With a brief break in the hot impeachment action, we're able to pick up on a couple of stories on today's BradCast that got buried yesterday, some breaking news from today, a continuing story that should have everyone's hair on fire right now (in advance of the 2020 elections!) and, sadly, the story that already has the planet on fire. [Audio link to show follows below.]
First, some quick news on today's school shooting in Southern California, north of Los Angeles, where a 16-year old shot five students from 14 to 16-years of age. So far, two are reported dead and the shooter is said to be in grave condition from a self-inflicted wound from his .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol.
On Wednesday, Trump lost yet again in one of his many different lawsuits seeking to block the release of his taxes to Congress and state prosecutors. The latest defeat was the refusal yesterday by the full U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. to rehear his lawsuit seeking to block the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee's subpoena of his accounting firm, Mazars USA, seeking several years of his financial records. With that loss, the case will now almost certainly be going to the Republican's stolen U.S. Supreme Court (on which two of Trump's appointees now sit). And in Trump's separate and so-far-similarly unsuccessful suit in federal court in New York, seeking to block the release of tax documents from Mazar's in the state's criminal probe involving Trump's hush-money payoffs before the 2016 election to women with whom he was having affairs, his attorneys on Thursday officially filed their appeal with SCOTUS.
In elections news, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, a conservative Democrat, has announced his late entry into the race for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination. And both Trump and Republicans are going all in to try and win the Gubernatorial runoff this Saturday in Louisiana, in hopes of avoiding another Kentucky-style embarrassment.
Last week, Trump went all in for KY Governor Matt Bevin, who reportedly came up a few more than 5,000 votes shy of defeating Democratic challenger Andy Beshear. Bevin refused to concede last week, however, requesting a recanvass that was carried out by the state today. The procedure --- essentially re-checking the same computer-reported numbers again --- resulted in few changed votes, unsurprisingly. So, Bevin finally announced his concession. But that came only after his election night claims of "well-corroborated" voter fraud, including thousands of illegally cast votes.
While his promise of evidence never materialized in the week since the election, Bevin recently changed his argument to focus on concerns about the state's electronic voting and tabulation systems. While there is scant evidence of problems on that score (all the other Republicans on the statewide ballot last week, other than the unpopular Bevin, won their races), his newly found concerns --- whether he actually means them or not --- regarding the difficulty of voters to oversee and have confidence in the accuracy of electronically-cast and tabulated results, should be taken to heart by voters of all parties. These concerns are real, and could have a devastating effect on next year's elections.
To that end, one need look no further than the many disasters we've been reporting on over the past two weeks that befell voters attempting to use brand-new touchscreen computer Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) in the key swing states of Pennsylvania and Georgia last week. In the roll out of the new systems in those states, which many election integrity and cybsersecurity experts warned strongly against, many voters were unable to vote at all. Some faced hour-long wait times --- during sparsely attended, off-year municipal elections! --- followed by completely inaccurate results reported by the computers.
For example, some candidates reported receiving zero votes at some precincts in Northampton County, just outside of Philadelphia (which also used the same new systems last week for the first time, despite warnings from cybsersecurity experts, and had similar problems.) In a contest for County Judge in Northampton, a Democratic candidate for County Judge reportedly received just 164 votes out of more than 100 precincts reporting on Election Night. In fact, as a manual examination of computer-printed records revealed, he is believed to have received 26,142 votes instead.
Unfortunately, there is no way to know if even that number is correct on the County's new 100% unverifiable BMD systems, which are proliferating across the nation, including PA, the entire state of GA next year, and in counties in more than a dozen other states (including here in Los Angeles County, the nation's largest!) for 2020.
We're joined today by SUSAN GREENHALGH, a longtime Election Integrity champion who now serves as Vice President for Programs at the National Election Defense Coalition (NEDC). Following last week's disasters, her group has called for the immediate decertification of the 100% unverifiable ES&S ExpressVote XL systems used last week for the first time in Northampton County and Philly. Greenhalgh explains why such systems, which use touchscreens to help voters use a computer to mark and print "paper ballot"" summaries, should never be used other than as an assistive device for disabled voter who may choose to use one to help cast their ballot.
"What's really concerning about these ballot-marking devices is that there's been a false equivalency created by the vendors," she tells me. "And I think it's been accepted my many people in the election official administration space, and in the election community at large, that there's a paper record there, so therefore the voting system is verifiable. The problem is that all evidence that we have so far to go on, indicates that that the paper record [from] the expensive touchscreen ballot-marking devices is not actually verified by the voter. And that's the critical point." The NEDC advocates hand-marked paper ballots.
After years of working with elections officials and elected officials across the country, Greenhalgh offers her thoughts as to why so many of them --- Republican and Democratic alike --- continue to ignore the continued warnings from election integrity and cybsersecurity experts who strongly urge against the use of such systems, while listening instead to private vendors, such as ES&S and Dominion (the nation's two largest) who stand to make hundreds of millions from the sale of their poorly designed, oft-failed, easily-hacked, and completely unverifiable touchscreen systems.
"I've heard it said that we need a system that the Devil himself could run and you could still trust the results. It needs to be transparent, and verifiable to the electorate. And that means something that is auditable, that the voter knows that the election results are correct and that the officials can prove it." Greenhalgh argues. "There's no room for 'just trust us' in this. We shouldn't have to trust the vendors. We shouldn't have to trust the election officials. We should all be able to see and verify with our own eyes, through observation and auditing, that the election is being conducted in a fair and accurate manner, and in a secure way. Anything less than that is unacceptable in a healthy democracy --- or one that aspires to be healthy."
Greenhalgh, who is as concerned about all of this before 2020 as I am, says, however, that there is still time for jurisdictions to dump their expensive, unverifiable touchscreen systems in favor of much cheaper, far more secure, and completely verifiable hand-marked paper ballot systems. She also also explains why post-election audits of results cast on computer-marked ballot systems are worthless.
"Implementing hand-marked paper ballot systems, fortunately, can be done in very quick order," she says. "States have shown us they can do that, like Maryland and Virginia. So it's not too late to fix that. What we need is the will of the election officials to make it happen, and then it can be done."
Tune in for much more that you need to hear from this conversation!
Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen with our 1001st Green News Report, with disturbing news on the enormous and raging Australian bush fires, climate-change fueled frigid weather in much of the U.S., Greta Thunberg's solar-powered voyage back to Europe, and the Trump EPA's latest --- and deadly --- attack on science...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)