a Richard Nixon
world. We decide to write a book. We could write two books about rock and roll
and the actual life backstage, but we have a lot of friends in the music
business, and if we tell the truth we alienate most of them. The idea of
combining a book with running for public office comes up.
"It seems like a good idea,"
"It's a great idea. You going to
run, or me?"
We went to Dell Publishing in New York and sold the idea that Tom
Hayden, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman and all the hippies against the system had
all overlooked an intriguing possibility - to use the system and see if things
that needed to get done actually could get done without revolution. Ken would
run for Congress and scrupulously work within the system to find out. We
titled the book: Running Through the System: Ballots Not Bullets. The
editors agreed that it was a good idea and paid us $3,500 as an advance.
Winning the congressional seat was not
a requirement of Dell. They also agreed that we would not ask for
contributions. The campaign would be as "grass roots" as possible,
based on the theory that even the poorest person in America can run for office
by merely knocking on every door, shaking every hand and giving speeches at
every political club or church. Whatever percentage of the vote we managed to
get at the end of the campaign trail would depend strictly on whether the
people believed in us.
Ken was already the front man at our
rock club, Thee Image, and he had that Sixties need to see things
change. From the time he was a teenager he had a burning desire to be a
Congressman, a profession he considered idealistic and romantic. He had been
buying ad space on the back page of the University of Miami Hurricane
student newspaper (Jim had been The Hurricane managing editor in 1959)
in the name of Thee Image to write essays on the political upheavals of
the time: against the Viet Nam war, for freedom of speech, against imprisonment
of political radicals.
Now Ken closed his eyes and put the
possibilities together. His imagination was tweaked by the potential for high
drama. At 29 years old, a romantic poet, Ken was brazen, impulsive, Tom
Wolfe-like in his stature, over six feet of it, big hands, big head, big shoes,
"We can do it," Jim
Two years older than Ken, Jim was
quiet and private. Nothing intrigued him more than orchestrating scenes from
behind the scenes.
"I'll be your campaign
"Who do we run against?" Ken
Claude Pepper was a lusty old Harvard man with a face
like an overripe tomato. He was known as "The Father of Social
Security" He was also the incumbent in the House of Representatives.
Pepper was a cosmopolitan, and he was happy to be in Washington where his
talents as a speaker and a storyteller were recognized and appreciated.
Pepper was on the board of the bank
that held the lease on the building that housed Thee Image. The bank had
refused to renew the lease after "The Doors" concert, using the
controversy in the press as an excuse. Rock and roll, they said, was an
unsavory influence on the community, even though parents, police and
prosecutors were invited into the club without charge, at any time, to see that
the kids were not subjected to drug dealing.
"Let's run for Congress against
Claude Pepper," Jim said.
It was decided that Ken would run as a
Democrat ($2,100 was paid for the filing fee and it came from a Ted Nugent
concert we held at the Miami Jai-Alai Fronton). Neither of us were Nixon
Republicans and to run as an independent would have been decidedly outside the
On July 21, 1970 the grass roots
We talked at every possible church. We went into public housing in
Liberty City and Overtown, which were black innercity areas. We passed out
leaflets and talked some more. In the Jewish sections of Miami Beach there were
public meetings held in banks and on South Beach (now the art deco revival
section). The old people were charmed by Ken, who swapped stories with World
War II vets about his paratrooper jumps.
We campaigned 42 days, 18 hours-a-day
When the U.S. Congress recessed in
August, Claude Pepper returned home to Dade County Prior to his showing up we
had almost convinced leaders of the black community, which included newspaper
editors, civic activists and HUD executives, that Ken's ideas were the wave of
the future, the hope of the next generation.
In August, with the recess in Congress, Claude Pepper
returned to the area and the atmosphere abruptly changed. At a black church in
Liberty City, we attended an obligatory political breakfast. Five-minute
speeches were scheduled by all the candidates. Pepper, who was nearly 70-years
old, gave his speech in his usual mush-mouthed way He sat down and Ken got up
to speak. But the moderator pointedly ignored him. When Ken realized that he
wasn't going to get equal time, he asked: "Does anybody care to hear me
Pepper nodded his head at two very
serious guys. They approached Ken from both sides, grabbed his arms, and
dragged him out like a fish.
