Votescam: Epilogue           April, 2000

    As of this writing, Votescam is entering its third printing.
    Since its publication eight years ago, the major bookstores have banned its display, it has been removed from the index of the Library of Congress, and falsely rumored to be out of print. What Votescam has not been is refuted, discredited, or for that matter, denied. In fact, it has been read by well over 30,000 people who continue to circulate the book by word of mouth. It is, without a doubt, one of the most dangerous and important books still in circulation in America.
     As usual, the silence on the part of the accused is deafening. To ignore this book is their only line of defense, and an effective one at that, when coupled with a total Media blackout. For the record, there has also been no Federal investigation into the charges of vote fraud brought forth in Votescam, or into the evidence of vote fraud currently being compiled by citizens.
     But after you read "Votescam," this will not surprise you.
     My father, James Collier, and my uncle, Kenneth Collier, were America's lead investigators into vote fraud for twenty five years. No longer. They have both died, leaving all of us with the legacy of this book, and the questions raised by their unfinished investigation.

    Most Americans are at least partially aware of the myriad of ways our elections system is currently corrupted; from the obvious inequities of campaign financing, to jerrymandering, minority intimidation at the polls, absentee ballot fraud and the numerous twist and turns on the path where a ballot can be ambushed in secret. And certainly none of us are blind to the spectacle of bald-faced election-year lying, now standard strategy for the successful Establishment politician. It seems that nothing has rendered the competition for public office more meaningless than the candidates themselves.
     The tawdry parade of an American election is fast becoming tiresome to most of us, with its worn-out floats, plastic candidates, and hollow patriotism. But we follow it anyway, because its the only parade in town which ends at the threshold of the voting booth.
    The fact that we can do this one thing--cast a vote--is, for better or worse, what keeps this entire country from exploding into chaos. This single act defines our politics, whether we show up to do it or not, and many of us don't anymore. Just the fact that it is allowed, even encouraged, is enough to soothe us, assuage us, and convince us that indeed this is a Democracy. It also assures us that all mistakes made in Washington are really our own, and can be traced back to We the People. That keeps the brewing frustration and anger safely on the streets and in the homes, where the government wants it.
    But of course, this is not a Democracy. And we know that, even if some of us only sense it intuitively. When we rest our eyes upon Washington, we all feel a little sick. We all feel the need to turn away. It's why so many of us don't vote anymore, even though they're begging us to. We might not know why, exactly, but we feel that it just doesn't matter whether we vote or not. And of course, this is true.
    Let's take a lesson from Stalin who said, "Those who cast the vote decide nothing, those who count the vote decide everything." Who counts your vote?
    Democrat, Republican, Third Party, Green Party--it doesn't matter. Once the vote is cast, it is delivered, untraceable, into the hands of the faceless corporations running America's complex political machine. Whatever corruption takes place after that is better concealed than the voters themselves behind their curtains.
     The questions that Votescam asks begin there.

    Why was control of the national American vote abdicated by the Senate and secretly transferred to a little known private company? Why are American citizens denied key information on how their vote is counted? Is there an answer that might absolve of wrongdoing all who have played a part in this transfer of power? Or is Votescam's premise really true, and the entire electoral process in this country is no more than a charade, a tired script written and performed only by people with varying levels of criminal complicity?
    We can assume that not every person involved in politics, especially at the lower levels, understands the extent to which our vote is corrupted. The mechanics of the electoral process differ from state to state and often appear to be deliberately confusing. Many of the people employed by the system are likely ignorant as to how it's supposed to work, let alone how it's manipulated, and by whom.
     But, as Votescam illustrates, complicity can be found in unlikely places. The villains are not always lurking in the alley, often they're smiling at you from a respectable desk. Nor is complicity always sinister. It doesn't take a psychologist to understand how easy it is to motivate someone to rig a high-stake game, given the opportunity. Especially if they've convinced themselves it's in everyone's best interest. Particularly their own.
     So, the significant question remains: Who knows what, and when did they know it? Who exactly , within the vast elections complex, are the culpable individuals? Who can explain what has been done to our system? Who must be brought to justice?
      As Jim and Ken discovered, we can count on the Establishment Media to never, ever ask those questions.

