We've been doing our best on The BradCast, to keep you up to date with the various attempted assaults on voting rights that Republicans are trying to enact in dozens of state legislatures around the country, in response to Donald Trump's evidence-free Big Lie that the 2020 election was somehow stolen from him. But what is going on in Georgia right now, where lawmakers are attempting an extraordinary power grab to essentially give themselves control over entire elections and their results, is even worse and more disturbing than you have likely heard. [Audio link to full show follows summary below.]
First up today, however, speaking of fraudulent claims about fraud in the 2020 election, Team Trump attorney Sidney Powell filed her response to Dominion Voting System's $1.3 billion defamation suit [PDF] against her, and it's fairly hilarious.
Her Motion to Dismiss [PDF] includes her defense that "no reasonable person" could have interpreted her outlandish claims that Dominion's voting and tabulation systems were used to steal the election for Joe Biden via a massive international conspiracy (bastardized and reimagined, in no small part, from my decade-old accurate, exclusive reporting on several voting machine companies tied at one point to Venezuela) were actually "statements of fact". Her four failed "Kraken" lawsuits, and countless appearance on wingnut media making such claims, she now appears to be arguing, were little more than her political opinion, which nobody could have mistaken for facts. Therefore, she argues, she cannot be held accountable under the First Amendment. Good luck with that, Sidney. Clearly, voters in Stark County, OH and in the state of Louisiana --- "reasonable" or not --- bought into her lies, as a mountain of complaints about Dominion since the election has resulted in both jurisdictions ending their consideration of multi-million contracts with the Canadian-based voting equipment vendor.
Powell's repeated fraudulent fraud claims and those by Trump himself following the 2020 election have had other real world consequences, including the deadly MAGA Mob attack on the U.S. Capitol in January to try and "stop the steal", as well as now hundreds of voter suppression bills being pushed by GOP lawmakers in more than 40 states.
As Georgia's legislative sessions comes to an end next week, there has been a dizzying flurry of proposals in both the state house and senate to target voting, mostly effecting minority voters. Last week, a two-page GOP bill on absentee ballot applications was substituted at the last minute by Republicans with a 93-page omnibus bill that includes dozens of new voting restrictions and reforms. The measure was revealed to Democratic state lawmakers and voting rights advocates just one hour before a committee hearing for it in the state House of Representatives.
Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight Action group described the measure as "A desperate power grab to appease insurrectionists and losing political candidates." The bill, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting, introduced dozens of new restrictions including "including banning people from giving food and water to voters waiting in line, limiting early voting days for larger counties, and adding ID requirements to absentee ballots."
Many of those provisions have received a fair amount of public attention over the past week, including the attempt to end Sunday "souls to the polls" voting, which is popular with religious Black voters who traditionally head to the polls en masse after church services. That provision, and an attempt to scrap no-excuse absentee voting, have both now been withdrawn by Republicans after public backlash, according to our guest today. But, she is now far more concerned with a, so far, little noticed provision that would allow the partisan, legislature-appointed State Board of Elections to undermine and even reverse elections results in any county in the state by replacing any bi-partisan County Elections Board with a single person of their choosing, for virtually any reason they like.
One of our longtime go-to sources on Georgia election disasters, MARILYN MARKS of the Coalition for Good Governance, joins us for the first time in the new year to sound the alarm bell on that provision, and a few others which, she warns, are not receiving nearly enough attention from the public.
"It's hard to express the danger of what it is they are trying to do," she tells me, explaining how the State Board of Elections (currently a five-person board, with one Democrat) would "be able to take over any County where they don't like how the County is counting the votes, how the County's election processes work...really with no due process. With just a few minor violations --- which anybody can find with any County --- the State Election Board can come swooping in [and] put their partisan appointee in the place of the public Board. They wipe out the public [County] Board of Elections and put one person in charge."
If that measure had been in place during 2020, she warns, it could have been used to overturn election results in, say, Fulton County (Atlanta) at the whim of partisans on the State Board.
As were speaking today, the New York Times published an article warning about this very issue as well, quoting Abrams charging that "Republicans are brazenly trying to seize local and state election authority in an unprecedented power grab." Echoing Marks, Abrams warns its "intended to alter election outcomes and remove state and county election officials who refuse to put party above the people."
"They could literally send in their appointee, fire all of the election board, have no more public meetings, conduct all of the balloting behind closed doors, certify whoever they wanted to as the winner, and there's hardly anything that could be done about it," Marks explains. "They are trying to make that law."
She also details how the GOP attempt to change mail-in ballot authentication from using signatures --- a system that now works well in the Peach State, she says --- to using things like drivers license numbers, will actually make absentee ballot fraud easier rather than more difficult. Marks, a longtime Republican (though not any more), explains that her attempts to warn GA's GOP lawmakers about this seems to be getting dismissed because, she says, those lawmakers don't seem to actually care about fraud. They are more interesting in sayiing they did something to respond to their constituents' unsupported belief that signature verification is being easily defeated by fraudsters. (Now where would those folks have come up with that idea?)
"They shake their head and say, 'You're right. This does degrade security. But the Secretary of State [Brad Raffensperger] wants this, and everybody is marching to his tune, and we know we are going to get all sorts of hell when the voters find out what we're doing, but we feel under such pressure to do something.' ... They're going to do 'something' even if it's wrong," Marks insists.
We also discuss her long-standing federal lawsuit to try and decertify the 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems made by Dominion Voting Systems that Raffensperger deployed statewide for the first time last year. He did so after the Coalition's lawsuit resulted in a 2019 ruling by a federal judge that the state's previous, 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting system made by Diebold was both unverifiable and unsecure and, therefore, unconstitutional. Marks offers a status report on the case, as she hopes for an eventual ruling on the Dominion machines similar to the one that ended the state's use of the older, similarly vulnerable Diebold systems. And no, she explains, though she has been very tough on Dominion's systems over the years, she is not concerned about a defamation lawsuit from the company akin to the ones filed against Powell and Rudy Giuliani by the voting system vendor.
"We don't allege things that we don't have very solid proof of," she says. "We have the nation's top security experts working with us under penalty of perjury. We work in fact, not ridiculous allegations like Sidney Powell's group"...
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