We called the cops on a pay phone.
Alcee Hastings, who eventually became the first black federal judge in the
area, rushed outside.
"Don't go back in there," he
warned. "They'll beat you up next time. It's dangerous."
We called the television stations and
told them how a candidate got dragged out of a political breakfast. Only
Channel 4's reporter came and took pictures of the purple bruises on Ken's
arms. But at the studio, the news director didn't even look at the tape.
"This isn't going to air," he told the reporter.
And that was that.
One of the theories of the Dell book
Running Through The System, was that we use the system whenever
possible. So instead of merely going back in and shooting the old bastard, we
swore out a warrant for Pepper's arrest for ordering the assault. Not one word
in the media. We couldn't get even a second on television. We sent a
telegram to the Federal Communications Commission and complained, within the
system, that we couldn't get any television time. The FCC wrote back to the
local stations and said, unspecifically, "Give them time."
One station gave us 18 seconds.
Pepper went to Texas avoiding arrest,
while his lawyers visited a judge without our knowledge (ex parte) and
had the warrant quashed.
They might have been irked by the garbage
We had to make a clear statement about
our candidacy One that would show that Pepper was basically a hypocrite who
didn't care about anyone but the richest segment, white or black. Our
opportunity came when we walked through the streets of the black areas and saw
the results of a political project that black leaders called "Teen
The idea was to clean up houses,
gutters, streets, lawns of all the garbage that had turned the area into a
slum. The teens turned out with great enthusiasm and they piled coconuts, palm
fronds, broken glass, toilet seats, rusty old refrigerators, and mattresses in
heaps on the street, some as high as six feet. The Metro garbage trucks were
supposed to pick it all up, but although most of the drivers were black, their
white bosses refused to let them go. The reason: "We didn't expect
hundreds of piles of Teen Clean garbage and we don't have the budget for
it." People in the community were angry, and they felt betrayed. Rats and
roaches, however, loved the stuff.
"Look," Jim suggested,
"let's rent a pick-up truck, pick a load of that shit up and get some
press at the same time."
So one hot August afternoon, we
appeared in Liberty City in a half-ton truck and loaded it up. We had the
enthusiastic help of about 100 local kids. Then Ken drove east across the 36th
Street Causeway to pristine Miami Beach. Had any alert cop seen us heading east
with a load of garbage, he would surely have stopped us. Nobody brings garbage
to Miami Beach.
Once across the bay we headed for the
bank on 17th street, where we backed the truck up to the front door, pulled the
hydraulic handle, and watched as a half ton of unsavory objects built a
monument to the Pepper campaign. Just before we drove away, Jim grabbed a
cardboard sign that read, "This is a Teen Clean Project" and
jammed it into the top of the heap like the flag at Iwo Jima.
Later we drove by the bank, on whose
board Pepper sat, and watched as hired black men scooped up the garbage into a
truck and then headed back west across the causeway.
We parked the truck in front of our
townhouses and waited. Two Miami Beach detectives eventually knocked on Ken's
"We not only did it," Jim
assured them, "but were going to do it again tomorrow."
We did go back into Liberty City the
next day for a repeat performance, but all the garbage was being picked up by a
fleet of Metro trucks. And although there were photographers, police and
reporters who saw the garbage pile in front of the bank, not a word was
mentioned in the media, not even in the black-owned newspaper.
The remainder of the campaign was waged mainly in the
streets. Miami in August can be a sticky mixture of sun, squalls and stifling
heat. All day we trudged the streets, putting fliers in doors of houses,
talking to people who were home, some giving us a cold drink.
Pepper bought TV time and seldom left
his home. Then, in the last two days before the vote, as we made our last
up-this -street-down-that-street run, we saw Pepper's face everywhere. He had
used county employees to nail his campaign posters on hundreds of telephone
poles in the black communities. He put none on the Beach.
"That's illegal," Ken said,
ripping one down. "He can't put his posters on public
That night we drove the convertible
along each street, Jim standing on the trunk, and we ripped every poster down.
It took four hours, but that night we slept great.
On election evening we were at Ken's house to watch the
returns on television. The numbers were flashed on the screen about every 20
minutes and our percentage of the vote remained consistent at 16 percent.
