Left-wing Democrats have a new conspiracy theory: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) actually won the California primary, but was robbed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The claim, like most conspiracy theories, starts with a small kernel of truth: millions of ballots remained uncounted after the vote on June 7. According to the California Secretary of State, nearly 700,000 ballots still remain uncounted, more than the roughly 450,000-vote gap remaining between Clinton and Sanders.
Moreover, the primary process was chaotic, with many voters casting provisional votes, and Sanders supporters struggling to find their candidate on their ballot. (Independent voters had to make a special request for a Democratic ballot to vote for him.)
From there, however, the theories take a speculative turn, arguing that Sanders in fact won California. As the Washington Post reports:
Internet sleuths of varying expertise have attempted to prove that the millions of ballots left uncounted on election night contained a Sanders victory over Hillary Clinton, but were prevented from being added to the count. The fact that 2.5 million early and provisional ballots were not yet counted when the networks called the primary has become another reason to doubt that the media can fairly cover the race.
Greg Palast, an independent journalist who exposed purges of voter rolls in George W. Bush-era Florida, lent his voice to the argument in an article late last week titled “How Bernie won California.” His evidence was the number of provisional ballots — cast by people who did not appear on the rolls, with the promise that their vote would be counted later — and the difficulty that voters with “no party preference” had in casting the right ballots.
“I can tell you this: Senator Sanders won California,” Palast said. “Let me do the math for you. Most of those late mailed-in ballots were what are called NPP, No Party Preference. These independent ballots were the ones that came in late because people had to switch their ballots. It’s a complex process, in California, that’s all I can tell you. The late ballots are Sanders ballots.”
The Post goes on to note that Sanders has, in fact, picked up votes, counties, and congressional districts once thought to have gone to Clinton. He won the 13th district, for example, home to University of California Berkeley, which earlier was reported to have been won by Clinton.
Even if he had won every single vote in California, Sanders could not have overtaken Hillary’s delegate lead, nor prevented her from reaching the majority. However, a Sanders victory in California would have blunted Clinton’s momentum and helped him make a stronger case for continuing his campaign. There remain questions about whether the Associated Press tilted the balance more heavily in favor of Clinton by declaring her the Democratic Party nominee the day before the California vote.
On Wednesday, Sanders appeared to concede to C-SPAN that he would not be his party’s nominee for president.