On today's BradCast: We're back in L.A. after several weeks on the road (thanks to Angie Coiro for sitting in to allow us some travel time!) and with just over three weeks left until this year's crucial mid-term elections. Unfortunately, we return with still more troubling news for voters --- yet again --- in the state of Georgia. [Audio link to show follows below.]
But, first up: After a another reminder of upcoming voter registration deadlines across the county, we have a quick update on the catastrophic and costly disaster left behind in Florida, Georgia and several other states by Hurricane Michael, which slammed the Florida Panhandle with record winds just days after Hurricane Florence dumped record rainfall onto several of the same states. Both deadly storms are precisely in line with years of scientific warnings about the catastrophic effect of man-made climate change and will now require tens of billions to be spent on recovery.
Nonetheless, over the weekend both Florida's Republican Senator Marco Rubio and President Donald Trump took to the airwaves to begrudgingly acknowledge the reality of global warming, even while offering evidence-free claims regarding its cause and utterly false claims about how taking action to stop the deadly emission of greenhouse gas emission would somehow "destroy the economy". We fact-check a number of those lies from both of the GOP climate change denialists.
Next, speaking of disasters in Florida and Georgia, an academic report last month by the University of Florida revealed that the Sunshine State had rejected approximately 1% of all mail-in absentee paper ballots over the previous two Presidential elections. That rate is about 10 times higher than for voters who vote in person (either early or on Election Day) and amounts to tens of thousands of discarded votes --- often for missing signatures or those believed by election officials to not match the one on the voter's registration file --- in the nation's third most populous and closely divided state.
As bad as that is, a startling new exclusive from WhoWhatWhy over the weekend finds that Georgia has been rejecting more than 9% of all mail-in ballots received during early absentee voting before this year's midterms. 40% of those rejections, according to the report, based on analysis from Professor Michael McDonald of the U.S. Election Project, come from one single county in the Peach State, leading McDonald to warn on Friday night that "something's going on" in the state.
The extraordinarily high rate of mail-in ballot rejection in Gwinnett County also follows a pattern seen in both Georgia and Florida: ballots cast by racial minorities are rejected at a far higher rate than those from white voters, and often for highly dubious reasons. We're joined today by criminal justice journalist and WhoWhatWhy election integrity reporter JORDAN WILKIE, who broke the story on the alarming rate of rejected absentee ballots in Georgia. Reporting from on the ground in Gwinnett, Wilkie tells me that the precise cause for the high number of rejections is "still unknown...there are a lot more stories to be told", even if it reveals a very clear pattern of suppression "disproportionately affecting minority voters."
He also reports that while Georgia law requires voters to be notified of rejected mail-in ballots, they may not be doing so in a timely manner. In Gwinnett, he says, "the county claims that after a ballot is rejected, within 72 hours a notice is going to be sent. I talked to people well outside of that timeline and they still had not been notified."
Moreover, Wilkie details how the state's process for allowing voters to cure rejected ballots is, in a word, absurd and includes just about everything other than re-registering. Such voters must re-apply for an absentee ballot, be accepted, be sent one by mail, vote it again, send it back and hope that it doesn't get rejected once again. He reports on one voter in Gwinnett who is now on his fourth attempt at casting an absentee ballot in this election!
"It's just another technical hurdle, another bureaucratic step that people are going to have to take to do something that many people aren't particularly excited to do in the first place, which is vote," he argues. "Everything that is happening here is part of a systematic effort that we've seen across Georgia --- and I come from North Carolina, and we see this across a lot of Republican-led states --- where there are just a number of barriers to vote that don't need to be there. The evidence is clear that the more barriers there are, the fewer people vote, and all these barriers disproportionately affect minority voters."
The clear pattern of race-based suppression in Georgia comes amid a "dead heat" contest in their Gubernatorial race between Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp who, as the state's chief election official, is overseeing his own contest to become the state's chief executive, and Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams who, if she wins, would become the nation's first female African-American governor.
The disturbing news about absentee ballot rejection in Georgia is just the latest maddening election news out of the state, where Kemp has overseen the recent purge of hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls, more than 50,000 registrations being held in suspense for allegedly violating the state's new "exact match" law, and the continued statewide use of wildly vulnerable, easily manipulated, 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems on Election Day.
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)