Channels 4 and 7 were giving the election full coverage but Channel 10, for the
first time in its history, ran a movie instead of voting results.
Sometime after 9 p.m. our vote percentage jumped to 31 percent.
"Hey, we just doubled our
vote!" Ken was excited.
"If it holds we'll have enough
strength to run again in 72," Jim said.
Suddenly the news director came on the
air and announced that the election "computer has broken down."
Instead of giving official returns from the courthouse, the station would
instead broadcast returns based on its "projections."
When the next "projection"
was flashed 20 minutes later, Ken's vote had fallen back to 16 percent. No
other vote had fluctuated, only ours.
We didn't know it at the time, but
across the country in the 1970s and 1980s, that sequence of events was a
phenomenon that became rather common. 1) A candidate is ahead, the good guy,
the one who wanted the city audit, the one who'll make a difference. 2)
Television announcement: "The computer has broken down at the courthouse
and official votes will no longer be forthcoming." 3) When the computer
comes back, your guy is behind again, and there he or she remains.
By the 11 p.m. news it was over. We
hadn't expected to win; after all, we spent so little money, we bought no
television time and we were new at political campaigns. But what was that 31
percent we got at about 9:30?
The next day we drove to the Board of Elections in Miami,
and after watching a while, we asked Election Supervisor Martin Braterman if we
could look at the canvass sheets we saw stored in an open vault. He escorted us
to the vault and Jim started flipping the sheets, trying to get a quick visual
grasp of the entire stack. He had never seen a canvass sheet before so he had
no idea of what he was looking at, much less what he was looking for.
"I'm not sure," he said.
"but it looks like there are more votes cast than people who
Ken, who was still surveying the room,
moved in closer. "Where?... show me."
"Get out," Braterman
ordered, "you guys are nuisances."
"This is public
information," Ken said. "Are you telling us that we are not entitled
to examine public information about the electoral process?"
"This is not the right time.
We're certifying the vote here."
Ken persisted. "We want to see
them now because something looks very wrong with the sheets. Let us look at
them before something happens to them. It's evidence."
There was more heated dialogue. Ken
sat on the counter and refused to go until he could examine the canvass
Braterman picked up the phone:
"We got a disturbance here. Send a cop."
A few minutes later a young policeman
asked Ken what he was doing.
"Just checking out the
system," Ken grinned. The policeman laughed, Ken laughed. Then he booked
Ken on a misdemeanor. Jim bailed him out.
The next day, with a call to the election division, we
got a full explanation of what a canvass sheet was: the official, hand-written
record of the voting machine tallies. There are rules written on the flip-side
of the sheet. The official rules state: At 7 a.m. the precinct captains must
open up the back of the voting machine and certify that all candidate counters
are set with zeroes showing. They sign their names to those sheets swearing
that they actually saw the zeroes.
Then the machine is closed and locked
for the day while voting goes on. At 7 p.m., after the voting ends, the back is
again opened with keys, and representatives from each party call out the
numbers to the precinct people who fill in the front side of each canvass
sheet. Three canvass sheets are filled out per machine One sheet is to be
posted on the wall after the election for the public. One goes to the Elections
Department. One is sent to the County Judge's office.
Once we knew what it was we were
looking for we returned to the Elections Department where Braterman, still
grumpy from the day before, again refused an examination of the records. Not
wanting to get busted again we walked over to the County Judge's office where
copies of the sheets were already bound in a book. The clerk there permitted
"What are we looking for?"
"Look for a pattern."
The sheets were three feet wide and
two feet high. On the front there were a lot of squares corresponding to each
candidate, and there were numbers in most of the squares in the handwriting, it
seemed, of just the one person who filled out each sheet. On the back were from
ten to twelve signatures of workers who swore they saw all zeroes in the
morning and final numbers at night.
As we turned the pages Jim was
puzzled: "There's a kind of uniform grayness about all these sheets. Look
here." He flipped the pages like one would do to a cartoon layout.
"Except for these few precincts — look." He pointed to a page of
scrawly looking numbers. "See?"
Ken could see it immediately. The
handwriting on about five of the pages was messy and broken... and real
looking. "But the rest of this stack is too neat, isn't it? All of these
appear to be written by the same hand!"
