Brad Friedman: Why To Be Suspicious Of Every Election
Long an 'exporter of democracy' to the rest of the world, there is ample evidence that the United States lacks even the most rudimentary, basic protections necessary to preserve voting integrity within its own borders.
Some of the evidence is circumstantial, some is statistical, and some is pretty direct and clear-cut. Taken together, a pattern that emerges strongly suggesting that ever since voting machines, electronic voting machines were introduced in the United States, we’ve had a string of suspect election results that frankly are not consistent with a free and fair voting outcome.
Trust is different than 'verifiable'. Trust, frankly, has no place in elections. There is no reason to ever trust anybody. We need to be able to verify all of this.
There are basically two different types of electronic voting systems that are currently used today.
One is the touchscreen system that people know about. They’ve seen those votes flipping and so forth. Those machines are, in fact, 100 percent unverifiable -- period. I’ve asked the companies that make the systems many times, if they have any evidence whatsoever that any vote ever cast on one of those machines during an election, for any candidate or initiative on the ballot, if any of those votes have ever been recorded as per the voter’s intent, any evidence whatsoever. They have none -- they are 100 percent unverifiable. Thankfully, many states are getting rid of those and they’re moving to paper ballots.
The problem, however, with hand marked paper ballots is that most of them are run through optical scan computers to be scanned. The problem is, they often don’t work. You can’t tell whether they have worked properly, whether they have accurately recorded the vote, unless you actually hand count the paper ballots -- begging the question of why the hell are we using these optical scan systems in the first place. So when you have a paper ballot, at least it is verifiable if anybody bothers to do a hand count. But we don’t bother to do so in this country; almost never. When problems are found, often they are completely ignored.
So that’s why I’ve argued for years now that the most transparent and reliable way to run an election is to hand count the paper ballots at the precinct on election night publicly in front of everyone with the results posted at the precinct before those ballots are moved anywhere.
Short of that, it really is faith-based elections. We're trusting that they’re recorded accurately, even though we’ve got so much evidence that they often are not. I think it’s a crazy way to run a democracy if you ask me(...)
There is every reason to be suspicious of every election. There's a lot of money at stake, a lot of money, a lot of power at stake in these elections and so people should be suspicious about them.
No matter what you do, people will try to game elections. There's just too much at stake for people to not want to try to do that. That’s why you need a system that is as transparent as possible because people are going to try to game it. The trick is you have as many eyeballs looking as possible to make it as difficult as possible to game the election. That’s the trick; and when you begin to use security by obscurity and hide the way that votes are actually counted and the way that votes are actually cast and the systems that are used to tally them, we have no idea in the end.
I think that’s just absolutely crazy. Every time I come out and make that argument, it depends what election has just happened, but I'm then branded either a Democratic partisan, a Republican partisan, a Bernie supporter, a Hillary supporter -- whatever it is. People don’t like to hear these facts. So I’ve had to go to bat for a lot of candidates who I would have never ever even considered voting for. But I think that their supporters have the right to know whether they won or lost, and have the right to know that the election was tabulated accurately. That’s what we no longer have in this country and it’s ridiculous.
Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Brad Friedman (53m:45s)
Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson. This is a very special and important podcast and I want you to pay close attention to it because it affects everyone. It concerns election integrity in America—or perhaps the lack thereof. Long an exporter of democracy to the rest of the world, there is ample evidence that the United States lacks even the most rudimentary, basic protections necessary to preserve voting integrity within its own borders.
Some of the evidence is circumstantial, some is statistical, and some is pretty direct and clear-cut. Taken together, a pattern that emerges strongly suggesting that ever since electronic voting machines were introduced in the United States, we’ve had a string of suspect election results that frankly are not consistent with a free and fair voting outcome. Now, this spans for me the period of time from the election of George W. Bush in 2004 all the way to today.
