Compare and contrast on today's BradCast. Shoddy treatment of real election observers versus velvet glove treatment of wingnut con-artists claiming the 2020 election was stolen. In one case, longtime non-partisan election integrity observers are locked out from overseeing public election processing before this past week's critical primary elections in a North Carolina county. In the other, longtime phony GOP "voter fraud" fraudsters pretending to be election integrity advocates see their false claims in a propaganda film expensively debunked by both law enforcement and state election officials in Georgia. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]
First up, it's the fraudsters who recently released a propaganda documentary into theaters called 2000 Mules. We debunked the film's central claims in detail on this program when it was first released about two weeks ago, as it began trending in rightwing social media circles along with claims from many easily-duped folks that the film proves the election was stolen from Donald Trump.
A number of media outlets explained at the time why it doesn't even come close to doing any such thing. The film relies on cell phone geolocation tracking data and some security camera footage of absentee ballot drop-boxes in several swing states won by Joe Biden to claim that thousands of "ballot mules" illegally "harvested" tens of thousands of fake ballots (from somewhere or other) and deposited them unlawfully to steal the election from Trump. Supposedly, all of those ballots were unlawful votes for Biden, but there is no evidence for that either.
The film was produced and directed by a longtime rightwing activist named Dinesh D'Souza (who pleaded guilty to actual federal election fraud crimes some years ago, before being pardoned by Donald Trump). D'Souza highlights the claims of a longtime, dark money-funded, many times discredited, fake "election integrity" group from Texas calling themselves True the Vote. But, apparently, not mentioned in the film is that their cell phone "evidence" of repeated visits within 100 feet of drop-boxes and security camera footage was already reviewed and rejected by both the FBI and the Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) before the film was even released earlier this month. A September 30, 2021 letter from GBI Director D. Victor Reynolds explains that, after a full investigation, and consultation with the FBI, the data submitted "does not rise to the level of probable cause that a crime has been committed."
That finding was further buttressed this week when Georgia's state Board of Elections dismissed the groups allegations of fraud by tracking down those shown on camera as depositing multiple ballots into drop-boxes. As Washington Post reports, state investigators tracked down the voters shown in the film and were able to confirm the ballots they deposited were actually those of direct family members, which is perfectly lawful in the state.
It's unknown how many tax-payer dollars were wasted by state (and federal) officials on these wild goose chases into perfectly legal voting, based on D'Souza and True The Vote's absurd claims.
Meanwhile, things were very different this past week in North Carolina, where actual election integrity advocates were prevented from doing their work of overseeing elections on behalf of the public and were even threatened with arrest in Wake County, the closely divided swing-state's most populous county.
We're joined today by two guests we've known for a while and who have been on the show in the past. LYNN BERNSTEIN is the founder of Transparent Elections NC and JOHN BRAKEY is the Director of AUDIT-USA. (Listeners will remember Brakey as the guy who originally exposed on this program, and later in video that went viral, that election denialists in Maricopa County, Arizona last year were examining paper ballots under microscopes for evidence of bamboo fibers to prove their false claim that thousands of fraudulent ballots were somehow cast from someone or another in Asia. Brakey served for months as a public observer of that failed "forensic audit" by the now-defunct Cyber Ninjas in Phoenix.)
This week, the groups of both Bernstein and Brakey published a press release announcing that the two had been barred from the grounds of the Wake County Board of Elections in advance of last Tuesday's midterm primary tabulation. The announcement charged they "were threatened with arrest and prevented from observing routine election administration activities by Wake County election administrator Gary Sims, in violation of North Carolina State Election Law."
We've got audio clips today of the pair being told they were not allowed on the grounds of the Wake County BOE, and of Bernstein's husband Nick being escorted out during the public comment period by law enforcement at a BOE meeting on Monday.
So, what's going on here? Bernstein, an aerospace engineer, trained international election observer and longtime election integrity advocate, claims that "Sims has personally harassed me at Board of Elections meetings in front of the Board and he also threatened to call the police on me when I came to observe on Election Night for the 2020 primary, when I was an at-large observer for the Wake County Democratic Party." She says she and Brakey arrived outside the Wake BOE last week for only minutes before "the police arrived and said we were banned forever" from the grounds of the public facility.
Brakey, who was in town to help oversee tabulation and other often dull, but incredibly important public election oversight procedures, says "It's election time, and this is what I do. I travel the country and I try to work with and mentor other election transparency activists." He tells us that Sims was "out there in four minutes" after they arrived at the BOE and "he was steaming just having [Bernstein] there."
But why was all of this even happening? And why is Wake, according to Bernstein, the only county in the state that does not allow observers of the tabulation on Election Night? "If there's a motive behind all of this, it is not election fraud or anything like that," Brakey tells me. The pair speculate it has something to do with Sims hoping to move the County from their current hand-marked paper ballot system to an expensive, unverifiable touchscreen Ballot Marking Device computerized system for voters. Bernstein has long opposed moving to that type of system, as has Brakey (along with most cybersecurity and voting systems experts.)
Tune in for many more details on all of this, but I wanted to give this incident and both of these folks the highlight they deserve for what seems to be an outrageous attempt to prevent their important work bearing witness for the public when it comes to our public elections. "The actual act of voting is a secret process," Brakey notes. "Counting is a public process. It used to be, and it must be again."
We are more than happy, of course, to welcome Wake's Election Administration Gary Sims to respond on the program with his side of the story as well if he chooses to do so. We'd love to have him!
Finally, we close today with a few thoughts on all of the above, and a bit of listener email regarding trillions of tax-payer dollars in subsidies ("socialized welfare") to fossil fuel companies --- the most profitable companies in the world --- even as clean, renewable energy companies continue to struggle without the same kind of financial support from the government...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)