"You think these might be
"Let's find a handwriting
The Yellow Pages listed only one
handwriting expert, Robert Lynch. We telephoned him and made an appointment to
meet at the courthouse the next morning.
Lynch turned out to be a man in his
fifties. He wore glasses but he only needed one flip through the bound stack
before making his pronouncement.
"These are not
We had absolutely no reason to believe
that Lynch was anything other than your honest neighborhood handwriting expert.
If he said they weren't forgeries, what was the use in chasing rabbits down
With our forgery suspicion gone, the
election investigation appeared to be over. We went back to shooting pool,
learning Short Goju karate, sailing catamarans and racing Pontiac and Chevy
427's. We were also busy selling our local newspaper, The Daily Planet,
on street comers.
"The question that still bugs
me," Jim said, "is how did we get that 31 percent? I mean, why that
momentary thrill? Was it an error?"
"Maybe it was real," Ken
answered. "Maybe somehow they let the true vote through. When they saw
what it was, they cut it off."
Soon after the November election, in which Claude Pepper
was confirmed as Congressman, we went to the local television stations to ask
them for copies of the on-air computer "readouts" used during the
primary election count.
Both TV stations said that they no
longer had possession of the readouts. They were now held by Professor Ross
Beiler, in the political science department of the University of Miami. We
immediately went to Better's office on the Coral Gables campus. It was just a
10-foot by 10-foot cubicle off a loggia, and the door was open.
We walked in and there, scattered in
disarray on his desk, were the readouts we wanted. They were big, about the
same size as the canvass sheets, with the dark and light green lines of IBM
standard computer paper.
They showed vote totals and the times
the totals were tallied. There were the names of the stations on them: WCKT (4)
and WTVJ (7). Plus some notes and signatures.
"Grab those," Ken
Jim scooped up a handful of the sheets
and turned to walk out. At that instant. Professor Beiler walked in the door.
He was a tall, hayseedy looking man. He grabbed Jim, who was a black belt in
karate, by the back of the neck and said: "Put those back."
"Exactly what were you going to
do with these?" Ken asked.
"I'm going to Washington on a
sabbatical. I was going to destroy them."
"Destroy them? You can't do
"They belong to me."
"We need them for an
investigation." Ken picked up a few papers.
"Put those down."
"All right," Ken said,
dropping them back on the desk, "let's put them in the safe in the office
of the dean of students."
The professor hesitated.
"Professor, it would be the
legally proper thing to do."
"Just for six months," he
agreed, "and you can't look at them during that time."
"Let's type up an
As Beiler sat at the typewriter, with
his back to the room, Jim seized the moment and stuffed about ten readout pages
under his shirt and slipped unnoticed out the door. He ran to the car, where he
jammed the papers in the trunk.
Acouple of hours later we excitedly spread the contraband on the pool
table in Jim's living room.
"Look at this," Jim pointed
to one of the columns on the sheet. "The first report is at 7:24 p.m....
just 24 minutes after the polls closed." He scanned the sheet... he knew
the future was coming. "It shows the first vote totals are based on,"
he found the column... "returns from Pepper's Congressional district...
see?... it called our race so it's gotta be in our district. This column says
ACTUAL VOTES. There's a zero here. No actual votes. And..." his finger
moved to the next column, "here it says PROJECTED VOTES... 7,100 for us
and... 46,000 for Pepper."
"Under 'MACHINES REPORTING'...
We checked the green computer readouts
which we arranged in neat piles under the pool table light. In one of the
vertical columns labeled "MACHINES REPORTING" the number
Jim grinned. "They used one
machine's totals to predict how many votes 250 candidates would
He scrambled quickly through the
papers until he found the 9:21 p.m. readout. There it was, the 31 percent that
had flashed on the screen. "We're not crazy" Jim said.
Ken looked at the numbers.
The documents showed that no actual
votes were being reported from 7 p.m. until the 11 p.m. news. We had assumed
that the computer had broken down at the time they announced it, 9:21 p.m., but
these readouts indicated that the TV stations were not getting official votes
from the opening bell.
"They must have relied on
information from their reporters at the precincts," Ken said.
