Category Archives: Election 2020

In my neck of the intellectual woods, we call it justice

Not long ago a friend of mine was complaining about MSNBC.  “I don’t watch MSNBC anymore,” he said.  “I’m tired of the blame game.” 

I didn’t question the statement since I figured I’d already pushed the conversation to its limit.  That means, I had already opened my mouth at least once.  In this day and age, for me, that’s always once too many times.

I spent almost ten years living outside the country, missed the entire 80s, while this country was going through what another friend referred to as the “moving right show.”  Most of the time, when I returned to the country, I refrained from talking about politics since my perspective was radically different from almost anybody I socialized with on a regular basis.  And, I was a writer.  You don’t need to talk to people about politics and law if you write about them.  In fact, most of the time, you don’t want to talk about them.  It’s the last thing you want to talk about. 

The last four years, however, have not only pushed me further to the left than I already was (which was pretty far to the left), but made me believe that it was possible to talk to other people about politics since the Trump/Republican crime family was dismantling everything decent there ever was about the society. 

But, what I quickly found was that even though people wanted to grouse, when you got right down to it, they didn’t want to do much more.  What most people wanted was to 1) vent and to 2) “get back to normal.”  They didn’t much appreciate it when I pointed out that “normal” was what got us Trump.

In the past four years I have been infuriated, disgusted, and repelled by Trump and the Republican party.  But, my real rage has been provoked by Democrats.  I suppose you expect the worst from your enemies, but when you see it coming from your friends, it is both disheartening and alienating.

Early on in 2016, after Trump was elected and people (even in Georgia) started to mobilize, I had an exchange with one of the group of women I call the “southern ladies” that summed up my dilemma.

We were at a street demonstration peopled largely by the elderly and women.  (I am both.)  An acquaintance said: Now, we have to be careful that we’re respectful.  I looked at her and blinked.  “Why?”  I asked.  She looked back at me and blinked herself.  Neither of us could understand what on earth the other was talking about. 

I have spent the past four years trying to understand what she was talking about, what the Democratic Party was talking about.  I have been dumfounded, utterly dumbfounded by people who act like the worst thing in the world would be to be perceived by other people as “disrespectful.” 

Now, I grew up in the South where being rude was a cardinal sin.  But we are watching the destruction of democracy, the transformation of a country into an authoritarian kleptocratic state and people, grown people, are worried about whether or not they will be perceived by the people dismantling democracy as disrespectful.  I don’t get it.

And, it’s not only regular people.  I sit and watch hearing after hearing where Democrats are in a position to expose the utter corruption and rot that is characteristic of the Republican party and Senator after Senator, Representative after Representative virtually gets down on their hands and knees and apologizes for asking questions.  It disgusts me and enrages me.

And, as if things weren’t bad enough, the week after Diane Feinstein goes out of her way to grovel at the feet of Lindsay Graham and possibly cost the Democrats a crucial Senate seat, Democrats have already started promising Republicans not to hold them accountable for the crimes that brought us to this point.  Democrats, like my friend, might call this “the blame game” but in my neck of the intellectual woods we call it justice.  And I am a believer in justice.

We would not even be here, on this precarious knife edge, if there was justice in this country for white collar, corporate and political criminals.  Donald Trump, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and many others would not even be in a position to hold office if we had a criminal justice system that prosecuted the crimes of the wealthy.  They would be in jail.  Instead, they control the government.

And, already, even before the Democrats have won the election *, they are already trying to bow down and promise they will not hold accountable the people who have done everything in their power to steal and degrade democracy.  On Nicolle Wallace’s show on Monday, Rick Stengel found it necessary to point out one of the things that he thought was “lovely about the Biden campaign.”  This thing was that the Biden campaign talks about “bringing the country together [in a way that] is not about recrimination, not about punishing people who may have made a mistake.”  We need, says Stengel to be “moving ahead.”

I have been saying for months that people who think that a Biden administration will do anything to hold the Trump/Republican crime family to account are delusional.  Biden will do exactly what Obama did in the face of people who had recklessly and greedily brought down an economy.  He will say that we need to “move on.”  George Bush used the Justice Department to create a fictional legal foundation for the use of torture, but Obama said we should move forward not backward. 

Every time leadership evades responsibility for holding criminals accountable for their crimes, it paves the way for more crime.  Obama and Eric Holder paved the way for Trump as surely as if they had nominated him as the candidate of the Republican party.

