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Critics charge state laws block him from doing so, even if he wanted to...
By Douglas Lucas on 7/5/2023 11:24am PT  

Despite newly revealed cybersecurity flaws in Georgia's statewide touchscreen voting systems; a weeks-long breach by right-wing operatives of the sensitive voting and tabulation software used across the state; and a growing clamor by both the public and state officials for decisive action to try to plug some of these vulnerabilities before next year's Presidential election, all evidence obtained by The BRAD BLOG to date suggests Georgia's Secretary of State has little interest in taking any action at all. At least not before next year's critical contests in the battleground state.

Even if Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger did want to take action, we have learned, he has yet to even begin necessary steps toward state certification of Dominion Voting Systems' newly created software said to remedy some of the recently disclosed cybersecurity flaws. Moreover, well-informed critics argue any software upgrades to the state's touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) would still result in violations of fundamental legal requirements for the state's voting systems.

The path toward nailing down what Raffensperger's office is or isn't doing; what they may or may not do under state law; and what they are or aren't telling the public about all of it has been an odyssey over the past days, amid misleading discussion with a representative of the Secretary's office, contrary information from an official at one of the country's few certified independent voting system test labs, and a curious admission by a representative for Dominion, the state's election system vendor.

The only thing fully clear as of now: Despite calls from cybersecurity and elections experts to mend Georgia's insecure, unverifiable voting systems before next year's Presidential contest, the state insists they will not be upgrading the Dominion voting software until 2025. What has become clearer to us in recent days is that the Secretary of State cannot upgrade the systems legally, at this point, even if he wanted to --- which, evidently, he does not...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---




Guest: Election expert Dr. Philip Stark of UC-Berkeley; Also: More Alito corruption; More on the 'single most important constitutional case for American Democracy since the Nation's Founding'...
By Brad Friedman on 6/28/2023 6:40pm PT  

Yup. We're heading back to the critical battleground state of Georgia again on today's BradCast, as their ridiculous Sec. of State gets ridiculouser in his indefensible defenses of his ridiculously vulnerable, brand-new touchscreen voting systems which he is still refusing to upgrade, despite warnings from the federal government and increasing urging from voting system and cybersecurity experts. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

BUT FIRST, a few more quick words on yesterday's landmark U.S. Supreme Court opinion [PDF] in Moore v. Harper, in which Chief Justice John Roberts and two Trump-appointed Justices joined with the Court's three liberals to put the kibosh, hopefully once and for all, on the bonkers, so-called Independent State Legislature theory pushed by far-rightwingers. Had SCOTUS given a majority blessing to the fringe Constitutional theory giving complete, unreviewable say over all federal election laws to State Legislatures, it would have wreaked indescribable havoc on some 250 years of election laws across all 50 states. It would also have given authority to those State Legislatures to overturn Presidential elections by selecting slates of electors not chosen by state voters!

As one of the nation's most conservative and respected former federal judges, Michael Luttig, tweeted today: "It would be impossible to overstate the [enormousness] of yesterday's seminal decision in Moore v. Harper. Not only is it now the single most important constitutional case for American Democracy since the Nation's Founding almost 250 years ago. ... It is also now one of the most important constitutional cases for representative government in America. ... Today, it takes its deserved place in the pantheon of great Supreme Court cases that give meaning to the Constitution's genius of a separation of powers --- among the national Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary, and also between the national government and the governments of the respective 50 states of the United States."

But there were three Justices who voted in the minority in that case. As it turns out, all three of them were recently highlighted by investigate journalists for their, shall we say, dubious ethics practices. Clarence Thomas (see here, here, here and here), Neil Gorsuch (see here), and Sam Alito (see here).

In addition to Alito's undisclosed, luxury fishing trip to Alaska on the private jet (and dime) of GOP megadonor and vulture capitalist billionaire Paul Singer, as revealed by ProPublica last week, this week The Intercept offers a new story shedding some fresh light on Alito's years of climate change-denialism and his Court decisions on behalf of the oil and gas industry.

NEXT UP, it's back to Georgia, where Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger is reportedly giving testimony in Atlanta today to prosecutors working on Special Counsel Jack Smith's probe of the January 6, 2021 insurrection and the other myriad ways in which Team Trump attempted to steal the 2020 Presidential Election. (One of those ways included Donald Trump's now-infamous phone call to Raffensperger, attempting to strongarm him to "find" the 11,780 votes he would have needed to flip the state's results from the winner, Joe Biden.)

But where Raffy has been seen as a hero by some for refusing to roll over to Trump after the 2020 election, we have explained for years that he is anything but. Now, he's under fire for the massive vulnerabilities discovered by cybersecurity and voting system experts in his new, $150 million Dominion touchscreen voting systems, and for his refusal, as first reported by The BRAD BLOG in mid-May, to install Dominion's security patches to them before the 2024 Presidential election. That, despite urgent warnings from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and many longtime election experts and computer scientists.

Now, Raffensperger's office is going on the offensive, attacking those experts as "paranoiacs and conspiracists", attempting to conflate them with the rightwing, Sidney Powell-organized MAGA loons who tried to steal the election in 2020 and breached the state's voting systems in Coffee County, GA on January 7th, 2021, the day after the Trump-insighted insurrection in D.C.

"The paranoiacs and conspiracists of the world have their beliefs reinforced when they read reports of theoretical 'vulnerabilities' that fail to mention the real-world security measures already in place," sniped Mike Hassinger, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office, to Politico last week. "If the PhDs don’t like being put in the same category as the Pillow salesman, tough noogies," he actually said. "They should stop saying similar things."

We're joined today by one of those paranoiac conspiracist PhD's on today's program. Our guest is DR. PHILIP STARK, Professor at University of California, Berkeley; inventor of the post-election Risk-Limiting Audit protocol; Advisory Board member at the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) and advisor to plaintiffs in the long-running Curling v. Raffensperger lawsuit in Georgia seeking to replace the state's new vulnerable and unverifiable touchscreen voting systems with verifiable hand-marked paper ballots. (The same plaintiffs in the same federal lawsuit were able to win an order from the judge in 2019 that banned the state's previous touchscreen systems made by Diebold after they were found to be so vulnerable and unverifiable as to be unconstitutional.)

Stark has a few choice words of his own in response to both the obnoxious and un-scientific remarks from the Sec. of State's office as well as Dominion, both of whom have been blasting the damning Halderman Report, as created on behalf of plaintiffs in Curling and finding at least nine alarming vulnerabilities confirmed by CISA in the Dominion systems. Both the State and private voting system vendor claim that the Univ. of MI's Dr. Alex Halderman failed to take into account, in his report, the physical protections of the state's 70,000 vote system devices. They believe that will adequately protect next year's Presidential election in the battleground state. In doing so, they seem to be pretending that the Coffee County breach by Team Trump in 2021 didn't already run roughshod over the state's voting systems, including by copying and distributing its sensitive, proprietary software over the Internet.

"If [Raffensperger's] spokesperson can't tell the difference between what we're saying and what the [MAGA] group is saying, then they are not competent to do their job," charges Stark.

"There is a world of difference between 'This system is Swiss cheese from a perspective of security, it's really vulnerable and you need to harden it,' and 'The election was rigged and the wrong person was announced to have won.' That's just not the same claim at all. Secondly, the idea that we should stop pointing out vulnerabilities and trying to improve the trustworthiness of voting systems because someone might twist our words --- the argument seems to be 'You should lie to people in order to increase their trust in you' --- that seems to be perverse. What we want is justified public trust in the outcome of elections."

He summarizes some of the most noteworthy concerns from the Halderman Report --- detailing the ease by which malware can be implanted into the system by a single voter via any one of the state's 35,000 touchscreen voting machines or by one person at the County level who can infect every machine in the jurisdiction --- before explaining how inadequate and naive the Secretary's responses have been.

Both Raff's office and Dominion cite a competing study to Halderman's commissioned by Dominion from a group named MITRE. Their unsigned report was created without access to the Dominion machines, unlike Halderman's report, and offers the misleading claim that physical security of the voting systems is likely adequate to prevent exploitation of the vulnerabilities meticulously documented by Halderman. Stark is among nearly 30 election experts now calling on MITRE to retract their report on that basis and others.

"First of all, they're just wrong," Stark charges, wondering what their instructions may have been from Dominion. "I conjecture that they were told to assume that those [physical] protections were in place. I doubt that they did any independent research to determine whether in fact there were effective protections in place."

"I liken this to saying it's completely fine to drive a car on bald tires, as long as you have a policy of only driving straight on dry pavement and never turning sharply, or applying the brakes. Except that's not how it actually works in practice. And here, it's very, very clear that the assumption that there is rigorous physical security around these devices is just not true."

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Prof. Richard DeMillo of Georgia Tech's College of Cybersecurity; Also: MI's failed SoS candidate, now state GOP chair, sanctioned for bogus 2022 election lawsuit in Detroit...
By Brad Friedman on 6/14/2023 6:15pm PT  

We have been reporting for at least two years now on the analysis by the plaintiffs' expert in a Georgia voting system lawsuit said to reveal vulnerabilities so alarming that the U.S. District Court judge overseeing the federal case actually sealed the report, even from the plaintiffs themselves! On today's BradCast, that report is finally unsealed. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

But, first up, just a quick reminder of what some folks on the right seem willing to do to try and game elections anyway they can possibly think of, even if it involves the Republican candidate for Secretary of State in Michigan using nonsense claims to sue to prevent voters in the state's largest city (Detroit) from being allowed to vote by mail. That's what Trump-endorsed SoS candidate Kristina Karamo did last year, before losing to the incumbent Sec. of State Jocelyn Benson by nearly 15 points. After losing, the conspiracy theorist Karamo "failed up" to be elected as GOP state chair. And, this week, she and several top state Republican lawyers and candidates were sanctioned for more than $58,000 for their wildly frivolous attempt to use the state courts to steal the 2022 election.

Meanwhile, some of us actual election integrity advocates continue to fight for actual election integrity that doesn't prevent any legal voter from casting a vote, and that attempts to make sure that all of those votes are known to have been counted as per every voter's intent.