"Maybe," Jim answered,
"but 99 percent of the vote was counted by 11 p.m. They would have needed
at least 340 reporters to cover the 340 precincts."
We checked the sheets closer and found
that the on-air reporting times were set at every 20 minutes throughout the
evening. The last report was at 11:15 p.m.
"Ninety-nine percent of the
precincts were reported by the time people had to go to bed," Ken mused.
"That's very neat."
"If they weren't getting actual
votes all night, from 7 p.m. on, and they predicted the final outcome in 24
minutes using one voting machine, maybe they knew they were going to have a
blackout all along," Jim said.
"So it was a cover
"Could they have blacked it out
on purpose so they could project winners?"
But the most puzzling question, if we
were to believe that the election wasn't rigged, was how Channel 7 could have
predicted the exact outcome of 40 races with 250 candidates altogether on the
basis of information from just one voting machine located somewhere in Claude
Pepper's district. And how could they do it in just 24 minutes?
That 24 minutes rang and rerang and
re-re-rerang inside our heads. We talked all night trying to make the pieces of
the puzzle fit. By morning we still thought that something was rotten in the
There are no tests to determine when the last rock on the
ledge of life slips and plunges you into the crater of causes. Suddenly police
stations become grossly familiar. So do the courtrooms of various judges. The
offices of lawyers are not avoided anymore. Organizations like the CIA and the
FBI keep their ears open when you come around. Your home may at times become
mobile and the sky becomes your roof. Fear that your cause may be lost
ceaselessly batters your confidence. Your relationship with others is more or
less determined by the extent to which they will tolerate your cause, which for
some of your loved ones may be less attractive than maggot soup.
For us, the last rock fell when we
discovered that all the predictions made within 24 minutes after the polls
closed were based on results called in from one single voting
We decided to get mad.
In those days it was easy to become
involved in causes. The Sierra Club was just starting then and it was a loud,
strident, articulate toddler. The anti-nukers and pro-abortionists were
beginning to set up chapters all over the world and get their messages out by
means of concerts and LP records. Richard Nixon was taking hold of power in
Washington and if he behaved anything like he had when he lived on Key Biscayne
with his friend, Bebe Rebozo, then Nixon was destined for historic trouble.
Yes, this was before Watergate, before Nixon resigned, when his attention was
turned mostly toward China.
So instead of organizing a group
called something like "Victims of Tampered Elections" (VOTE), getting
members to pay $15 annual dues ($300,000) to join the cause, put out
Votescam newsletters, get our collective voices heard on Capitol Hill,
we took up the pen feather and challenged the sword.
Years later with bloodied pen feather
in hand, we would understand that people with great illusions are destined to
die in the desert, sucking on their sneaker, while waiting for the water truck
All we had to do now was track down
that one magic machine.
How did they decide in which precinct
that machine would be placed? Pepper's district was spread from east to west
across the center of Dade County — from the ocean on the east to the
Everglades on the west. The neighborhoods were generally segregated into black,
Jewish and WASP. During the campaign we walked down every street in those
neighborhoods. None of them could possibly be so typical of us all that the
votes coming from just one of its machines could be projected to predict exact
final vote totals.
Jim asked: "How did channel 7 and
4 get those numbers? Did people call them in from, the precincts? Did they have
a reporter in each of 340 precincts?"
"And what about the computer
program?" Ken added.
"Do they have a formula, or,
let's say a multiplier of some sort that they use to project those numbers from
the precincts?" Jim wondered.
He scrawled figures on a piece of
"If we figure that everything
Beiler knew before 7 p.m. is listed under the letter "A"...," he
wrote the letter "A" on the paper. "The letter "A"
would have to represent his formula, or his program. I mean, he couldn't just
take the votes off that one machine and magically project them to get a final
result without some sort of program.
"Now, let's call the vote totals
he got from that one machine "B" Jim wrote "B" on the
paper. "To make it easy we'll say you got 10 votes on that machine"
He wrote "10" under the letter "B" "So what would that
"Well," Ken answered,
"he'd either have to multiply that "10" or he'd have to add
something to the "10" to get a final number."
"Could he do anything
"I don't know anything about
computers, but he can't change the laws of mathematics... he can only multiply
that "10" to get a final number... or he can add something to that
"10"... I don't care how sophisticated a computer is, all it can do
is multiply or add, period."
