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Latest Featured Reports | Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Guest: Investigative journalist Art Levine: Also: No charges for Breonna Taylor killing; FBI issues curious 'Announcement' on election fakery...
By Brad Friedman on 9/23/2020 7:12pm PT  

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!...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Also: Trump FBI Dir. confirms 2020 Russian interference; Former top Pence staffer endorses Biden; And MUCH more you need to hear...
By Brad Friedman on 9/17/2020 7:08pm PT  

As my rant near the top of today's BradCast makes clear --- there is a now mountain of madness emanating from the White House. All of it now going on at one time, as Donald Trump and the Republican Party become more desperate with each passing day before this year's election. And while the mountain of unfolding nightmarish stories I quickly cover in that rant are all terrible --- some of them horrific, in fact --- none of them matter, for the moment, as much as making sure that everyone is able to vote this safely this year and have their votes counted as cast in the November 3rd election. That is how we will keep ourselves and this republic alive, as this President and his Administration (and their party) appear to have no interest in that. I hope you'll enjoy the rant nonetheless. [Audio link to today's show follows below the summary.]

Before and after today's rant...

  • We kick off our show with the new ad from Republican Voters Against Trump, featuring Olivia Troye, a former top aide to Vice President Mike Pence as his homeland security advisor and his lead staffer on the White House Coronavirus Task Force "from day one". Troye, who left the White House in July, announced today that she is endorsing Joe Biden and explains why in the video ad that excoriates Trump for not wanting to hear about the pandemic back in February "because his biggest concern was that we were in an election year and how was this going to effect his record of success." She goes on to charge that Trump "doesn't care about anyone else but himself" and once described his supporters during a task force meeting as "disgusting people";
  • Then, a bit of testimony from Donald Trump's FBI Director Christopher Wray, in a hearing today before the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee in which the man Trump hired to replace the fired James Comey explains that Russia is currently undertaking "very active efforts...to influence our election in 2020 through what I would call more than malign foreign influence". He testified that the Russian effort underway is meant to denigrate Joe Biden;
  • But, as noted in our rant, ultimately, none of it matters unless American voters can safely vote and have their vote counted as cast. Toward that end, we have several stories of mostly good news for voting rights, beginning with the federal judge in Washington State who issued a nationwide preliminary injunction today to block what he describes as "a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service" before the November election. The injunction was sought in a suit filed by 14 states against the Trump Administration and the U.S. Postal Service. It seeks to block measures implemented by new Postmaster General and major Trump/RNC donor Louis DeJoy which slowed down mail delivery in advance of an election that will see record mail-in voting due to Trump's failure to control the coronavirus pandemic;
  • That is hardly the only effort underway by Trump and his party to make voting by mail more difficult this year. But we've got mostly good news to report today from the Supreme Court in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania. The high court approved the use of absentee ballot drop-boxes and is allowing ballots received by elections officials to be tallied if they arrive as late as three days after Election Day and are postmarked by November 3rd. The setback for Team Trump in the state Court's series of rulings on Thursday also included upholding a state requirement that poll watchers must live in the county where they are poll watching (while that's not optimal in most cases, it may be necessary this year to prevent the GOP from bringing in people to intimidate voters. We explain why that is.)

    In more good Keystone State news for Democrats, the state Supremes also ruled that the Green Party failed to qualify for this year's Presidential ballot. In better news for Trump and the GOP --- though not good news for voting rights advocates --- the Court denied a Democratic request for voters to be notified to come in and cure absentee ballot deficiencies --- such as missing or perceived mismatched signatures or missing secrecy envelopes --- before those ballots are rejected. Hopefully this serves as a warning to voters in PA (and everywhere else!) to follow all the rules for absentee voting carefully before mailing --- or, better yet --- dropping off ballots in person this year, where allowed. A lawsuit challenging some of the same issues has been filed by the Trump Campaign in federal court, where the Trump-appointed judge in charge of that case has put it on hold as the state cases moved forward. We'll see what that federal judge does now.

  • The embarrassing battle over absentee ballot drop-boxes continued today in the longtime battleground state of Ohio, leading the Republican Chief Justice of the state's Supreme Court to excoriate her own party for attacks they leveled against Democratic Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye after he found in favor of Democrats earlier this week in the state suit they filed against Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose. In that case, Frye found that state law allows Counties to deploy as many secure mail-in ballot drop-boxes as they'd like.

    Longtime "conservative stalwart" and Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor issued a blistering rebuke against state Republicans for their response to Frye's finding, calling the GOP's allegations "disgraceful" and "deceitful" and "a blatant and unfounded attack". Nonetheless, even after Frye's finding, LaRose has so far declined to lift his August directive mandating only one drop-box in each of the Buckeye State's 88 counties and has vowed to appeal Frye's ruling. That turns out to be in contradiction of what the Secretary indicated previously, when he told many people --- including a top labor official in the state (via text messages) as well as a federal judge in a parallel federal suit --- that he would be happy to change his order once a Court clarified if it was allowable under state law. But LaRose, apparently, is a liar...or a coward cowed by his own party;

  • In our final War on Voting story for today (yes, there will be many more to come in the days ahead, sadly), South Carolina's Republican Governor signed a law this week that will allow any state voter to vote by absentee ballot this year, no excuse needed, in response to the nation's still-out-of-control COVID-19 pandemic. That's good news. But the legislation adopted this week by the GOP-dominated state legislature failed to include several provisions sought by Democrats, including the use of secure drop-boxes for absentee ballots and the waiving of a requirement for a witness to sign the mail-in ballot. The changes to state election law come as incumbent Republican U.S. Senator and Trump lackey Lindsey Graham is said to be TIED in pre-election polling with Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison in the Palmetto State in what could be a stunning upset this November...if ALL voters in the state are allowed to vote and to see their votes counted as cast;
  • Finally today, in a brief respite from the War Against the War on Voting, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with some of the ongoing brutal news this week in the war against our ever worsening and deadly climate crisis and those who continue to pretend it doesn't exist...even in a week like this one...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Also: 175-year old science mag issues first-ever Presidential endorsement; Corporate broadcast news outlets failing disastrously to inform electorate about our worsening climate crisis...
By Brad Friedman on 9/15/2020 6:33pm PT  

On today's BradCast: The endless court battles continue as Donald Trump and the Republican Party continue their fight to make voting harder and more dangerous during the worst pandemic in a century. But we've got mostly good news today on those fronts. The news on the climate front today, however, is not nearly as encouraging. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

Among the many election and/or climate-related stories covered on today's show...

