It's been quite the GOP crime wave this week on The BradCast. But today, in addition to that we've got some disturbing --- if not entirely unrelated --- kinda mind-blowing exclusive news out of a federal courtroom in the great state of Georgia. [Audio link to full show follows at the bottom of this summary.]
After quickly covering today's news on the 13-count federal indictment [PDF] filed in New York against Rep. George Santos (R-NY) for charges including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to Congress, it's back to Georgia.
We have, for years now, been covering the long-running federal lawsuit challenging the use of the state's expensive, unverifiable, and --- according to one of the nation's top experts --- wildly vulnerable and insecure touchscreen voting systems.
The touchscreen Ballot Marking Device (BMD) systems made by Dominion Voting, currently in use in Georgia, were selected for use in 2020 by Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger. He did so against the strong recommendations of cybersecurity and voting system experts following a ruling by a federal judge, in 2019, barring the further use of the state's previous touchscreen voting systems made by Diebold. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg found the previous systems to be unverifiable, insecure and, thus, unconstitutional. Unfortunately, instead of moving to a hand-marked paper ballot system at the time, as strongly recommended by experts, Raffensperger chose new touchscreen systems that had many of the same problems as the old ones.
The plaintiffs in the original federal case, Curling v. Raffensperger, quickly moved to bar the Dominion systems from being forced on every voter at every polling place in the state, as Raffensperger demanded. That suit continues. As part of it, Dr. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan, an expert for the plaintiffs, was allowed to examine the Dominion touchscreen systems and found vulnerabilities so serious that Judge Totenberg sealed his complete findings, even from the plaintiffs! The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), however, was allowed to review Halderman's sealed report and made a list of critical software and physical security recommendations for the continued use of those systems in the battleground state.
Now, according to the transcript [PDF] from a hearing in Judge Totenberg's court last week in the Curling case, an attorney for the Sec. of State's office explained that while Dominion has completed CISA's recommended upgrades to the software and has had them certified for use by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) in late March, the state will not be installing those software upgrades until after the 2024 Presidential election.
As explained to the judge by the State's attorney Bryan Tyson, after spending hours "with the technical staff in the Secretary's office" and "hearing from folks with Dominion", it was determined that upgrades to the state's 35,000 touchscreen voting machines would be delayed until 2025.
"No jurisdiction has yet installed that upgrade...It has not been used in any election yet," Tyson told Judge Totenberg. "The upgrade process is a very intensive multistep process that involves multiple pieces of media, multiple components, and it involves touching every piece of the election system."
He explained that "every ballot-marking device has to have three different pieces of media installed on it to complete the upgrade. Every precinct scanner has to be upgraded. Every central count scanner has to be upgraded. And every election management server also has to either be replaced or upgraded. So, the implementation process for doing that is very involved."
According to our guest today, MARILYN MARKS of the Coalition for Good Governance, one of the plaintiffs in the Curling case, plaintiffs were stunned by the news. "You could hear gasps in the courtroom," she tells us today. "2025?! Immediately everyone thought, 'Presidential election, Georgia swing state.' We will have no way of knowing who won. And let's don't forget how much of a tinderbox Georgia was after the 2020 election. I believe it was a key part of the tinderbox that led to the insurrection. We're asking for it again."
There is, obviously, a lot to discuss on this matter with Marks today, including the most obvious point that, had Raffensperger listened to the experts and gone with hand-marked paper ballots, upgrading just one scanner per precinct for security reasons would have been a hell of a lot easier, faster, and cheaper, than upgrading every single voting machine --- 35,000 of them --- across the state.
"And we're not even beginning to talk about all of the warranty costs, maintenance costs, and printer costs and all that this system involves, when we're talking about just being a substitute for a ball-point pen," laments Marks. In addition to the time the State claims it will now take, she estimates the cost for upgrading the otherwise brand-new, $150 million system just purchased for first-time use in 2020 is likely to be in the tens of millions of dollars. "I don't think that $50 million and upwards is going to surprise anyone."
So, there is much more to discuss about all of this with Marks. Please tune in for the full conversation. But there was one more stunning bit of related breaking news from Marks today...