It seemed so simple. An A x B=C
formula. A (Multiplier) x B (Actual votes)=C (The total). And it's the only
formula possible no matter how bright a programmer you are. If you use an A x
B=C formula, you must also always know two of the numbers in advance to
calculate the third. But if you know two out of three of those numbers in
advance, you've rigged the election.
In the green pile of documents we
found the Channel 4 readout, the first report showing only vote percentages
(not final totals) was broadcast at 7:04 p.m. Channel 4 projected the outcome
for 250 candidates in just 4 minutes!
Hell, you can't even boil a three
minute egg in four minutes.
We had a 427-horsepower red Pontiac convertible which the
Dade County highway patrol had come to know and respect over the years. The
next morning it took us to look for answers. We drove up to the state capitol
at Tallahassee, a lushly green southern city in the hills of the Florida
Panhandle about 400 miles north of Miami. From the Secretary of State's office
we got the final vote totals for every candidate in the three elections
held in Dade County in 1970. We copied them and brought them back home.
The first thing we did was to lay out
the Tallahassee sheets on the pool table and divide them into piles. September
primary, October runoff and November final election. Then we arranged the
television readouts in time sequence in order to compare the numbers that the
state eventually registered as official against the projections from the
We checked the totals in the
Governor's race and found that an aggregate of 141,000 votes were cast on
September 8th. Then we checked the runoff election held a month later and the
exact same figure — 141,000 votes were cast again!
"How is that possible?" Ken
asked, and then he answered himself, "It isn't. The losing
candidates dropped out of the race, and whenever that happens the vote drops,
So we checked the final election in
November and found once again that 141,000 votes were cast in the Governor's
In hockey they call that a hat trick.
In politics we call it a fix.
"This is the Stepford vote,"
Jim said, hardly able to contain his glee. "These bastards didn't have
time to change the numbers in the 30 days between elections, so they just ran
the same numbers even though all but two of the candidates were out of the
Ken was already looking for the
figures on the Senate race.
"It was a five-person contest in
the primary and 122,000 votes were cast in total," he said. "Look at
this! There's 122,000 votes cast in the runoff, and..." he flipped the
sheets to the finals. "Well, what do you know... 122,000."
Jim picked up the cue stick and
smashed the white ball into the rack. He was angry and yet he marvelled at the
sheer audacity of the scheme He pointed the cue at Ken.
"Do you think the Secretary of
State is involved?"
"Hell, what about the
press?" Ken threw back.
"If the press knew these numbers
and never questioned them, then they're either stupid or
It was an intriguing thought. We knew
the press was capable of keeping candidates who didn't spend advertising
dollars from getting publicity but was it possible they would actually protect
the people who were pulling this off?
"What do you think would happen
if we went to the Herald with this story?" Jim asked.
"You think they'd touch
"Let's push it."
Then we compared the Tallahassee final
totals with the numbers on the September 8th readouts from Channel 7.
"Holy shit! Look at this."
Ken was doing a dance on one foot.
"Compare Channel 7's readouts...
this is their unofficial projections of what the final totals will be At
9:31... the projection in the unofficial vote total column reads 96,499 votes.
That's what they predict the final outcome will be." Then he shifted to
the Tallahassee official totals. "And in these official returns, read what
it says: 96,499. That's one-hundred percent perfect! They called a
perfect race. I'd like to see that computer program."
Jim paced around the table. "They
took four minutes on Channel 4 to predict percentages for 250 candidates. You
can't even read that many numbers off the back of the machines in four minutes,
much less read them... run to a phone... call the TV stations... re-read them
to an operator who has to punch them onto IBM cards and then run them through a
computer for broadcast to the public. You just can't do that in four
"And what about precincts?"
Ken asked. "Did both stations use the same precincts? Did they use the
same reporters or were 680 people out there, on payrolls from both stations,
calling back votes?" Jim shook his head in disbelief We sat and
contemplated the possibilities. Ken said: "Maybe this goes on all the time
and we were too out of the action to notice, like most people are. Who thinks
about how votes are counted anyway? Nobody pays attention. We didn't. We
just expected a clean, open election like they taught us in Civics 101 at Royal
Oak High School."
