Guests: Susan Greenhalgh of Free Speech for People; Ian Patton of Long Beach Reform Coalition; Also: Atrocities in Ukraine, in the U.S. and why protecting democracy remains more important than ever...
By Brad Friedman on 4/4/2022, 6:59pm PT  

We all woke up to atrocities on Sunday. In Ukraine and in Sacramento, California. Russian war crimes in Europe and another mass shooting in the U.S. On today's BradCast, we detail the atrocities in both places before turning to the fight for the only thing that still has a chance of stopping them: democracy. But we can't have democracy without voting systems the public can oversee, and that remains a huge problem, even in our own home county of Los Angeles. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

First up, some of the newly revealed, gruesome details and evidence of war crimes allegedly committed by fleeing Russian troops against Ukrainian civilians in newly liberated towns, villages and suburbs outside of Kyiv. Despite being witnessed by independent journalists and catalogued by outside watchdogs like Human Rights Watch, which describes some of the crimes as "unspeakable, deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian citizens," including "rape, murder, and other violent acts," the Russian Government contends the charges are "fake" and little more than "stage-managed anti-Russian provocation." In response on Monday, President Biden reiterated his belief that Vladimir Putin is a "war criminal."

The gruesome body count in the U.S. also continued to mount over the weekend, as another mass shooting, this time in downtown Sacramento, left six dead and more than a dozen injured after "at least fifty rounds" were "fired right into the crowd" with high-powered weaponry during bustling Saturday night revelry, according to an eyewitness. That, just one day after Georgia's legislature passed a new law allowing concealed weapons to be carried pretty much anywhere without the need for a license. They are the 23rd state to do so. Our gun violence epidemic is getting worse, not better, as Republicans refuse to allow any action that might lessen America's shamefully continuing scourge.

But tyranny is not going to defeat itself. Not in Ukraine. Not in the U.S. To that end, we remain vigilant in our efforts to help the public try and oversee this year's critical mid-term elections. Unfortunately, problems with our un-overseeable and unverifiable voting systems continue into yet another election year in so-called "red" and "blue" states alike. While the GOP is actively undermining democracy with new voter suppression laws in "red" states, vulnerable electronic voting and tabulation systems remain a huge problem across the nation.

Back in 2020, Los Angeles County deployed a new, unverifiable touchscreen voting system called "Voting Solutions for All People" (or, VSAP) across the nation's most populous voting jurisdiction. Some ten years in development by the County's Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan, the new touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) failed spectacularly in that year's Super Tuesday Presidential Primary, leading to long lines and questions about the results. The VSAP system had been conditionally certified by the Secretary of State just weeks before their first county-wide use, after state testing discovered about 30 different violations of California Voting System Standards.

The County was required to correct the violations detailed in the Conditional Certification in the months following the election, though they failed to do so in many cases --- for years. Now, the County is seeking state certification of VSAP v3.0 but, according to our guests today, has still failed to correct a number of critical security issues that failed more than two years ago.

We're joined today to discuss these concerns in advance of California's June 7th mid-term primary elections by SUSAN GREENHALGH, Senior Advisor on Election Security at the non-profit Free Speech for People and by IAN PATTON of the Long Beach Reform Coalition (he is also now running for the Long Beach City Council). Both recently wrote a letter [PDF] to California Sec. of State Dr. Shirley Weber, detailing uncorrected security issues in the VSAP system and urging her to force L.A. County to fix them before issuing certification to the newly updated voting and counting system yet again.

We invited L.A. County's Registrar Dean Logan --- the VSAP system is his brainchild --- to join us as well, after his office recently described Greenhalgh's public testimony on her concerns about certification for VSAP 3.0 as "mis- and disinformation". In declining to join us today, Logan once again accused Greenhalgh and Patton of "mis-stating facts" and took a swipe at the election integrity advocates by smearing them as if they were part of Donald Trump's mob of conspiracists offering evidence-free claims of fraud since his loss in 2020. Logan charged the documented concerns detailed in Greenhalgh and Patton's memo to the Secretary "contributes to further the false narrative about elections integrity and transparency that is pervading the country."

For her part, Greenhalgh has been an expert in elections security, integrity and transparency for decades. Patton had represented the Long Beach Reform Coalition in a lawsuit against the VSAP systems long before Trump's 2020 sore loser act, when a ballot initiative in Long Beach failed by just 16 votes. After the Coalition raised tens of thousands of dollars to pay for a recount of that initiative, they were informed by Logan that the price would, in fact, be hundreds of thousands of dollars instead-- to count just a few thousand votes. The reason, as we reported at the time, is that the new VSAP system is deployed at Voting Centers across the County, which have replaced community precincts. That means that Long Beach voters may vote at any Voting Center in the County, where more than 4 million cast ballots in 2020. Logan attempted to charge the Coalition for the hours and hours it would have taken the county to cull through some 4 million ballots (computer-marked by VSAP and hand-marked by mail voters) in order to find the ones cast by Long Beach voters at any of the hundreds of Voting Centers in the County. Of course, this is just another problem with the Voting Center model, particularly in large counties like L.A. The ballot initiative that is said to have passed by 16 votes never did receive a hand recount to make sure the results were accurate.

Greenhalgh details the security vulnerabilities that remain in the VSAP system, despite state requirements that they be corrected by last year. She was also surprised to hear that Logan claimed in his email to us that "the VSAP 3.0 upgrade is over and it has been approved by the Secretary of State."

"I'm disappointed that the Secretary is not taking further action to enforce these requirements, to really require LA County to meet them," she tells us. "Also it hasn't been updated on the website, that it's already been approved. That's not public information yet." We'll just take Logan's word for it, I guess.

For his part, Patton explains the aborted recount effort in Long Beach ("I'm not a conspiracy theorist in any way," he notes. "We have never alleged a rigged election. We were just talking about the facts. The facts are this was an extremely close election, and we were just not allowed to have a hand count."); the fact that L.A.'s $300 million voting system was promised to be the nation's first open source system (but has yet to disclose any of its source code); and whether he feels confident that his election for City Council this year will be accurately tallied under the still-unverifiable and virtually unrecountable new systems.

"We can speak very factually and say that vulnerabilities don't equate to a stolen election," Greenhalgh asserts, before describing Logan's smears as "extremely disheartening." She described the comments as "a new low to hear somebody try to smear and tar real serious questions, real serious issues that need to be addressed. We still have serious security issues in our election systems that need to be fixed. We all need to pull together to fix them. And if we are having election officials refuse to address those problems by dismissing them improperly as mis- and dis-information, there's two problems with that: We're not going to actually fix the problems, but also we have a crisis of confidence in our election system right now. And when somebody in a position of power says something that is pretty easily proven to be false....they're not going to have a lot of confidence in his ability to run an election. And we can't afford that. He needs to be honest."

Logan never did cite any specific claims from Greenhalgh and Patton's concerns that he believed to be misinformation, despite my repeated query. He has a standing invitation to join us on the show any time to do so. Hiding behind false claims by rightwingers of "stolen elections" is unbecoming of a public official, particularly when the very specific concerns in question are legitimate and publicly well-documented.

There is much more discussed about all of this on today's show, and the concerns about similarly unverifiable touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices now in use across the country, along with the similarly problematic Voting Center model replacing community precincts in other counties and states.

California's primary this year is on June 7th. Cross your fingers that things work out. Good luck even being able to figure out afterward is they did or didn't...

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