*I do not believe that the Democrats will win this “election.” I believe the Republicans will steal it.

stealing the vote: state developments

STEALING THE VOTE:

•       The Supreme Court has sided with South Carolina Republicans attempting to suppress the vote by reinstating a law requiring witness signature for mail-in ballots.  This decreases the vote by making it more difficult for people to vote, requiring them to risk COVID by having someone else witness the ballot, and provides yet another point top invalidate votes (the verifying and matching of the witness signature). 

•       In Florida, the voter registration website crashed and stayed down for several hours on Monday, the deadline to register.  Again, every obstacle decreases the vote which is what the Republicans are counting on.

•       In Iowa, Republicans blocked sending out ballots that had pre-filled voter information on them. Tens of thousands of ballots were invalidated.  This means confusion, the likelihood that people will send in the wrong ballot, and the necessity of the state to send out replacement ballots a month before the election.

These are three incidents in three states, being replicated all over the country.    

 In Georgia, software on all the states voting machines is being replaced A MONTH BEFORE THE ELECTION.  This software change is being done by the voting machine company, unverified, unexamined, and uncertified. 

The Republicans are pulling out all the stops.  They have too much at stake to lose this election.  They are going to lie, cheat and finally steal this election and the Democrats and the media are going to be caught off guard.  VOTING IS NOT GOING TO BE ENOUGH.

And: Pennsylvania’s online system for registering to vote and applying for and tracking mail ballots crashed over the weekend, triggering an outage that stretched for more than 24 hours and prompted frustration from voters weeks before critical election deadlines.

stealing the election: georgia problems with the $104 million dollar voting system

Court Hearing: Georgia

In a hearing conducted this morning in federal court in Georgia, the Secretary of State’s (SOS’s) office and the Coalition for Good Governance (CFGG) sparred over errors already found in the new $104 million (at least) electronic voting machine system Brian Kemp’s government bought and paid for with taxpayer money.

On Friday, the SOS’s office issued a bulletin to all of Georgia’s 159 counties telling them to stop Logistics and Analysis (L&A) testing of election devices and systems. The SOS’s office said that an error had been uncovered in the database and the entire database would have to be replaced. 

The error had evidently caused candidates in a multi-candidate race to disappear from the screen, the “disappearing colum” problem.

In court on Monday morning the SOS’S office changed their position and said that would not have to replace the database. They were instead changing the software.

This information was news to the Coalition for Good Governance (CFGG).  They, like the rest of the public, were under the assumption that the database would be replaced.  Lawyers for CFGG argued that changing of the software after voting had already begun was an even more serious problem than replacing the database.

And, CFGG argued that there was not (as the SOS’S office had maintained) just one problem.  There were three problems uncovered by Georgia counties once they started testing. According to CFGG, the State had disclosed one problem but not all of the problems.

Three Problems Not Just One

As lawyers for CFGG pointed out, the State had disclosed only one problem but not two other problems that CFGG had been made aware of. 

Because of a subpoena, lawyers for CFGG were supposed to witness the testing of a scanner in Cherokee County, Georgia.  But, when CFGG contacted Cherokee County to arrange for this witnessing, officials told them that they could come but that the scanner wasn’t recording votes.  This problem was a different problem than the “disappearing column” one reported to the press by the SOS.  The attorney for CFGG noted that he had talked with officials in Cherokee County Monday morning and the scanner was still not working.

The other, third problem the SOS was not disclosing was a problem in Irwin County, where votes for a write-in candidate were not registering at all.  

Lawyers for the SOS’S office basically dismissed concerns expressed over all of the problems, accusing the CFGG of making mountains out of molehills. 

The Seriousness of the Problem

In the hearing, the SOS repeatedly minimized the seriousness of the problems and expressed contempt for the lawyers at CFGG. At one point, the SOS’s office argued that the robustness of their testing ensured that problems like the “disappearing columns” problem would not only be found but would be corrected. 

The CFGG argued, however, that just because one needle is found hidden in the haystack, that doesn’t mean that the location of all the other needles was known.  The SOS found out about the “disappearing column” problem, argued the CFGG attorney by accident, a “freakish” discovery.  Just because this problem was uncovered in testing that didn’t mean that ALL problems were discovered or wound be discovered.  There is no way of knowing how many other problems there are out there that haven’t been reported or have been dismissed. 

The SOS’s office repeatedly in the hearing tried to behave as if the “disappearing column” problem was the only problem and that this problem was “diminimus” meaning not very serious.   Evidently in state law, if a problem with the voting system is deemed to be “diminimus” then there are certain actions that aren’t required.  In other words, if the problem is deemed not to be serious, serious actions doesn’t need to be taken. 