Which brings us back to Georgia once again today, and the lawsuit that we have been covering for years now. In 2019 it resulted in a federal judge banning the state's 20-year old Diebold touchscreens after finding them to be (as we'd long argued), insecure and unverifiable. Shamefully, the state's Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger defied the no-uncertain-terms advice from the nation's top voting system and cybersecurity experts and replaced them with new unverifiable touchscreen systems in 2020, rather than a simple, inexpensive, verifiable hand-marked paper ballot systems. Instead, Raffensperger purchased a $150 million touchscreen system made by Dominion with many of the very same vulnerabilities as the state's old Diebold touchscreens.

Frequent BradCast guest, Marilyn Marks of Coalition for Good Governance, a plaintiff in the case that succeeded in banning the old Diebold systems, expanded the suit to challenge Raffensperger's new Dominion systems, seeking to ban them as well (other than for disabled voters who wish to use them) in favor of hand-marked paper ballots. The expert for plaintiffs in the so-called Curling case, Dr. J. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan, was then allowed to examine the new Dominion touchscreen Ballot Marking Device (BMD) systems. His report, however, finding multiple vulnerabilities was said to be so damning that it was sealed by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg and kept from both plaintiffs and the public for the past two years.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) --- which oversees the nation's critical infrastructure, including computerized voting and tabulation systems --- was allowed to review Halderman's sealed report last year. They were so alarmed they issued an advisory citing “vulnerabilities...that should be mitigated as soon as possible.” And yet, as we reported exclusively on The BradCast last month, even though Dominion has now completed and certified the necessary upgrades, Raffensperger's office has told Judge Totenberg that they plan to wait until 2025 --- after the critical 2024 Presidential election in the battleground state --- to install the security enhancements on the state's 35,000 voting machines and more than 35,000 printers, scanners, and election management computers that support them.

All of that is made even more alarming by the fact that the day after the January 6th 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol --- as we have also been reporting on in detail over the past year --- a group of MAGA folks, organized by Trump attorney Sidney Powell, were allowed by members of Georgia's Republican Party and the Coffee County Board of Elections to breach the Dominion voting systems in the small rural county to make unlawful copies of the system software before distributing it over the Internet. It was part of a multi-state scheme that we now know to have been hatched in Trump's Oval Office in December of 2020. The matter is believed to be under investigation as part of the broad conspiracy probe by Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis into Trump's efforts to steal the state's election in 2020. But, in the meantime, the Coffee County breach has allowed these lawless rightwingers to find and potentially plan to exploit all of the vulnerabilities that Halderman discovered and lawfully documented two years ago.

These same flawed Dominion systems are also now used in more than a dozen states, though only Georgia mandates that every county use the same system and requires that every voter at every polling place cast their vote on one of these terrible, unverifiable touchscreens.

Which brings us to today's very big news. The U.S. District Judge overseeing the Curling case has finally allowed Halderman's report to be unsealed! It is now posted here along with a simplified, summarized analysis of his own report that he has now published here. The Coalition for Good Governance's press release and additional context on the unsealing is here. (They all take care to note that Halderman's report neither alleges nor supports any claims of election fraud in the 2020 election.)

Among just some of the report's disturbing findings, according to Halderman today: "We discovered vulnerabilities in nearly every part of the system ... The most critical problem we found is [a] vulnerability that can be exploited to spread malware from a county's central election management system to every BMD [touchscreen Ballot Marking Device] in the jurisdiction. This makes it possible to attack the BMDs at scale, over a wide area, without needing physical access to any of them."

He adds, "Our report explains how attackers could exploit the flaws we found to change votes or potentially even affect election outcomes in Georgia."

One vulnerability allows an attacker to simply place a USB drive into a slot to install malicious code that could modify the election definition file to change election results. Another allows voters to print as many ballots as they like. Another allows malware to change both QRCodes printed on the ballots, which are used by the system to tally votes, and to even change the text of the printed ballots themselves.

We're joined today to discuss all of this by longtime cybersecurity and voting system expert RICHARD DEMILLO, professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he recently founded Georgia Tech's new School of Cybersecurity and Privacy. He formerly served as Chief Technology Officer at Hewlett-Packard, in a leadership position at the National Science Foundation, and on the board of the Verified Voting Foundation. He has also advised plaintiffs in the Curling case.

"What we learned," from Halderman's report, he tells me today, "is that these voting machines are approximately like every other computer that we have in our daily lives. They don't work all the time, they're subject to being hacked, they get misconfigured easily, they get lost, they get stolen, sometimes people use them for illegal activities. And all the assurances that we have from voting machine companies and Secretaries of State --- about how well these machines are curated, vetted and tested --- is what experts have known all along as just a bunch of crap."

"The level of naivete, I think, involved in managing this technology is mind-boggling," DeMillo argues, citing Raffensperger's resistance to hardening the systems --- or, better yet, moving to hand-marked paper ballots --- "as a personal affront to his abilities."

"The headline here is that the things that you worry about --- and, kind of embarrassingly, the things that the election deniers are setting their hair on fire about --- is pretty close to what the vulnerability is. With modest capabilities, someone who had resources could attack, in the case of Georgia on a statewide basis, and install malware that could change votes."

"The Sec. of State's office in Georgia is tied emotionally to this idea of Ballot Marking Devices," says DeMillo. "You would think that saner minds would prevail and they would step back and say 'Why don't we move to a technology that is safer? We know how to manage the risk that is hand-marked paper ballots.' Which, by the way, 70% of Americans use to cast their votes anyway."

So, will unsealing Halderman's report make the system more vulnerable or less so? That, and much more, is part of today's must-listen conversation with DeMillo...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Marilyn Marks of Coalition for Good Governance on that and new fake electors news; Also: Santos charged with 13 federal felonies...
By Brad Friedman on 5/10/2023 6:27pm PT  

It's been quite the GOP crime wave this week on The BradCast. But today, in addition to that we've got some disturbing --- if not entirely unrelated --- kinda mind-blowing exclusive news out of a federal courtroom in the great state of Georgia. [Audio link to full show follows at the bottom of this summary.]

After quickly covering today's news on the 13-count federal indictment [PDF] filed in New York against Rep. George Santos (R-NY) for charges including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to Congress, it's back to Georgia.

We have, for years now, been covering the long-running federal lawsuit challenging the use of the state's expensive, unverifiable, and --- according to one of the nation's top experts --- wildly vulnerable and insecure touchscreen voting systems.

The touchscreen Ballot Marking Device (BMD) systems made by Dominion Voting, currently in use in Georgia, were selected for use in 2020 by Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger. He did so against the strong recommendations of cybersecurity and voting system experts following a ruling by a federal judge, in 2019, barring the further use of the state's previous touchscreen voting systems made by Diebold. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg found the previous systems to be unverifiable, insecure and, thus, unconstitutional. Unfortunately, instead of moving to a hand-marked paper ballot system at the time, as strongly recommended by experts, Raffensperger chose new touchscreen systems that had many of the same problems as the old ones.

The plaintiffs in the original federal case, Curling v. Raffensperger, quickly moved to bar the Dominion systems from being forced on every voter at every polling place in the state, as Raffensperger demanded. That suit continues. As part of it, Dr. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan, an expert for the plaintiffs, was allowed to examine the Dominion touchscreen systems and found vulnerabilities so serious that Judge Totenberg sealed his complete findings, even from the plaintiffs! The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), however, was allowed to review Halderman's sealed report and made a list of critical software and physical security recommendations for the continued use of those systems in the battleground state.

Now, according to the transcript [PDF] from a hearing in Judge Totenberg's court last week in the Curling case, an attorney for the Sec. of State's office explained that while Dominion has completed CISA's recommended upgrades to the software and has had them certified for use by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) in late March, the state will not be installing those software upgrades until after the 2024 Presidential election.

As explained to the judge by the State's attorney Bryan Tyson, after spending hours "with the technical staff in the Secretary's office" and "hearing from folks with Dominion", it was determined that upgrades to the state's 35,000 touchscreen voting machines would be delayed until 2025.

"No jurisdiction has yet installed that upgrade...It has not been used in any election yet," Tyson told Judge Totenberg. "The upgrade process is a very intensive multistep process that involves multiple pieces of media, multiple components, and it involves touching every piece of the election system."

He explained that "every ballot-marking device has to have three different pieces of media installed on it to complete the upgrade. Every precinct scanner has to be upgraded. Every central count scanner has to be upgraded. And every election management server also has to either be replaced or upgraded. So, the implementation process for doing that is very involved."

According to our guest today, MARILYN MARKS of the Coalition for Good Governance, one of the plaintiffs in the Curling case, plaintiffs were stunned by the news. "You could hear gasps in the courtroom," she tells us today. "2025?! Immediately everyone thought, 'Presidential election, Georgia swing state.' We will have no way of knowing who won. And let's don't forget how much of a tinderbox Georgia was after the 2020 election. I believe it was a key part of the tinderbox that led to the insurrection. We're asking for it again."

There is, obviously, a lot to discuss on this matter with Marks today, including the most obvious point that, had Raffensperger listened to the experts and gone with hand-marked paper ballots, upgrading just one scanner per precinct for security reasons would have been a hell of a lot easier, faster, and cheaper, than upgrading every single voting machine --- 35,000 of them --- across the state.

"And we're not even beginning to talk about all of the warranty costs, maintenance costs, and printer costs and all that this system involves, when we're talking about just being a substitute for a ball-point pen," laments Marks. In addition to the time the State claims it will now take, she estimates the cost for upgrading the otherwise brand-new, $150 million system just purchased for first-time use in 2020 is likely to be in the tens of millions of dollars. "I don't think that $50 million and upwards is going to surprise anyone."

So, there is much more to discuss about all of this with Marks. Please tune in for the full conversation. But there was one more stunning bit of related breaking news from Marks today...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---




Guest: Jamie Corey of Documented; Also: RW culture war issues bombing at polls; Disney sues DeSantis; Nunes' suits tossed by Trump judge...
By Brad Friedman on 4/26/2023 6:33pm PT  

Today on The BradCast: Their positions on actual issues are wildly unpopular. Their phony culture war issues are bombing. Is it any wonder the GOP's best chance may now simply be to prevent their opponents from being able to cast a vote at all?

On today's program...

MICKEY MOUSE GOVERNOR: The Walt Disney Co. sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis today in response to "a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials." That, after the company dared oppose the official state position in favor of banning free speech in schools.