"So if you find out that there's
a rigged vote with the television stations in on it, who do you go to to
complain?" Jim asked.
The next move was to get back to Beiler and find out
about his super-amazing computer program. Ken called the University of Miami
and got Beiler's telephone number in Washington at the American University. In
a taped conversation he went right to the point.
"What kind of program could you
have devised where the information from one machine was used to predict the
results of all the races within one percent of perfect?"
"I didn't do it," Beiler
replied. "It'd be a million-to-one odds that anyone could do that.
I was just the on-air analyst but I didn't program it. I don't know how to
"Who did it, then?"
"It's a fellow named Elton Davis,
who works on computers for a land sales company He's the one who did it for
"Thank you, sir."
A solid lead. We had to pay Mr. Davis
a visit where he worked at Cavanaugh Land Sales, which sold West Coast Florida
swampland for development. The office was across the 79th Street Causeway from
Channel 7's studios. We made an appointment.
The next day we sat across from a
chunky, muscular man in a small and cluttered office. There was a chalk board
on the wall.
"Professor Beiler says you
programmed the Channel 7 computer," Ken began. "What was the formula
you used that could predict 100 percent correct final totals with just one
Davis stood and walked a few feet to
the blackboard. He picked up the chalk in the tray, stood on his tip-toes, and
reached up as if to begin to write.
Now, Ken thought, we're going to get
the magic algorithm.
Then Davis slowly put the chalk back
down, turned to us and in an icy voice, said:
"You'll never prove it. Now, get
We couldn't believe it. He opened the
door and pointed outside. Ken tried to ask another question but Davis was mute.
There was nothing more he was going to say.
It was time to call the FBI. We now knew for sure that
the man who was supposed to have written the computer vote-count program had
something sinister to hide.
The FBI offices were on Biscayne
Boulevard just north of the downtown business area. We were escorted into a
small office and then asked if we would agree to be photographed. If we said
no, maybe they would refuse to listen. So we put our heads in one of those
neck-holders, like the old New England stocks, and a clerk snapped a picture.
They didn't request fingerprints.
"We want to make a statement, but
we want a stenographer to take it down. We'll sign it and take a copy,"
The agent, in the government-issue
blue suit, agreed.
The statement was twelve pages long
and all of what we knew was in it, with as little supposition as we were
capable of. We told of Beiler's "million-to-one" statement, the
virtually impossible accuracy of a one-machine perfect projection, and Davis'
warning that we'd "never prove it." We asked that the FBI interview
Beiler and Davis about possible vote fraud in a federal election.
Then it was time to track down that
one miracle machine.
Ken telephoned the news director at
Channel 7 and asked "who had called in the information from the precincts
with the raw vote totals from the machines?" He told us that members of
the League of Women Voters, not reporters, had been hired to work in precincts
selected by Beiler.
"You mean there weren't people in
all precincts?" Ken asked.
"No," the news director
said, "just in some sample precincts."
"Then how could you have shown 99
percent of the vote counted by 11 p.m. if you only had a few people in a few
sample precincts... in light of the fact that you weren't getting any actual
votes from the courthouse?"
There was a long pause.
"Call Joyce Deiffenderfer. She's
the president of the League."
In early December, we kept an appointment at Joyce
Deiffenderfer's home in a section of Coral Gables known for manicured lawns,
lush tropical foliage and big-mortgage houses. She answered the door.
Deiffenderfer was tall, about six feet, austere, unsmiling, and bordering on
uncordial. She had a friend with her; a woman, who looked as if she was there
to be a witness.
Jim explained the mystery of the
one-machine projection and asked: "Were you told there was a specific
machine that was going to be used to extrapolate a projection?"
"No," she answered.
"Can you give me a list of the
people from the League who worked that night in the precincts?"
"There is no list." She
began to look uncomfortable. "There were no League women in the precincts
That was a puzzling surprise.
"Channel 7 says the League gave
She saw the drift. "There was no
such thing," she repeated. She started to speak again, changed her mind,
and then blurted out: "I don't want to get caught in this thing." She
began to weep. Her female companion watched without uttering a word.
