On today's BradCast: A long-awaited ruling in the federal case challenging Georgia's new, unverifiable, already-failed $100+ million touchscreen vote systems --- which failed again on day one of early voting today in the Peach State. Also, my escape from "Twitter Jail" and the California GOP deploys fraudulent mail-in drop-boxes across the state. [Audio link to show follows below.]
We start today by avoiding, for now, the first day of the illegitimate confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Instead, we offer some exclusive news that is not being reported elsewhere on two fronts, both related to Georgia's disastrous new voting system. First up, an explanation --- or, a conclusion for now --- to the saga that resulted in my 4 days suspension on Twitter beginning late last week, for the crime of posting a completely accurate tweet about two weeks ago, reporting that GA's Secretary of State informed elections officials in all 159 counties to immediately halt pre-election testing of their new touchscreen voting systems, due to an error that prevented candidates in one of Georgia's two U.S. Senate elections this year from appearing on screen for voters. The error, as I noted in my infamous (and accurate) tweet, would eventually require all new software for the November elections. In fact, as the federal ruling we discuss today reveals, the state installed all new, uncertified software on all 34,000 of the new voting machines just days ago, in violation of state law. You can read the full saga, with links to the federal court filings proving the accuracy of the tweet, and why I eventually relented and deleted it right here.
As Georgia began its first day of early voting on Monday, sure enough, the vote system I was warning about in that tweet failed, leading to six-hour lines to vote in some places. But the long-running federal court case whose emergency filings revealed the serious problem I was tweeting, finally came to a conclusion --- of sorts, at least for now --- late on Sunday night. That is when U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg finally released her long-awaited ruling in the case which challenged the security, accuracy and constitutionality of the state's use of new, unverifiable touchscreen voting systems made by Dominion Voting Systems. The Plaintiffs called for them to be replaced by a cheaper, verifiable hand-marked paper ballots system.
Last year, Totenberg found the state's previous, 20-year old Diebold touchscreen systems to be unsecure, unverifiable and, thus, unconstitutional, ordering them banned for all future elections in the state. On Sunday night, in her long-awaited 147-page ruling [PDF] that begins by citing the plot to the movie Groundhog Day, Totenberg once again finds the state's new touchscreen Ballot Marking Device (BMD) "presents serious system security vulnerability and operational issues that may place Plaintiffs and other voters at risk of deprivation of their fundamental right to cast an effective vote that is accurately counted." The judge warned "these risks are neither hypothetical nor remote" and slams "the insularity" of the "stance" by the GA Sec. of State and the state's private vendor, Canadian-based Dominion Voting Systems, "in evaluation and management of the security and vulnerability of the BMD system [which] does not benefit the public or citizen's confident exercise of the franchise."
After detailing lies, inaccuracies and a lack of knowledge in the testimony of the state's "experts" in the case (no actual cybersecurity experts were presented by them, only employees of the vendors who admitted they had no actual cybsersecurity experience, nor did any penetration tests of the systems before certifying them for use in GA elections!), Judge Totenberg concludes: "The Plaintiffs’ national cybersecurity experts convincingly present evidence that this is not a question of 'might this actually ever happen?' – but 'when it will happen,' especially if further protective measures are not taken. Given the masking nature of malware and the current systems described here, if the State and Dominion simply stand by and say, 'we have never seen it,' the future does not bode well."
For now, that future includes the use of the systems that Totenberg clearly finds so dangerous because, as she explains, it might cause chaos for elections officials if she ordered the use of hand-marked paper ballots at the polling places this close to Election Day.
We're joined once again to discuss the case today by MARILYN MARKS of case plaintiff Coalition for Good Governance, which has been leading this long and important federal court battle now for several years. She has been joining us to discuss it at critical junctures, even while most of the broadcast media has studiously avoided covering it all. Marks offers her reaction to the judge's long-awaited ruling, describes her disappointment in the ultimate order from the judge (for now), while expressing confidence that these systems --- just like the state's previous ones --- will eventually be barred by this judge for use for the very same reasons that she ordered the state's old ones to finally be trashed.
"What we see here is these systems are put together in a slipshod fashion, without security being an important priority at all to these companies," Marks tells me. "These voting system vendors will say anything, and unfortunately many of our election officials who are purchasing these systems will repeat and parrot whatever those words are. You begin to wonder what is it that drives these elections officials, like Secretary [of State Brad] Raffensberger in Georgia, to buy the most expensive and least-auditable equipment."
Noting that unverifiable BMD systems similar to the ones now being forced on voters for the first time at the polls in other critical battlegrounds --- such as Philadelphia, the most Democratic-leaning county in North Carolina, all of South Carolina, as well as key counties in Texas and Ohio, not to mention the nation's most populous voting jurisdiction, Los Angeles County --- Marks decries the damage to democracy being done in all of those locations, while still being hopeful for the future.
"If there's good news in the judge's denial of relief for November, she did write a very solid yet scathing opinion, and explained in detail why these systems are not secure," she explains. "I'm hopeful that her opinion can spread across --- certainly Los Angeles, and all the counties that are using these systems in Pennsylvania and South Carolina, and even my home county of Mecklenberg, North Carolina --- and shake up some of these election officials. But maybe, most importantly, some of these candidates. That is such a shame that we don't have the parties and we don't have the candidates demanding a fair system."
Marks adds: "We're confident we'll win the case. We've proven our point. We've proven that they're unconstitutional. We've proven that they're insecure. We've proven that people shouldn't be permitted to vote on them. The only piece that's missing is, how long does it take? How long does it take for jurisdictions to be prepared to do something simple, like hand out hand-marked paper ballots? Given how important this election is, it is a real shame that we have to put up with these machines in November."
Finally, we close with the news that Republicans in California --- after Trump and his GOP have been suing to do away with mail-in drop-boxes all over the country --- are actually deploying fake ones up and down the Golden State, in apparent violation of the law, according to California's Secretary of State...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)