COW GOES MOO: A Donald Trump-appointed federal judge has tossed out libel lawsuits filed by doofus Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) against an Esquire journalist and its publisher for reporting that the wingnut former Congressman turned Trump social media CEO's family farm "knowingly" employed hundreds of undocumented workers. The judge found the reporting to to be "substantially, objectively true." Almost all 10 of the similarly ill-considered suits Nunes filed against perceived opponents in 2019 have now been dismissed. Only two of them, against anonymous Twitter accounts named "Devin Nunes' Mom" and "Devin Nunes' Cow" remain.

BOARD SILLY: While progressives scored big in marquee contests during the April 4 elections --- liberals won a majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court for the first time in 15 years, and former teacher and union member Brandon Johnson became Chicago's mayor --- far-right MAGA school board candidates running on phony culture war issues "flamed out", according to Politico, in both Illinois and Wisconsin. They didn't do much better last November, even in "red" states like Missouri and Oklahoma. But GOP operatives apparently plan to keep choking the same chicken in elections later this year and in 2024, even as voters appear to prefer funding schools and keeping kids safe at them, over banning books, stifling free speech, and cancelling LGBTQ kids.

WOULDA WON BUT FOR THOSE MEDDLING (VOTING) KIDS!: Last week, longtime GOP attorney and vote suppressor Cleta Mitchell was caught in an audio recording obtained by Undercurrents' Lauren Windsor at a GOP donor event in Nashville, discussing plans to "combat" young voters by preventing them from voting on campuses in Virginia, North Carolina and elsewhere. She even vowed that Republican lawmakers may be able to eliminate 45 days of early voting and same day voter registration if they played their cards right, and kept giving money to her insidiously named "Election Integrity Network". If Mitchell's name is familiar, it's because she was on that infamous January 2021 phone call with Donald Trump hoping to strong-arm the Georgia Sec. of State into "finding" 11,000 votes to steal the state's Presidential election from Joe Biden.

SEND IN THE CLOWNS: It's bad enough to push secret vote suppression schemes to GOP donors. It's reprehensible for top state Republican election officials to participate in such schemes. But that's exactly what happened at a so-called "Secretaries of State Conference" sponsored by the far-right Heritage Foundation and other anti-democracy groups in February. Documented, a nonprofit watchdog organization, obtained the agenda for the secret conference in which only Republican Secretaries of State were invited to participate.

It was led by longtime, notorious GOP "Voter Fraud" fraudsters and liars like Hans Von Spakovsky, J. Christian Adams, J. Kenneth Blackwell and perhaps most shamefully, current U.S. Election Assistance Commissioner Donald Palmer (appointed to the bipartisan federal agency by Trump). They all schemed with top election officials from 13 GOP-controlled states --- including the chief election officials from Indiana, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia --- in a secret, off-the-record two-day confab.

We're joined today to discuss this appalling revelation by JAMIE COREY, a Senior Researcher at Documented who, with The Guardian's Ed Pilkington, exposed the entire pathetic affair, which, as Von Spakovsky insisted in an email she obtained, was "not a public event. It is a private, confidential meeting of the secretaries." --- Well, the Republican ones anyway, the ones who are supposed to run both state and federal elections in a non-partisan way.

"According to the event invitation we obtained, this is actually the sixth year in a row that they've held this event," says Corey. "And they have privately bragged --- Hans has --- to donors that they are excited that it's just for conservative Secretaries of State. No Democrats allowed."

"Voters should be concerned when you have election officials participating in a private, confidential meeting with former Trump associates, top voter suppression proponents, and groups who have been actively pushing false claims around elections," she explains. "As the agenda pointed out, there was a cocktail reception and dinner after the first day of substantive sessions wrapped up. So what you have there is top election officials, who are going to be overseeing the 2024 Presidential Election in their respective states, wining and dining with all these problematic people."

WHAT'S GOING ON?: Finally, after a few breaking news headlines, we're joined by Desi Doyen for our latest Green News Report as the Biden EPA launches a landmark effort to curb power plant carbon pollution; as Earth hits grim new records; as President Biden opens an office of environmental justice in the White House; and as the U.S. Supreme Court does something right for a rare change. Are they okay?

SHOW NOTE!: We're off tomorrow for unavoidable reasons. As Tucker Carlson once said, see ya next week!...

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Guest: Marilyn Marks of Coalition for Good Governance on that and MUCH more; Also: Stone takes the 5th; Judge allows Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation case to proceed against Fox 'News' ...
By Brad Friedman on 12/17/2021 7:25pm PT  

It's been a rough close of the year for those of us fighting to preserve democracy in these United States against the rising authoritarian tide from the Right. But while it's has been a tough slog for passage of federal voting rights and election protection legislation in the U.S. Senate, there have been several critical victories for fans of democracy in federal court over this past week, as covered on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

First up, some quick news on the continuing probe by the U.S. House Select Committee investigating Donald Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election by inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. GOP dirty tricksters and longtime Trump pal Roger Stone invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination before the Committee today. While Stone is the first to admit to doing so publicly, he is the third Trump henchman to reportedly have done so to date. In 2019, Stone was convicted of seven criminal felonies, including lying to Congress and obstructing the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, before eventually being pardoned for all charges by Trump on his way out of office.

The House Committee appears to now be homing in on the question of, in Vice Chair Liz Cheney's words: "Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress's official proceedings to count Electoral Votes." If so, and if charged with and found guilty of said action or inaction, the former President could face as many as 20 years in prison under federal law.

Fox "News", on the other hand, is already in federal court, facing a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit by the Dominion Voting Systems company. On Thursday, a federal judge denied the Republican propaganda outlet's Motion to Dismiss the case. That is a major hurdle for the private voting system vendor to have cleared, allowing their case to move on to the discovery and trial phase. Both Dominion and another private election vendor, Smartmatic, have filed several defamation suits against Fox and other rightwing media outlets, as well as Trump lawyers and allies such as Rudy Giuliani [PDF], Sidney Powell [PDF] and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell [PDF], for their false claims that Dominion and Smartmatic stole the election for Joe Biden. Giuliani, Powell and Lindell's Motions to Dismiss in their similar defamation suits, in which the voting companies are seeking more than a billion dollars in each, were all rejected over the summer.

Next, more good court news came in late last week in the eight different lawsuits now filed challenging the state of Georgia's voter-suppression and election subversion law known as SB202. The measure was adopted by state Republicans earlier in the year on the heels of Trump's evidence-free claim that the 2020 election he lost to Biden in the Peach State was rigged, and after the elections of the state's Democratic U.S. Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the January runoff.

Late last week the Trump-appointed judge overseeing all eight challenges to SB202, allowed all of them to proceed in full, rejecting the Motions to Dismiss filed by the State and Republican groups that have joined the defendants. Seven of those suits, including those filed by the NAACP, ACLU, Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight organization and the U.S. Dept. of Justice, focus largely on race-based violations of the Voting Rights Act.

The eighth case, filed by the Coalition for Good Governance [PDF], in which I am a named plaintiff representing media, challenges SB202's election subversion clause and several others which, the suit contends, violate the First Amendment of the Constitution. SB202's election subversion clause allows the State Board of Elections to replace county elections officials with partisans, for virtually any reason they like, who can then overturn elections, also for virtually any reason they like. Other provisions of the law challenged by CGG prevent the public and media outlets like our own, from basic election oversight and reporting functions that have been in place for decades if not centuries, such as the right to photograph inside of polling places or during the tallying of absentee ballots.

Earlier this year, in August, U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee granted an injunction [PDF] on SB202's photography ban in advance of Georgia's November municipal elections. But his ruling last week [PDF] was much broader in allowing all eight challenges to the law to proceed in full toward the discovery and trial phases. It was, as my guest explains today, a major victory for all of the plaintiffs.

We're joined today by MARILYN MARKS, Executive Director of the non-partisan Coalition for Good Governance, to discuss the good news in that case, new developments in her separate, longstanding case challenging the use of Georgia's new, 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting machines made by Dominion Voting Systems and much MUCH more. We haven't spoken on air with Marks, usually a frequent guest, in about six months! So we've got a LOT to catch up with today!

Among the many points in our wide-ranging conversation...

