On today's BradCast: So, Donald Trump's campaign, as well as the National Republican Committee and the Pennsylvania state GOP, are battling it out with state Dems and the state's Democratic Secretary of State over pretty much all aspects of absentee mail-in voting in the key battleground state. But, for some reason, as our guest reports today, Trump and the GOP are actually joining forces with Dem Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar to defend the use of brand-new, 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems in the most Democratic-leaning part of the state. Now why would they be doing that?
Before we get there today, however, some quick news on today's announcement on the lack of charges brought against the Louisville, Kentucky police officers who killed Breonna Taylor, a 36-year old African-American emergency medical specialist, in her apartment in the middle of the night this past March.
Also, some thoughts on a somewhat odd "Public Service Announcement" issued on Tuesday by the FBI and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency regarding "foreign actors and cybercriminals" who might take advantage of the necessary delay in tallying absentee ballots in the days following Election Day on November 3rd. The federal agencies warn that bad actors could "create new websites, change existing websites, and create or share corresponding social media content to spread false information in an attempt to discredit the electoral process and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions." The announcement warns that malicious individuals could propagate false information about vote counts and other disinformation "that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud, and other problems intended to convince the public of the elections' illegitimacy." It's an odd "announcement" that focuses largely on foreign actors, while warning the public "to seek out reliable and verified information from trusted sources, such as state and local election officials." They say nothing about domestic bad actors, nor do they recommend federal sources as "trusted". We discuss.
Then, in Pennsylvania, Republicans have told the state Supreme Court that they plan to appeal last week's rulings against them to the U.S. Supreme Court. The news follows the Keystone State's high court determination that mail-in ballots can be counted if they arrive up to three days after Election Day; that absentee ballot drop-boxes are perfectly legal; and that state law bars poll watchers who come from outside of the county where they plan to observe. At the same time, the Trump Campaign is suing the state in federal court over many of the same issues in a suit that could also find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. That may be just one of the reasons that Republicans are pushing so hard to seat a replacement so quickly for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As VP Mike Pence told Fox 'News' on Tuesday, "there is a possibility that election issues may come before the Supreme Court in the days following the election, and all the more reason why we should have nine Justices on the Supreme Court to be able to resolve any issues that may arise ." (Notably, this is something Republicans didn't seem to care about in the least before the 2016 election, when they were blocking Barack Obama's nominee from filling the late Justice Scalia's seat for a full nine months before the election.)
But for all the legal fights that Republicans are carrying out to block the use of, delivery of, and counting of verifiable hand-marked paper mail-in ballots in PA, for some reason the Trump Campaign is intervening in a court case to side with the Democratic Secretary of State there to defend the use of 100% unverifiable touchscreens in Philadelphia, the most Dem-leaning part of the state. Trump's intervention is in a suit filed by the NAACP (which we discussed with the attorney working on the case in a recent show) against the PA SoS, which seeks to block the state's use of the new computer touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs). It's curious, to say the least, that Team Trump is supporting SoS Boockvar's use of the new, unverifiable devices, which are being forced for universal-use in all Philly polling places this year.
We're joined today by longtime investigative journalist and author ART LEVINE to discuss his detailed report today at Washington Monthly, headlined "Donald Trump's Favorite Voting Machines: Ballot-marking devices in key swing states could give him the perfect excuse to contest the election." In the article, and on today's show, Levine describes the boondoggle e-voting systems that have been installed for first time use this year in a number of key battleground states, including Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and, yes, Pennsylvania. They are remarkably expensive, produce ballots that can never be verified after an election as reflecting the intent of any voter who used one, and they have failed disastrously in multiple ways in several states (including PA) during their first-time use in primaries earlier this year.
Sadly, it's not only Trump and PA's Democratic Sec. of State who are defending or otherwise quietly allowing the use of these dangerous new voting systems. So are many Democratic officials and election watchdog organizations that have historically been critical of electronic voting systems. "They've been absolutely radio silent --- except for Ohio Democrats --- at the state and national level about the risks of this voting technology," charges Levine. Even here in Los Angeles, our Democratic Sec. of State Alex Padilla has been very supportive of the $300 million dollar boondoggle touchscreen BMD system installed this year, disastrously, by Los Angeles County's Democratic Registrar of Voters, Dean Logan.
Levine's new investigative report today explores many of these various strange bedfellows in detail.
"I hope I can shed further light on the tangled, unbelievable, nutty mess in Philadelphia that is emblematic of the kind of challenges that other swing states --- statewide in Georgia and in some key Democratic cities in Ohio, Texas, North Carolina and so on --- will be facing. It's a nightmare beyond the already-other nightmares that we're aware of," he explains, describing a potential disaster with these systems that adds "kindling" for "a Constitutional crisis...if Trump doesn't win on Election Night."
Recent studies [PDF] reveal that 93% of voters do not notice when a BMD has changed one of their selections on the paper "ballots" printed out by these touchscreen systems. Moreover, the tallies created by optically-scanning those "ballots" (with yet another computer) are not even based on the human-readable printout that voters may or may not bother --- or be able --- to successfully verify as reflecting their intent. Instead, it is a barcode or a QR code, which can't be read by voters, that is also printed on the "ballots" and used by the scanning computers to tally the votes. But, still worse, even if everything works perfectly --- if the machines don't break down as they did during the primaries, causing hours-long lines, and if they aren't hacked or misprogrammed and everyone somehow manages to verify them accurately --- there is still no way for anybody to know after the election that any of those ballots accurately reflect the will of any voter.
As Levine warns in his report today: "Let's say the November election is close, and Donald Trump comes up short in Pennsylvania or Georgia or North Carolina, or all of them, and loses the Electoral College vote. ... It would make perfect sense for him and his lawyers to seize on the ambiguities of BMDs to argue that the voting was rigged and illegitimate. And Democrats would be hard-pressed to prove Trump wrong --- especially since some of their own elected officials and allies have been relatively quiet about the BMDs' shortcomings, and in some cases have even been at the forefront of pushing for the machines' use."
We have been warning as much for years. I'm happy to see Levine picking up those serious concerns and amplifying them. Please read his important article in full and then listen to today's show --- or vice versa.
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for some quick --- but VERY big --- news today out of California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced plans to ban the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) cars in the state by 2035. That's right! If his initiative is successful --- and it is bound to be challenged and hated by Trump and the fossil fuel industry --- the Golden State may be selling nothing but electric cars at new car dealers in as little as 15 years!...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)