On today's BradCast, a story out of Georgia serves as a jarring reminder that we'd better not wait until 2018 to be concerned about the integrity and public oversight of our electronically tabulated elections. Also, the political blame game is underway regarding the Republicans' planned use of the "nuclear option" in the U.S. Senate. [Audio link to show posted at bottom of article.]
Early last month, someone reportedly hacked into the voting records database at Kennesaw State University's Center for Election Systems, which is contracted to maintain and program all of Georgia's 100% unverifiable touch-screen Diebold voting systems and electronic poll books. The state still uses the same unverifiable 2002 voting systems that, as we reported more than a decade ago, were hacked in a minute's time by researchers at Princeton University, where they were able to implant a virus that could pass itself from machine to machine and flip the results of an election with little or no possibility of detection.
The recent hack at Georgia's KSU, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described at the time as possibly compromising some 7.5 million voter records, resulted in a quiet FBI investigation, and comes as special elections are about to be held in a number of states to fill U.S. House seats vacated by Republican members of Congress tapped to serve in the Trump Administration.
One of those special elections is in Georgia on April 18, where the contest to fill GOP Rep. Tom Price's seat in CD-6 (he's now Trump's Secretary of Health and Human Services) is drawing both national attention and a lot of money from both Democrats and Republicans. With a suprisingly popular 30-year old Democrat, Jon Ossoff, poised to potentially upset a splintered GOP field in the otherwise solidly Republican district, the race is being regarded as a potential bellwether for the 2018 elections.
Longtime computer scientist and voting systems expert Barbara Simons of VerifiedVoting.org joins me today to explain the ongoing concerns about the still-mysterious Georgia hack, Verified Voting's effort to get answers about it from GA's Republican Sec. of State Brian Kemp; the group's request to have him to offer paper ballots to voters in the wake of the reported "massive data breach"; and this weekend's similarly cryptic news that the FBI has now concluded its investigation.
As we discuss what we know, and don't, about the GA hack, Simons, co-author of Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count? and a member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's Board of Advisers since 2008, tells me that "it's a national scandal" that the state is still using those unverifiable systems for all elections.
Simons had also joined a number of renowned voting systems experts to plea with the Hillary Clinton campaign last year to seek a public hand-count of the Presidential election in several states, given questions about the exceedingly close race and the surprising results in a number of them. When Clinton declined to file for that common sense oversight, Green Party candidate Jill Stein responded affirmatively to the same plea. Nonetheless, as we also discuss today, hand-counts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were largely blocked, thanks to efforts by Team Trump, state Republicans and even some Democrats.
We discuss all of that, the years-long effort to institute legislative safeguards against electronic voting and computerized tabulation systems; and why even paper ballots tallied by computers leave the public uncertain about the accurate results of elections. "Paper ballots in and of themselves are not sufficient. That lesson was very clear from the 2016 election," she tells me, as I ask about what I see as the need to publicly hand-count hand-marked paper ballots on election night in order to restore public confidence and oversight of results. "The problem is we have some very bad laws," she responds, offering her thoughts on legislative changes that are needed, short of ditching the computers entirely, in order to respond to what she sees as "a national security issue" in our elections.
Also on today's show: Republican Senators lament the idea of killing the filibuster for U.S. Supreme Court nominees...as they prepare to vote to kill it anyway; The NCAA falls for North Carolina's "repeal" scam of its anti-LGBT law; and Trump repeals an Obama-era rule seeking to keep bears from being hunted and killed during hibernation in Alaska...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)