  • Marks offers her reaction to Fox "News" losing its Motion to Dismiss in Dominion's defamation case against them; the conflicting emotions in supporting Dominion in their defamation cases, given that likely nobody in the nation has been tougher on Dominion's terrible voting systems than she has been; and why it is that, as unrelenting as she's been against Dominion for so many years (The Coalition's lawsuit seeks to ban their touchscreen systems across the entire state), the company has never sued her or her organization for defamation.
  • Speaking of the Coalition's case against GA's use of the Dominion touchscreens (which is separate from their SB202 challenge), Marks updates us on a report created for the court by plaintiff's expert Dr. Alex Halderman, finding vulnerabilities in Dominion's voting systems that are so disturbing the federal judge has sealed his report as for "Attorneys Eyes Only," meaning that even Marks has not been allowed to see it But, she notes, Dominion now has access to that report. If so, as we discuss, that means that, under California law (where several counties also use these same terrible systems), the company must now share the vulnerabilities in that sealed report with California's Sec. of State. In turn, CA must then report the vulnerabilities to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. (The report by Halderman and the vulnerabilities he allegedly found became an issue here in the Golden State earlier this year, just prior to the California Gubernatorial Recall election in September, after Dominon's central Election Management System software was apparently stolen and duplicated under the auspices of a rightwing Mesa County, Colorado election official and released to the Internet during Mike Lindell's failed "Cybersecurity Symposium" in South Dakota.) It is unknown if Dominion has yet to share Halderman's report with the CA Sec. of State, as per state law. Marks notes that Halderman has said the vulnerabilities are "even more serious" than those found in the older Diebold touchscreens GA used to use, before they were banned by this same lawsuit and replaced with the vulnerable Dominion systems. "Dominion has to inform the California Sec. of State within 30 days of getting reports of defects, failures, etc.," she explains, "So yes, it should be happening soon."
  • Marks details why "it was a big victory" that Judge Boulee allowed all of the SB202 cases to proceed, including the one filed by the Coalition. She details how her group's challenge to SBS202 is very different from the other seven that the judge allowed to proceed as well, while he suggested that some of the overlapping cases may be combined in the days ahead. She notes that, despite being a Trump appointee, he appears to be doing a very thorough job of overseeing all of the cases, including points made by both plaintiffs and defendants alike.
  • She clarifies how even if SB202 is struck down in full, state law in Georgia would still allow much of the recent purging of Black Democratic elections officials from county boards of elections, as we discussed with one of those purged, longtime county election officials and voting rights leaders Helen Butler of The People's Agenda on the show earlier in the week. "Unfortunately, you and Helen are right about that," Marks confirms.
  • We discuss --- and have a minor difference of opinion --- regarding a recently dismissed lawsuit in Georgia that challenged the state's 2020 election results. That case, filed by a group named VoterGA, alleged thousands of fraudulent ballots were included in the 2020 results. It was dismissed in recent weeks for reasons of standing that both Marks and I find questionable. Our small disagreement is related to my argument that the case should have been allowed to proceed because, even if VoterGA's complaint was based on false claims of fraud, those who question election results (even those conned by a lying, disgraced former President) ought to be able to examine election results and ballots for themselves, as long as they pay the costs for the exercise and ballots are taken out of the secure custody of elections officials. (That, in contrast to the what we saw earlier this year in the Cyber Ninjas' clown show "audit" in Maricopa County, Arizona.) Marks, a longtime, huge advocate for transparency and public oversight of elections supports that idea, but notes that VoterGA failed to seek such oversight during the period when they could have done so under state law. Further, she explains, the group failed to join earlier efforts to the election to change state law in order to declare paper ballots and digital ballot images to be official public records, fully reviewable by citizens and groups like VoterGA and the Coalition for Good Governance.
  • Finally, Marks also offers her reaction to the recently discovered news that Trump attorney and longtime GOP "voter fraud" fraudster Cleta Mitchell, had been quietly named to an Advisory Board for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) earlier this year. Her appointment in April was not publicly reported until November. Mitchell participated from the White House on Trump's infamous January 2nd phone call with GA Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger when the desperate, outgoing President attempted to bully Raffensperger, urging him to "find" enough votes to steal the election for him in the Peach State. The EAC, meanwhile, which Mitchell is now advising, is responsible for certifying voting systems used in the U.S. and helps states and counties on regulations and best practices for federal elections.

There is a lot of important information about elections and election integrity in today's conversation with Marks. Though we better not wait another six months to do it again or we'll have to have a three hour show!...

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Trump lawyers sanctioned, will face disbarment probes; Capitol officers sue Trump; Terror suspect sentenced in MI Guv kidnap plot; House files massive 1/6 records requests; TX AG Paxton clears TX AG Paxton; More...
By Brad Friedman on 8/26/2021 6:57pm PT  

Donald Trump tried to steal the 2020 election. We really must stop describing his efforts and those by his supporters as "questioning the results" or "claiming fraud" or "trying to overturn the election." The fact is, Trump tried to steal it. He used every means at his disposal to try and do so. Thankfully, he is largely a failure at pretty much everything, so it didn't work, though we now know it came exceedingly close. So, let's start calling it for what it is: An unprecedented attempted by a President of the United States to try and steal a Presidential election. To that end, accountability is now happening. Slowly but quite assuredly, along with a number of other related accountability stories on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Among the stories covered on today's program...

  • Some of the breaking news on today's terror attack at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan, which killed at least 13 U.S. service members and 60 Afghans and seriously injured many more. ISIS-K, an off-shoot of the Islamic State and an enemy of the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the attack by two suicide bombers. If anything, Thursday's tragedy amidst the largest airlift in U.S. history --- following the swift takeover of the country by the Taliban --- simply serves to underscore even further why the U.S. pullout must continue, and why we certainly shouldn't have been there for 20 years (if at all);
  • In much less horrific news, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) released its 2020 post-election survey [PDF] of various voting and election-related data from all 50 states last year. While The Guardian's Sam Levine characterizes the report as proving the election was "a remarkable success", we explain why that may be a bit of an overstatement. That said, the data does reveal yet again that, while there were far too many rejections of absentee and mail-in ballots (as is always the case, but especially amid pandemic voting last year), there is still no evidence at all to even suggest that the Presidential election was stolen in any way, shape or form by Joe Biden, the Democrats or anyone else. Not that Donald Trump didn't try (and fail) to do exactly that, of course;
  • In much brighter related news, a federal judge in Michigan on Wednesday brought some serious accountability down on nine of the Trump attorneys, including Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, who both helped Trump try to steal the 2020 election by filing fraudulent lawsuits, in this case in Michigan, fraudulently claiming that the election was stolen, using fraudulent claims about fraud. All nine lawyers were excoriated by U.S. District Court Judge Linda V. Parker's scathing 110-page order [PDF], which should (hopefully) end each of the attorneys' careers as officers of the court. Parker mandated the Trump lawyers pay attorneys fees accrued by the city of Detroit and state of Michigan in defending against the "frivolous" so-called "Kraken" lawsuit; take 12 hours of legal classes each (including 6 on Election Law); and, most importantly, face investigations for possible suspension and/or disbarment by legal authorities in each of their home states;
  • More accountability for Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election, specifically for the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol that he incited as part of that effort. Seven Capitol Police officers on Thursday filed a lawsuit [PDF] against Trump, several far-right extremist groups charged with aiding the deadly plot, and even against Trump associates like Roger Stone. It is, as the New York Times describes it, "the most expansive civil effort to date seeking to hold Mr. Trump and his allies legally accountable." Trump is already facing two other similar lawsuits filed by the NAACP and by Rep. Eric Swalwell. But, no doubt, the disgraced former President and his supporters will see this new complaint differently, because it is filed by police officers and, as you know, Republicans always "back the blue", right?;
  • That lawsuit follows just one day after the bi-partisan U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6th attack issued a massive series of records requests to at least 8 different federal agencies for documents related to Trump's movements, actions and meetings on January 6th, and in the weeks and months both before and after. The requests were sent to, among others, the FBI, Dept. of Homeland Security and National Archives, where Presidential White House records are stored. Trump is apparently livid about the effort, describing it as a "partisan exercise" being carried out by a "Leftist" House Committee. (That may come as a surprise to "Leftist" Committee members Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger);
  • In still more accountability news today, tangentially related to Trump's attempt to steal last year's election in Michigan: The sentence for the first domestic terrorist, among some 13 charged in the plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year, was handed down on Wednesday. A 25-year old man who, according to Justice Department prosecutors, cooperated with the investigation after initially pleading not guilty, changed his plea and was sentenced to more than 6 years in prison on charges of providing material support for terrorist acts and felony firearms charges. The failed conspiracy, according to the FBI and Whitmer, sprang from Trump's attempt to vilify the Governor for her science-based handling of the COVID pandemic, in a year in which Trump was willing to say and do anything to win the important battleground state. (He lost it by 150,000 votes instead);
  • In accountability news only spiritually related to Trump, a federal appeals court declined to overturn the sentence of the man who killed nine Black parishioners at the Emanuel Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. The now-27-year old avowed white supremacist is the first person charged with a death sentence for committing a federal hate crime. While accountability is great, a life sentence would have been sufficient. Killing people is bad, as some of us learned even before Kindergarten. Apparently, the U.S. Government has yet to do so;
  • Only politically related to Trump, the Republican state Attorney General in South Dakota, Jason Ravnsborg, who fatally struck a pedestrian last year and left him to die, decided to take a plea deal rather than begin his trial today. Nonetheless, as of airtime, despite the hit and run fatality, Ravnsborg was still in office as the state's top law enforcement official;
  • And, in related corrupt Republican state Attorney General news, definitely politically related to Trump, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is also still in office. That, despite being charged with multiple felonies for securities fraud some time ago (and, so far, evading trial on those years-old, but still-pending indictments); facing potential disbarment by the State Bar of Texas for his attempt to help Trump steal the election with a bogus, fraudulent, rejected lawsuit filed with the U.S. Supreme Court to try and overturn results in four non-Texas states; and under investigation by the FBI after 7 top staffers in his office quit and filed a legal complaint detailing how AG Paxton was involved in a serious bribery and abuse of power scheme involving protection for one of his top donors and a scheme that involved having the man give a job to his mistress. Well, on that federal investigation, AG Paxton had some good news this week! In an unsigned 374-page report [PDF] published by AG Paxton's office on AG Paxton's letterhead, AG Paxton's own internal investigation found that "AG Paxton’s actions were lawful" and that "AG Paxton committed no crime". Phew! That was close! I'm sure the FBI is calling off their probe, even as we speak.
  • Finally, as a late brewing potential major hurricane (Ida) spins toward the Gulf Coast for possible landfall over the weekend, Desi Doyen joins us today for our latest Green News Report, with a suspiciously inordinate amount of encouraging news. But don't worry, there are a few items of the usual catastrophic nature GNR is known for as well. We'd hate to leave anyone disappointed...

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Guest: Election security expert Susan Greenhalgh of plaintiff Free Speech for People; Also: Senate Dems announce deal for 'transformative' $3.5 trillion health care, climate, infrastructure package...
By Brad Friedman on 7/14/2021 6:28pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Senate Dems strike a very big deal and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission gets sued again, this time for rolling back voting system standards after secret, unlawful meetings with the manufacturers they are supposed to be regulating. [Audio link to show is posted below.]

First up, in what is being reported as potentially "transformative" legislation for the country, Senate Democrats on Tuesday night announced they had come to an agreement on a deal that would invest $3.5 trillion into the expansion of Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, child care and a host of other "human infrastructure" priorities, while also addressing climate change with a broad array of clean energy incentives. The blueprint for the agreement still lacks specific legislative language, but was struck after weeks of work in the Senate Budget Committee chaired by Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Democratic Committee members, such as centrist Mark Warner of Virginia, are also said to be on board with the package, which would be paid for by increased taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year and on large corporations. If all Senate Dems agree to the final bill and no more than 4 Democrats defect in the House, the measure could be adopted under Senate Reconciliation rules with a simple majority vote without the need for any Republicans.

