On today's BradCast: You've almost certainly heard by now about Georgia's disastrous primary election last week, when new computer voting systems, shuttered polling places and thousands of absentee ballots that never arrived to voters resulted in hours-long voting lines, disproportionately in heavily-minority areas of the state. You may not have heard, however, that the new computer scanners the state's Republican Secretary of State forced all counties to use to tally hand-marked paper absentee ballots on June 9th appear to have failed to tally potentially thousands of votes across the state. We're joined today by the woman who first discovered the gob-smacking --- and still unexplained --- failure in GA's new, failed, statewide voting systems last week. [Link to audio of full show is posted below.]
But first up, a few noteworthy breaking news items today...
- The FDA has revoked emergency use authorization of the drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, finding the serious and potentially deadly dangers of the drugs outweigh any potential, unproven benefits. These are the drugs that non-health expert Donald Trump (and Fox "News") repeatedly encouraged Americans to take, pressuring the FDA in the early days of the coronavirus to approve for broad use. Trump repeatedly declared, "What do you have to lose?" in taking it. The answer: potentially your life, according to the FDA and the National Institutes of Health as of today;
- The coronavirus still continues to spread across the U.S., with infection rates and hospitalizations spiking in many places across the nation, particular where businesses have been allowed to reopen too early. Texas, for example, has continued to break its own hospitalization records, day-after-day over the past week. All of that since GOP Gov. Greg Abbot allowed many business to reopen on Memorial Day weekend and for Phase III of the state's reopening plan (allowing some restaurants to fill up to 75% of capacity) to go into effect on Friday, despite the deadly and continuing surge of new cases and hospitalizations;
- Stunning and great news on Monday, shockingly enough, from the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 6-3 that employers may not discriminate against LGBTQ people. Republican-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority(!), said that firing gay or trans people because they are gay or trans amounts to unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex. That is forgidden by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The ruling is a huge victory for the civil rights community and those of us who believe in freedom and liberty and the rule of law;
- More good news from the Court today. SCOTUS declined to hear about a dozen different cases appealed to the Court by gun rights activists hoping to further broaden the 2nd Amendment.
Then, a bit of very rare good news out of last week's disastrous GA primary: Overall turnout was way up as compared to 2016's primary, and especially among Democrats where three times as many voted in the state's U.S. Senate primary than did so four years ago. Moreover, curiously enough, many more Republicans voted in last week's uncontested GOP U.S. Senate primary for Sen. David Perdue than voted for Donald J. Trump in his own uncontested Presidential primary in a state that many believe could flip from red to blue in November for the first time in decades. But that's the end of the "good news" out of Georgia's horrific election last week.
With voters (mostly in Democratic-leaning areas) forced to wait in hours-long lines at the polls, where the final votes was cast well after midnight on Wednesday, election integrity advocates have now learned that things are even worse than previously known.
During mandated bi-partisan county reviews of ballots identified by the state's new absentee ballot computer scanners as having potential over- or under-votes, our guest today discovered that the computer tally systems were failing to count votes at all in certain races on an untold number of ballots. Election Integrity advocate JEANNE DUFORT, was reportedly the first to notice that the digital computer scanners were simply failing --- inexplicably --- to count completely countable votes on ballots she reviewed while serving on a bi-partisan three-person review panel in her county. Dufort has served as a plaintiff in a number of successful legal complaints brought by the non-partisan Coalition for Good Governance, challenging the horrific computerized voting and tallying systems (both old and new) forced on all 159 counties in the state by its Republican Secretary of State.
After first spotting the apparently uncounted votes, she says on today's program, "we checked the audit trail. The computer said, 'unvoted.' But we're looking at a voter mark. No confusion that it's a vote." The same problem was subsequently discovered on a huge proportion of ballots reviewed in DeKalb, Clarke and Cherokee Counties. According to voting systems experts, the uncounted votes are likely to be found in every county in the state, since they were all forced to use the same new systems this year. (A system which, by the way, even the state of Texas refused to certify for use there, finding it to be "fragile and error prone.")
Despite rates of anywhere from 5 to 10% of ballots discovered in the initial four counties to have had valid untallied votes on them, DuFort says that while the votes on ballots they reviewed were added to the results, Morgan County's Board of Elections voted against an examination of the county's other 3,000 absentee ballots. She describes that vote by the Board as a "huge disappointment," telling me that "head in the sand is not a good strategy when a problem materializes." But that appears to be the state of Georgia's strategy on just about everything these days. The Secretary of State's office initially denied there was any problem at all, dismissing DuFort as a partisan "activist". In fact, while she serves as the 1st Vice Chair of the Morgan County Democratic Party, she works with the Coalition for Good Governance whose Founder and Executive Director, Marilyn Marks, is both a frequent guest on The BradCast and a registered Republican.
Since the discovery and confirmation of the massive computer counting flaw --- which could affect untold thousands of votes across the state --- the Coalition has called for a "thorough transparent investigation and correction of the vote count [which] must be immediately undertaken and completed prior to certification of the election results." DuFort, however, tells us that "so far, the state has not shown an interest in investigating it. It's shown an interest in denying there's a problem."
"We're calling on counties all over the state, before they certify, to do a human eyeball review to see what other votes are out there that are embedded in ballots that have just plain not been counted and should have been counted," she says about the problem that one panelist in a different county said was discovered "by sheer luck" during the review of ballots flagged by the computer system for other reasons.
DuFort suggests that some of the candidates who ran in last week's contested statewide Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate, for example, may be able to take legal action, since Georgia law "is clear on this" that votes must be counted. Citing several voting system and computer science experts who have verified the flaw, DuFort argues: "Folks who know about these things tell us that what we've seen with our own eyes is likely a bug. Bugs can happen. [In a] big, first-time statewide rollout, you can have a bug. Nobody's complaining that there's a bug. But you've got to be interested enough to go and find it and fix it. We've got a big consequential race coming up in Georgia in November, and you better learn from this experience and fix it before then."
Whether the state will learn anything or not remains to be seen as this story continues to develop and explanations are sought for what happened and how large the problem actually is. We will cover it, of course, as it continues to do so...
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