Every election has been tainted by statistically indisputable evidence of something going odd in this particular cycle. The tricks used are numerous and they go well beyond simple tally errors and vote flipping that an insecure voting machine or central tabulator might make almost irresistibly easy. There are voting roll purges, poll station delays, loss of absentee ballots, and a host of other dirty tricks.
To speak with us today on this vital matter in a vital presidential election year is a person I have been following closely for years, Brad Friedman. Mr. Friedman has been described as perhaps the most diligent and unassailable election integrity advocate in America and I agree with that assessment. He runs his own website, bradblog.com, and is the host of The BradCast on Pacifica Radio’s Los Angeles affiliate station KPFK 90.7 FM and a long time regular guest host on the nationally syndicated Mike Malloy show.
His achievements and recognition for his work are too numerous to mention here and are piling up fast. What I like best is that he uses data, avoids hyperbole, and sticks carefully to what can be proven without resorting to speculations as to motivations or the usual partisan spins. He cares about election integrity, I do too, and so should everyone. Welcome Brad.
Brad Friedman: Thank you Chris. I really appreciate that kind introduction, and good to be here with you.
Chris Martenson: Well it’s truly an honor to have you with us today. So for our listeners, start with your background. What got you started on covering election and voting integrity?
Brad Friedman: 2004, which you mentioned in your introduction there. I mean what happened in 2004 was horrific. Now, I was of course already concerned about what had happened four years earlier in 2000, when the Supreme Court essentially gave the election to George W. Bush. But I became more concerned as we got closer to 2004 and people were putting out these voting machines—these electronic voting systems—as a response to what happened in 2000. This is kind of ironic, given that one of the big problems that occurred in the year 2000 had to do with an electronic voting system giving negative 22,000 votes—negative 22,000 votes—to Al Gore in Florida, in Volusia County, Florida.
So that caused one of the problems that happened in the first place in 2000. Those electronic voting systems, that one was made by a company at the time named Global. That company was eventually bought by a company named Diebold, which I’m sure you’ve heard of. And then those machines, which helped create the mess in the first place on election night in 2000, were then spread around the country as a “solution” to what happened in 2000. Sure enough, once we got to 2004, those machines began to fail and cause all kinds of problems, not just the machines, as you note, but people being turned away from polling places. People were being disallowed from overseeing the tabulation in a number of counties in Ohio, and other problems that persist to this day with our voting system in America and actually not just the voting systems, but the front-end stuff as well, the voter suppression and so forth.
All of that is getting worse, not better, in the U.S. despite what we have come to learn over the past decade or more.
Chris Martenson: Brad, help me out here. So if we could categorize it, what are the various forms of voting suppression, fraud, lack of integrity, what are the big categories and which are the most important?
Brad Friedman: Well, they’re all important. I recall after 2004, getting some grief from some people, as I was pointing out the problems with these electronic systems. They were saying, “Well why aren’t you as worried about voter suppression and allowing people to get to the polls in the first place?” I had to point out yes, I am concerned about that and yes, I was the one who highlighted this scheme by the Republican party at the time to begin with these photo ID voter restrictions that they are now putting in place all over the country.
That was a scam. That was a scam that essentially came out of 2004 when you had Democrats complaining about fraud in the 2004 election. The Republicans came out and said—they held one hearing, one hearing after that entire mess in 2004. They held one hearing in the U.S. Congress in the U.S. House on what happened in 2004. A fake—an Astroturf Republican, supposedly a voting rights group was... there was one voting rights group to testify. They came forward, they said yes, in fact, there was fraud in 2004, and it was carried out by the Democrats. A group by the name of ACORN, which I’m sure you’ve heard of, and that in fact they were committing massive voter fraud and we have to do something about it and the answer is photo ID voting restrictions.
Now, it turned out the guy who was giving that testimony on behalf of the only voting rights group to testify after the 2004 election in Congress, it turns out that guy— he didn’t mention it in his testimony, but he was the national general counsel for Bush/Cheney 2004. So that’s when they really began in earnest to run this scam concerning photo ID and pretending there was this massive voter fraud going on.