Passage of that package, along with adoption of the smaller bipartisan nearly $600 billion proposal recently hashed out among moderate Senators on more traditional infrastructure spending, such as for roads and bridges, would amount to a massive victory for Democrats (presuming Republicans do not renege on their part of the agreement) and, more importantly, for jobs, families the climate and the American people as a whole. It would be the largest such spending package since the New Deal. We walk through some of the reported details of the new reconciliation package and what it may mean for Americans before the 2022 mid-term elections.

And, speaking of elections, earlier this year we reported on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC)'s secret and unlawful meetings last year with voting system vendors, as discovered by SUSAN GREENHALGH, longtime election integrity advocate and Senior Advisor on Election Security at the non-partisan government watchdog group, Free Speech for People (FSFP). As she revealed at the time, the EAC's meetings, even with vendors, are all supposed to be public, according to the federal Help American Vote Act (HAVA). Her group was forced to sue to make the EAC cough up emails and other records detailing the secret vendor meetings. Most disturbingly, the EAC's Commissioners made alarming changes to newly drafted voting system certification guidelines just after those meetings.

The EAC is the federal agency responsible for creating certification guidelines for the nation's voting and tabulation systems. After a painstaking 5-year process in public consultation with technical advisors and other experts, the final draft of the much-needed and long-awaited Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) 2.0 was released last year. It included, among other important elements, a ban on wireless modems in voting and tabulation systems. Cybersecurity experts applauded the provision, after long warning of the dangers of such devices in systems that register, record and tabulate the nation's votes.

After the EAC's secret meetings with voting system vendors last year, however, the agency weakened the new guidelines --- removing, for instance, the ban against wireless modems --- and revealed an amended, watered-down version just days before Commissioners voted for final approval of the new standards. Experts were stunned. Now Greenhalgh's FSFP is suing the EAC again, along with co-plaintiff Philip Stark, an elections expert from UC-Berkeley and a member of the EAC's own Board of Advisors (as well as a recent guest on this program). The complaint [PDF] calls for the EAC to roll back the last minute changes made to the guidelines after they secretly met with the voting system manufacturers.

Greenhalgh joins us to explain all of this latest madness, what it could mean for election security, why the EAC made these changes and continue to roll over for the vendors they are supposed to be regulating, and to discuss the perils of the woeful EAC's under-handed changes at a time when cyberattacks are on the rise and confidence in election results (justifiably or not) is plummeting.

"Rather than being an independent source of information regarding voting systems, the EAC is going to the vendors to ask them the questions and understand how the systems work. And, of course, the vendors aren't going to say, 'Yeah, this is highly insecure, we shouldn't be doing this,'" Greenhalgh explains.

"It's mind blowing to me," Greenhalgh tells me, when I ask if the EAC Commissioners fully understand the security risks involved in allowing the modems that vendors want in their systems (for reasons she also explains.) "You would think they'd want to err on the side of caution, they would want to err on the side of security. And if there was a good reason to allow this, then why not have this process out in the open where they can make the case to the public as to why 'we think this is a secure way to go.'? Instead they did the whole thing behind closed doors, in a super shady manner. Doesn't engender a lot of confidence." 

Finally today, in addition to the Dems' massive new infrastructure proposal announced on Tuesday night, Senate Democrats also unveiled a long-overdue, landmark proposal to finally legalize cannabis at the federal level. That bill, however, will require some Republicans to come aboard for passage, so we'll see how it goes...

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Guest: Susan Greenhalgh, Senior Election Security Advisor at Free Speech for People; Also: Officer killed in new U.S. Capitol attack; MLB pulls All-Star game out of GA; Boehner's message for Cruz...
By Brad Friedman on 4/2/2021 7:37pm PT  

We've got another sorry tale on today's BradCast of yet another federal "watchdog" agency clearly captured by the industry corporations that it is supposed to be overseeing and/or regulating. This time, democracy itself is at stake. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But first up today, we had quite a bit of breaking news just before airtime. For a start, the U.S. Capitol was locked down on Friday after two Capitol Police officers were rammed in a violent attack with a vehicle. One of the officers, an 18-year veteran, was killed. The other was said to be "fighting for his life" as of airtime. After ramming the officer, the assailant is said to have "lunged" at officers with a knife and was subsequently shot and killed. The assault was the most serious threat on the Capitol since the Donald Trump-incited insurrection on January 6th, which killed five, including one U.S. Capitol Police officer. Two more officers took their lives in the ensuing days after that attack by Trump supporters attempting to stop Congressional ratification of Joe Biden's 2020 Electoral College victory.

That attack --- and Trump's evidence-free Big Lie about his loss being the result of "fraud" --- continues to reverberate almost three months since the MAGA Mob's assault on U.S. democracy. Last week, Georgia's Republican-dominated state legislature adopted a massive voter suppression bill that will make it more difficult to vote by, among other things, requiring additional forms of ID for mail voting, limiting absentee ballot drop-boxes and early voting hours, and banning the distribution of food or beverages to voters forced to wait hours on line. It would also allow partisan GOP officials to undermine County Boards of Election and even overturn results. The state's Governor, Brian Kemp (R), signed the sweeping bill almost immediately after it passed both chambers of the state legislature in a matter of hours.

This week, after some 70 Black corporate executives spoke out against the transparent attempt to making voting more difficult for minorities in the state, a cascade of other corporate entities --- including Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola, both based in Atlanta --- finally decided to speak out in favor of democracy and against voter suppression. And then, on Friday, shortly before today's show, Major League Baseball announced they will be moving the All-Star Game and MLB Draft, previously set for July in Atlanta, to another state in response to the GOP attack on voting.

And, as Georgia Republicans pushed back on Delta Airlines this week for belatedly standing up for the right to vote, Gov. Kemp took his shot at the company by accusing its CEO of "false attacks" by claiming misleadingly in a statement: "The last time I flew Delta I had to show my ID."

But Kemp, the state's former Sec. of State, certainly knows that flying is a privilege, where voting is a right. He also likely knows that, no, an ID is not required to fly on Delta or any other airline. As clearly explained on the TSA.gov website...

In the event you arrive at the airport without valid identification...you may still be allowed to fly. The TSA officer may ask you to complete an identity verification process which includes collecting information such as your name, current address, and other personal information to confirm your identity. If your identity is confirmed, you will be allowed [to fly].

In the meantime, as to real --- versus imagined or opportunistic and partisan --- threats of fraud in our elections, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the federal agency tasked with overseeing voting system security standards, is continuing the woeful job it has done since its creation by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Since its inception, as we have documented at The BRAD BLOG for almost 20 years, the EAC has largely been captured by the private voting system vendors whose systems they are supposed to be testing, overseeing, regulating and certifying as meeting minimal standards.

For years, the EAC has consistently helped mislead the public regarding the dangers of modems inside of computer voting and tabulation systems. The EAC's original Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG), created about 15 years ago, allowed for use of the devices which cybersecurity experts have long warned can be used to introduce malware into systems that could disrupt elections or change results.

In August of 2019, as we detailed on the program at the time with cybsersecurity journalist Kim Zetter, a group of security and voting systems experts discovered "nearly three dozen backend election systems in 10 states connected to the internet over the last year, including some in critical swing states" such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida. In January of 2020, almost six months after Zetter's exclusive and disturbing report, Cynthia McFadden followed up with her own report at NBC News, in which, despite federal officials repeatedly and falsely declaring that "U.S. voting systems are never connected to the Internet," the President of the nation's largest vendor, Elections Systems and Software, Inc. (ES&S), conceded that at least 14,000 of the company's modems were being used in vulnerable voting and tabulation systems across the country, even as the 2020 election cycle was getting under way.

Nonetheless, over the last five years, the EAC has been working with stakeholders --- from elections officials to cybersecurity experts to vendors --- to develop new minimum security standards for the nation's voting systems, which they call VVSG 2.0. The good news is that the draft of those final standards for the VVSG 2.0, made available for public comment last Summer, included a ban on modems and other wireless communications devices in computerized voting and tabulation systems.

The bad news: After the public comment period and before the new standards were officially adopted by the EAC Commissioners, they apparently met in secret with several vendors and quietly changed the new standards to once again allow for modems and other wireless communications devices in new voting systems.

After the standards changed and weakened without public notice, the non-partisan government watchdog, Free Speech for People (FSFP), filed public records requests for documentation of the non-public meetings between EAC officials and the voting machine companies. Despite acknowledging hundreds of pages of existing documents responsive to the request, according to our guest today, the EAC failed to turn over any of it to the group. Now, FSFP is suing the EAC for those documents.

We're joined today by longtime election integrity advocate SUSAN GREENHALGH, Senior Advisor on Election Security at FSFP, to explain the organization's lawsuit [PDF], and the latest, extraordinary failure to protect our elections by the corporate-captured EAC.

"We have a real lack of leadership from the federal agency that's supposed to be helping assist election officials run election more efficiently, securely, accessibly and transparently at the EAC," Greenhalgh explains, charging "they're letting the vendors help weaken the standards directly."

"The EAC is way, way too deferential to the vendors," she says. "They need to either do the right thing and do their job, or they need get out of the lane and come up with some other way. Because there's an expectation by members of Congress that this is being taken care of, that the EAC is doing their job, they're developing the standards, they're testing voting systems. Unless you scratch the surface and find out what's really going on, you might think on the outside that they're doing their job, and they're not. They're taking up that space, and that makes us all less safe and secure in our elections."

There is, as you might guess, much more that Greenhalgh has to explain about this ongoing mess and FSFP's legal efforts to crack open the EAC blockade.

Finally, we close today with a rather hilarious audio message from former, George W. Bush-era Republican House Speaker John Boehner, to Texas' Trumpy, conspiracy-loving U.S. Senator Ted Cruz...

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Guest: Election integrity advocate, journalist Jennifer Cohn on newly discovered ES&S, EAC failures; Also: Biden endorses filibuster reform...
By Brad Friedman on 3/17/2021 7:12pm PT  

On today's BradCast: While Team Trump spent months pretending the Dominion Voting Systems company stole votes from Trump and flipped them to Biden with their computerized voting and tabulation systems, there is exactly zero independently verifiable evidence to support that baseless conclusion. At the same time, however, recently unearthed documents from the state of Texas and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), reveal a gaping security hole in new systems made by the largest voting system company in the nation, Election Systems and Software, Inc. (better known as ES&S), which has systems deployed in dozens of states. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

But, first up today, some annoying (if long overdue) news that Donald Trump finally made it clear(ish), during a Tuesday interview on Fox "News", that he recommends his own supporters should, indeed, get vaccinated against COVID. He cites the "great" and "safe" vaccines that are now available, describing them as "something that works" to prevent the deadly disease. We hope his supporters listen, since they are currently the most disinclined to want to get vaccinated.

