We've got some pretty huge and long-overdue breaking news today from a federal court in Atlanta. It's huge enough that we dumped what we were previously planning to cover to devote today's BradCast to the judge's new order in a case that we have been following now for years. [Audio link to show follows below.]
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg, in a 153-page ruling [PDF], finds that Georgia's 100% unverifiable Diebold touchscreen voting systems, in use in the state since 2002, are not fit for U.S. elections because they are "unsecure, unreliable and grossly outdated". They are so unsecure, in fact, that they violate the Constitutional right of voters to have their votes counted as cast.
"Georgia’s current voting equipment, software, election and voter databases are antiquated, seriously flawed and vulnerable to failure, breach, contamination and attack," Totenberg writes.
She excoriates the state Defendants --- former Republican Sec. of State, now Governor Brian Kemp and current Sec. of State Brad Raffensberger --- for lying about facts and evidence in the case (though she is only slightly more polite in her wording, by describing the "Defendants' inconsistent candor with the Court") and for dismissing the many long-proven security concerns about these systems as "fantasy" forwarded by Plaintiffs.
While Judge Totenberg will allow the old Diebold touchscreen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) systems to be used one last time in Georgia's municipal and county elections this November, she makes it clear they may not be used again in 2020 or thereafter under any circumstances. She also offers several hints that the state's recently selected new touchscreen systems, now planned to replace the old ones, may also be found unconstitutional in further proceedings, leaving the clear preference of cybersecurity and voting systems experts --- hand-marked paper ballots --- as the only option likely to meet requirements for auditability and Constitutionality.
We're joined to explain all of these details and much more today on what is a clear, overdue --- if not (yet) total --- victory, by plaintiff MARILYN MARKS, Executive Director of the Coalition for Good Governance. She has been joining us on the show for a number of years now with updates on each important aspect of this broad and gruelingly long case since filing it about two years ago. Marks calls today's ruling a victory not just for Georgia voters, but for those in many states where similar systems are now used --- including some where newer, if still unverifiable, touchscreen systems are being planned for use in 2020.
"The court ruled that DREs are unconstitutional. And that anybody voting on these things should be worried about their vote," says Marks. "Of course, this doesn't relate just to Georgia. The words of this federal court will be heard around the United States. Hopefully this will have an impact on other jurisdictions" where, she hopes, they will take notice of the judge's words recommending hand-marked paper ballots.
Marks explains that Judge Totenberg does not appear much happier with the new system Georgia now plans to use in 2020, though was unable to offer a finding on it, yet, given that the state just finalized their decision last week. But, Totenberg offered warnings about those new touchscreen computer Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) in several places in the ruling, such as when she warned: "The past may here be prologue anew — it may be 'like déjà vu all over again.'"
Indeed, Marks says her non-partisan organization plans to seek an injunction on use of Georgia's new, equally unverifiable touchscreen systems as well, and that Totenberg, perhaps with that in mind, has ordered that a number of counties run hand-marked paper ballot pilot elections this year in advance of next year's Presidential primary elections. "We will absolutely be launching a constitutional challenge against Ballot Marking Devices," she vowed.
"Surely they realize that the hand-writing is on the wall and they've got to quit fighting for unverifiable elections. I would think Georgia voters are going to get pretty sick and tired of this. Most of these guys are elected officials, so I think that they need to consider the political consequences if they want to continue to fight for unverifiable elections."
As to allowing the old, unconstitutional systems to be used one more time in the state's 2019 municipal elections, Marks advises: "While they can be used in November, they shouldn't be used in November. Those people on the ballot, those people voting in the municipalities, should demand right now --- right now is the time to do it --- that their county, their municipality go ahead and use hand-marked paper ballots. They've got the equipment for it [since they already use hand-marked ballot systems for absentee voting across the state] they've got the know-how, they ought to do it."
In one other key element of this case, as Marks explains, the Judge also ordered a review of the state's electronic pollbook systems which resulted in failure and chaos and disenfranchisement during last November's general elections. She has ordered that polling places must have paper backup pollbooks on hand in elections moving forward, to avoid the disenfranchisement of voters when electronic voter registration systems fail on Election Day or are manipulated by malign actors.
"Just like with any computerized voting component, it can be hacked," Marks tells me regarding the state's ES&S ExpressPoll registration computers used in the Peach State's precincts. "There can be errors. There can be mis-programming. And that's been occurring in Georgia. [Judge Totenberg] asked us to bring her evidence. We brought her hundreds of affidavits of people who were turned away at the polls who should not have been. We brought her evidence of software problems in the e-pollbook system. And therefore she said, 'Enough of this! Go fix the system!'"
She continued: "I get it as to why computerized [registration] records can be very helpful here, but let's use some common sense. And the judge has said have a paper backup so that if there is a question that needs to be adjudicated, use the official paper backup. And look it up right there, and don't run people away from the polls. Give them their ballot."
In fact, in her ruling, the judge cites "threats of contamination, dysfunction, and attacks on State and county voting systems, disparaged by the Secretary of State’s representatives...as a fantasy and still minimized as speculative" by the Defendants as recently as a hearing in the case this year. That, Totenberg notes, despite threats "identified in the most credible major national and state cybersecurity studies and official government reports." She even cites "real life" incidents that "played out with the United States’ July 2018 criminal indictment of a host of Russian intelligence agents for conspiracy to hack into the computers of various state and county boards of election and their vendors as well as agents' efforts during the 2016 election to identify election data system vulnerabilities through probing of county election websites in Georgia and two other states." All of which, writes Totenberg --- as Marks has long been arguing --- serves to "burden Georgia citizens' right to cast a vote that reliably will be counted."
As to the lies --- er..."inconsistent candor with the Court" --- Marks notes the Secretary of State's staff told "just absolutely black and white lies. They didn't mind lying to the court. And one has to wonder what is it that they are hiding that makes it worth lying to the court, and facing the potential consequences of lying to the court." She told me she intends to seek sanctions from the court for those lies in the days ahead.
So, yes, some big --- and very good --- news for a change today!
Finally today, the one thing we did not throw over to make room for the landmark ruling out of Georgia, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report on global warming-fueled toxic algae blooms now killing dogs in a number of states; Big Oil pushing into plastics manufacturing as gasoline demand declines in the wake of the electronic car revolution; plastic pollution found in falling snow in the otherwise pristine Arctic; and Democratic-led states suing Trump's EPA to block his rollback of Obama's Clean Power Plan...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)