  • For the first time in its 175-year history, Scientific American magazine has made a Presidential endorsement. In this case, for Joe Biden. We explain why;
  • That endorsement comes on the heels of another recent endorsement for Biden by the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of major labor and environmental groups. It was the first endorsement of any public candidate in the coalition's 14-year history. The group includes the United Steelworkers, the Utility Workers Union of America, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, and four other unions with the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and the National Wildlife Federation;
  • Despite record wildfires up and down the West Coast, two hurricanes that slammed the Gulf Coast just over two weeks ago and another one set to do the same over the next 24 hours in a record storm season, network and cable TV outlets have been woeful in their coverage of climate change, which has made all of these emergencies far worse and much more damaging. Several recent Media Matters analyses finds plenty of coverage of the fires across the networks and cable stations, but barely any mention, in the hours of coverage, of why all of this is now happening. That, just weeks out from the most critical election in our nation's history, pitting a climate change denying Republican against a Democrat who is proposing $2 trillion dollars to combat the existential crisis while putting millions back to work creating clean, renewable energy;
  • Good news for election officials and voters alike in the battleground state of Wisconsin on Monday night, as one Justice on the state's rightwing-majority Supreme Court decided to join the court's liberals to put an end to absentee ballot chaos the court created last Friday. Then, a 4 to 3 decision by the court's rightwingers ordered elections officials in the state's nearly 2,000 voting jurisdictions to immediately stop sending out absentee ballots to allow the court more time to decide if the GOP-backed Green Party Presidential ticket should be added to the ballot after the Wisconsin State Election Commission declined to do so weeks earlier. On Monday, one "conservative" joined the liberals in another 4 to 3 ruling that finds the Greens ineligible this year in the Badger State after all. State election officials are greatly relieved, as some 380,000 ballots had already gone out, and there would have been no time to re-design, re-print, re-test and re-mail as many as one million absentee ballots before both state and federal statutory deadlines this week for doing so. Both the Green Party and a separate attempt to qualify for the ballot in WI by rapper Kanye West were aided by Republican lawyers and activists in a state which Trump is said to have won in 2016 by less than one percentage point;
  • Meanwhile, both bad and good news for voters in battleground Ohio. Republicans in the state legislature on Monday voted down a proposal from a bipartisan group of election officials to cover the postage for absentee ballots. One state lawmaker who voted against the proposal (and, thus, in favor of a poll tax) from the comfort of his home during the Controlling Board's virtual online meeting, did so just one hour after reportedly learning he'd tested positive for the coronavirus;
  • In (mostly) better news for voters from the Buckeye State, a Franklin County Court of Common Pleas judge has determined that the use of absentee ballot drop-boxes does not violate state election laws. Last month, OH's Republican Sec. of State Frank LaRose issued a directive that only one secure drop-box could be used, per county, outside of County Boards of Elections. LaRose claimed state law was unclear on the matter and that the state's GOP Attorney General hadn't responded to his request for a legal opinion. So LaRose, citing the Trump Campaign's ongoing suit to block drop-boxes in battleground Pennsylvania, decided the matter on his own. State Dems sued, the state GOP intervened to oppose, and now a judge has decreed that as many drop-boxes as counties which to use is just fine according to state law.

    However, LaRose, who in a parallel case in federal court claims he is not against the use of drop-boxes, so long as the law allows it, has said he will not allow it unless he is actually ordered by the court to do so, and his office suggests they plan to appeal the state judge's ruling. LaRose, sadly, is just another hypocritical, dishonest Republican Sec. of State in Ohio, and another reminder that nobody should simply be "trusted" in an election system from any party. American elections are supposed to be built on public oversight for checks and balances, not on "trust". That public oversight is made more difficult every day by election officials who continue to use computer voting and tabulation systems that are difficult, if not impossible, for the public to oversee;

  • And in the battleground state of Nevada, where Donald Trump held another COVID super-spreader campaign event to help make more of his supporters sick --- and possibly kill them --- on Sunday, the President took to Fox and Friends today to offer a completely farcical claim about how the state's Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak is "in charge of the ballots" and using that power to rig this year's election. Among the several problems with Trump's pathetic, whiny, evidence-free charge: the state's chief election official is Republican Sec. of State Barbara Cegavske, who oversees and certifies all election results in the state.
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report as climate change-fueled Hurricane Sally approaches the Gulf Coast (with several more behind her); record climate change-intensified wildfires rage out of control in the West; Biden blasts Trump as a "climate arsonist"; and Trump tells California officials that, like COVID, climate change will just go away...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Jenny Cohn, attorney, election security advocate; Also: Climate-fueled West Coast fires keep breaking records; More new hurricanes on the way; Trump claims climate change, like COVID, will just go away...
By Brad Friedman on 9/14/2020 6:21pm PT  

Today's BradCast in a nutshell: Elected officials lie, corporate media misinforms, people die. We try again to combat all of the above today. Wish us luck. [Audio link to today's show follow below.]

First up today, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest on the deadly, devastating, climate changed-fueled wildfire infernos wreaking havoc up and down the West Coast and on the new record hurricanes that are heading our way at the same time. With more than 3 million acres now burned, hundreds of structures destroyed in California alone, and at least 35 dead from the record blazes so far, Donald Trump went to the state on Monday and told fire officials not to worry. "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch," the President told California state Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot, who was urging him to not ignore science and "recognize the changing climate and what it means to our forests." Trump's response: "Well, I don't think science knows, actually."

So, don't worry! Just as Trump repeatedly promised COVID would "just go away," (more than 190,000 Americans have been killed by it since he pulled that phony promise out of his ass), apparently the same is true for our climate crisis! Of course, our corporate media have made it much easier for Trump to misinform the nation with his lies because the corporate media have done --- and are still doing --- an horrendous job of educating the electorate about the real reasons the western fires have become so horrific and why we are now up to "V" in the named storms so far this year, with a month and half still to go in the storm season and two and a half months remaining in the wildfire season.

The media have been similarly disastrous in their education of the electorate when it comes to our woeful election system. Sadly, too many top government officials --- Democratic and Republican ones alike --- share in that blame, as we're reminded in our guest today, JENNY COHN's new short #RemoveTheModems video, warning voters about the modems that are present in voting and tabulation systems in key states --- including battlegrounds Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin --- making our entire electoral system vulnerable to hackers.

Citing the comments from officials back in 2016 falsely telling America that our voting and tabulation systems are "never connected to the Internet" (they are), so can't be hacked (they can), Cohn tells me: "I'm very worried that we're going to be gaslit again in 2020. If the electronic totals somehow favor Trump, we're going to be told to pack up and go home there's nothing to see here, he just won, 'he's a legitimate president', period."

That year, even after Democrats promised "hundreds of attorneys" on the ground to assure a legitimate election (exactly as Joe Biden's campaign did again today), the DNC and Clinton Campaign refused to demand the hand-count of ballots in the three key states (MI, WI and PA) which barely flipped to the Republican candidate for the first time in decades. That, despite the fact that had an average of just two votes been recorded for Clinton instead of Trump in each precinct in those states that year, she, not he, would have won.

"What really concerns me is the blind spot that the Democratic Party seems to have for the electronic component of potential for cheating," says Cohn. She believes, however, that at least Clinton has learned her lesson. Based on a conversation she says she had with the 2016 Democratic candidate recently, Cohen tells me: "I do believe that Hillary Clinton understands it now, and I think she understands the importance of the Democrats not boxing themselves into a corner, where they will look like hypocrites if they need to file an election challenge based on the electronic totals, or any other aspect of the election."

Whether Clinton has enough power to convince the Biden Campaign and the rest of the Party of that, Cohn suggests, is a separate question.

Cohn, an attorney, election security advocate and Twitter activist, is calling for the modems cited in her video to be removed from the systems in states which use them before the November election. As journalist Kim Zetter reported last year, many of the election officials in those states don't even realize when their private election vendor has hooked their systems up to the Internet --- some of them she reports researchers discovered, are on the net all year around!

"I have no doubt that what the Trump team wants to do is win the electronic vote on Election Day, and then try to run out the clock or do something else with the [absentee ballot] signature match, so that we don't get all of them counted," she tells Cohn argues. "Or, if it goes to a recount, it gets shut down prematurely," she says, noting correctly that Vote-by-Mail ballots are also "sent to that electronic management system too."

Cohn also discusses some of her worst fears about this year's elections (and I share some of mine, several of which are similar, especially regarding electronic pollbooks which often have no paper backup) before we take a few phone calls from listeners on the topic, with Election Day now just 50 days away. "It's going to be ugly, no matter what the official result is," she says, noting: "My biggest concern --- the overarching concern that I think we both share --- is that there won't be any transparency about the results, and therefore we'll never really know."

Cohn has posted a bunch of helpful "Tips to Mitigate Threats to Our Votes and Voter Registrations Before November" that I'd urge you to check out and share as well, even though we didn't get time to discuss them. Just a good reason to have Jenny back. Please follow her on Twitter until then!...

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Guest: Courtney Hostetler, Senior Counsel at Free Speech for People...
By Brad Friedman on 9/11/2020 7:16pm PT  

On today's BradCast, it was not a good day for those who believe in free, fair, honest, overseeable and safe democracy. On the other hand, it was a great day for Republicans! [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

We've got a boatload of court rulings from almost half a dozen states to try and make sense of today. A few of them are good. Most of them are not. But we've got some expert help in making sense of several of them, and she tells us the fight is nowhere near over.