Next, some long overdue encouraging news on the Senate legislative filibuster. In a Tuesday interview with ABC News, President Biden --- a longtime Senate institutionalist previously opposed to filibuster reform --- said he now favors it being overhauled. He says he supports a modification to bring back the "talking filibuster", where obstructionists are forced to hold the floor and keep speaking until they can't anymore. That would place the onus on the minority hoping to block legislation, rather than forcing Democrats, in this case, to try and find 60 votes to pass anything at all. Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had no problem unilaterally killing the filibuster entirely to steal and pack Trump nominees onto the U.S. Supreme Court, now vows to grind the Senate to a halt if Dems dare change the legislative filibuster. But, of course, McConnell has already done that with his unprecedented use of the legislative filibuster to block everything! We discuss.

Then, on to our main story today. Shortly after the November election last year, Donald Trump and his gaggle of dopey friends and clueless, corrupt attorneys hatched an evidence-free conspiracy theory that Canadian-based Dominion Voting Systems had participated in an elaborate plot to secretly flip votes and steal the election for Biden. (The theory was based in part on my accurate, deep-dive exclusive investigative reporting from 2010, regarding some voting system vendors --- though not Dominion --- who then had ties to Venezuela and its then living President, Hugo Chavez. Team Trump bastardized that reporting to pretend it had something to do with their dumb theory that Dominion stole the 2020 election from Trump.) Dominion has since sued Team Trumpers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell for defamation, slapping them with suits for $1.3 billion each. Last week, news out of Stark County, Ohio and out of Louisiana proved that Dominion is, in fact, being financially harmed by the fraudulent "fraud" plot used to try and discredit them.

But the nation's largest voting machine company, ES&S --- with a years-long, thuggish reputation according to elections insiders, along with a long history of failed elections on their crappy, computerized voting and tabulation systems --- largely escaped scrutiny by Republicans after last November's election. But they shouldn't have, given the disturbing, well-supported, deep-dive exclusive that election integrity advocate and Twitter phenom JENNIFER COHN broke last week at Who, What, Why. She joins us today to explain both her well-sourced report and its far-reaching ramifications.

As it turns out, she reports, there is a flaw in ES&S' installation process that prevents "hash-verification" when software is installed or patched onto their ExpressVote touchscreen voting systems. What that means, in layman's terms, is that its impossible to know if the software installed onto the systems actually matches the certified version of the software that was tested by federal testing authorities under the purview of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission.

This gaping hole --- discovered by the state of Texas in advance of last November's election --- means that untested, modified software, perhaps containing malware, could potentially have been installed onto ES&S' systems in more than a dozen states last year. Even more maddening is that ES&S was well aware of this flaw, but told elections officials (if they happened to notice the failed hash test) that it was nothing to worry about, nothing to see here, everything is fine --- just trust us.

"The strong implication from the documents which were produced is that [ES&S was] telling them that a mismatch should just be treated as a match," Cohn tells me. "That blanket instruction really concerned the Texas examiners when they found out this was happening."

More maddening still, as Cohn reports, is that ES&S forces jurisdictions to allow their own employees or contractors to do these installations, rather than allowing jurisdictions to do so themselves, which might allow local or state officials to do their own hash-verification (or "acceptance testing", as it is known by some in the industry). Some jurisdictions that refuse to allow ES&S to do the installation will have their warrantees void by the company. As one former voting system employee tweeted in response to all of this, it is "like buying a new home and before the closing the seller says, 'You don't need a final walk-through. Just trust me."

"Normally, the customer is supposed to do it. The whole point of it is to make sure that the vendor is being honest and they're not giving malicious vote-flipping software. So to have the vendor do the hash testing themselves defeats the whole point," Cohn explains. "One of the examiners called it 'the fox guarding the henhouse', and said it was ES&S self-certifying their systems. Even the attorneys for the Texas Secretary of state were appalled."

Cohn's reporting at Who, What, Why is based on a passel of documents obtained via public records requests that reveal, for example, a troubled Texas election examiner complaining via email to their Secretary of State's attorney that this security flaw is "a gift wrapped opportunity to an insider threat," before going on to add: "It’s similar to a bank robber knowing that the camera covering teller #3 is broken."

In addition to Texas, ES&S systems used last year in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Washington, DC, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington state, Wisconsin and Wyoming may all have been similarly vulnerable to running modified, vulnerable and uncertified software during the election, as Cohn details in her report, explaining today that it could be as many as 35 states.

And, as if all of that is not yet maddening enough, she also reports on the disturbing reaction from the EAC to this gaping security hole. The federal agency which is supposed to oversee voting system certification, apparently knew about this issue prior to the election, but failed to inform the public and quietly helped patch it all over for ES&S before, essentially, lying about it all once Cohn started asking questions in February. The EAC, as we have reported at The BRAD BLOG for years, has a long and troubling history of protecting private voting system vendors rather than the voters they are supposed to be watching out for.

When the EAC learned about it, Cohn says, they were "in kind of a panic, I think, because if it had leaked out, they couldn't honestly say they knew what had been installed in those states was what it was supposed to be."

So, is any of this related to why Team Trump focused their phony, evidence-free complaints almost exclusively on Dominion, while ignoring well-documented problems with ES&S almost entirely? We discuss that and much more with Cohn on today's --- yes --- maddening BradCast, where she also notes that, despite Texas officials being as troubled as they were by all of this, "I don't think that anybody ever said, 'Why don't we use pens? They don't require hash testing.'"...

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Special Coverage of Day One; Also: U.S. Election Assistance Commission leaders quietly override cybersecurity experts to allow modems in new voting system standards...
By Brad Friedman on 2/9/2021 7:33pm PT  

On today's BradCast Special Coverage: There have only been three Presidents during the 243-year history of the United States who have been Impeached, for a total of four Presidential impeachments. Donald Trump has been impeached twice. He alone makes up a full half of all of the Presidential Impeachments in the history of our nation. That will be a scar and mark of shame that will never be removed from his pathetic legacy, no matter what happens in his historic second Impeachment Trial in the US Senate, which began in earnest today....sort of. [Audio link to show follows below summary.]

Democratic House Impeachment Managers on Tuesday were forced to make the case for the Constitutionality of holding an Impeachment Trial for a President who is already out of office. Frankly, it's a ridiculous case to have to make, as we discussed on yesterday's show and again today. Of course an impeached, former official can be tried by the U.S. Senate after leaving office. It's been done several times in our nation's history, and legal scholars from both the Right and Left have argued as much in recent days in response to the disingenuous case made against it by Trump's defense attorneys and his sycophantic Republican supporters in the Senate.

Nonetheless, lead Impeachment Manager Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD) opened the argument on this point on Tuesday, with a compelling narrative that there is no "January Exception" to the Constitution's impeachment clause. If there was, he argued, Presidents leaving office would have impunity to cause any amount of mayhem during their final weeks in office. Raskin's presentation began with a stunning, riveting and chilling video juxtaposing Trump's January 6th rally comments to his supporters at the White House, instructing them to "fight like hell" before directing them to the U.S. Capitol, along with previously unseen video clips of his supporters subsequent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. The montage showed Congress being interrupted by the violent insurrectionists, with lawmakers sent scurrying for their lives during the Joint Session to certify the 2020 Electoral College results from last November's Presidential Election victory by Joe Biden...

Raskin's presentation was followed with ones from Managers Joe Neguse (CO) and David Cicilline (RI) who offered historical, Constitutional and legal background in support of their case, before Raskin returned to close the argument with a heartbreaking personal tale of his --- and his family's --- experience during the January 6th attack at the Capitol. We share extended excerpts from his presentation and video.

Next, Trump's team of defense attorneys offered their own case, beginning with a rambling, disjointed, confusing, often political case by lead defense attorney Bruce Castor (famous for having refused to charge Bill Cosby while a prosecutor in Pennsylvania), before an angry, confusing, and even-more-political and partisan case was made by attorney David Schoen (who had previously represented convicted felon and Trump pal Roger Stone, and was set to defend convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein before he committed suicide in prison.)

Castor made no case at all about the Constitutionality of the proceedings, and even appeared to threaten at least one Republican Senator before arguing that a trial to determine if Trump should be allowed to hold future office was not necessary, since "smart" voters had already done a very good job of voting Trump out of office by themselves. (Begging the question of whether Castor will be allowed by Trump to return tomorrow!) Schoen eventually seemed to make a case against the Constitutionality of the trial, but his argument was so quickly read, and included so many arcane Constitutional and historical references, it was virtually impossible to follow or make sense of.

No worries, however. His case --- any case at all, apparently --- was good enough to win the votes of 44 Republicans Senators when the resolution to dismiss the trial was ultimately defeated at the end of the day by a 56-44 vote. All Democrats and six Republicans (Collins, Cassidy, Murkowski, Romney, Sasse and Toomey) voted to allow the trial to proceed. Opening arguments for the actual substance of the article of impeachment for "Incitement of Insurrection" begin on Wednesday.

Finally, in our closing few minutes today, we switch gears (mostly) for a quick report on two disturbing, and somewhat related developments. The first story regards an apparent hacker or intruder who was able to use remote access software several days ago, to dangerously increase sodium hydroxide (sometimes known as lye) levels at a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida, near Tampa. Luckily the incident was noticed --- live, as it was happening --- by an alert operator at the plant who saw the manipulation on his monitor before drinking water was actually poisoned.

And, in somewhat related news, we learned over the weekend that top officials at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) --- the federal agency responsible for certifying computer voting and tabulation systems --- quietly changed a provision in new security standards for voting systems to allow wireless modems and chips in such systems. The change comes after years of work on the new draft standards by cybersecurity and voting systems experts who strongly urged against allowing remote access hardware, which can be used to hack election results, in such systems.

Whether they are used to manipulate results or not obviously makes no difference to those who are concerned that results might have been changed by hackers, as today's Impeachment Trial should, once again, underscore.

