We've spent many years on The BradCast and at The BRAD BLOG explaining why touchscreen Ballot Marking Device (BMD) voting systems, like those used across the entire state of Georgia and in Los Angeles County, can never be known to accurately reflect the intent of any voter. We've also spent some time discussing why Voting Centers --- where voters in a county may vote at any center, rather than at their precinct --- may be convenient for voters, but are otherwise a terrible idea. As today's guest illustrates, those two terrible ideas came crashing down together at the expensive of election integrity and citizen oversight in a ballot measure election in Long Beach, California last November. And he's got the lawsuit and incredibly close election results to prove it. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
But, first up, the tragic stories from the COVID vaccine denier set, who are realizing --- only once it was too late --- that their denialism was, to say the least, ill-considered, continue to roll in. A state lawmaker in Missouri. A Trump-supporting couple in Sacramento. A rightwing radio host from Tennessee. A 34-year old anti-vaxxer in Los Angeles. Those who survived have come to regret their denialism. The families of those who didn't survive are now wishing their loved ones had taken their shots, and hope that you will do so now, if you haven't already.
The stories are tragic. But if continuing to tell them may help save a life, I'm happy to keep doing so on the air, as COVID spikes across the nation, almost entirely among the unvaccinated. That is thanks to the delta variant of the coronavirus and the 97% of the hospitalized who dreamt up all sorts of reasons to not take readily accessible and highly safe and effective vaccines. Many of their reasons for having failed to do so are based on misinformation spread by power hungry and/or ignorant politicians and personalities. The results are deadly and affect all of us, even the vaccinated.
Then, we've spent years reporting on California's election recount laws. In one sense, they are very good in that they allow any voter in the state to request a hand-count of any race, in any precinct or precincts they like, as long as they pay for it. (They are refunded if the count reverses the certified results.) But the law also allows each county Registrar of Voters to determine the price for those counts. As we've reported over and again for the past 15 years or more, the state law results in County Clerks arbitrarily and capriciously setting prices to pretty much anything they like, with a huge disparity among counties. It may cost a few cents per ballot to hand-count in Orange County, while Los Angeles is now charging well over two dollars per ballot.
The price in L.A. County, set by Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan, has just sky-rocketed, thanks to Logan's new touchscreen voting systems and the ill-considered use of Vote Centers that allow voters to vote at any Center they like, rather than the old precinct model of voting. One of the many problems with Voting Centers is that they make it almost impossible for Election Integrity advocates and the public in general to oversee tallies to ensure they are accurate and ballots are not stuffed into the boxes.
Another problem became crystal clear when the City of Long Beach held a ballot referendum last November to extend a city sales tax. The initiative, Measure A, passed by just 16 votes out of some 100,000 cast. When a group of citizens who opposed the measure sought a recount (California has no automatic recount law, no matter how small the margin, and though Logan could have chosen to recount it himself, he did not), they were in for a shock.
The County Clerk's handbook published before the election suggested that the count would cost them around $50,000, which they raised to pay for the count. That was before Logan informed them, just before the hand recount was to begin, that the cost would actually be closer to the $200,000 range, putting any kind of oversight out of reach to the local activists.
Why the change in pricing? Thanks to Vote Centers, ballots cast across L.A.'s county of some 4 million voters, are not sorted by precinct, even though state law requires that recounts be done by precinct. That means the County must spend HOURS sorting through millions of ballots to find the ones that included Long Beach's Measure A. Logan, who developed both the new touchscreen systems and the Vote Center model here, is charging the recount requesters for those hours, due to his failure to create an overseeable, sorted system of ballot tracking.
We're joined today by IAN PATTON, co-founder and executive director of the Long Beach Reform Coalition, to explain what happened, why the group was forced to call off their request for a recount, and why they are now suing the County instead, to charge them the original price they had expected to pay.
"This has been really eye-opening to me. Like waking up out of a slumber to a nightmare," Patton, who used to work as a staffer in Congress tells me today. "A paper trail is useless if you can't actually count it."
As the Long Beach Press-Telegram suggests in its reporting on this, the "Future of LA County election recounts could hinge" on this suit. It will be heard next month. But the future of Vote Centers, not just in Los Angeles, but across the country, where a number of jurisdictions are moving to them or considering the model, could also be affected by what goes on in L.A., the nation's most populous county...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)