We kick off today's BradCast on a somber, if hopefully inspiring note, on the passing of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis who died on Friday after a battle with cancer. His decades-long fight for voting rights --- and the call to cause "good trouble, necessary trouble" --- has been an inspiration to this show and our work at BradBlog.com for many years. The best tribute we can offer to Rep. Lewis, of course, is to continue his fight as best we can. And so we do once again today. [Audio link to full show follows below.]
More than 100k absentee/Vote-by-Mail (VBM) ballots were rejected by election officials in the state of California after its March 3rd Super Tuesday primary, according to a new AP analysis. Many of the rejections were due to voter error, though not all. Some were also due perceived mismatched or missing signatures and a to a too-short statutory deadline (3 days) for VBM ballots to arrive after Election Day. The state has now increased that time to 17 days for ballots postmarked by Election Day to be included in the final tally.
But, of course, various problems with VBM is why in-person polling places remain very necessary in CA and all states this year, even with expanded mail-in voting during the COVID crisis. That is true even in the Golden State, which will be sending VBM ballots directly to all active registered voters this year because of the pandemic. Here in Los Angeles County, however --- the nation's most populous voting jurisdiction --- the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan has said that, for in-person voting, he will stick with the County's new, horribly failed $300 million unverifiable touchscreen voting and electronic pollbook system this November, despite the disasters that resulted in 3, 4, and 5 hour lines to vote and an untold number of disenfranchised voters during the system's first county-wide use on March 3rd.
I discussed the decision by Logan to use L.A. voters, once again, as guinea pig beta testers this November, during the most critical election of our lifetimes, in a segment late last month on CBS2-LA News with investigative reporter David Goldstein. Incredibly, CA's Democratic Sec. of State Alex Padilla and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors have all apparently agreed to allow the failed system --- called "Voting Solutions For All People" or VSAP --- another try on November 3rd. What could possibly go wrong?
An L.A. County Civil Grand Jury --- which has also been investigating the VSAP failure --- thinks a lot could go wrong. The group's report on the VSAP failures [PDF] by both Logan and Padilla, entitled "Maybe I Voted?", demands answers from Registrar Logan as well as the state. Goldstein, who has been closely following the VSAP mess since a few weeks before the March 3rd election, followed up by covering the "scathing" L.A. Grand Jury report and called me once again to appear in that follow-up report on CBS2-LA as well.
Meanwhile, a group of Election Integrity advocates in the state sent an open letter [PDF] late last week to Gov. Gavin Newsom (and Sec. of State Padilla), seeking an Executive Order for important improvements to the state's 1% post-election audit process. We're joined today by RAY LUTZ, longtime Election Integrity advocate and the founder and Executive Director of CitizensOversight.org. His organization won a ruling in a lawsuit several years ago that would have required all Vote-by-Mail ballots to be included as part of the pool from which the random sample of ballots are drawn when determining which of them will be hand-counted after an election to assure the accuracy of the state's computerized optical-scan ballot tabulators.
When Lutz filed suit in San Diego after the 2016 election, that County's Registrar, Michael Vu, was drawing only from votes cast at the precinct or absentee ballots that were counted early for inclusion in the 1% post-election spot check. As the groups notes in their press release [PDF] announcing the letter to Newsom, that resulted in some 285,000 ballots that were automatically excluded from the mandatory "audit" in 2016. Lutz' win in the courts, however, was short-lived after Padilla (with support from L.A. County's Logan) lobbied the CA state legislator to specifically allow Registrar's to ignore late mail-in ballots all together during post-election audits. Leaving those ballots out of the audit, Lutz argues, means that nefarious actors "can just move ballots --- ten thousand, twenty thousand at a time --- from one candidate to another and no one would be the wiser because they wouldn't have that check." That, he says, is a virtual roadmap for election theft.
His group's letter asks the Governor to declare that all ballots should be included in the potential audit sample pool in this November's elections, particularly now that some 90% of votes are likely to be cast as mail-in ballots for the first time this year, due to the Governor's previous Executive Order to send VBM ballots to all this year.
Moreover, Lutz echoes frequent BradCast guest Marilyn Marks of the Coalition for Good Governance (which is suing Georgia to force hand-marked paper ballots for all) in her important tweeted concerns last night observing that both major political parties are utterly failing to ensure proper public oversight of absentee ballot handling and tabulation. Marks complained that Elections officials across the country (and definitely in Georgia!) are "working overtime to block transparency, block access, block observation, work[ing] behind closed doors, etc. This, of course, plays into Trump's hands in that if he wants to claim 'rigging,' the Dems will have little evidence documented to rebut the claim."
Lutz agrees with her thinking. California is "not a battleground state," he says, "but remember, the popular vote is always a big issue in the Presidential election. And as you remember last time, Trump made a big deal about 'illegal voter fraud' and all these 'million illegals are voting'. So we have to have our act together for this election to defend against those claims. If we do what we're doing now, we're going to have up to six million ballots that are completely unaudited and can be flipped. Six million votes is a lot. So we need to have this change."
The issue, he goes on to explain, is not only important in California. "Any state that expands their vote-by-mail or absentee voting right now probably is not auditing those ballots." Lutz points listeners to the letter to Newsom, suggesting others push for similar improvements to post-election audits in other states as well, given that, as bad as CA's processes are, they are still better than many states where no computer-tallied votes are ever examined by any human beings at all before election results are certified. "We can't rely upon the election officials, or really anyone, to do this job for us," he argues. "The public has to do its own oversight of its elections. No one can be trusted. We have to do it ourselves. This is where we really call on the citizenry to stand up and really take a look at this. Because the most important thing we can do is to make sure these elections are sound."
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