On today's BradCast: A new petition effort to rename the block of Fifth Avenue in New York City where the Trump Tower is located after President Barack Obama has now gained nearly half a million signatures. It began as a joke, according to its author, but quickly caught on. While it's a brilliant, if unlikely idea, other, somewhat more important petition efforts --- with actual legal standing --- have recently caught fire over the past week or so as well. And the consequences of those efforts could be far reaching. [Audio link to today's show is posted below.]
First, in the battleground state of Georgia, where the Secretary of State has just selected an all new 100% unverifiable touchscreen ballot marking device (BMD) voting system for the state, which voters will be forced to use at polling places in 2020, was certified just a week or so ago in violation of the state's elections code, according to election integrity experts and opponents of Republican SoS Brad Raffensberger's $150 million new system made by Dominion Voting Systems of Canada.
Raffensberger's decision comes as a federal judge in Atlanta, just last week, found [PDF] the state's current 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting system to be "unsecure, unreliable, grossly outdated....seriously flawed and vulnerable to failure, breach, contamination and attack". So much so, that the judge also declared the old system be in violation of voters' right to have their votes counted as cast. As we discussed with one of the plaintiffs in detail last week, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg ordered the state to use a new, hopefully verifiable system in 2020. But the new system selected by Raffensberger may face a similar fate in federal court, as opponents vow to challenge it as well, while calling for hand-marked paper ballots instead.
In the meantime, however, more than 1,400 state voters, as of air time, have signed a petition demanding a reexamination of the newly selected system, charging that it was improperly certified in violation of the state elections code. Only 10 voters, according to GA state law, are needed to sign the petition to trigger such a second look, far fewer than the number of Georgia residents now demanding it.
And, at the same time, way up north in Alaska, another petition effort is rocking our nation's 49th state. In just two weeks, a multipartisan coalition has gathered more than 29,500 signatures calling for a recall of newly-elected Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy. That is a thousand more signatures than required by law --- and a lot of signatures in such a short time, in a state with a population of only about three quarters of a million. The petitioners say they will continue to collect signatures through September 2nd. If this first step is successful, as appears likely, a second effort to get about 70,000 signatures will be needed to place the actual recall measure on the ballot.
The unprecedented effort comes as Gov. Dunleavy has attempted to implement radical cuts of some $443 million to the state budget, including $130 million --- or 40% of the state's budget contribution --- to the University of Alaska system. Also slashed was about $30 million for senior benefits, early learning funds and Alaska Legal Services. One of the most objectionable (and likely unlawful) attempted cuts was to the state's court system, a punitive measure in the exact amount of what the state currently spends on abortion services, meant as retaliation by the Republican Governor for the state Supreme Court having upheld a constitutional right in the state to abortion services.
And, all of this comes as Alaska is seeing record high temperatures and wildfires that have ravaged about two and a half million acres in the state this year amid our ongoing climate crisis, and as the President of the United States appears to have made a secret deal with the Governor to okay a controversial mining project on the pristine waters of the Bristol Bay watershed.
We're joined today by our old friend JEANNE DEVON, formerly known as "AKMuckraker" of the great Alaska blog The MudFlats. She now serves as Communications Director for the state Democratic Party and breaks down the details of the political tremors now reverberating in Alaska, including the fact that, while the state Democratic Party supports the petition effort to remove Dunleavy, they are not actually responsible for the effort. It is being brought forward by a coal baron, believe it or not, along with a longtime Republican legislator, the last living signer of Alaska's Constitution (a 95-year old Dem, pictured above), and the state's former independent Governor's Chief of Staff, among others.
The broad coalition, Devon explains, opposes Dunleavy for a host of reasons as the transplant from the "lower 48" does not appear to understand Alaska's values and how Republicans, Democrats and independents don't necessary operate on the same terms they do elsewhere in the country. For example, as we discuss, Alaska --- which has voted for the Republican nominee in every Presidential election since Lyndon Johnson --- is actually a socialist state, in that the fossil fuel companies who operate there are legally obligated by the state to send royalty checks to every man, woman and child each year.
"It's set up that way," Devon explains, because the resources are seen as being "owned communally by everyone in the state. We actually have written in our state constitution that our resources are to be developed 'for the maximum benefit of the people'." The result, she says, is that the people who live in Alaska own their own resources and receive a minimum basic income. Ideas that unleash shouts of "SOCIALISM! COMMUNISM!" by Republicans elsewhere, but not in Alaska for some odd reason, where the state relies, bigly, on those royalties from the fossil fuel industry. Devon notes the payments also serve to "keep 25,000 Alaska families out of poverty every year" and sever as "a huge influx of almost a billion dollars into the local economy."
As to the recall movement, she suggest that not only will petitioners successfully complete the first step, but that they are also likely to gather the 70,000 signatures needed in the second step to see the measure to remove Dunleavy placed on the ballot. "You do have folks that are Republicans, who are industry Republicans, business Republicans, who are conservatives but not ideologues in the way that Gov. Dunleavy is. He is coming from the point of view of really breaking government. And that is where the line is drawn. There is just a sense that he does not love the state, and he doesn't understand the state" as a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
In regard Dunleavy's attempt to punish the state Supreme Court, Devon argues "It's unconstitutional on so many levels. It's chilling that you can have a branch of government that not only will do their own calculations about the number of dollars that the state has spent on abortion, but will then line item veto just that amount from the entire court system as punishment. And then announce it, publicly, that this is what they're doing and why." With the help of a cold-hearted GOP operative by the name of Donna Arduin, hired by Dunleavy to slash the budget after similarly devastating cuts she made on behalf of GOP Governors in Kansas, Arizona and Florida, Devon explains that Dunleavy "even cut the money that would have earthquake-proofed children's libraries in schools, so that giant bookshelves won't fall on tiny children" in the earthquake prone state.
In our fascinating discussion today, Devon also explains what is known about the deal recently struck between Dunleavy and Donald Trump --- during a secret meeting at the state's airport in Anchorage --- that resulted in Trump's order to his EPA to reverse an environmental endangerment finding by the Obama Administration's EPA that had finally blocked the long controversial Pebble Mine project. The enormous and controversial planned gold, silver and copper mine, according to scientists, environmentalists and many other opponents in the state, will put the world's largest and most important sockeye salmon habitat in critical danger in and near Bristol Bay, causing what the EPA described previously as "irreversible loss of fish habitat". Devon describes it as"the largest wild sockeye salmon fishery on the planet. It employs almost 20,000 commercial fisherman. It feeds a region of indigenous Alaskans who have been surviving off of these fish for over 10,000 years. It's not only a food staple, but really an entire culture" that will be destroyed if the mine is allowed to be built.
Hope you'll tune in for today's important and must-listen conversation on the entire mess now consuming the great state of Alaska and how it might --- by the way --- also effect the 2020 Presidential election!...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)