We begin today with the breaking news out of Florida, where the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court ruling that had found the state's new "pay-to-vote" law constitutional. Apparently, the five new federal jurists that Donald Trump has added to the court all agreed, in a 6-4 ruling, that poll taxes are just fine by them. They approved the law enacted by the state's GOP legislature and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last year that undermines Amendment 4 of the state constitution. That Amendment was adopted in a bipartisan, 65-35 percent landslide in 2018 to restore voting rights to as many as 1.5 million former felons in the state, including about one quarter of the state's voting age black men.

The law specifically passed to undermine Amendment 4 requires all court-imposed fines and fees to be payed before a former felon may register to vote. So, if you have enough money, you can vote. If you don't, too bad. Also, good luck to former felons even figuring out if they owe any money at all. Florida doesn't keep track. That means many newly eligible voters won't bother to register, rather than risk being sent back to jail for violating this new law. It was passed along partisan lines last year by Florida and is virtually identical to the 150-year old statute struck down just last week by a North Carolina state court. As revealed during the course of the NC suit, the law, according to its legislative champion following post-Civil War Reconstruction, was specifically adopted to "secure White Supremacy" by preventing "the honest vote of a white man" from being "off-set by the vote of some negro." Slate's legal reporter Mark Joseph Stern derides today's Florida ruling as "one of the most dishonest, misleading, and despicable voting rights opinions I have ever read" and "an affront of the very notion that Americans have a right to vote". The ACLU Voting Rights Project's attorney Julie Ebenstein argues "the gravity of this decision cannot be overstated," describing it as "counter to the foundational principle that Americans do not have to pay to vote" and "an affront to the spirit of democracy".

In another afront to democracy, Wisconsin's rightwing state Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the state's 1850 separate municipalities to immediately stop sending out absentee ballots to the, so far, about 1 million voters who have requested them. The court's 4 to 3 partisan ruling is meant to allow it's rightwing majority time to decide if the Green Party's Presidential ticket should be added to the ballot, despite the state Election Commission, in a deadlocked 3 to 3 vote, determining that the party's Presidential nominee Howie Hawkins and Vice Presidential Nominee Angela Walker did not receive enough signatures to qualify.

At issue is hundreds of petitions that listed the Milwaukee native Walker's address as a motel in South Carolina. Why the Party used two different addresses for Walker is unclear, but the result was the WI State Election Commission --- which the GOP state legislature recently created to replace the previous non-partisan commission with a partisan one built to create such deadlocks --- followed state law. That prevented the Greens from making the ballot. After a two week delay and 378,000 absentee ballots already mailed out, the Green Party decided to sue, even though election officials from across the state say their will be no time to design, print up, test and mail out out new ballots before both state and federal statutory deadlines require them to do so next week. They also have no idea how to avoid people voting twice with two separate ballots they may receive for the same election. So, chaos reigns yet again in the election in the key battleground state where Donald Trump is said to have won in 2016 by less than one single percentage point, when the Green candidate that year received more votes than Trump's margin over Hillary Clinton.

The voting news out of Texas this week is only slightly better. First, the good news: A federal judge there has ordered state election officials to notify voters within one day after a "perceived signature mismatch" is determined on absentee ballots, and to allow voters a "meaningful opportunity" to correct the issue. Previously, after officials, who are not handwriting experts, decided a signature was not a match to the voter's registration application (often years old), the ballot was simply rejected without notifying voters until 10 days after the election. In other good voting news from the Lone Star state, a state judge has determined that the Clerk in Harris County (Houston) is, in fact, allowed to send out absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the nation's 4th largest city. The state's Republican Attorney General had sued to block the effort. I suspect he'll appeal, but we'll see.

But the war on voting in the Lone Star State doesn't stop with those two victories for democracy, unfortunately. The Mayor of Houston wants to know why more than a dozen local U.S. Post Offices have refused to allow volunteers from the non-partisan League of Women Voters to make multilingual voter registration materials available at those facilities.

And our guest today, COURTNEY HOSTETLER, Senior Counsel at the non-partisan Free Speech For People, joins us to explain the disappointing decision from a federal judge this week in response to a recent lawsuit filed by FSFP on behalf of Mi Familia Vota and the Texas NAACP seeking to address what the groups describe as "unsafe and unequal voting conditions" in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The suit seeks a Preliminary Injunction in challenging the state's "insufficient number of polling places"; "its limited and inaccessible early voting locations"; a lack of social distancing requirements; Gov. Greg Abbot's statewide mask mandate which allows an exception for voters and pollworkers; and the dangerous "reliance on repeat-touch voting machines" amid the deadly pandemic, among other concerns. All of which, the complaint argues, "will result in unsafe voting conditions and increased risk of coronavirus transmission, which in turn will result in voter suppression." Moreover, as Hostetler explains today, "the health risks and adverse impact of these policies will place an undue burden on the right to vote and be borne disproportionately by voters of color, in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law, and the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment."

Texas has some of the most restrictive absentee voting requirements in the nation, so the dangers at polling places --- in this case, unequal ones --- are no small matter. "The real crux of the Constitutional issues at stake here," Hostetler tells me, "is that people won't show up to vote because they can't risk getting COVID-19 and dying. They can't risk not being able to work for 3 weeks if they get it...This is what's at stake, and the burden is not shared equally in Texas. It's both unconstitutional and it violates the Voting Rights Act." She says the federal judge, rather than deciding the case on its merits, determined that the matter is a political one, rather than an issue to be decided by the courts. While the case is still live, the judge has denied the group's motion for a Preliminary Injunction, which likely pushes the matter back until after the election. But the groups today decided that they will file an appeal.

In Pennsylvania this week, a state court judge also ruled against a Motion for Preliminary Injunction in a similar suit filed by FSFP and the Pennsylvania NAACP "to establish safe and equal voting procedures for the upcoming general election." There too, the groups plan to appeal.

And in North Carolina, where FSFP filed a suit last April to block the use of new "insecure, unreliable, unverifiable, and unsafe" touchscreen voting machines with the NC NAACP, the groups late last week filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court after a lower court denied their original complaint.

The appeal is "alleging imminent risk to voters' right to free elections and equal protection under the laws if they are required to vote on the [ES&S] ExpressVote touch screen ballot marking device this November". The complaint, as we discussed with Hostletler last spring when it was initially filed, "alleges the new [touchscreeen] system is vulnerable to security threats and its results are unverifiable, in violation of the North Carolina Constitution’s guarantees of free and fair elections and equal protection of the law." She says that though this matter will no longer be decided before this year's election, "the case is still live, and we are ready and preparing to litigate this fully and pursue this case through trial, because it does have long term implications for the state of North Carolina, because these machines are utterly unreliable and unverifiable";

So, yeah, a rough week for those who favor voting, voting rights and free, fair and safe democracy. But, as Hostetler argues today: "Every time there's an effort to push back against free and fair elections, there are people who are saying 'No, I'm going to fight you on that." She urges voters to fight like hell to make sure that they cast their ballot this year and vote as safely as they can, while letting her group or others know when and if they run into barriers.

"Know that there are people across the country who are fighting to change these policies," she says. "Nobody is alone in this. There are a lot of people fighting, and we can always use more"...

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Guest: BlueAmericaPAC's Howie Klein on that and other noteworthy results; Also: Dems fight for voting rights against Repubs in PA, TX...
By Brad Friedman on 9/2/2020 6:18pm PT  

On today's BradCast: The gears of American democracy continue to grind and wheeze toward November 3rd. On Tuesday, Massachusetts held its late season state primary elections featuring at least two noteworthy races. One, a somewhat bizarre challenge by an ambitious 39-year old Rep. Joe Kennedy III for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination against incumbent, 74-year old progressive climate champion Sen. Ed Markey. The other, a challenge by the 31-year old progressive Mayor of Holyoke, Alex Morse, against powerful, 16-term establishment Democratic Rep. Richard Neal in the state's 1st Congressional District. One progressive won, the other lost. Both races were fascinating for different reasons. [Audio link to show follows below.]

