On today's BradCast: It's the conversation that everyone in America who gives a damn about democracy needs to be having. And, not in the days just before this November's election --- when it will be too late to do anything about it --- but RIGHT NOW. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
In Florida, the top Democrat in the state's House of Representative is sounding an "urgent" alarm. He says that absentee ballots in the perpetual swing-state could be gamed by the Trump Administration using the U.S. Postal Service to slow the return of ballots. In the Sunshine State, any ballots that don't arrive at County Headquarters by 7pm on Election Day may not be included in the results. Minority Leader Kionne McGhee is calling for barcodes to be added to absentee ballots so that voters can track whether they have been received by election officials, so that they may otherwise vote in person on Election Day if necessary.
While calling on the state's Republican Governor to take action that would also help Republicans (who voted at a higher rate by mail than Democrats in 2018), a Trump Campaign spokesperson dismissed McGhee's concerns as "an absolutely bogus conspiracy theory by Democrats." (And you know how Trump hates conspiracy theories.) Of course, Republican willingness to commit fraud, especially in Florida elections, is anything but a "conspiracy theory". In fact, Donald Trump himself, just this year, has already committed absentee ballot voter fraud in the state. So, apparently, has his Press Secretary Kayleigh MacEneny. Former GOP superstar Ann Coulter definitely did so. And so, it seems, did Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis cop charged with the murder of George Floyd. Chauvin, a property owner in Florida, where he is also a member of the state Republican Party, reportedly voted in the state's elections in 2016 and 2018, despite working and living in Minnesota, in what a Florida attorney and candidate for Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections this year describes as a third-degree felony.
Presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden is similarly worried about what the current President and his party may do to undermine the 2020 contest, telling The Daily Show's Trevor Noah this week that his "single greatest concern" is that "this President is going to try to steal this election."
Stolen or not, despite Trump's plummeting favorability ratings, this year's critical general elections will be anything but a cakewalk for Democrats amid the added challenge of coronavirus. Tuesday's disastrous primary election in Georgia was just one example of how Republicans are able to disenfranchise tens, if not hundreds of thousands of votes through the use of overly complicated, faulty and unverifiable touchscreen voting machines and electronic pollbooks in combination with poll closures and mail-in ballots that never reach voters at all or fail to arrive back at county headquarters in time to be legally tallied.
Moreover, as a new study [PDF] out this week from the Center for Election Innovation and Research finds, new voter registration rates in 13 different states they examined --- many of them key battlegrounds --- have fallen dramatically since the virus emerged in March and April. After all of those states saw increases in registrations in January, as compared to the same month in 2016, the numbers fell over a cliff compared to the same months four years ago. With DMVs closed in many states, automatic voter registrations have also not occurred since the virus emerged, and many states still fail to offer online voter registration. At the same time, voter registrations by third-party groups have similarly all but vanished as organizations have been unable to carry out their planned spring outreach campaigns.
Longtime voting rights journalist and author ARI BERMAN of Mother Jones joins us on today's program to discuss all of this and much more. His latest article for the magazine, headlined "How the Coronavirus Handed the GOP New Ways to Squash the Vote," details some of the extraordinary measures that Republicans around the country, in state after state, are attempting in hopes of suppressing the vote in 2020. That, combined with the challenges of a global pandemic, could result in big trouble for voters of all stripes this year.
Citing the recent primary election disasters in Georgia, Washington D.C., Wisconsin and Nevada (where, he says, polling place consolidation resulted in the last vote being cast during last Tuesday's primary after 3am on Wednesday!), he warns: "If we don't figure out how to do Vote-by-Mail efficiently, and also how to vote in person efficiently, and also how to do this in a pandemic, we're looking at a possible and likely disaster in November."
We discuss the "ridiculous law" in Texas that disallows voters under 65 years of age from citing fear of coronavirus as a lawful excuse for requesting an absentee ballot; the effort by Republicans in the Iowa legislature this week to prevent their own Republican Sec. of State from sending absentee ballot applications to all of the state's registered voters this November (in hopes of avoiding the very well run primary last week in which he did exactly that); and other ways in which the 2020 elections --- our last firewall against full-on authoritarianism --- could become the nation's latest nightmare. Berman tells me "litigation alone" by Democrats is "not going to be sufficient" to solve this perfect storm of problems.
"These conversations have to happen now," he cautions. "States are running out of time. They're running out of money. Coronavirus is increasing in a lot of places. So I'm really, really concerned," he says. Join the club, Ari. On the upside, Berman also discusses how you can help RIGHT NOW to overcome many of these shameful challenges.
Finally, after all of those pleasant thoughts, we end today with a much-needed song by satirist Roy Zimmerman about a "liar" who needs to be voted away. Of course, whether that is even possible remains to be seen. But the song should keep your humming for a while...
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(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)