     That leaves it up to us, the tax paying citizens of America. Who among us will do it? Who is courageous enough? Who cares enough? Whose sense of justice is so deeply ingrained that they won't hesitate to stand up and demand honesty from their own government, their own people?
     It's not so easy. We're tired, we're busy, and we're scared. We're afraid of our government. We feel powerless, and with good reason. But most of all, we don't want to be called crazy.
    Jim and Ken weren't immune to any of this. They were scared, and they were vilified, and sometimes they lost hope. And sometimes they lost more than that.

     In 1988 Ken was already nearly paralyzed with cancer. His wife had left him, taken their daughter, and moved to Australia to escape the trauma and danger of his political crusade. But the crusade had reaped no rewards. The vote fraud investigation had led him only deeper into Washington's dark labyrinth, a lonely, thankless journey, apparently leading nowhere.
    He had already lost his family to his cause, and it looked like the cause was lost, too. Dozens of boxes filled his room. They were stuffed full of government files, bureaucratic memo's, court documents, newspaper articles--twenty years worth of investigation, desperation, and betrayal--all he and Jim had left.
    Ken was deep in depression, and he knew he was dying. Often it was hard to tell if he was paralyzed by the disease or the despair. It was a deep, black pit.
    Jim nursed him, swearing to him that it wasn't over. There was still one more move to make--the book, Votescam, had to be written. Jim stared deep into his brothers eyes and warned him, with no mercy, that unless he completed this one final task, he would die with nothing. He would never be vindicated in this life. The investigation, the sacrifices, the past twenty years, would amount to a total loss, and the boys in the White House wouldn't even bother to laugh last.
    Jim wanted to write the book. For him, the fight wasn't over, and Votescam was his only move. But he knew that without Ken's great talent, his fine literary mind, his poetry, Votescam would read like an FBI file. He also hoped that writing the book would fuel Ken's fire, lift him out of the pit, keep him alive. And it did.
    Ken knew that Jim was right. There had to be a testament, the story of their investigation had to be told. He was no fool, he knew nobody with anything to lose would ever publish it. But he also knew that the power of a book, once unleashed, had a life of it's own. Whether Votescam would become the catalyst of revolution and change the course of history, or fall through the cracks and disappear, was a matter of destiny. Who reads the book, when, and why, would inevitably decide its course. It might sweep through the political world immediately, like a sudden wild fire. Or it might lie dormant for years, only to be taken up as a sword by a new generation of furious, disenfranchised Americans.
    He could not control that game of chance, he could only get it started. But first, they had to sort through all of those boxes.

    Ken died in 1990, leaving Jim with a 500 page rough draft of a story probably nobody would ever believe, and without a partner for the first time in over 40 years.
    I was with Jim when he got the news. We were sitting in a Chinese restaurant on the west side of New York City. I was 14 years old, I had never been to New York, and I was wide-eyed, my nose pressed to the plate glass window. I turned to Jim and was shocked to see him sitting quietly and calm, as he usually did, but with tears rolling down his face. He never cried.
    That was our first day in New York. We had just pulled into town, after driving cross-country from California for fifteen days. He had called Ken to tell him we made it, but Ken was gone.