To help us understand both races and more, we're joined once again today by HOWIE KLEIN, creator of the enduring "Down With Tyranny" blog and co-founder of the progressive BlueAmericaPAC. He's been helping us in recent weeks to make sense of results from a number of key, late season primary races. (There are still three states left to go --- Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Delaware --- over the next two weeks.) The Markey/Kennedy contest, however, was one of the most curious this season.

Markey, who has served in the House and Senate for some 45 years, remains one of its most progressive and beloved lawmakers as a supporter of Medicare for All and the Senate sponsor, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the House, of the landmark Green New Deal proposal. Kennedy's attempt to unseat Markey, as endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, unsettled a number of Democrats and appeared, for a while, that it might have been successful. Alas, Markey appears to have won the day, and fairly easily, on Tuesday against the first Kennedy to ever lose an election in Massachusetts.

Klein explains why Kennedy was running in the first place and why he ultimate lost.

He also walks us through the challenge against Neal, a long-serving Democratic corporatist in the House who faced criticism from many Dems for slow-walking the Congressional attempt to review Donald Trump's tax returns. As the powerful Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Neal has the exclusive, statutory right to review the tax returns of any American in the nation. He took months, however, after Democrats regained the majority in the U.S. House in 2018, to even begin the process. Bu that's hardly the only critique of Neal by progressives, as we discuss today with Klein.

Nonetheless, Neal easily defeated Morse in Tuesday's primary, after what appear to have been dubious, if ultimately effective, charges of sexual misconduct whipped up against him by questionable sources. Klein explains that ugly campaign, as well as why his BlueAmericaPAC decided not to endorse Morse or either of the two progressive candidates running in the crowded field for the nomination to fill Kennedy's vacated seat in the state's 4th Congressional District.

Also today: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has announced it is taking up a case filed by the state Democratic Party seeking to expand and clarify the state's new mail-in ballot law amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump Campaign and state Republicans are challenging absentee voting in the battleground by, for example, suing to prevent the use of secure drop-boxes for absentee ballots.

And, in Texas, a federal judge has, for the second time, found the state in violation of the National Voter Registration Act for refusing to make online voter registration available along with online drivers license applications as required by the NVRA. And, in another court case, Texas' Republican Sec. of State and Attorney General are now suing the Harris County (Houston) County Clerk to prevent him from sending out absentee ballot applications to the county's more than 2 million registered voters...

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Foreign and domestic election interference continues. So does our effort to help you make sense of what's actually going on...
By Brad Friedman on 9/1/2020 6:52pm PT  

We've got a lot to get to on today's BradCast, as voters in Massachusetts go to the polls today with a couple of very interesting primary races (results tomorrow!), and as the rest of us are now counting the days (63 of them), until general Election Day, with both hope and trepidation. [Audio link to show is posted below summary.]

Among the mountains o' stuff covered on today's program...

  • After years of our reporting on the very successful, perhaps irreversible, decades-long effort by the Right to brainwash its followers, we open today with a few thoughts about a similar, if not quite as successful (though it's getting closer), effort to brainwash those on the Left. That effort to brainwash the Left, like the scheme on the Right, is also carried out by folks on the Right or those who support them. (And yes, that means we have a few words today about the still-misreported facts regarding the Hillary/Bernie race from 2016);
  • We have more evidence of attempts to manipulate the Left in today's announcement from Facebook that, based on a tip from the FBI, the social media outlet has shut down several fake accounts created to support a Russia-related propaganda scheme targeting the Left in hopes of undermining Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The operation reportedly included a phony media outlet calling itself "Peace Data", in hopes of appealing to progressives in advance of this year's election;
  • Information of that sort, as we discuss, is --- or should be --- useful to voters. Nonetheless, with just over two months until Election Day, with Donald Trump's top intelligence officers having recently warned that Russia is taking active measures, once again, to undermine the Presidential election in support of Trump, his recently-appointed Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe notified Congress over the weekend that he will no longer offer in-person briefings to lawmakers regarding foreign attempts to interfere in the election. The claim, offered by Trump himself without facts to back it up, is that members of Congress were illegally leaking certain information from the intelligence community, and that the information leaked was also "wrong". No evidence was given to support that charge, and while Trump claimed the decision to end intelligence briefings to Congress was made by him and Ratcliffe, evidence suggests that it was, instead, a directive from Trump himself. For some reason;
  • Speaking of the November 3rd election, the dirty tricks are now underway, as revealed by a new robocall to some Democratic-leaning Michigan voters falsely warning that signing up to vote by mail will result in voters contact information being added to a database for tracking down arrest warrants, credit card debt collection and "mandatory vaccines". None of that is true. Though you should expect much more of it in the weeks ahead;
  • Also in Michigan, the state's Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, recently won a court case filed by rightwingers attempting to prevent her from sending absentee ballot applications to all of the state's 7.7 million voters. The ruling --- in a state which Trump is said to have won by just over 11,000 votes in 2016 --- comes in the wake of his misfired threat to withhold federal funding from Michigan in a tweet in which he falsely claimed the "rogue Secretary of State" was planning to send out actual ballots (as opposed to applications) to all voters;
  • And while Trump and his minions have been suing in state after state in (usually failed) efforts to make voting more difficult during the global pandemic that he failed to control --- even attempting to block the use of secure absentee ballot drop-boxes in key battleground states like Pennsylvania --- another newly elected Democratic Sec. of State, Jena Griswold in Colorado, announced today that her state will offer "at least 368 mail ballot drop boxes for the General Election, an increase of 49% since I was elected in 2018!";
  • Also today, a somewhat bizarre comment from a reader/listener in response to our coverage yesterday of L.A. County's disastrous, unverifiable new touchscreen voting system, in which the commenters offers several odd allegations amid of my nearly 20 years of critical coverage of e-voting and asks "whose side are you on?";
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report in the wake of catastrophic week for the climate and the Republican National Convention...

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Guest: Aklima Khondoker of All Voting is Local; Also: Hurricane Laura to slam Gulf Coast; White vigilante arrested for killing Kenosha protesters; Trump's violations of law at RNC Day 2 reveal 'The Audacity of the Grift'...
By Brad Friedman on 8/26/2020 7:16pm PT  

On today's BradCast we head back to Georgia --- yes, again! --- for yet more new evidence highlighting the state as offering arguably the worst --- and most racist --- voting system in the nation. But we begin with breaking news today. Too much of it. [Audio link to full show is posted at bottom of summary.]

First up, Hurricane Laura is now a monster storm, currently a Category 4, and headed for landfall near the Texas/Louisiana border. The National Hurricane Center warns it will be "unsurvivable" and could submerge entire towns near the coast, with a storm surge as high as 20 feet and a menace to cities as far as 200 miles inland. A massive evacuation is now under way in both states, though avoiding the COVID pandemic in evacuation shelters may be very tricky, even as some areas in the storm's target zone have recently seen high positive test rates.

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, where protests continued for a third straight night following the outrageous police shooting, caught on tape, of African-American father Jacob Blake, two protesters were killed by a gunman on Tuesday. The alleged shooter, according to police, is a white 17-year old police fan boy from across the border in Illinois. Tuesday's shootings were also caught by cell phone video, not long after the suspected gunman was seen on video with a group of armed vigilantes being thanked by local police for their presence. After he had shot at least three protesters and was identified to police by others, the cops reportedly allowed him to walk right past them, assault rifle in hand, as they focused on the victims instead. The man was arrested today in Illinois.

Then --- after still more breaking news that the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks were boycotting their playoff game today to protest the shooting of Blake, leading the NBA to cancel all of tonight's playoff games --- we get to what necessarily became our truncated coverage of Day 2 of the Republican National Convention.