We were almost sympathetic. She had
just admitted that nobody was in the precincts that night, there was no magic
machine, ergo, there could not have been any projected reporting by the
television stations based on information supplied by the League.
"Will you go to the. press and
make a statement?" Jim asked quietly.
"Yes, I will," she
We shook hands all round and
We were, in a word, ecstatic. Jim
rushed over to The Daily Planet to file the story.
When the lease had been pulled on Thee Image, our "bully
pulpit" was dismantled. So we bought half of the Miami Free Press
from a guy named Jerry Powers and changed its name to The Daily
With the Planet as our new
bullhorn we could fight for the causes of the Sixties, created mostly by
Nixon's miasma, without begging some local whipped newspaper editor for
One of our first Planet stories
was about Tom Hayden. Hayden was another buddy of our youth in Royal Oak,
Michigan, where we edited the high school paper together. Ken was the
photographer who miraculously kept getting photos of record-breaking sports
events. Jim and Tom edited the paper. The three of us also created a campus
humor paper, The Daily Smirker, way back then which still survives
Tom had ended the Sixties with that
Chicago Seven flourish which landed him in jail for the last time.
So when he told us that nobody but
Joan Baez had given a nickel to the Seven's defense fund, we headlined it in
the Planet. The Underground Press Service picked up the story and
distributed it to every other underground paper in the nation, including the
college press. The Seven's defense fund swelled mightily soon
It was winter and the Sixties were
But the Planetwas still there
for us to run the story about Joyce Deiffenderfer. It appeared under the
headline: "I DON'T WANT TO GET CAUGHT IN THIS THING."
We also went to the FBI, made another
statement, and asked them to talk to Joyce Deiffenderfer.
Christmas passed, then came New Year 1971. We had the
evidence, but there was no move on the part of the press to give it a milligram
of ink or air time. Here was a major story that was being absolutely ignored by
the Miami Herald, the Miami News, and every TV station. The
frustration was galling.
"It's like kicking a
marshmallow," Jim said.
We called the FBI to see how its
investigation was progressing and one agent or another would always say:
"Sorry, it's not our job to tell you anything."
Then we called our editor at Dell to
tell him what we'd found, the state of the story, the ramifications of what
we'd experienced. As we waited on the line, a strong, authoritative woman's
voice came on.
"This is Helen Meyer," she
said. She was the outright owner and publisher of Dell in those days, and for a
wild moment we expected her to congratulate us on our book idea, maybe even
invite us to a publisher's cocktail party. Instead she said: "I'm
cancelling your contract as of today. This book will not be
It was as if we had just fallen out of
a Zeppelin. Why the high-level hostility the lack of explanation? We hadn't
been in touch with her or Dell for a year. After that telephone call everybody
at Dell was out to lunch or in a meeting. We had the $3,500, but was the
investigation we found so intriguing really over?
"Where are we?" Ken
"Dead in the water."
There was some wallowing in self-pity
and some crying in our beer. Then, two days later on Ken's thirtieth birthday a
new idea popped up to get Votescam off zero. Ken got the brainstorm to
send a telegram to Richard Nixon.
The act of composing and sending a
telegram to the President of the United States is like dipping a toe into
contemporary history. There are advantages and drawbacks, depending on the
tenor of the times and the subject matter. It is akin to sending a rocket ship
into the void — you don't know what it's going to hit or how far it will
But on that day, as we sent the
telegram via Western Union, we just thought it was a hell of a way to blow out
the birthday candles.
*We later discovered that Ms. Meyer
was a long time friend of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, a fact
that will be better understood later in this book.
White House, 23 April 1971 Washington,
Dear Mr. President,
For the past several months we have
pieced together documentation and theory regarding a Federal-State-Local
election in Dade County September 8, 1970.
Evidence indicates major vote fraud
was perpetrated. Television coverage on Channels 4 and 7 (WTVJ, WCKT) featured
computer "projections" of voter turnout and final vote totals by 7:24
p.m. Projections made by Channel 7 were based on returns from only one voting
machine. We questioned persons involved and believe election results were
pre-arranged by all three TV news departments acting to promote the deception
that official returns from the Dade County courthouse would be delayed due to a
"computer breakdown." We are providing documentation to Miami FBI,
and urgently request that your office direct U.S. Attorney General to
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