Guest: Dr. David Jefferson, formerly of Verified Voting, Livermore Nat'l Lab; Also: Biden on U.S. Taiwan policy; First Russian sentenced for war crimes; Russian diplomat resigns, 'ashamed' of nation's Ukraine lies...
By Brad Friedman on 5/23/2022, 6:41pm PT  

On today's BradCast: You'd think by now they'd certainly have learned that insecure, un-overseeable (and thus, unverifiable) voting systems are a terrible idea in the age of phony claims of "Fraud!" by the MAGA Mob. But, apparently, Dems --- at least a bunch of them in the California state legislature --- never seem to learn.

First up today, however, a quick review of everything, happening everywhere, all at once. And specifically some critical news today from overseas. On that overseas news...

  • Joe Biden declared today in Japan that, "yes", the U.S. would intervene "militarily" if China were to invade Taiwan. That, he said, was a commitment made "even stronger" following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Other U.S. officials, however, say those comments do not reflect a change in U.S. policy. Okay...
  • In Ukraine, a 21-year old Russian soldier who says he was ordered several times by superiors to kill an unarmed civilian, before he finally did, was sentenced to life in prison on Monday. He admitted to the crime and apologized to the wife of the 62-year old man that he killed. In truth, he seems to be a young kid who had no idea he would end up in a hot war in Ukraine when he signed up for the military to help out his family. There are likely to be hundreds of more such trials in Ukraine given the number of documented war crimes we've seen over the past three months of this horrific war.
  • And, in what we hope is a blow to Russia's well-funded, worldwide propaganda regarding Ukraine, a veteran Russian diplomat at the U.N. office in Geneva, Boris Bondarev, resigned on Monday, declaring in a scathing letter to colleagues that "it is intolerable what my government is doing now." He describes how, over his 20-year diplomatic career for Russia, he has never been "so ashamed of my country", calling the invasion of Ukraine "not only a crime against the Ukrainian people, but also...against the people of Russia." He went on to deride "propaganda clichés in the spirit of Soviet newspapers of the 1930s" emanating from the Russian foreign ministry and charges that it is no longer "about diplomacy," but "all about warmongering, lies and hatred." This incredibly brave man concludes: "The Ministry has become my home and family. But I simply cannot any longer share in this bloody, witless and absolutely needless ignominy. Job offers are welcome..."

NEXT, in a whiplash inducing change of topic today, as primary season continues (with midterm elections on Tuesday in Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia --- and several important primary runoffs in Texas), we turn to the urgent matter of a new bill moving quickly through the California state legislature which would allow Internet Voting in the state --- or, as the bill deceptively describes it, "electronic Remote Accessible Vote by Mail" or "RAVBM".

The measure, Senate Bill 1480, sponsored by Bay Area Democratic state Senator Steve Glazer, is opposed by dozens of world class voting system and cybersecurity experts --- both groups and individuals --- and is supported only by a handful of groups, including Microsoft and a couple of disability rights organizations. Nonetheless, it passed out of California's Senate Appropriations Committee on Friday and will quickly receive a vote on the Senate floor as early as today, before moving to the state Assembly and on to the Governor for his signature, if it's adopted there.

Dangerous Internet Voting schemes have long been prohibited in California. But SB 1480 would remove that prohibition to allow it for use by "qualified disabled individuals" once the Secretary of State certifies an Internet Voting system. Until then, those individuals would be allowed to vote via fax, according to the measure. Opponents see the targeting of disabled voters as a first step toward broader implementation of Internet Voting schemes.

We're joined today to explain all of this by one of the nation's most prominent Internet Voting experts and opponents. DR. DAVID JEFFERSON is a veteran of Livermore National Lab, a former board member of VerifiedVoting.org, and a pioneer in research at the intersection of computing, the Internet, and elections for 20 years. He has also served as advisor to five successive Secretaries of State of California on technology-related issues, specifically on voting technology.

Jefferson explains today what a terrible idea SB 1480 is and why, detailing the many concerns about security of transmission over the Internet, lack of transparency, and how even fax transmissions now use the Internet to send and receive information which can be easily intercepted and changed during transit without either the voter or election officials having any idea that it happened.

The wording "electronic Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail" in SB 1480 is, itself, "kind of a contradiction in terms," says Jefferson, "because you are no longer mailing a piece of paper back. After filling out the ballot on your computer screen or mobile device, you then click a button that says 'send back by fax' or some other electronic means. It inevitably travels over the Internet from the voter to the jurisdiction that is going to count it. So it's not a voter-verifiable ballot by the time it gets to the jurisdiction, and it's not meaningfully auditable because it's not voter-verified. It's subject to many, many cybersecurity hazards along the way."

"California has been a leader in not allowing any form of Internet voting. Some other states have copied that because they often look to California for leadership on technical issues," Jefferson observers, adding: "This would be, in my opinion, a giant step backwards."

"It's pretty clear to many of us that the long-term goal of some of the moneyed backers of bills like this --- and by the way, it's not just California, these bills pop up all over the country --- that their long-term goal is to open the door to Internet voting to all voters, if they can," he tells me. "They've tried before, and in some states they have succeeded, for some time, and it fortunately hasn't lasted. So yes, that's a realistic concern."

Bottom line, warns Jefferson: "If an election is attacked through the Internet, it's hard to even know that the attack has even occurred."

One would think CA Dems would know that by now, as they've tried over and over again (unsuccessfully, to date), to pass a measure that would lift the state's prohibition on using the Internet for voting or transmitting votes. SB 1480 is opposed by, among others, Brennan Center for Justice, California Voter Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Verified Voting, Public Citizen and some of our personal favorites like the Coalition for Good Governance, Free Speech for People, and Scrutineers.org, not to mention about a dozen grassroots "Indivisible" organizations and the Progressive Democrats of America. But, apparently, that hasn't yet been enough to slow down what will absolutely be a nightmare for California voters and others across the country, if this terrible idea becomes law.

The longtime election integrity advocates at Scrutineers.org have created an action page on SB 1480 at Scrutineers.org/California, with details on the legislation and steps you can take right now to let the state Senate, Assembly and Sec. of State know that this is a horrible idea for California, the rest of the nation, and secure, overseeable, verifiable American democracy itself...

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