SOS officials argued that some testing lab (what lab?) found the “disappearing column” problem to be “diminimus.” What we don’t know is what procedure was used for declaring the problem to be “diminimus?”  And, this completely ignores the other problems.

Anybody with a brain would question this determination.  Who decides that a problem with the election system is “not serious” as opposed to “serious?”  What are the rules about establishing a “serious” as opposed to a “non serious” problem. 

But, in court this morning, the SOS’s office tried to trivialize these questions and also to assert dominion over the issue.   Gabriel Sterling, for the SOS;s office, stated: “That is how it’s done and that is how we will continue to do it.”  The authoritarian tone of that statement is inescapable.

The “Disappearing Column” Problem

As mentioned earlier, the State’s argument in the hearing was that the system’s testing regime is so “robust” that it found the “disappearing column” problem and that it will find all the other possible problems.

The State argued that the “disappearing column” problem occurred only when a specific behavior pattern is exhibited by the voter.  What this means is that if the voter is looking at the screen where the state has listed multiple candidates and then flips back a screen to look at a previous screen (for example, to double check a choice) that is when the “disappearing screen” occurs.  My understanding from the hearing is that the State maintains that the “disappearing screen” doesn’t happen every time a voter goes back a screen, just sometimes.  

This is a $104 million (at least) voting system.  But, voters moving back and forth between screens either checking a previous choice or through error, throws the entire system into chaos and makes legally eligible candidates disappear off the voting screen.  The State argued that voters rarely choose to move back to check another screen.  But, THEY DON’T KNOW THIS.  How would they know this?

And why with a $104 system, hasn’t somebody thought about the possibility of a voter flipping back a screen? Flipping from screen to screen is something that anybody who uses a computer does every day.  $104 million and this is a problem? 

The Numbers in the Name Problem

Not only have the architects of a $104 million system not ever thought of the possibility of voters flipping back and forth between screens, they also haven’t thought of other possibilities. The “disappearing column” problem is one issue and evidently the one the State of Georgia has chosen to deal with. But there are two other problems.

In Irwin County, election officials were so conscientious in their testing that they made sure that every write-in candidate would be recorded.  Because the state certifies qualified write-in candidates and sends a list to county officials, the head of elections in Irwin county decided to check those names against the machines. 

What he found was that one write-in candidate couldn’t be chosen.  The machine wouldn’t accept the choice.  The reason?  The candidate had numbers in his name.  Using a $104 million voting system, this is a problem.   The candidate chose to use the name PresidentR19boddie.  Why?  I have no idea.

But, because the officials in Irwin County were conscientious, they made sure that a vote for any of the write-in candidates would be recorded.  What they found was that the program would only allow letters, not numerals.  Again, this is a $104 million voting system. 

The Scanner Problem in Cherokee County

Because of a subpoena granted in the lawsuit brought by CFGG, experts from CFGG were supposed to witness the functioning or testing of a scanner in Cherokee County.  When lawyers from CFGG contacted Cherokee County to arrange this witnessing, the officials told CFGG that they could come to Cherokee county, but the scanner wasn’t working.  

According to lawyers from CFGG speaking during the hearing on Monday morning, they contacted the SOS’s office multiple times during the weekend to alert them to the problem in Cherokee County.  The SOS’s office ignored them and didn’t even respond.  Lawyers from the CFGG pointed out to the State that this problem was different from the one the State was alerting counties about with the “disappearing columns.”  But, as the lawyers from CFGG characterized it there were “crickets.”

In the hearing, lawyers for the SOS’s office maintained that they were not aware of the problem in Cherokee County.  Lawyers for the CFGG pointed out that they had repeatedly notified the state and had talked to Cherokee County on Monday morning and confirmed that the scanner was still not working.

Confusion

The CFGG attorneys also pointed out in the hearing that whatever the problems were, even after the bulletin issued by the SOS’s office to stop L&A analysis, some counties were proceeding.  So, it appeared that some counties hadn’t even understood the bulletin.  There was confusion among the county officials.

Software

In the end, SOS officials claimed that they were going to change not the database, as they had told the counties on Friday, but the software.  In the hearing at least the question of who was going to approve of, check, and certify this change in software was not answered. 

Elections security expert Jennifer Cohn argued that this change of the software was even more serious and fraught with potential for security risks than a change in the database.