Guest: Election expert Marilyn Marks on GA 2018 Lt. Gov. election contest as state moves to unverifiable barcoded ballots; Also: FL 2020 GOP power-grab update; IA Repubs vote to NOT count absentee ballots...
By Brad Friedman on 1/29/2019, 6:50pm PT  

No, we're still not done with the 2018 elections on The BradCast, even as we begin to turn towards the hell that awaits in 2020...because someone's got to. We've got several follow-up stories today, and some new ones. All of them maddening for those of us who believe in fair and overseeable public elections. [Audio link to today's show is posted below.]

First today, an update to a story we covered in detail yesterday. Florida's new Republican Governor Ron DeSantis recently suspended the elected Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, Susan Bucher, falsely charging the 10-year elections official --- one of the most knowledgeable and respected in the nation --- with "incompetence". Her suspension followed on another by Rick Scott, the previous Republican Governor, of the Supervisor of Elections in Broward County. In both cases, the officials in two of the most Democratic counties in the closely-divided swing-state have now been replaced with Republicans in advance of 2020. These are extraordinary partisan power grabs.

While Bucher had vowed last week to fight her suspension, about an hour after we got off air yesterday she decided to resign rather than challenge her case to the partisan GOP-controlled Florida state Senate, her only option under state law. Here's the full statement [PDF] on her decision to resign that Bucher sent me earlier today.

An outrageous decision by Republicans in Iowa's state legislature on Monday illustrates a similar concern in the Hawkeye State. There, Republicans in the state House of Representatives won a party-line vote to reject 29 absentee ballots cast in an Iowa state House race last November that was reportedly won by the Republican candidate by just 9 votes out of more than 14,000 cast. The unopened ballots in question were missing a postmark --- the Postal Service acknowledges they don't always postmark absentee ballots --- but had barcodes on the envelopes confirming that the ballots were sent and received by the Post Office in time to be included in the tally. Nonetheless, GOP state lawmakers refused to open the ballots and include them in the count, denying the voters their right to vote and ensuring the 9 vote "victory" by the incumbent Republican Rep. Michael Bergan, The Democratic candidate who filed the election challenge, Kayla Koether, says she's considering a lawsuit with some of the voters in response.

Speaking of rejected challenges, we're joined once again today by MARILYN MARKS of the Coalition for Good Governance for several maddening updates to at least two election cases that her organization has filed in Georgia. One, which we initially covered with her when it was filed last year, is an election contest to the results of November's Lt. Governor's race. That contest featured an inexplicably huge undervote rate, but only in that race (not in any other races much farther down the ballot) and only on the state's 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems (the undervote rate was as expected, in line with other contests, on hand-marked paper ballots sent via mail or at the polls during early voting in the some race.)

That contest, however, was recently dismissed in an remarkable ruling by Cobb County Judge Adele Grubbs. She found the plaintiffs offered no evidence that votes were cast illegally or that legal votes were rejected, after refusing to allow discovery that would have permitted an expert forensic investigation of the state's unverifiable, easily-hacked, oft-failed touchscreen voting systems. Marks' organization is now appealing Grubbs' ruling to the state Supreme Court and is hopeful the higher court will allow the discovery investigation that was denied, but that voting systems experts say is warranted.

Marks says the Secretary of State's office refused access the systems and the judge "forced us to go trial without the first shred of discovery, which is our legal right to have. She also denied our right to a jury trial. So the state and the court has nailed the doors shut to make sure that we don't get to find out what is behind this clear machine misprogramming, defect, malfunction, whatever it is."

At the same time, Marks has also been leading the charge in an uphill battle against former GOP Sec. of State, now Governor Brian Kemp and his Republican successor Brad Raffensberger to replace the state's unverifiable touchscreen voting systems with hand-marked paper ballots. Computer scientists and voting systems experts strongly recommend such systems [PDF], along with voters in the Peach State who have spoken out loudly and clearly in favor of hand-marked paper ballots.

And yet, the private voting system vendor lobbyists, elections officials and elected state Republicans continue to call for newly designed and expensive unverifiable touchscreen systems which produce a barcoded ballot summary card instead of a verifiable record of voter intent. It's impossible to carry out legitimate post-election audits of computer-marked ballot summaries. Nonetheless, jurisdictions around the nation --- counties in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and even Los Angeles County, not to mention the the entire state of Georgia --- may soon be voting on such unauditable, unverifiable systems in the 2020 Presidential election, unless they can be stopped.

"There is just no reason that such machines should be legal in this country, given what we know now about the dangers of electronic voting," Marks tells me, while noting that computer Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) cost about three times as much as hand-marked paper ballots systems. "There's too much money involved, and therefore a lot of people are not looking at what's best for the state. I'll just say it that way. Too many people have probably received too many favors."

"Unfortunately, for some of the decision-makers, having an unauditable system is a feature, not a bug," she opines, while remaining hopeful that "people are catching on" that a barcoded ballot system is not the same as a verifiable hand-marked paper ballot system, despite how elections officials are misleading voters around the country.

Finally today, speaking of 2020, Desi Doyen joins us with the latest Green News Report as Democratic candidates begin taking positions on a "green new deal", as hundreds are dead or missing in a mining dam collapse in Brazil, and as a powerfully frigid Arctic polar vortex descends on much of the U.S. (thanks, in no small part, to climate change)...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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