If you haven't already heard about the huge news regarding Donald Trump's taxes, I strongly recommend you go read it, because it's quite stunning. And yet, we didn't have enough time on today's BradCast to more than wave at that news at the top of the show. That's because the news at the U.S. Supreme Court is about to change this nation for a generation, according to our guest today, and perhaps forever. And not for the better. Also, we've got news that broke late Friday night out of Georgia that you almost certainly haven't heard about, but that is jaw-dropping and could result in an absolute disaster for every voter who chooses to vote at the polls in all 159 counties in the key battleground state this year. [Audio link to full show follows below.]
So, with that encouraging warm up, we turn first to the weekend's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett by Donald Trump to become the sixth rightwing justice on the U.S. Supreme Court following the recent death of progressive icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Before Ginsburg was even buried (her funeral is scheduled later this week), Trump wasted no time in naming Barrett, a proud disciple of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, to the high court. That as more than 20 states are already voting in this year's Presidential election. No nominee has ever been named this close to a Presidential election, and Republicans vow to have her seated before Election Day, even though they refused to even give Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing after Scalia died almost 300 days before the 2016 election. Republicans claimed at the time that "the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice," since voting had already begun in the primaries that year. At the same time, as multiple polls make clear, huge majorities of Americans believe whoever is elected in November should be the one to name the next Justice to SCOTUS.
While disingenuous, duplicitous, dishonest, hypocritical Republicans lied in 2016 about that, they couldn't care less in 2020. So they are planning to ram Barrett through the confirmation process as quickly as possible, according to our guest today, Slate's great legal reporter MARK JOSEPH STERN, so that she will be seated in time for the Court to throw the election to Trump as needed. "Donald Trump has selected her for the express purpose of handing him the election by nullifying enough Democratic votes to secure him a second term," Stern makes clear at the outset. "He has said that out loud on multiple occasions. We have every reason to believe that was his chief criterion in selecting Barrett."
Beyond that, as to what Barrett's vote on the Court on other issues will mean for this nation, for health care, for abortion rights, for gun rights, for voting rights, for the environment, for LGBTQ rights, for immigration rights and much more, Stern pulls no punches today. The outlook is bleak. Very bleak.
"She is going to allow states to ban abortion, to punish and prosecute women who terminate their pregnancies, and even to let Congress ban abortion nationwide so that no state can give people access to the procedure," Stern details in his no-uncertain-terms litany of what Americans can expect under a 6 to 3 Court led by Barrett. "She isis against almost any kind of gun control law, including basic gun safety laws that keep violent criminals from obtaining firearms. ... She does not believe in the right to vote. She believes that states should be able to strip individuals of their right to participate in democracy for arbitrary and discriminatory reasons. ... She does not support LGBTQ equality. She rejects the idea of same-sex marriage. She does not even believe it's real marriage, so far as we can tell. ... She is going to strip our federal laws of all environmental and labor regulations that have any effect. She is going to abolish the federal government's ability to regulate carbon emissions, mercury, lead, to protect workers from labor exploitation," he explains before summing up: "She is going to remake this entire country's law in a way that might satisfy a robber baron of the 1800s, but will make every one else feel --- rightly --- like they're living in the dark ages."
Other than that, she's great! Actually, that's just a partial list of what he says should be expected if/when she is confirmed.
But he's equally clear about what he sees as the only way that Democrats --- and the nation itself --- can now be preserved. And that is the expansion of the Supreme Court with the addition of 4 more seats to restore the Court majority to liberals who should rightly have it after the GOP stole the Court majority from them in 2016. Presuming Dems take the White House and Senate majority this year, Stern argues: "Nothing else the Democrats do is going to matter if they don't begin here first. This is it. This is the test. If Democrats fail this, there might not be any coming back from it."
Would such a "radical" move make things worse? Will it lead to an endless cycle of SCOTUS Wars and the delegitimization of the Court itself? Stern speaks to all of that and much more today. Please tune in.
Then, the news that you almost certainly haven't heard out of Georgia. On Friday night, the Secretary of State's office informed elections officials in all 159 counties that they should immediately stop pre-election testing of the state's brand-new, $100 million, unverifiable touch-screen Ballot Marking Device (BMD) voting system due to what Election Director Chris Harvey described in an email as "an error in the November database which will require every county to get a new database for the November 3, 2020 election."
"I am very sorry to have to tell you this," Harvey continued, somewhat understating how serious this matter is. "I know that everyone is working as hard as they can to be prepared. We will do everything we can to minimize the delay this will cause. I will give you an update Monday on any ETA for your new database."
While it's still unclear when the corrected databases (or whatever the problem actually is) will be available, the Coalition for Good Governance, which has a long-running federal lawsuit to block the use of the state's new unveriflable touchscreen voting systems --- which every voter in the state is forced to use at the polling place, instead of safer, verifiable, hand-marked paper ballots --- filed a motion on Friday night explaining to the court that it is simply too late to properly test the 80,000 or so separate pieces of the system, as required by law, before Early Voting begins in two weeks.
"[U]nder the current plan," the Coalition spells out in the filing, pre-election "Logic and Accuracy testing is required for 34,000 touchscreens, 34,000 BMD [Ballot Marking Device] printers, 8,600 pollPads [electronic pollbooks], 3,800 precinct scanners, and 175 high volume mail ballot scanners," adding that "A far more manageable, realistic, and safe solution for an orderly and defensible November election is to use hand marked paper ballots instead of the BMD touchscreens and printers, while maintaining a single BMD in every polling place for accessibility needs, to satisfy the requirements of HAVA [the federal Help America Vote Act]."
The federal judge who found the state's previous, 20-year old touchscreen systems to be unsecure, unverifiable and, therefore, unconstitutional, is set to make a ruling at any moment on whether the new systems are equally unconstitutional and should be banned like the old ones were last year. She called all the parties in the case to an emergency hearing on Monday following Friday's stunning news, placing into question whether the state will be able to use the systems at all this November.
We will have much more on this disturbing story as it develops in coming days. But this is just another reason why it is insane to use these types of systems in any election, much less the most critical one in this nation's history. In addition to the entire state of Georgia --- a key battleground state this year --- similar unverifiable touchscreen Ballot Marking Device systems are being used for the first time this year in many of the most Democratic-leaning counties in key battleground states including Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and Texas, among others, not to mention Los Angeles County in California, the most populous voting jurisdiction in the nation...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)