On today's BradCast we head back to Georgia --- yes, again! --- for yet more new evidence highlighting the state as offering arguably the worst --- and most racist --- voting system in the nation. But we begin with breaking news today. Too much of it. [Audio link to full show is posted at bottom of summary.]
First up, Hurricane Laura is now a monster storm, currently a Category 4, and headed for landfall near the Texas/Louisiana border. The National Hurricane Center warns it will be "unsurvivable" and could submerge entire towns near the coast, with a storm surge as high as 20 feet and a menace to cities as far as 200 miles inland. A massive evacuation is now under way in both states, though avoiding the COVID pandemic in evacuation shelters may be very tricky, even as some areas in the storm's target zone have recently seen high positive test rates.
In Kenosha, Wisconsin, where protests continued for a third straight night following the outrageous police shooting, caught on tape, of African-American father Jacob Blake, two protesters were killed by a gunman on Tuesday. The alleged shooter, according to police, is a white 17-year old police fan boy from across the border in Illinois. Tuesday's shootings were also caught by cell phone video, not long after the suspected gunman was seen on video with a group of armed vigilantes being thanked by local police for their presence. After he had shot at least three protesters and was identified to police by others, the cops reportedly allowed him to walk right past them, assault rifle in hand, as they focused on the victims instead. The man was arrested today in Illinois.
Then --- after still more breaking news that the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks were boycotting their playoff game today to protest the shooting of Blake, leading the NBA to cancel all of tonight's playoff games --- we get to what necessarily became our truncated coverage of Day 2 of the Republican National Convention.
It was a stunning evening, in which one law after another was proudly broken or flaunted as the White House, U.S. Marines, the Acting Sec. of Homeland Security, a tax-payer funded trip by the Sec. of State to Israel, and the Presidential Seal were all used for political purposes, during the convention itself, so that Donald Trump could ironically be declared "the Law and Order President" by one hypocritical speaker after another.
Among the speakers were Trump's daughter Tiffany, his wife Melania and his son Eric who followed former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi making the case --- with a straight face --- that Joe Biden's family members were involved in some sort of criminal nepotism. Trump's son Eric, who serves as Executive Vice President for his father's company, was sued this week by the New York State Attorney General for failing to respond with documents and testimony to a lawful subpoena amid an investigation into bank and tax fraud by his father and the Trump Organization where Eric works. All of that as Trump's senior economic adviser Larry Kudlow pretended that the COVID pandemic --- which has so far killed at least 178,000 Americans, including more than 1,100 on Tuesday alone --- was over, thanks to Donald Trump's quick response.
As usual, all of these nightmares underscore the need to prevent Trump from winning a second term. But it won't be easy, as we learn again today with yet another story of targeted voter suppression out of Georgia. We have spent a disproportionate amount of time in recent years on this program reporting on the disastrous state of voting in Georgia. It is thought possible that the battleground state could finally flip to "blue" for this year's Presidential election and its TWO U.S. Senate races, but it continues to feature arguably offer the worst voting system in the nation.
By way of very quick summary of just a few data points to back up that allegation:
- In 2016, after a huge purge of voters from the roles, we would learn after the Presidential election that Georgia's then Republican Sec. of State, now Governor, Brian Kemp, left the entire voter database and passwords to its voting systems unprotected online for download by anyone. When caught, he lied about it and wiped the entire server despite an ongoing lawsuit.
- In 2018, a federal judge found the state's nearly 20-year old, unverifiable, easily-hacked touchscreen voting systems, mandated for use at the polling place in every county, to be outdated, insecure and unverifiable.
- In that year's election, overseen by Kemp himself, he was narrowly found (by those same failed systems) to have "won" the Governor's race in a contest that his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, regards as illegitimate due to, among other things, the purges and disproportionate rejection of absentee ballots cast by African-Americans.
- Also in 2018, some 250,000 votes in the Lt. Governor's race inexplicably disappeared in black precincts.
- In 2019, the federal judge ruled the state's voting system so insecure and unverifiable that they were, in fact, unconstitutional. She banned them from further use and ordered the system to be replaced by a new one.
- In 2019, the new Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger ordered new, similarly unverifiable, easily-hacked touchscreen voting systems to replace the old systems found to be unconstitutional, rather than move to a cheaper, VERIFIABLE, hand-marked paper ballot system recommended by voting and computer experts. The new $130 million systems failed in their first outing late last year and again during primaries this year, leading to hours-long voting lines in the Peach State, once again, largely in minority areas.
- And we would also later learn that the new digital optical-scan computers used to tally hand-marked absentee ballots in the Peach State had skipped counting unknown thousands of votes during the June primaries, due to a software setting that allows election officials or the private voting system vendor or even hackers to dial up or down the sensitivity setting to determine which votes are counted or not.
All of which brings us to this week, as the Georgia chapter of All Voting Is Local unveiled a new analysis of rejected vote-by-mail ballots from the June primary elections in the state. You'll be shocked to learn that in the three counties they examined, the mail-in ballots from black voters were rejected at disproportionately higher rates than others. For example, in the Atlanta suburb of Cobb County, Black voters submitted 24 percent of the absentee ballots requested but accounted for 38 percent of mail-in ballots rejected by the County.
We're joined today by AKLIMA KHONDOKER, former ACLU attorney, now Georgia State Director for All Voting is Local, to explain her group's analysis and why the rates of absentee ballot rejection are so high for black voters in Georgia and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic and Asian voters as well. Khondoker warns that while the group only looked at three counties in Georgia --- finding similarly alarming statistics in each --- the problem likely extends not only to the rest of the state, but likely to many others around the nation.
"I don't think this is unique to Georgia. This is likely something we would see nationwide," she argues, citing the "institutional and structural racism that has led to the wealth of problems that we see in our elections. There is no way to cleave the two. Because we have a clear system that has always worked for one and not the other." She goes on to explain how this new analysis is just one more data point underscoring evidence that institutional racism "undercuts everything in our election systems."
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