It was a stunning evening, in which one law after another was proudly broken or flaunted as the White House, U.S. Marines, the Acting Sec. of Homeland Security, a tax-payer funded trip by the Sec. of State to Israel, and the Presidential Seal were all used for political purposes, during the convention itself, so that Donald Trump could ironically be declared "the Law and Order President" by one hypocritical speaker after another.

Among the speakers were Trump's daughter Tiffany, his wife Melania and his son Eric who followed former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi making the case --- with a straight face --- that Joe Biden's family members were involved in some sort of criminal nepotism. Trump's son Eric, who serves as Executive Vice President for his father's company, was sued this week by the New York State Attorney General for failing to respond with documents and testimony to a lawful subpoena amid an investigation into bank and tax fraud by his father and the Trump Organization where Eric works. All of that as Trump's senior economic adviser Larry Kudlow pretended that the COVID pandemic --- which has so far killed at least 178,000 Americans, including more than 1,100 on Tuesday alone --- was over, thanks to Donald Trump's quick response.

As usual, all of these nightmares underscore the need to prevent Trump from winning a second term. But it won't be easy, as we learn again today with yet another story of targeted voter suppression out of Georgia. We have spent a disproportionate amount of time in recent years on this program reporting on the disastrous state of voting in Georgia. It is thought possible that the battleground state could finally flip to "blue" for this year's Presidential election and its TWO U.S. Senate races, but it continues to feature arguably offer the worst voting system in the nation.

By way of very quick summary of just a few data points to back up that allegation:

  • In 2016, after a huge purge of voters from the roles, we would learn after the Presidential election that Georgia's then Republican Sec. of State, now Governor, Brian Kemp, left the entire voter database and passwords to its voting systems unprotected online for download by anyone. When caught, he lied about it and wiped the entire server despite an ongoing lawsuit.
  • In 2018, a federal judge found the state's nearly 20-year old, unverifiable, easily-hacked touchscreen voting systems, mandated for use at the polling place in every county, to be outdated, insecure and unverifiable.
  • In that year's election, overseen by Kemp himself, he was narrowly found (by those same failed systems) to have "won" the Governor's race in a contest that his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, regards as illegitimate due to, among other things, the purges and disproportionate rejection of absentee ballots cast by African-Americans.
  • Also in 2018, some 250,000 votes in the Lt. Governor's race inexplicably disappeared in black precincts.
  • In 2019, the federal judge ruled the state's voting system so insecure and unverifiable that they were, in fact, unconstitutional. She banned them from further use and ordered the system to be replaced by a new one.
  • In 2019, the new Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger ordered new, similarly unverifiable, easily-hacked touchscreen voting systems to replace the old systems found to be unconstitutional, rather than move to a cheaper, VERIFIABLE, hand-marked paper ballot system recommended by voting and computer experts. The new $130 million systems failed in their first outing late last year and again during primaries this year, leading to hours-long voting lines in the Peach State, once again, largely in minority areas.
  • And we would also later learn that the new digital optical-scan computers used to tally hand-marked absentee ballots in the Peach State had skipped counting unknown thousands of votes during the June primaries, due to a software setting that allows election officials or the private voting system vendor or even hackers to dial up or down the sensitivity setting to determine which votes are counted or not.

All of which brings us to this week, as the Georgia chapter of All Voting Is Local unveiled a new analysis of rejected vote-by-mail ballots from the June primary elections in the state. You'll be shocked to learn that in the three counties they examined, the mail-in ballots from black voters were rejected at disproportionately higher rates than others. For example, in the Atlanta suburb of Cobb County, Black voters submitted 24 percent of the absentee ballots requested but accounted for 38 percent of mail-in ballots rejected by the County.

We're joined today by AKLIMA KHONDOKER, former ACLU attorney, now Georgia State Director for All Voting is Local, to explain her group's analysis and why the rates of absentee ballot rejection are so high for black voters in Georgia and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic and Asian voters as well. Khondoker warns that while the group only looked at three counties in Georgia --- finding similarly alarming statistics in each --- the problem likely extends not only to the rest of the state, but likely to many others around the nation.

"I don't think this is unique to Georgia. This is likely something we would see nationwide," she argues, citing the "institutional and structural racism that has led to the wealth of problems that we see in our elections. There is no way to cleave the two. Because we have a clear system that has always worked for one and not the other." She goes on to explain how this new analysis is just one more data point underscoring evidence that institutional racism "undercuts everything in our election systems."

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Also: Courts continue to save nation on COVID dangers, voting, more...
By Brad Friedman on 8/25/2020 6:28pm PT  

I'll be brief in today's BradCast summary, because I've got to head back into Day 2 of the bizarre dystopian nightmare known as Donald Trump's Republican National Convention. We're watching it so you don't have to. You're welcome. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

Among the stories covered on today's program...

  • Two nightmare storms slamming the Gulf Coast in the same week as the biggest and more dangerous of the two, Hurricane Laura, is gunning for the Louisiana/Texas border, likely as a Category 3;
  • A Florida judge puts the brakes on Gov. Ron DeSantis' demand that all public schools open five days a week for in-person classes by the end of this month. He says the state's plan "disregards safety" amid a still roiling --- if slightly easing (for now) --- pandemic in the Sunshine State;
  • Highlights (low lights?) from Day 1 of the RNC, in which every speaker sounded as if their remarks were either written by the same person, or simply ripped straight off of Fox "News". As ridiculous as the evening was --- featuring enough dangerous lies about Trump's mishandling of the COVID crisis that MSNBC had to break in with a doctor for some serious fact-checking; a couple of accused felons warned Democrats will "“abolish the suburbs altogether"; a seemingly stoned Don Jr. and his seemingly insane former Fox "News" host girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle --- we determined that ridicule was the best was to cover it. So we called in Stephen Colbert for some assistance.
  • Good news, for now, for voters in Pennsylvania. A Trump-appointed federal judge forced the Trump Campaign to make fools of themselves by demanding they present evidence of voter fraud via secure absentee ballot drop-boxes in Pennsylvania, where they are suing to prevent the use of the convenient devices during this year's general election. The plaintiffs were unable to to present any such evidence.
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report with more on the twin storms pummeling the Gulf Coast and the raging fires in California (both amid a global pandemic making evacuating shelters very tricky for social distancing), the Trump Administration puts a pause on it's approval for the controversial Pebble Mine in Alaska after Don Jr. and Fox "News" decide maybe they're against it after all, and a quick review of last week's virtual Democratic National Convention where Joe Biden and many others promised action on climate change...

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Two storms in the Gulf as RNC begins; Trump's sister calls him a liar; Former GOP lawmakers endorse Biden; Former Republican NatSec officials endorse Biden; Repubs fail to create a platform at national convention, party now officially a cult of personality...
By Brad Friedman on 8/24/2020 5:39pm PT  

Everything is now happening all at once. So, we couldn't get through half of what we would have liked to have covered while still having enough time left to open phones on today's BradCast to thoughts from listeners on last week's Democratic National Convention and this week's GOP version. [Audio link to show follows below.]

So, before we opened the phones to a bunch of great calls, we covered, among other things...

