Today on The BradCast, it's both "Code Red for humanity", according to the authors of the new report released today by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, synthesizing some 14,000 climate studies from the past 8 years. And it's also "code red" for American elections, most immediately, here in California. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
New polling out last week finds that the otherwise ridiculous Republican attempt to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is now supported by some 46% of those polled. In short, the effort to remove the Governor (for reasons nobody can quite explain, other than Republicans can no longer win regular statewide elections in the state) is now a dead heat. Who would replace Newsom if he's recalled? That is also unknown, as scores of Republicans are vying for the position, should voters choose "Yes" to recall the Governor on Question 1 of the ballot on September 14th. If a majority of voters do vote "Yes", then whoever wins on Question 2 on the ballot becomes the next Governor of the most populous state in the nation.
So, the stakes are pretty high. Which is just one of the reasons that it is so troubling that some of the largest counties in the state, including Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside, all offer voters 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems when they vote in person at the polling place.
The good news is that, due to the pandemic, the Secretary of State is sending all registered voters a hand-marked paper Vote-by-Mail ballot for the Recall. The bad news is that many voters, for various reasons, will use those unverifiable touchscreen Ballot Marking Device voting systems at the polling place instead. If enough of them do, it will be strictly impossible after the election to know if any of the computer-marked ballots printed by them actually reflect the intent of any voter.
The further bad news is that an ongoing federal lawsuit in Georgia, where plaintiffs hope a federal judge will permanently ban the state's brand new touchscreen computer Ballot Marking Device (BMD) voting systems made by Dominion, has recently produced some disturbing news. One of the nation's top voting systems and cybersecurity experts, J. Alex Halderman of University of Michigan, hired by plaintiffs Coalition for Good Governance, has been given access to the Dominion ImageCastX systems used across the state, and his findings are reportedly so troubling, that the federal judge in the case has sealed his report, even from the plaintiffs themselves!
Last week, in a public declaration [PDF] in the case, Halderman warned his testing of those very systems "has shown that the BMDs used in Georgia suffer from specific, highly exploitable vulnerabilities that allow attackers to change votes," in a way that the state's mitigation techniques will not prevent. He says that his findings must be "urgently" reviewed by both the Sec. of State in Georgia as well as Dominion. But neither is allowed to see his report under the judge's seal, and neither has filed a motion to ask the Court to unseal it for them.
As my guest notes today, apparently they'd rather not learn about the vulnerabilities in their own systems. "If the report has anything approaching the level of vulnerability that Alex describes in his summary report, they would have to do something about it. So not knowing anything about it, gives them some breathing room" to try and figure out what they should do next, he tells me.
Why is this a problem for California? Because it is one of several states where some counties use the exact same system made by Dominion. Both San Diego and Riverside use the Dominon ImageCastX system at the polling place, where voters could end up removing the Governor in just over a month. Next door, in Los Angeles County, a similarly unverifiable touchscreen Ballot Marking Device is now used at the polls.
Moreover, a study that Georgia's Sec. of State carried out last November, to determine if voters actually bother to review their computer-marked ballots printed out by the touchscreen systems before casting them, found that almost none of them did. The results of that study were kept secret by GA's Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger, and only released last week, after the Atlanta Journal Constitution obtained the results via GA's Open Records Act.
So what could all of this mean for California? Should anyone be surprised by either the results of the GA Sec. of State's study or the troubling findings by Halderman? Should these unverifiable and vulnerable BMD voting systems ever be used by any voter in an American election (other than disabled voters who may choose to use an assistive device)? And, by the way, is there any evidence that these systems may have somehow stolen the very close election for Joe Biden over Donald Trump last year in Georgia?
We're joined today by longtime cybersecurity and voting systems expert RICHARD DEMILLO, founder of Georgia Tech's new School of Cybersecurity and Privacy. He offers some cold, hard, well-informed thoughts on these systems and why Halderman's report may have been sealed by the federal judge in Atlanta. He also offers advice on whether voters in California, Georgia or any other state should ever choose to vote on one of these systems when the option of using a hand-marked paper ballot is available to them.
"The more machines you use, the more likely it is that they're going to be hacked. It's just a matter of numbers. The machines are vulnerable. There are people that are adversarial that want access to the machines. The more you make it available to them, the more likely it is that they'll be used that way," states DeMillo. "You're opening yourself up to a lot of risk that seems to be unnecessary."
In the meantime, should voters and election officials in California --- including in Riverside and San Diego, where the same unverifiable and vulnerable Dominion systems are used, as well as those in Los Angeles, where a very similar touchscreen system is now forced on all voters at the polling place --- be concerned about the new, court-sealed findings in Georgia?
DeMillo offers several, unequivocal answers. But, in short, yes, we should all be alarmed.
DeMillo also offers his thoughts on the MAGA argument that Georgia was stolen last year, and says that after requested by CNN to review MyPillow Guy Mike Lindell's "absolute proof" that the election was stolen from Trump (in what turned to be a brutal takedown for Lindell) he finds the only "absolute proof" Lindell offered is that he has absolutely no idea how elections actually work. "Literally, every word that comes out of his mouth about elections and whether or not they were hacked and how they were conducted, is simply contradicted by facts," DeMillo tells me. "There are other things to think about in election security, but that's not one of them."
Finally, we close with a few words (more to come later this week!) on the climate disaster now unfolding in places like Evia, Greece, where thousands were evacuated by passenger ferry overnight this weekend, hoping to outrun massive wildfires amid record heat that has now reportedly destroyed thousands of structures. That, on the same day that the IPCC warns our man-made climate crisis is now "unprecedented" and unfolding even quicker than scientists had predicted only a few short years ago...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)