    Votescam was born in a little apartment on the 37th floor of a skyscraper in Manhattan, with a view of the World Trade Center, the Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. Jim and my mother, Phylis, struggled to edit Ken's manuscript, working long hours into the night, writing, arguing, rewriting. In the end, the decision was made to write the whole story, including their personal lives, which Jim understood was a risk considering how radical he and Ken had been during those years. Their presence in the book drove the story forward and added a personal dimension that is not only entertaining, but warranted.
     Jim was proud of the book. He and Phylis created Victoria House Press to publish it, and watched triumphantly as it was accepted into the major chain bookstores, all the newspaper and magazine stands in New York City, and Trovers bookstore in Washington D.C. where, along with Barnes and Noble in NYC's East Village, it was given a window display. Then, when word reached the higher levels of authority that Votescam was on the stands, Jim and Phylis watched as their book suddenly disappeared--off the shelf, out of the window. Gone.
    Well, Jim hadn't come this far for nothing. Victoria House Press continued to make Votescam available, and America's alternative media advertised it. In that way, the word spread. For six years Jim manned the talk radio lines and navigated speaking tours across the country, sometimes meeting in the homes of working-class activists who had gathered in the traditional "grange" fashion to discuss what to do about their besieged democracy.
     Votescam's readers have been for the most part educated, hard-working, blue and white-collar, patriotic Americans--angry members of a dwindling class of people who still believe in the Constitution, salute the flag, and haven't forgotten that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. But working is the price of living, and they don't have much time left to start a revolution. They looked to Jim for that.
     Jim decided to start the revolution where the story began. In 1998 he moved back to Miami, the home of his nemesis Janet Reno who had him arrested all those years before. Much to the excitement of local activists, he had resurrected the well-known newspaper the Miami News and planned to use it as a weapon against infamous Miami corruption. It's likely that this kind of bold attack right in the belly of the beast would have gotten him into more danger than he had been in yet. His two front page stories were devastating political timebombs, with a wealth of insider information.
     But the newspaper never hit the stands. Jim fell suddenly ill, days before going to print. Unable to eat, rushed to the hospital, he was operated on and diagnosed with advanced, incurable, pancreatic cancer.
    Jim was a blackbelt and a master chess player, he never backed down from a challenge. But this particular opponent was fast and furious, took all the low shots, and was always one move ahead. Jim couldn't beat it. After five months, he bowed out of the ring, and went to meet up again with Ken. And, as they said in Votescam, that was that.
     Or so I thought.
     Suddenly our phone was ringing, and continued to ring as the news of his death spread. I didn't know it, but to many people, Jim was more than just a knowledgeable investigator. He was a hero.
     I hadn't expected to find myself comforting strangers over the telephone. I knew how difficult the years of investigation had been, and the vilification he had faced every step of the way, but I didn't know my father had been so respected for his work, how deeply he had impressed so many by endangering himself to expose the truth. It was never anything extraordinary for him. Like all dedicated activists, his sense of justice came naturally, he defended it without hesitation.
    I was touched, and moved deeply by the phone calls. I had been mourning Jim as my father for so long, I had forgotten his other role in the world. In fact, I had been caring for Jim for all those months and I had forgotten the world altogether. But the world was about to make a come-back.
    Two months after he died, our phone began to ring again, this time with anxious, ecstatic citizens searching for Jim, asking if he had seen the ABC Web-site. Apparently ABC had posted the results of the off-year election on their Homepage-- the day before the election.
     It was like that wild-fire Ken had dreamed of. The people were furious. Was the work of a whistle-blower? Talk-show telephones were ringing, the Internet was besieged with demands for an explanation. Finally, Sam Donaldson announced he would be presiding over a live chat that evening to discuss what ABC was already calling a definite mistake.
     I was in the chat room that night as Donaldson explained that the page of posted results was a sample page, just to see how the vote results would look on their Website the next day. Got that?
    The people were incredulous, and I immediately began inserting information about Votescam, but my comments were soon censored. I couldn't get one word on that screen. In short order, Donaldson directed the conversation neatly away from the matter at hand and onto the election in general.
    Citizens who kept track of ABC's "test" results and compared them with the next day's "real" results, reported that ABC had called each race perfectly, over 90% of the time. Some of the numbers, of course, they had changed, for appearances.
    And that was that.

     Jim and Ken were not the first to discover an important fact, namely that Democracy in America works fine, as long as you don't challenge the status quo. American citizens are free to vote in an election, as long as they don't demand to know how their vote is counted, or whether it serves as anything beside demographics for the people who are already in power.
     My father and uncle joined the long list of Americans who have encountered, in various forms, the entrenched nature of our power structure. The System, as we call it. This System is more than willing to persecute its own citizens if necessary, to kill them when there is no other choice, or when it simply needs to get the message across clearly: The People are not in control.
     But let's be honest with ourselves, it has always been this way! Things aren't really getting worse, Democracy is not dead by any means. It has simply never existed in this country. The only thing that has existed is our right to demand it, to fight for it, to die for it, to protect the ideal. That we believe it is a guarantee is already our biggest mistake. We are raising a whole new generation of Americans who believe a lie. Will they know how to stand up for the truth when the time comes?
     More than ever before, we are in the position to fulfill the real American dream--not the consumer nightmare that we're being sold now, but the dream of a rich and free country of healthy and educated people living in peace, with each other and the land. People who elect their leaders thoughtfully, and remove them promptly when they fail them.
    Simple? Yes. Impossible? Right now. But we can change that. First we need to be educated, then we need to continue asking questions and demanding answers. We absolutely cannot be afraid to expose the truth.

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