  • Last week, Donald Trump claimed Joe Biden will "hurt God" if he's elected. But it seems that God may have already chosen sides in this year's Presidential election. As if the COVID crisis derailing Trump's plans for rallies and a national convention in two different cities wasn't enough, this year's record Atlantic Hurricane season continues with not one but two storms in the Gulf (Marco and Laura) at the same time, both gunning for Louisiana and/or Texas this week as the Republican National Convention finally gets under way. Desi Doyen joins us for the latest on that;
  • Even Donald Trump's own family doesn't trust Donald Trump. We already know his niece, Mary Trump --- who recently released a best-seller about him --- thinks he's a lying, fraudulent, menace. But so too, apparently, does Donald's own sister, former federal Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, who is heard during secretly recorded conversations with Mary describing her brother, the President, as stupid, cruel, phony and a liar, among other nice things from a family member who knows him best. We share some of those audio recordings released over the weekend today;
  • Also parting ways with Donald Trump today, more than two dozen former Republican Senators and Congressmen, including Arizona's former Sen. Jeff Flake, who announced their endorsement of Joe Biden just hours before the Republican National Convention was to get under way on Monday;
  • That follows a group of more than 70 longtime national security officials who served under Trump and other Republican Administrations who issued an open letter on Friday endorsing Joe Biden and describing Trump as "dangerously unfit to serve another term";
  • But, of course, all of this is just part of the GOP's long spiral into a party that believes in absolutely nothing at all other than clinging to power any way that they can and, of course, cult-worshiping Trump, as Politico Magazine's Tim Alberta details in a new piece today headlined "The Grand Old Meltdown: What happens when a party gives up on ideas?" As one longtime Congressional GOP stalwart laments in Alberta's piece, "Owning the libs and pissing off the media. That's what we believe in now. There's really not much more to it.";
  • One thing that happens when a party gives up on ideas is they are unable to even craft a policy platform for their party. That is --- other than officially selecting a nominee for President --- the whole point of holding a national convention in the first place. But with a complete dearth of legitimate policy proposals, the RNC on Sunday essentially admitted as much by announcing they would not be producing a platform at all this year for the first time in....ever?;
  • Then, after a few words about the ongoing fight against the attempt by Trump and his Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to steal the election by slowing down the mail during the largest Vote-by-Mail election of all time, we open the phones to listeners with their thoughts on all of the above and much more...

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Multi-State legal challenges expose illegality, but it may be too late to fully repair damage even if Trump's Postmaster General is ordered to do so...
By Ernest A. Canning on 8/24/2020 7:35am PT  

Even if several multi-state legal challenges result in a federal court order directing Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to repair the damage wrought by his allegedly "illegal" sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service's mail delivery capabilities, absent significant additional funds, it's unlikely DeJoy could fully comply with that order.

The facts laid out in one of the recently filed cases and echoed in the others, along with subsequent developments, suggest that DeJoy was, at best, disingenuous when, in an August 18 formal statement [PDF], he claimed he was "suspending" his nationwide mail sorting, labeling and delivery changes until after the Nov. 3 Presidential Election.

The complaint describes how, pursuant to an Equipment Reduction Plan [PDF], Defendants removed, dismantled and/or destroyed 671 high-speed sorting and labeling machines that had a combined hundreds of millions of dollars in value. As a result, the States allege, "some major cities have already had their ability to sort mail reduced by hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail per hour." (Emphasis in original text).

On the same day that DeJoy issued his "suspension" statement, emails were submitted by Kevin Couch, the USPS Director of Maintenance Operations, informing Maintenance Managers that, irrespective of instructions from their plant managers, they must not reconnect or reinstall sorting machines that had previously been disconnected absent approval from USPS HQ.

Last Friday, while testifying before the U.S. Senate, DeJoy made it clear that he has "has no intention" of reinstalling the sorting machines, even as he claimed that election related mail would receive top priority from the Postal Service. Contrary to DeJoy's rosy predictions, however, the USPS's own Service Performance memo reflects a significant drop in overall performance which precipitated a USPS warning to 46 states that their deadlines for Vote-by-Mail ballots "might impede the timely delivery of mail-in ballots, possibly disenfranchising millions of voters"

While there's ample reason for a court to order reinstallation, absent significant additional USPS funding, which Trump opposes, it is doubtful that DeJoy could fully undo the damage even if he were ordered to do so.

VOTERS BEWARE: Do not be lulled into a false sense of security by DeJoy's "suspension" of changes at the USPS until after Election Day, or by his unsupported assurance that USPS can timely process and deliver every ballot. The wiser course, as laid out in our previously related article, is to deposit your mail-in ballots in secure, state-supplied drop-boxes (where available) or at designated drop-off locations. Check your local jurisdictions to learn what options may be available where you live. In some jurisdictions, voters can deposit their mail-in ballots at the polls either during early voting or on Election Day. In some jurisdictions, voters can link to election official websites to track the processing of their own ballots as well...

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President of the United States holds trillions of dollars in emergency relief hostage to prevent Democrats from safely casting ballots in November...
By Brad Friedman on 8/13/2020 6:37pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Well, at least he's saying it out loud now. [Audio link to show follows below.]

The President of the United States is rejecting the plea --- from his own personally-appointed, Republican-majority, Postal Board of Governors for $25 billion to save the U.S Postal Service from collapse and a $3.5 billion request from the nation's bi-partisan elections officials to help harden election infrastructure for security purposes and to accommodate a huge Presidential election in the middle of a deadly global pandemic --- because he is trying to steal the election. While he doesn't use the words "steal the election", he and his administration are now making very clear they are trying to do just that. And, of course, ham-fistedly lying about it at the same time by claiming that Democrats, somehow, are hoping to "rig" the election.

The Trump/GOP megadonor, Louis DeJoy, just appointed as Trump's Postmaster General in June, has been busy issuing directives to slow down mail delivery, despite the explosion in Vote-by-Mail expected during this November's election, as necessitated by Trump's own failed coronavirus response. This week we have also learned that DeJoy has removed or reassigned some 23 top USPS officials who manage mail delivery and that 19 huge postal sorting machines, which process some 35,000 pieces of mail an hour, have now been removed or are scheduled to be removed from at least 19 different mail distribution sites across the country. That was confirmed by Motherboard today after initially being reported on NPR by the President of the Iowa Postal Worker's Union.

It is happening in plain sight. On Wednesday at his White House presser, and again on Thursday, Trump conceded that if he doesn't agree to a new COVID-19 emergency relief bill to help the nearly 30 million now-unemployed Americans; cash-strapped states and cities; hospitals; schools; and, yes, elections officials and the U.S. Post Office itself, he believes he will stop voters from successfully casting a ballot through the mail this November.

That works great for him, because he's hoaxed his own GOP supporters into believing absentee voting is fraudulent (except in Florida, where he, himself, does it ILLEGALLY) or unnecessary, because the virus is "disappearing, like a miracle." Many duped Republicans will now needlessly risk infection and death to vote for him at the polling place on Election Day, while huge numbers of NOT-disinformed Democrats are expected to use Vote-by-Mail to avoid potential death from voting in-person. Trump will then declare himself the winner on Election Night, with more Republican votes quickly counted from in-person voting, before declaring the slower-to-tally absentee ballots (which need to be manually authenticated one-by-one before they can be run through computer tabulators --- if they even arrive on time to be counted after the USPS slowdowns) as "fraudulent". Attempts to count all lawfully cast ballots after Election Day will then be characterized as an attempt by Democrats to steal the election. That's the plan. It's simple, evil, anti-American, and its happening right before your eyes.

Even one of Trump's top White House economic advisers admitted on CNBC today that "we don't want to have voting rights." That, said Larry Kudlow, out loud, about the effort by Democrats to include election and USPS funding in their emergency relief proposal is "not our game and the President can't accept that kind of deal."

Voting rights advocates, supporters of democracy, and Democrats in Congress are hopping mad, as they should be. So is one of the nation's largest veterans groups. But, of course, Trump knows that, as a failed President, if he doesn't rig the election to steal it he is very likely to lose it. So, yes, he is attempting to steal a Presidential election right before our eyes.

We break down ALL of that down --- in much more detail --- on today's show, along with at least one bit of good news on elections today coming from the U.S. Supreme Court, of all places, if you can believe it.

Finally, we close with Desi Doyen (whose name keeps popping up in the strangest places these days) and our latest Green News Report with a review of presumptive Democratic Veep candidate Kamala Harris' record on environmental justice; the Trump EPA's rollback of Obama-era methane pollution rules at the request of the oil and gas industry; some very good news for the nation's migratory birds; and yet another fossil fuel disaster, this time in Pennsylvania...

