Just before airtime for today's BradCast, everything seemed to blow up at once (figuratively!) But we do our best to navigate through the most important explosions, including one that is likely receiving little coverage around the country. An astounding vote by the North Carolina Board of Elections --- led by a new appointee of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper --- has allowed the certification of controversial, new, 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems in the state for the 2020 elections. The Board's vote was 3 to 2 against a motion that would have blocked the dangerous and expensive voting systems made by ES&S, with the newly-appointed Democratic chair voting with the Board's two Republicans to kill the motion. It had been put forward and supported by the two Democratic Commissioners and supported by virtually every public commenter who packed today's SBE meeting. We discuss that remarkable news and much more with our guest today. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of article.]
But first, a few of the other items blowing up in today's news that you have likely heard a bit more about than the very bad news out of NC today. The U.S. Supreme Court released a statement that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has completed radiation therapy for a malignant cancerous tumor discovered on her pancreas at the end of July, but that there is no evidence of the disease remaining in her body at this time. The 86-year old Justice underwent surgery for lung cancer in December and was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009.
Rightwing billionaire David Koch has died, according to his brother Charles. Collectively, the pair had raised and spent about $1 billion on elections and in support of almost exclusively Republican candidates and causes in recent years. Just last week, brother Charles was allowed to absurdly opine in a Washington Post op-ed that "both sides" of the political spectrum "have made it harder to come together as a country."
And, the Dow Jones took another 600+ point dive on Friday, after China announced retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods and as Donald Trump pitched a tirade on Twitter in response. Not only did he announce intentions to double-down several times in kind today, but he also attacked his own Fed chair Jerome Powell by calling him an "enemy" of the U.S. and comparing him to China's Chairman Xi. But, that's not all. He then absurdly declared that he has "hereby ordered" U.S. companies to stop doing business with China and their 1.4 billion consumers. White House officials, as well as Republicans in Congress and rightwing business groups were reportedly left dumbstruck by the President's latest and increasingly unhinged Twitter pronouncements as he headed off to France for a G-7 summit with allies --- and as the market headed sharply "south" in response to it all.
With the figurative national cancer in the White House seemingly metastasizing quickly at this point, and with corporate media focused almost exclusively on the horse race elements of the 2020 Presidential election, we look once again toward the quickly deteriorating track conditions on which next year's horses will be running. That issue has received a lot of coverage on The BradCast over the past several weeks, if not from the rest of the media, including news of the federal judge finding Georgia's entire touchscreen voting system unconstitutional; voting and tabulation systems discovered online in at least ten states, including several battleground states, despite claims by elections officials and private vendors that the systems were never connected to the Internet; ransomeware attacks that have shutdown city government computer systems in 22 Texas municipalities over the past week; and the successful efforts by citizens in New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia to demand new security reviews of recently certified, hackable touchscreen voting systems.
But the wild twists and turns in the battle against the new systems in the battleground state North Carolina came to a shocking and disappointing conclusion today, after scores of citizens spoke out against the dangers of the new computer-printed, barcoded ballot system being unleashed in the state. While largely the only person to testify in favor of the systems was a representative of the company selling and servicing them, the State Board of Elections certified them for use anyway, with the help of the Board's new Democratic chair voting with its Republican Commissioners in a series of stunning 3 to 2 votes.
We spoke to a number of folks on the ground in NC today, who testified against the new systems, and they were both stunned and furious. Frequent BradCast guest Marilyn Marks of the Coalition for Good Governance (a plaintiff in the successful federal case against Georgia's touchscreen voting machines) is a North Carolina resident who testified today. She sent me a statement just before airtime: "As a North Carolina voter I am embarrassed by the level of ignorance shown by three of the five members of the Board. The arguments they made wouldn't pass muster in fifth grade civics class." Another opponent of the new systems, Lynn Bernstein, an election security advocate, aerospace test engineer and ardent supporter of hand-marked paper ballot systems also spoke today and told me afterward that the new Chairman Damon Circosta "couldn't cite a single reason" for his vote, "other than he has confidence the new system will be fine."
We're joined today by longtime, award-winning journalist, columnist, documentarian and SMART Elections co-founder LULU FRIESDAT for her response to today's stunning news from NC, which she says she regards as a "coup" that will allow the new, unverifiable touchscreen voting systems next year in the closely divided battleground state of North Carolina as well as other jurisdictions such as Philadelphia and Los Angeles, unless the public can rollback this alarming trend.
"We have state after state after state --- we have this in Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, we've had it in New York, they had it in Kansas --- it's the same ES&S machines. And now you're seeing it in North Carolina, where you have a vast majority of citizens coming to these Board of Election meetings saying 'We want hand-marked paper ballots! We want voting systems that we can trust! We don't want touchscreen barcode systems!' And the election officials are putting in place those electronic touchscreen barcode systems that are the exact ones that people are protesting against."
She cites broad donations by vendors to many of the officials tasked with selecting the systems and passing statutes which allow them.
We also discuss the disturbing news out of DefCon's Voting Village a week ago, where she witnessed new voting and electronic pollbook systems --- like the ones now set for use in NC --- being easily hacked by attendees in minutes time. "This is the third year that they've had a Voting Village, where they have voting machines that are in use in the United States available there. And each year it becomes more clear that really, every system is extremely vulnerable. There was not a single system there, to my knowledge, that was not penetrated in some way, or they didn't find vulnerabilities," Friesdat tells me.
And, finally, we discuss her newly-launched effort at SmartElections.US to help train and organize voters nationally to help oversee our own public elections via her new #CountTheVote citizens initiative to help people "get involved on a very local level" .
CountTheVote will be "training people who care across the country, in county by county, especially targeting states where we know this is really going to come down to the wire, swing-states, giving people the toolkits that they need and the skills and information they need.," she explains. "You can have conversations with your election officials to try to influence them to purchase secure voting equipment. Get other groups involved to start pressuring them. This is happening all over the country."
Finally, if it seems that the world is on fire of late, that's because it is --- both figuratively (see everything above) and literally, from the Arctic to the Amazon. We close with a few words on the troubling developments in the Brazilian rainforest where that country's Trump-like authoritarian climate science-denying leader, Jair Bolsonaro, is actually blaming non-profit groups fighting to save the Amazon rainforest for the global warming conditions and Bolsonaro policies that are actually helping to spark the massive fires in a region of the world that otherwise helps turn climate warning C02 into oxygen. At least it did before the record fires have become to consume the region...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)