On today's BradCast: A last minute ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court, without plaintiffs even present, will allow the state to destroy electronic "ballot images" created by the state's digital computer ballot scanners in Tuesday's special election. Also, was it the fake news or the real news that tipped last year's Presidential election? [Audio link to show follows below.]
In Alabama, computer tabulators determine the intent of voters (either correctly or incorrectly), as cast on hand-marked paper ballots from Tuesday's highly contentious U.S. Senate Special Election between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. The state Supreme Court, in a late ruling on Monday, issued a stay [PDF] that effectively reversed a lower court order [PDF] on Monday. That order had required all digital scanners in the state to be set to retain all such images created by the system as ballots are scanned through it. The stay now means that only in the exceedingly rare event of a hand "recount" of paper ballots will the public be able to oversee elections results to determine if the computers got it right on Tuesday.
We've been covering this issue for some time. (My original interview last week with election integrity and transparency advocate John Brakey, who helped organize the AL lawsuit is here.) Yesterday, it looked like a win for Brakey and the multi-partisan plaintiffs who filed in court to demand the state's retention of all digital images for inspection by the public, as per federal law requiring all election materials be retained for 22 months. But late on Monday, Secretary of State John Merrill and Alabama's state Election Administrator Ed Packard argued their case [PDF] ex parte (in otherwords, alone, without the plaintiffs there or allowed to respond) and received a favorable ruling from Roy Moore's old colleagues on the court. (Moore was formerly a State Supreme Court Justice, until twice being removed for failing to follow federal court orders.)
I spoke with Brakey and attorney working on the case, Chris Sautter, earlier today, as well as other experts. I've got details on their comments, and from the court documents, on today's show. Essentially, the state argued that state election officials didn't have jurisdiction to order county election officials to turn on the software switch on the scanners to retain all ballot images, and that doing so at the last minute, as the Circuit Court ordered on Monday, would "cause confusion among elections officials and be disruptive to" the election on Tuesday. That, even though the Circuit Court judge found it wouldn't cost the state anything to do so and that failing to turn on the setting that retains the images would lead to irreparable harm to the plaintiffs. Sautter tells me the state did not make the case for last minute confusion during the lower court arguments.
I suspect we'll have much more on that and on other problems reported at the polls today, on tomorrow's BradCast, along with whatever results --- accurate or inaccurate (who knows?) --- that the computers may report by then.
Then, after a flurry of fake news over the weekend during the final run-up to Tuesday's U.S. Senate election in Alabama, we discuss an alarming new study analyzing the effect of both real and fake news during the run-up to last year's Presidential election. Was it so-called fake news and Russian Facebook ads that gave Donald Trump the edge to defeat Hillary Clinton last year? Or, was it a failure by the mainstream corporate media --- the "real news" --- to responsibly cover important issues that the electorate needed before casting their vote? DAVID M. ROTHSCHILD, co-author of the new study published by Columbia Journalism Review, joins us today to discuss their --- at times, remarkable --- findings.
I'd strongly urge you to read their full damning report --- particularly if you are of the mind that fake news and ads said to have come from Russia, turned this election --- because there are too many detailed and troubling findings in it for me to adequately summarize either here or during today's program.
But, to cite just one aspect of my conversation with Rothschild about the report's analysis of 150 front-page articles in the New York Times over the 69 days prior to last year's November election, he tells me: "150 stories. And of that, there were just 10 stories where they actually really touched on a specific policy initiative of either of the candidates, the ideal thing that you would want the 'paper of record' to be supplying to people. The vast majority of stories were miscellaneous campaign stories. Over 50% of them talked about the horse race. Very small percentages, 15% or less, actually talked anything about policy, with even smaller percentages actually talking about the policies themselves. It was all about the horse race, all about the scandals, not about the impact of the election itself on policy, which is ultimately why we have elections and ultimately defines the impact of these elections."
His study notes that in just six days right before the election, "The New York Times ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election." That said, ironically enough, as Rothschild notes, even the MSM coverage of the purported scandals was terrible, misleading and inaccurate as well! They, and we, never seem to learn.
Finally today, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green New Report, as unprecedented winter wildfires continue to ravage Southern California and as the Trump Administration continues to ravage the environment...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)