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Guest: Howie Klein on Tuesday's primary results in MN, GA, elsewhere; Also: Kamala's first appearance as Biden's running mate...
By Brad Friedman on 8/12/2020 6:57pm PT  

On today's BradCast, we look at noteworthy results after Tuesday's state primary elections in Minnesota, Georgia, Wisconsin, Vermont and Connecticut. But we begin with problems voting on Tuesday in (where else?) Georgia, and the quickly expanding efforts by Republican Secretaries of State in key battlegrounds to make mail-in voting as difficult as possible this November, as per Donald Trump's bidding.

In Georgia, as we noted on yesterday's show, despite a successful program to help keep voters safe amid the coronavirus pandemic by sending absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters during the June primary, their Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger has decided not to do so again before the November general elections, despite the spike in COVID infections and deaths in the state since then. A record 5 million Georgians are expected to vote (or try to) this year, when the battleground state is hoped by Democrats to finally flip from "red" to "blue for the first time in decades in the Presidential race and when there are not one, but two vulnerable GOP U.S. Senate Seats on the ballot as well.

In Kentucky, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing a challenge from Democratic former fighter pilot Amy McGrath, we're seeing an echo of Raffensperger's attempt to suppress the vote in November. Despite a largely successful June primary, when there were no restrictions on which voters were allowed to request an absentee ballot, the state's Republican Sec. of State Michael Adams on Tuesday submitted a plan to the Governor to restore restrictions, limiting absentees largely to the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19. That, despite the widely praised procedures used in June in the Bluegrass State, where the rate of infections and deaths has also spiked since the mid-summer primary. Adams' absurd excuses for the proposed restrictions on Vote-by-Mail reveal that this is much more about suppression than safety or efficiency. For example, while claiming that election officials and the U.S. Postal Service will be overwhelmed in processing the number of absentee ballots if Kentucky again allows no-excuse absentee voting, Adams is also proposing that only ballots that arrive by Election Day may be counted. Previously, officials had a week after Election Day to process ballots post-marked by then, but which arrived in the days following. Luckily, Kentucky now has a Democratic Governor who may need to approve (or veto) Adams' plan before it can be enacted.

In the neighboring perennial swing-state of Ohio, where Joe Biden and Donald Trump are believed to be neck-and-neck this year, Republican Sec. of State Frank LaRose announced on Wednesday that he is barring county Boards of Election from offering more than one single secure drop-box per county for depositing Vote-by-Mail ballots. After waiting for three weeks for an opinion from the Republican Attorney General as to whether the state's 88 counties could legally deploy extra drop-boxes, LaRose announced today that he could wait no longer. He says he believes it is now too late to make any changes to how the election will be administered. So there must only be one drop-box outside of each County's elections office. He also claimed that adding extra drop-boxes would result in lawsuits like the one filed by the Trump Campaign in late June in Pennsylvania, which argues that the use of drop-boxes in that key battleground state --- where they were successfully deployed without problem during the state's June primary --- is actually unconstitutional.

These are voter suppression attempts, period. Trump and his cronies are attempting to steal the election in plain sight. Don't. Let. Them. Inform yourself and make plans for safely voting this year NOW.

Then, we're joined once again by HOWIE KLEIN of the "Down With Tyranny!" blog and the progressive BlueAmerica PAC. He has been offering analysis on the show of late, from a progressive perspective, on the late season state primary results. Today, after sharing his thoughts on Joe Biden's new running-mate Kamala Harris (he is "not a fan") and who he might like to see appointed to fill her U.S. Senate seat if Democrats win, we cover freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar's win in the Democratic Primary in Minnesota 5th Congressional District on Tuesday against an AIPAC-supported challenger.

Then we discuss the win by Marjorie Taylor Greene --- a QAnon conspiracy theorist who has proudly made racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic statements --- in the Republican primary run-off in Georgia's 14th Congressional District. For some reason, AIPAC did not fund her challenger, despite her unapologetic anti-Semitic remarks, and the fact that she is most likely headed to Congress after easily winning her runoff in a very Republican district.

Nor did AIPAC manage to fund a challenger to 25-year old Republican Madison Cawthorn, an apparent Nazi sympathizer in North Carolina who Klein writes about today, and who appears likely to win the seat vacated by Trump's latest Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows this November. "They love him on the right," says Klein. "They're already seeing him as a future US Senator."

Klein also offers a preview of next Tuesday's state primaries in Florida where a progressive group outside of the state Democratic Party has worked, for the first time, to recruit Democratic candidates to run in each of the Sunshine State's 27 Congressional districts. "I always say the Florida Democratic Party is lucky that there's an Ohio Democratic Party, because otherwise the Florida Democratic Party would be the worst, instead of the second worst in the country," he says. "So the environmental caucus recruited all of these great candidates. The Democratic Party flipped out. ... But there's a really, really good roster of state legislative candidates and, on top of that, there are several excellent Democrats running for the U.S. Congress," he tells me, specifically citing Adam Christensen in Florida's 3rd Congressional District.

Finally, we close with a bit of Kamala Harris' remarks today from Delaware, where she and Biden appeared together for the first time since he named her as his running mate for the 2020 Democratic Presidential ticket...

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Guests: Heather Digby Parton on Kamala as VEEP; Jeanne Dufort on why the Peach State's new, $100 million digital-scanners failed to count thousands of valid votes and how to fix it before November...
By Brad Friedman on 8/11/2020 7:09pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Two mysteries solved in one single, if hectic, show! [Audio link to full show is posted at end of article.]

The first is the mystery of who presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden would select as his Vice-Presidential partner. Now we know. Less than an hour before showtime today, it was announced that California's first-term U.S. Senator Kamala Harris will become the first black woman (and first South Asian American woman) to be part of a major party's Presidential ticket. On short notice, we were able to scrounge up the great HEATHER DIGBY PARTON of Salon and Digby's Hullabaloo blog to join us for her "top-line, knee-jerk, hot-take" response to the big news and how she thinks it will play both among the electorate at large and the far, FAR more picky progressive electorate.

Parton, a progressive herself, who says she was rooting for Elizabeth Warren to be named for the slot, describes Harris as a "a very skilled politician"; argues that her selection "says something nice about Biden"; discusses the "legitimate concerns that progressives have had about Harris"; and whether she believes "the Left" will be able to "put aside their differences" to get behind the ticket, before "going to fight tooth and nail about the things that we care about" in the event that Biden actually becomes President next January.

Today's other solved mystery is much trickier. And it has to do with Georgia, which is holding primary runoff elections today, along with state primary elections on Tuesday in Vermont, Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin. (We'll have noteworthy results from all of those states, as available, on tomorrow's BradCast, of course). Naturally, because it's Election Day in Georgia --- a key battleground state which some believe could finally flip from "red" to "blue" this year for the first time in decades --- there are problems at the polls. While hopefully not as terrible as the meltdown caused by the state's new unverifiable touchscreen voting systems and electronic pollbooks that resulted in hours-long lines in largely Democratic-leaning precincts during the state's June primary, we have early indications that the same, new, overly-complex, computerized voting systems failed voters again today in at least some of the 94 (of 159) counties participating in today's runoffs.

Despite that distressing (if unsurprising) news today in Georgia, there was some good-ish news from the State Elections Board (SEB) there. They met on Monday to adopt new procedures in advance of the November 3rd Presidential election. The SEB unanimously agreed to allow voters to request absentee ballots for November via a new online webpage to go live by the end of the month. That's good news for those who have easy online access. But, shamefully, it comes along with the news that Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger, after successfully sending out Vote-by-Mail applications to all of the state's active registered voters before the June primary, will NOT be doing so before this year's Presidential election. Apparently, that plan worked too well and allowed too many to easily vote from home, when they might otherwise have had to struggle with long lines and Raffensperger's failed electronic voting systems at the polling place in the middle of an ongoing global pandemic.