We hope to have more information in the future on this, but the newly modified standards --- known as the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) --- are now much more friendly to private voting system vendors (and hackers) and are set to be approved by the Commission tomorrow (Wednesday). The EAC has long been captured by private voting system vendors, and appears to be doing their bidding once again.

The Election Integrity advocates at Free Speech for People have set up a petition that they are asking voters to sign in hopes of encouraging EAC leadership to return to the safer, modem-free standards before they are officially adopted and used by many states across the country...

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Also upholds legislative presumption that mail-in ballots received by 11/5, two days after Election Day, were timely mailed, even without a postmark...
UPDATE 10/23/20: In a subsequent order, the court dismissed the Trump campaign's complaint...
By Ernest A. Canning on 10/12/2020 9:35am PT  

By way of a 31-page Memorandum Opinion this past week, U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Shipp rejected the Trump Campaign's effort to challenge the legality of a recently enacted New Jersey statute that permits Garden State election officials to begin "canvassing" mail-in ballots ten days prior to the November 3 Presidential Election Day.

As defined by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), a "canvass" is a "compilation of election returns and validation of the outcome that forms the basis of the official results".

NJ's COVID-driven election law in question, AB 4475, was enacted last August by the New Jersey state legislature and promptly signed into law by the Garden State's Democratic Governor Phil Murphy. The statute contains a number of provisions designed to facilitate an efficiently-run, mostly mail-in ballot Presidential Election. These include a directive that election officials, 29 days prior to the election, send mail-in ballots to every registered voter. The statute also includes a requirement that election officials provide secure absentee ballot drop-boxes in every county.

Existing NJ law mandates that the State's election officials certify the Nov. 3 election results by Nov. 20. The results must then be submitted to the NJ Secretary of State by Nov. 24.

AB 4475 streamlined the procedures for tallying the expected heavy influx of mail-in ballots by permitting election officials to begin processing and canvassing mail-in ballots ten days prior to Election Day. The new law, however, prohibits Garden State election officials from running a tabulation report or revealing any results before the polls close on Nov. 3.

Contending that the NJ statute was preempted by federal Election Day law, the Trump Campaign sought a preliminary injunction that would prevent NJ officials from canvassing mail-in ballots before Nov. 3. The Campaign also contested a section of AB 4475 establishing that "every ballot without a postmark...received by the county boards of elections from the [U.S. Postal Service] within 48 hours of the closing of the polls, shall be considered valid and shall be canvassed, assuming the ballot meets all other statutory requirements."

The court rejected the Trump Campaign's legal arguments and denied Trump's motion for a preliminary injunction.

The Trump Campaign did not respond to a Fox "News" inquiry as to whether it intended to appeal the decision. The President's "favorite propaganda network" described the decision as "a significant ruling for the state that will keep the current rules in place, barring a swift and successful appeal from the Trump campaign"...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---




Guest: Marilyn Marks of plaintiff Coalition for Good Governance; Also: Hurricane Sally drenches AL, FL; Results from 2020's final primary in DE...
By Brad Friedman on 9/16/2020 7:06pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Last year, a federal judge in Georgia banned the state's 20-year old, unverifiable touchscreen voting systems, finding them to be "unsecure, unreliable and grossly outdated" and, thus, effectively unconstitutional for use in federal elections. This week, that same federal judge held a hearing to determine whether the new unverifiable touchscreen voting systems Georgia has chosen to use this year for the first time are any better, or whether the Peach State should have listened to the cybersecurity and voting systems experts who strongly urged the state to move, instead, to a verifiable hand-marked paper ballot system. [Audio link to show follows below.]

But first today, Hurricane Sally slammed ashore near the Alabama / Florida border this morning. As predicted, the very slow moving storm is packing a punch, with rainfall "measured in feet, not inches swamping homes and forcing the rescue of hundreds of people as it pushed inland." Desi Doyen joins us for the latest on that slow moving disaster as water is quickly rising, rescues continue, the storm moves into Georgia, and as more hurricanes are already lining up behind it in an already record breaking Atlantic hurricane season (which still continues until late November!)

Even as that climate change-intensified disaster unfolds on the heels of Hurricane Laura just three weeks ago (with thousands still without power and in shelters in Louisiana), along with the record deadly climate-fueled wildfires out west, Donald Trump has chosen --- amid all of this --- a notorious climate science denier for a top position on "environmental observation and prediction" at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

If those stories don't underscore the existential importance of this year's elections, we don't know what would.

On that score, the final state Primary Elections of the 2020 season were held on Tuesday in Joe Biden's adopted home state of Delaware, with most ballots cast by mail, and with both masks and social distancing in place at the polls. Happily, there have been no reported voting problems to come to my attention yet and, as expected, there were few surprises in the reported computer-tallied results. Some of them, however, are either eyebrow raising, historic, or just plain fun. Among those categories is the QAnon conspiracist who is now the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in the state; the first openly transgender person to (almost certainly) win a seat in a state Senate; and the 12-year, Democratic state legislator who opposed same-sex marriage being beaten soundly on Tuesday --- in a landslide --- by a local, gay, progressive drag queen!

And with the primaries finally (and thankfully!) out of the way, we move straight to the general elections and back to Georgia, which Democrats hope to flip from red to blue in the Presidential election this year for the first time in decades. But it's also a state where not one, but two vulnerable Republican U.S. Senators are facing tough re-election challenges from Democrats.

There is a lot riding politically on the state of Georgia this year, which makes this week's much-anticipated three-day virtual hearing in an Atlanta federal court all the more critical. When the second day of the three-day hearing which wrapped up this week, regarding the security of the state's vulnerable new computer voting, pollbook and tabulation systems was interrupted --- "Zoom bombed" --- with photos of the 9/11 attacks, swastikas and pornography posted by a user calling him or herself "Osama", it would have been impossible for U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg to miss the irony.

"It was a very sobering reminder of just how vulnerable electronics are, and just how targeted the United States and our elections are right now," says MARILYN MARKS, our guest today. She is Executive Director of the non-partisan Coalition for Good Governance, a lead plaintiff in the long-running case. She says it served as a reminder of the need to "get hand-marked paper ballots that are verifiable and auditable."

The Coalition is suing for a ruling that would find Georgia's new, unverifiable, $100+ million touchscreen voting system made by the Canadian firm Dominion Voting Systems to be an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote. That would be a similar finding to the one Totenberg issued last year, effectively banning and decertifying the state's 20-year use of its previous insecure, unverifiable touchscreen voting systems made by Diebold.

In addition to hoping to see those systems replaced with verifiable hand-marked paper ballots, the Coalition is asking the judge to order backup paper pollbooks at every polling place, after the new electronic pollbook systems failed during the state's June primary elections, leading to hours-long lines, largely in minority voting districts. The plaintiffs are also calling for oversight of the state's optical-scan tabulation systems which failed to tally thousands of votes on absentee ballots during the state's recent primaries. (We interviewed Jeanne DuFort, who discovered that problem, and is also a plaintiff in this case on several recent programs.)

Marks shares her observations from this week's hearings, including on the testimony and cross-examination of the Coalition's cybersecurity and voting systems expert witnesses (many of whom have also appeared multiple times on this show, including Univ. of Michigan's Alex Halderman, UC-Berkley's Philip Stark, expert data researcher Kevin Skoglund and legendary Finnish cybersecurity expert Harri Hursti). Similarly, Marks offers her thoughts on the state's, um, less-than-expert witnesses and responds to a number of allegations made by the attorney representing Georgia and its Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger, who selected this new, "Rube Goldberg" computerized voting system despite the urging of experts and voters alike.

Among the stunning points noted by Marks was the testimony from the man who led the certification testing of this system for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Marks reports the witness seemed "quite confused about the technology" and "admitted to having no real security background and not really any long-term established security people on his team." She says his testimony "made it clear that security is really not a top priority for the certification of voting systems" at the federal level, adding, "It was really kind of unbelievable."

While transcripts may be available from the hearing soon (we'll update with a link to them here when they are), Marks noted some portions will be redacted, since the state argued privately in front of the judge on certain issues that even the plaintiffs were not allowed to witness. (Though I wonder whether "Osama" did?)

"The public learned a lot from these expert witnesses about just how seriously vulnerable the Georgia election system is," she tells me. "The expert witnesses gave extremely compelling testimony during the direct examination by our attorneys. But when the state's attorneys got them up on the stand for cross-examination, they were equally strong. Quite frankly, the state was really not able to get in any type of evidence --- because there is none --- that would help get anyone comfortable with their equipment."

When it came to the witnesses from the state and the voting system vendors, she says, her attorneys explained to the court that those "experts have not been able to tell the court just the basic fundamental operational and security details --- the plaintiffs have been the ones who bring all the information. The state basically had no one with any independence. Every expert witness they had had a financial interest in ballot-marking devices. Two of the expert witnesses are [voting system] vendors, three of the expert witnesses are vendors of ballot-marking device suppliers. So they were hardly considered independent, at least by the laymen who were watching."

While Marks says she does not know when Totenberg will issue her ruling, it is likely to be soon. Reports from the virtual courtroom via AP suggest Judge Totenberg appeared concerned by points made by the plaintiffs and may be forced to implement changes --- if she determines there is time to do so with Early Voting beginning in just four weeks in the Peach State. Marks believes there is plenty of time to make the state's elections more secure and overseeable, though the state begs to differ. Soon we'll learn how the Judge feels.

During closing arguments, according to AP's coverage, Robert McGuire, an attorney for the Coalition and individual voter plaintiffs, "recalled Totenberg's prior admonitions to the state" by noting that "Totenberg previously told the state that a new voting system should address the need for 'transparent, fair, accurate, and verifiable election processes that guarantee each citizen's fundamental right to cast an accountable vote.'" But the state's new computerized Ballot Marking Device system "satisfies none of these requirements," McGuire said...

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Guest: Maya Worman of Univ. of Chicago Harris Cyber Policy Initiative; Also: Trump facing big trouble in NY; Callers ring in on the VEEPStakes...
By Brad Friedman on 8/3/2020 6:43pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Elections are under threat once again this year, and not just from the President of the United States. But one group of cybersecurity experts launched a new initiative on Friday to try and help --- and not a moment too soon. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

First up, what suffices for some good news today: The Manhattan District Attorney seeking 8 years of Donald Trump's tax records and those from the Trump Organization suggested in a court filing today that his investigation requires those documents since he is examining "extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization...dating back over a decade." Until today, the office of Manhattan District Attorney District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. had indicated only that he was probing the hush-money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal before the 2016 election. Those payments were meant to keep them quiet about affairs with Donald Trump.

Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen is serving a three year sentence for his part in that criminal campaign finance conspiracy which both he and federal prosecutors say was "directed" by Trump himself. But today's court filing makes clear that Vance's probe goes far beyond that. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court said that subpoenas of Trump's financial services institution by the Grand Jury impaneled by Vance were permissible, though they sent the case back to a lower court for one more review, delaying any potential state prosecution of Trump or his associates likely until after the election. Now we have some confirmation that Vance's state investigation (which is immune to Presidential pardon power) appears much broader than previously publicly known.

In other accountability news, a 17-year old from Tampa, Florida was arrested on Friday, accused of being the mastermind behind a scheme last month that commandeered the Twitter accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and other high-profile politicians, CEOs and pop stars. The conspiracy --- two others were also arrested, including a 19-year old from the UK and a 22-year old from Orlando --- was an attempt to scam more than $100,000 in Bitcoin out of gullible people who followed the Twitter accounts of those celebrities, which were taken over by the alleged perpetrators.

As we've observed before, if multi-billion dollar social media companies such as Twitter, which spends huge sums of money on cybersecurity, can't keep their systems safe from hacks like this, what chance does Mr. and Mrs. Local County Election Clerk have in protecting their computer voter registration databases, electronic pollbooks, computerized voting systems and computer tabulators this November? That effort is made all the more impossible this year thanks to the expansion of Vote-by-Mail in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the refusal of Republicans in Congress to appropriate the $4 billion that election officials across the country have been seeking for months in hopes of expanding election systems and protecting it from cyber-intrusion and other related failures this year. The federal government --- via the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) --- offers extremely limited support for the nation's 13,000 independent voting jurisdictions.

But with just over 90 days until Election Day now, a new initiative is being launched out of the University of Chicago Harris Cyber Policy Initiative called the Election Cyber Surge. The initiative, according to its Executive Director MAYA WORMAN, who joins us on the show today, is to bring volunteer cybersecurity and voting systems experts together with local elections officials to help them with whatever cyber-related problems or concerns they may be facing before the election. The hope, she explains, is to help prevent cyberintrusions and ransomware attacks and the like before they happen.

"The need is clear," she tells me. "I think it's increasingly more obvious to those who aren't following this closely, who aren't following this beat. That, in itself, is a strong indicator that we are needed. ... It's not just voter rolls. It's not just the output of the machines, but all of the things in between, including maps of where all of your polling place might be, the hours that they're open, what the deadlines are to register, the information you need once you get there --- all of this stuff can be tweaked just slightly. That could affect the major portion of the voters in any given jurisdiction."

Given the enormous complexity of today's voting and counting systems --- not to mention often-interconnected voter registration systems and electronic pollbooks --- the free help offered by Cyber Surge is likely to be invaluable to thousands of local jurisdictions who may have limited, if any, IT support and a lack of access to cybsersecurity experts. Though we are now just three months out from this year's critical Presidential election (mail-in ballots will go out and early voting will begin in as few as 45 days in some places), Worman says she is confident that the new initiative --- born out of DefCon's "Voting Village", a hacking conference where white-hat hackers have been successfully trying their luck on various voting systems since 2017 --- will prove helpful to myriad election officials who, too often, rely only on private voting systems vendors for support.

"More than 50% of all election officials rely on at least 6 different vendors," Worman observes. "I think there's obviously an expectation that the people with whom they are doing business will not lead them astray, and maybe they won't. But when you have so many different, overlapping tools and systems and a network, and it's all being fed by an antiquated database that is protected who knows how, that is where vulnerabilities from having multiple vendors comes in."

Worman, and (hopefully) cavalry of experts aim to help. And quickly. The effort will be more necessary than ever this year given the necessary changes being made to voting during the pandemic and, thanks to Republican intransigence in Congress, a lack of financial resources to pay for it. "The days of making sure that the room where the ballots are kept is locked --- we're far beyond that now. So a reality check that is gentle, but based in reality, is critical," she warns, adding: "Without sounding too trite, I think staying positive is key here. I think it is very clear that there are more people who want our elections to work than who don't want them to work. And that's important to remember."

Finally, on a somewhat lighter note today, we open up the phone lines to listeners for their thoughts on a) who they would like to see presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden choose as his Vice-Presidential candidate and b) who those same listeners fear he will actually name. Some of the responses from callers may surprise you!...

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Guest: Cybersecurity journalist Kim Zetter on her jaw-dropping new exclusive finding battleground election systems vulnerable on the Internet despite claims to the contrary by elections officials, private vendors...
By Brad Friedman on 8/16/2019 6:29pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Elections officials seem to be panicking around the country, and for good reason. But their concerns may be coming a bit late...perhaps a decade or so too late, as virtually every aspect of our "public" elections in the U.S. --- from ballot programming to registration to voting to vote tabulation to election results reporting --- has now been allowed to have become largely taken over by private vendors and contractors, with little or no oversight from either state or federal officials. [Audio link to today's full show is posted at end of article.]

An exclusive analysis last month by AP found that virtually all voting systems currently in use in the nation's 10,000 separate voting jurisdictions in all 50 states run on software --- Windows 7 or earlier --- that will no longer be supported by Microsoft with regular security updates and patches as of January. That includes systems certified by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) from the nation's largest private elections vendors as recently as this year. Those newly certified systems still use Windows 7, which was released a decade ago in 2009.

Of course, the EAC's certification process --- for the few states which choose to follow federal voluntary (yes, voluntary) guidelines --- has been laughable for years. It focuses on usability and functionality, not security. Most systems in the U.S., if they are EAC certified at all, were tested to guidelines published by the EAC in 2005.

At a summit this week of elections officials and vendors, hastily convened by the EAC in Maryland in response to the disturbing AP analysis, officials complained about the lack of federal support and standards, and that financially strapped and technologically challenged elections divisions at both the state and local level are realizing only now that they are being asked "to take part in what is national security" with little or no help from the federal government. One official at the EAC confab reportedly complained: "We are talking about local communities having trouble funding roads and water bills, and now we want them to take part in defense against foreign and state actors."

Of course, it is not only nation-states like Russia that pose a threat to the security of America's vulnerable, computerized and privatized public elections, so do regular old Americans, as the recent hack by a woman in Seattle of more than 100 million customer records at Capitol One proved, along with the vulnerabilities in brand new voting and registration systems discovered by hackers in a few hours at the DefCon Voting Village convention last weekend in Las Vegas.

All of this comes on the heels of Thursday's federal court ruling finding Georgia's voting systems to be so "unsecure, unreliable, grossly outdated....seriously flawed and vulnerable to failure, breach, contamination and attack" that the judge declared the systems (which are similar to ones used in several other states) a violation of voters' Constitutional right to have their votes counted as cast.

But all of that might ultimately be small potatoes in light of longtime cybersecurity journalist and author KIM ZETTER's recent exclusive at VICE's Motherboard, finding that "Critical U.S. Election Systems Have Been Left Exposed Online Despite Official Denials". Zetter, one of the only journalists in the nation who has been covering these matters as long or longer than we have at this point, joins us on today's program to explain her jaw-dropping article which begins this way: "For years, U.S. election officials and voting machine vendors have insisted that critical election systems are never connected to the internet and therefore can't be hacked. But a group of election security experts have found what they believe to be nearly three dozen backend election systems in 10 states connected to the internet over the last year, including some in critical swing states. These include systems in nine Wisconsin counties, in four Michigan counties, and in seven Florida counties --- all states that are perennial battlegrounds in presidential elections. Some of the systems have been online for a year and possibly longer."

In many cases, she tells me, the elections officials seemed to have no idea that their systems were connected to the Internet by their vendors. As for the vendors' part --- in this case, the nation's largest, ES&S --- Zetter explains their bizarre claim that voting and backend tabulation and reporting systems connected around the clock for years at a time aren't really connected to the Internet at all --- and, even if they are, they are perfectly secure. Zetter and the data researchers found otherwise.

The systems found vulnerable on the net, she details, would allow a malicious actor to change unofficial election night results, official results, and the public reporting of the results themselves. Moreover, she explains, access to the exposed backend portions of these systems over the Internet could also result in malware being transferred to voting machines themselves. And all of this was discovered by a small team of researchers with little or no funding. No nation-state required, she confirms.

"If it was just a box on the Internet that was receiving the votes transmitted [on Election Night from the precinct] that would be a security problem in itself, not only because you could potentially alter those votes. They are unofficial results on Election Night --- and the officials results are taken from the actual memory cards in the voting machines. But if you can alter the unofficial results, that's going to create a lot of mistrust in the final outcome if they don't match," she says.

"But even if you don't alter those votes, that communication over the phone between the voting machine in the field and that backend server that's on the Internet creates a channel for infecting those voting machines. So, someone who could actually install that malware on that system on the Internet can design it in such a way that it downloads to the voting machines when they connect to that system. So the attackers can alter that voting machine in preparation for a future election."

"But that's not the only problem," she continues. "If that was the only thing that was on the Internet, that would be a concern in itself. What was remarkable is that ES&S acknowledged to me that they don't just put an empty box on there to receive the votes. Also connected to that Internet connection is the backend system for tabulating both the unofficial results on Election Night, and those official results that are later taken from the memory card."

"And the Election Management System is also connected. The Election Management System is used to do a lot of functions in elections. Among them is the actual programming of these voting machines before each election. So, if you don't get to the machines through that little receptacle that's connected to the Internet, you can get to that backend Election Management System and put in malicious code that then gets transferred directly to the voting machines before the next election."

But, of course, other than that, why worry, right? Well, Zetter has much more to say on that as well, including about Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's continuing efforts to block any and all election security measures in the Senate that might help shore up at least some of these concerns, including bills already passed by the House that would mandate hand-marked paper ballots for all voters. Even that, at this point, wouldn't fully protect against attacks on computer optical-scanners currently used in all 50 states to tabulate those ballots with little or no post-election audits to make sure they did so accurately...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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