On today's BradCast: Never mind Russia. Is it even possible for Democrats to overcome the systemic structural disadvantages Republicans have put in place in virtually every aspect of U.S. elections? We've got both encouraging and not-so-encouraging news in that regard on today's show. [Audio link to show posted below.]
Now that both the U.S. intelligence community and Democrats --- and even a few Republicans --- have finally begun to figure out that Election Integrity requires, at a bare minimum, a paper ballot for every vote cast, how long will it take them to figure out that those ballots need to be hand-marked (not computer-marked) and, preferably hand-counted, so that the American public can truly begin to restore confidence in election results and know that their votes actually matter? There is some --- precious little, but some --- encouraging news out of Pennsylvania today on that front, and even from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.
The Governor in PA, a state which still hates its voters so much that it forces the vast majority of them to vote on 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems, has decreed that any new voting systems purchased to replace the old ones, must have some form of "paper trail" or "paper record" or "paper backup". That's a very low bar, but better --- for the most part --- than the current 100% unverifiable touch-screen systems used across the state. Yet, the Democratic Governor, Tom Wolf, has yet to propose any new funding to purchase those new systems. So, like PA votes, they remain vapor ware for the moment.
At the same time, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, Ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, seems to have noticed the cost of trying to secure elections (like "the Dutch elections, where they hand-counted all the ballots") versus the price of one single F-35. Hand-counts, like those carried out by the Dutch, is, in truth, a pretty inexpensive deterrent against foreign manipulation of our computer tabulation systems, if our elected officials were truly concerned about it. (It would also help to deter the much greater threat of domestic manipulation, by the way!)
But, even if we had a hand-marked paper ballot for every vote cast and even if we counted them all by hand, publicly at the precincts, before ballots were moved anywhere (as per Democracy's Gold Standard), Democrats would still have a mountain to overcome this year in the shape of the GOP's systemic partisan gerrymandering of state legislative districts and U.S. House seats.
To that end, we've got some similarly-qualified encouraging news out of Pennsylvania as well today, where the state Supreme Court recently ordered new U.S. House maps to be drawn in time for the upcoming May primary elections in the commonwealth, after finding the ones drawn by Republicans following the 2010 census were in violation of the state constitution's right to a fair vote. The battle over those new maps --- which have given the GOP a 13 to 5 advantage in U.S. House seats in the largely 50/50 state over the last three elections, where Dems outnumber Republicans --- is now moving forward on a very tight court-ordered deadline.
Meanwhile, similarly partisan gerrymandering by the GOP in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and many other swing-states continues, thanks in no small part to the U.S. Supreme Court delaying lower federal rulings that determined Republicans had unconstitutionally given themselves a steep enough advantage on district maps that they were able to retain huge majorities in state legislatures and the U.S. House, despite being consistently out-voted by Democrats.
We're joined today by FairVote gerrymandering expert DAVID DALEY, former Editor-in-Chief at Salon and author of RATF**KED: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy. We discuss the gerrymandered state of play as the 2018 primaries are now just weeks away in many states, and as the dam seems to be bursting in both state and federal courts --- finally! --- against partisan gerrymandering.
"The courts have been consistently outraged by what the Republicans pulled off in 2010, 2011," Daley says. "The problem is, here we are in 2018, we've been using these unconstitutional maps now this entire decade. There is no sense we're going to have new maps in most of these states, with the possible exception of Pennsylvania, in time for the 2018 election. We may well have the fourth of five elections in all of these states held on unconstitutional maps."
By way of one example, Daley notes: "In 2012, 52% of Pennsylvanian voters vote for Barack Obama, 51% of them vote for Democratic members of the U.S House. Republicans however, take 13 of the18 seats that year --- 71% of them! Democrats get 28% of the seats, even with more votes."
We also discuss the new documents he recently uncovered, published in a new Salon exclusive, detailing the fascinating story of how the Republicans' so-called REDMAP scheme to take over state legislatures and redistrict the nation with a wildly partisan advantage, first came about prior to the 2010 election and U.S. Census.
Among the questions we discuss: Is it even possible for Democrats to overcome that structural disadvantage in the 2018 mid-terms without the U.S. Supreme Court finding partisan gerrymandering to be unlawful? Are state court cases, like the one in PA, the answer instead? And can any of this be done in time for the 2020 elections, after which district maps will be redrawn once again by partisan majorities in state houses for another 10 years?
"There may be a blue wave [in 2018], but there is also a red firewall that stands ready to knock it down," Daley warns. "Democrats are probably going to need two seismic, historic waves in order to have a shot at fair maps in 2021. And it they can't pull that off, and if the courts don't come in and do something in the meantime, the maps that are drawn in 2021 are the ones we are going to live with until 2031."
Also today, in other related news: A second federal court, this time in New York, blocks Trump's attempt to reverse DACA, and one Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate must be a very bad choice...at least according to his own parents!...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)