Also at Georgia's SEB meeting on Monday, the Board agreed to make a change to the state's new computer-tabulation systems that scan and count those hand-marked paper absentee ballots. (Voters at the polls are forced to use unverifiable touchscreen systems.) The SEB's change to a software setting on the systems came about, thanks in no small part, to our guest today, JEANNE DUFORT of the Coalition for Good Governance.

Following the June primaries, Dufort was on a bi-partisan citizens' panel reviewing digital images of hand-marked paper absentee ballots on which the computerized digital-scanners believed there were over-votes with, for example, more than one oval in a single race seen by the computer as being filled in. State law requires manual examination of such ballots to determine if the voter's intent is discernible or not. While reviewing those ballots, Dufort and the other panelists in Morgan County noticed that the tabulation system had marked some clearly discernible votes on many of those same ballots as containing "no vote". Why were those votes not counted by the new, $100 million tabulation system made by the Canadian firm Dominion Voting? And would elections officials manually examine ALL of the hand-marked ballots to count those "lost" votes? As Dufort told us on this program at the time she discovered the problem after the June primary, there were potentially tens of thousands of perfectly legitimate votes that had gone uncounted.

Well, today we finally have the answer to the mystery of why the system had failed to count some of those votes. It has to do with a sensitivity setting on the digital optical-scan tabulators that the Secretary of State's office claims they did not originally know about when they initially dismissed Dufort's concerns back in June. That setting, apparently, directs the computer to ignore votes in which less than 12% of the bubble was filled in. (Often, instead of inking in the entire bubble, voters will use a check-mark or an X. While the voter's intent is easily discernible to the human eye, the new computers that tabulate votes were set to record such marks --- that filled less than 12% of the bubble --- as a "no vote".)

"It assigns it a 'percentage of fill'," Dufort tells me. "In our case in Georgia, what we later found out was that these Dominion factory settings said if a vote was deemed to cover more than 35% of that area...if the threshold percentage hit 35% or above, the system said, 'Yep, that's a vote! It counts!' If the threshold was between 12-35%, it said, 'that's ambiguous, I'm not sure something is there, better get a human to look at it.' If it fell below 12%, it said, 'I see that, but it's not a vote, so I'm going to label it unvoted, and I'm not even going to call it to the attention of the humans.'"

While Dufort says that it is good news that the SEB has now agreed to lower the bottom of the software sensitivity range setting to 10%, the longtime Election Integrity advocate says that she and others in the state believe it should be set lower still, to avoid more lost votes, in advance of the Presidential Election. "We think 10% is still too high," she says. "So we're going to be out talking to them. This rule is out for 30 days of public comment. We'll be saying thank you, but you really need to take it down to 5, which we have learned is what Colorado uses. And they've been doing hand-marked paper ballots statewide for a very long time. We think that's a good benchmark for Georgia."

She also observes that the the old settings, less sensitive settings, are still being used to tally today's runoff elections, which could be a problem in the event of close races. Moreover, she explains, "the color of the ink [and] the brand of the ink in your pen can change how the computer measures it." We discuss all of that, how the changes may affect results this November, and whether we should be worried that such a software setting could be abused by ill-intentioned election insiders (or hackers) in the critical battleground state (or others that use similar systems) during the Presidential election.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with more deadly fossil fuel disasters, a warning about this year's already-record Atlantic Hurricane season, and some very disturbing climate change news out of Canada, where the last intact ice shelf has finally collapsed and broken away...

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Plus 'back to school' with listener calls, as it all goes from bad to worse...
By Brad Friedman on 8/10/2020 6:43pm PT  

On today's BradCast: This is not a drill. In my nearly-two decades of covering elections, I've never been as concerned about attempts to undermine an election than I now am regarding this year's Presidential election on November 3rd. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

Last Friday's BradCast interview with American Postal Worker Union President Mark Dimondstein, regarding the mandates by Louis DeJoy, Trump's newly-appointed Postmaster General, to slow down the mail "everywhere" --- and DeJoy's Friday Night Massacre that took place moments after we got off air --- are just some of the huge reasons for my concern. Please make sure that you are prepared, well in advance, for this year's election, and that you know how to not only receive a Vote-by-Mail ballot, as necessary for many due to the pandemic, but that you know what the deadlines are for registering to vote, requesting a VBM ballot, and where and how to drop it off IN PERSON, so your ballot doesn't get lost in Trump's USPS slowdown. Once you've learned all of that, please make sure everyone you know does the same. Ernie Canning has written a helpful article at Bradblog.com with some important related tips, and 2020VotersCalendar.org is a very helpful new website resource with specific information along these lines for voters in each of the 50 states.

Over the weekend, Puerto Rico's primary was a disaster, as ballots did not arrive at all --- or far too late for many to vote --- in 50 out of 110 voting centers across the island. A second make-up election is now being planned, hopefully, for next Sunday. If something like that happens on November 3rd, of course, all may be lost.

In the meantime, just days after Donald Trump falsely claimed that children were "almost immune" to the coronavirus, a new report finds that nearly 100,000 children in the US tested positive for it in just the last two weeks of July alone. That's a 40% increase in child coronavirus cases during those two weeks in the U.s. jurisdictions researchers examined. At least 86 children have died from COVID-19 since May, the report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association also finds, including a 7-year old with no pre-existing conditions in Georgia last week.

This coincides with the mind-boggling push by Trump to reopen schools for in-person classes immediately, as a number of states run by Trumpy Governors press forward with plans to do so. One such state is Georgia, where some schools opened for the new term already last week and saw photos of crowded hallways and maskless children go viral on social media almost immediately (before suspending the student who posted them). Now that same school is returning to distance learning this week after six students and three staff members at the school tested positive. Other school districts in the state reported even worse numbers.

In Florida, where two teenagers have died so far this month, at least 12 counties are reopening schools this week, more than 17% of tests are now coming back positive. The CDC recommends schools only reopen where the positive test rate is lower than 5%, yet at least 9 of the 12 school districts planning to open in the Sunshine State are currently seeing rates much higher than that. That, as nearly 165,000 are confirmed to have died from COVID in the U.S. and new data from the CDC finds 200,000 more deaths since mid-March than would normally be expected at this time of year, based on recent trends before the pandemic.

As bad as its all getting, the White House appears unwilling to compromise with Democrats on a new COVID emergency relief bill, despite tens of millions of Americans who saw their expanded federal unemployment benefits from an earlier relief bill expire at the end of July. In response, rather than negotiate or demonstrate the art of his pretend deal-making prowess, Trump spent the weekend playing golf and signed one Executive Order and three Executive Memos that pretend to do a whole bunch of stuff that they actually don't and are most likely unconstitutional to boot. One of his executive actions, to temporarily defer payroll taxes for those who are working (the taxes will have to paid at the end of the year instead), would actually cut funding to Social Security and Medicare. Another would take money from FEMA to restore some of the expanded unemployment benefits, but slash them by a third, prevent them from being paid to the lowest-income earners, and require cash-strapped states pay 25% percent of the expanded payments.

Yet, there is no effort in his executive actions to bailout states and cities who are now completely out of money due to their COVID-related crash in revenues. Many couldn't help fund the expanded unemployment even if they wanted to. Similarly, there is no effort to fund the Post Office with the $25 billion that its GOP-dominated Board of Governors has requested to keep the USPS running. And no effort to give $4 billion to election officials around the country to help upgrade their systems to help manage the huge influx of absentee voting due to COVID or even to help make in-person voting safer, as election officials across the country have long sought.

In short, the weekend's news was terrible and the news ahead is likely to get nothing but worse for a while. But we thought you should know it, since the President of the United States --- who said his executive actions this weekend "will take care of pretty much this entire situation, as we know it" --- continues lying to the nation in hopes that it will somehow help him get reelected. It won't. But stealing the election remains completely on the table and actively under way.

Finally, we open up the phones to callers on all of the above. And, though I specifically asked several times, I couldn't seem to find one listener willing to call in and explain why they would be happy to send their kids back to in-person classes right now. Go figure.

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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