As we were forced to ask several times on today's BradCast: What the hell is up with Republicans and election fraud in Michigan?! But it's not only in Michigan today, as it turns out. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
In upstate New York, in a Rensselaer County city named Troy on Wednesday, a Republican city councilwoman named Kim Ashe-McPherson pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the submission of three fraudulent absentee ballots in both her primary and general election last year. It's a somewhat remarkable and expansive story of apparently a whole bunch of Republican criming going on in Troy and Rensselaer County, with the Albany Times Union describing Ashe-McPherson as "the first person snared in a federal grand jury investigation examining widespread ballot-fraud allegations in Rensselaer County."
Another separate probe by State Police appears to be examining fraud in Troy's Mayoral race, while the GOP Mayor and a whole bunch of GOP County officials have been subpoenaed and/or had their phones seized by law enforcement in recent months. Ashe-McPherson's absentee ballot fraud was apparently carried out with the help of an unnamed insider official at the Rensselaer County Board of Elections. "Earlier this year," the paper notes, "Jason Schofield, the Republican commissioner for the county's Board of Elections, was subpoenaed in connection with the federal investigation." But there's a whole lot of other GOPers who also seem tied into this, and may end up in handcuffs in the days ahead.
Is it any wonder that Republicans accuse Democrats of voter fraud all the time, given that Republicans seem to be constantly committing it themselves?
But things are even more insane in the great state of Michigan. You'll recall that recently, 5 of 10 Republican Gubernatorial candidates vying for the GOP nod to take on Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this November were disqualified from the ballot, after the state Bureau of Elections discovered they had submitted some 68,000 fraudulent petition signatures between them in an attempt to qualify for the ballot. Well, the trouble continues for at least one of the remaining candidates who did manage to qualify without cheating.
All of the GOP gubernatorial hopefuls in MI are 2020 election deniers (despite Joe Biden having defeated Donald Trump in the state by about 150,000 votes, as confirmed by a months long investigation by the GOP-controlled state Senate). But one of the most ardent of the deniers --- and a leading candidate now that the others have been disqualified --- 40-year old Ryan Kelley, was arrested and charged by federal officials on Thursday for his role in the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Kelley stands accused, according to the criminal complaint, of disruptive conduct, injuring public property and entering restricted space without permission. Documents filed in court allege he is seen on video that day waving crowds into the Capitol after police lines were defeated. He faces up to a year in prison and a fine as high as $100,000. Perhaps this will actually help his bid for the GOP nomination on August 2nd!
But that's not all we have to report out of MI today, particularly when it comes to GIO election fraud.
Last week, the organizer of a GOP petition effort to qualify a ballot initiative known as "Secure MI Vote", announced they missed the deadline to submit the number of signatures needed. Why did the effort behind this scheme to supposedly curb election fraud with severe new restrictions on voting fail? Election fraud, of course! The organizers discovered some 20,000 signatures they had gathered were fraudulent! (Hey, at least they checked them before turning them in, unlike those 5 GOP Gubernatorial candidates!)
The scheme, however, is even slimier than it sounds. Most of the provisions in the so-far-failed initiative had already been passed by the GOP state legislature, but vetoed by Democratic Gov. Whitmer. But, thanks to a loophole in MI state law, once a ballot initiative qualifies for the ballot, the Legislature is then welcome to pass it into law on a simple, veto-proof majority vote. That was the plan that seems to have failed here.
We're joined today to discuss the entire fine mess by NANCY WANG, Executive Director of the non-partisan, pro-democracy group Voters Not Politicians which, in 2018, enlisted volunteers (rather than corrupt paid contractors) to collect more than 400,000 signatures to place an initiative on MI's ballot for an Independent Redistricting Commission. The measure was successfully adopted by state voters.
"There are so many things wrong right now with the GOP and what they're trying to do with voting rights in Michigan," Wang explains. "What's really caught them is this mixture of incompetence and hypocrisy. They're selling themselves to the voters as the party that's going to 'protect' us from fraud. The only fraud they can demonstrate in our election is what they have inside their own camp. It's ironic, at the very least, that they have been the victim of their own fraud, when they've tried to victimize voters with all of these shenanigans."
Wang walks us through those "shenanigans" and various "loopholes" in state law that allow, for example, petition gathers to be paid by the signature and to lie to voters about the initiative they are asking them to sign on to. In this case, while the GOP group was clear that this measure would never actually be on the ballot, signature gatherers reportedly told prospective signers that the plan was simply to put these issues --- like instituting extreme Photo ID restrictions and restricting absentee voting --- before voters.
"This group is headed by the GOP, funded by the GOP, and they're using the citizens' petition process, lying to voters to sign this thing so that they can do an end-run around the voters," charges Wang. "They're never going to put these provisions on the ballot, they were very clear about that. They were just going to ride this loophole to the legislature to get these voter suppression measures passed." Not that that's what their signature gatherers told people on the ground, however.
"It's about dishonesty. It's about misleading voters. It's about trying to game the system of citizens' petitions. I don't think you could put anything in place that would stop people who don't have any limits whatsoever, any standards that they'll abide by, to further their agenda," Wang tells me.
Next, a story we ran out of time for on our previous BradCast, covering results and other fallout from Tuesday's midterm primaries in seven states. You may recall our coverage of a voting system disaster in Clackamas County, Oregon a couple of weeks ago, where a problem with smeared barcodes printed on vote-by-mail ballots resulted in them being rejected by the computer tabulators. The local County Clerk, in that case, ordered tens of thousands of those otherwise perfectly valid ballots to be duplicated by hand, one-by-one, so they could be run through the tabulators, rather than simply counting them in public by hand.
Well, guess what? It appears the very same thing happened in San Joaquin County, California this week, with 25 to 30% of the County's mail ballots being rejected by the computer scanners. And, once again, rather than hand-counting them, the County is duplicating each and every one of them by hand, this time with the help of about 13 employees from the printing company who screwed up in the first place.
I don't know about you, but I don't want my ballot "remade" behind closed doors by either a County election official OR some schmoe from a commercial printing outfit. But maybe that's just me. In any event, San Joaquin voters may have to wait a bit longer than usual this year for final results in their critical midterm primaries.
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with great news for war profiteering Big Oil companies (if terrible news for the rest of us); lousy news about snow disappearing from the previously snow-covered Alps; but some better news regarding the Biden Administration's move to create a new marine sanctuary and end the use of single-use plastic in our national parks...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)