On today's BradCast: I've seen a lot of scams pulled off by the nation's largest (and, arguably, most failed) private voting system vendor over my more than decade and a half of covering Election Integrity in the U.S. But what ES&S is now trying to pull off in North Carolina may take the cake. It has also outraged a State Senator who is running for U.S. Senate in 2020 who joins us on today's show to discuss it. [Audio link to show follows below.]
First up today, however, a quick Impeachment update. Freshman Democrats --- both progressives and Blue Dogs --- have begun a campaign to have former Tea Party Republican-turned-independent Rep. Justin Amash serve as one of the House impeachment managers in the (most likely) upcoming impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate of Donald J. Trump. It's an excellent idea....which is why we originally suggested same as far back as May of this year.
Meanwhile, very late on Sunday night --- actually, very early Monday morning --- the House Judiciary Committee submitted its 169-page impeachment report [PDF] to the House Rules Committee, charging that Trump committed "multiple federal crimes" including bribery and wire fraud. The Rules Committee will pass that report on to the House Floor where a vote on two Articles of Impeachment on Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress is set to occur as soon as Wednesday. If all goes as generally planned, the Articles will be conveyed to the U.S. Senate for a trial to remove the President after the first of the year.
Over the weekend, Democrats, including House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, pushed back against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's recent admission on Fox "News" that he is coordinating "everything I do...with White House counsel" regarding impeachment. Nadler described McConnell's statements --- since Senators serve as supposedly impartial jurors in Senate impeachment trials --- as a "subversion of Constitutional order", noting that the Constitution requires Senators take an oath to do impartial justice before serving as jurors in such trials.
For his part, Schumer over the weekend sent a letter to McConnell requesting subpoenas for four Trump officials, including Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Advisor John Bolton, to serve as fact witnesses during the trial. If Republicans will not allow witnesses in the trial, some have called for Dems to hold off the trial until the courts determine whether subpoenaed witnesses must testify to Congress, or until after next year's election, should Trump be reelected.
But speaking of the possibility of Trump's reelection, we have been covering in detail the insane deployment of 100% unverifiable touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) in jurisdictions around the country in advance of 2020. Most notably, battleground states Georgia and Pennsylvania tried them out for the first time in last month's off-year election and the systems failed miserably, even during sparsely attended municipal elections, with some voters being forced to wait for an hour to cast their ballot. In Northampton County, PA machines the new ES&S ExpressVoteXL systems recorded zero votes for a candidate who, as it turned out, actually received tens of thousands. Last week ES&S issued an apology for the disaster, taking at least some responsibility for having misprogrammed and/or misconfigured the systems that were used for the first time last month in Northampton and Philadelphia.
At the same time last week, it was revealed in an excellent investigative exposé by Jordan Wilkie at Carolina Public Press, that ES&S, who is submitted one version of their ExpressVote BMD systems for state testing and certification in North Carolina in early 2017, only recently notified the state that they don't have enough of those machines to supply the needs of the state next year. Coming after a two year testing process which ended with certification in August, ES&S is now seeking "Administrative Approval" to skip the state certification and testing process on an updated version of the system. That, even as they had told many other states long ago, according to Wilkie, that the system being tested in NC would not be available for 2020.
Incredibly enough, last Friday, the NC State Board of Elections voted to allow the "Administrative Approval" sought by the company of the new system which many are describing as a "bait and switch" by ES&S. More incredibly, it was passed by the SBE on a 3 to 2 vote, with the Democratic-appointed Board Chair joining with the Board's two Republican members to greenlight the new, untested systems, now set for use in Mecklenburg County next year. Mecklenburg is the closely divided swing-state's largest and most Democratic-leaning county.
We're joined today by STATE SEN. ERICA D. SMITH who has been outspoken and outraged by ES&S's latest scam, along with the SBE's willingness to go along with it. She tells me that the "Administrative Approval" is in violation of state law that she helped pass, and that she intends to take action to try and reverse last week's vote by the Board.
"Unfortunately, they [the Board of Elections] once again supported a machine that has not been tried and tested," she says today. "We passed a law that de-certified all of the older voting machines and required re-certification of the new models. So, in my opinion, they have broken the law or circumvented the law, and have further created disintegration of the public trust in our free and fair and secure elections in North Carolina." Smith calls for hand-marked paper ballot systems to be used instead, and describes falling for ES&S' bait-and-switch scheme and subsequent use of BMDs at this point as "unfathomable".
Smith, a three-term Senator and an engineer by training, also explains that verifiable and more secure hand-marked paper ballot systems are far more inexpensive than the system ES&S is pushing and that both the state Board and Mecklenburg County appear to be falling for. "We should not be substituting convenience for election security," she warns. ES&S "waited until the absolute last opportunity to tell us in North Carolina that they were not going to be able to meet the demand. But they knew that at the time when they accepted the bid." Smith rails. "Once again, it shows that ES&S is indeed a bad actor in this. They have compromised the integrity of this process and we should not let them get away with it."
Smith, a progressive Democrat, is also running for the U.S. Senate nomination in NC next year, vowing to forego all corporate PAC donations and hoping to take on Republican U.S. Senator Thom Tillis in November. She currently leads her closest competitor, Cal Cunningham, for the nomination by 5 points, according to polling last month, and bested Tillis in a head-to-head match-up by 7 points, according to a poll taken earlier this year. And yet, both state and national Democrats have endorsed her opponent, Cunningham. We discuss ALL of these various outrages during a very lively interview with Smith on today's BradCast!...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)