The voters are doing fine, as I tell people. Leave them alone. Voter fraud, though it exists, it does not exist the way the Republicans are claiming. ACORN had nothing to do with any of it, ever, and yet they’ve been very successful throughout the years in getting these laws passed. Certainly more than ever since 2013 when they were able to get the U.S. Supreme Court to gut the voting rights act.
So you have problems with access to the polls in the first place, that is getting worse. We’re seeing a return of Jim Crow. And then you have problems on the backend, being able to not just cast the vote, but also oversee the counting of the vote. That’s really the most critical part. I don’t want to say it’s the most critical part… You have to be able to vote. You have to be able to have access to the polls if you want to, but having all of the access in the world does no good unless you can actually oversee the counting, unless your vote can be counted, counted accurately, and counted accurately in a way that we the people can know that it has been counted accurately. That is really where we continue to run into problems.
Chris Martenson: Run into problems, or is it literally impossible to have votes counted accurately, at least with respect to the optical scanning systems or the electronic machines which some people are thinking of as the Diebold machines? Is it possible, given their current state of technology and controls, for those to be trustable or verifiable?
Brad Friedman: Well trust is different than verifiable. So trust, frankly, has no place in elections. There is no reason to ever trust anybody. We need to be able to verify all of this. There are basically two different types— speaking very generally here—but basically two different types of electronic voting systems that are currently used today. One is the touchscreen system that people know about. They’ve seen those votes flipping and so forth.
Those machines are, in fact, 100 percent unverifiable. Period. So when a vote is cast on those systems, there is no way—there is no way to this day. I’ve asked the companies that make the systems many times if they have any evidence whatsoever that any vote ever cast on one of those machines during an election, for any candidate or initiative on the ballot, if any of those votes have ever been recorded as per the voter’s intent—any evidence whatsoever.
They have none because they can’t have any. They are 100 percent unverifiable. So that’s one system, and thankfully, many states are getting rid of those and they’re moving to paper ballots. The problem, however, with hand marked paper ballots, is that most of them are run through optical scan computers to be scanned. I’m sure your audience knows how those scanners work.
The problem is, they often don’t work and you can’t tell whether they have worked properly, whether they have accurately recorded the vote, unless you actually hand count the paper ballots, begging the question of why the hell are we using these optical scan systems in the first place. So when you have a paper ballot, at least it is verifiable if anybody bothers to do so. But we don’t bother to do so in this country, almost never.
When problems are found, often they are completely ignored. So that’s why I’ve argued for years now the most transparent and reliable way to run an election is to hand count the paper ballots at the precinct on election night publicly in front of everyone with the results posted at the precinct before those ballots are moved anywhere.
Short of that, it really is faith-based elections. We are trusting that they’re recorded accurately, even though we’ve got so much evidence that they often are not. I think it’s a crazy way to run a democracy if you ask me.
Chris Martenson: Crazy, I’ll go further than that, but let me… Here’s what drives me nuts about this Brad. If I go down to 7-11 and I take two dollars out of an ATM, I have a fully verifiable, auditable, recoverable transaction that just happened so that I can buy my slushy. There is more careful thought and traceability put around my slushy purchase than there is around the selection process for the people who are supposed to represent us on very large issues.
I talked to somebody from Switzerland. They vote every six weeks online, totally secure, completely verifiable, and audited regularly. The technology is not hard. It exists either at the corner ATM or online for whole countries, but we don’t seem to have one in the United States and I’m convinced that it’s because we don’t want one, or at least the powers that be don’t seem to want one. Is that an unfair way to look at it?
Brad Friedman: It’s not unfair. It’s just inaccurate. Your friend from Switzerland, if they are voting online, it is not in fact verifiable. Here’s the difference between your slushy example at the 7-11 and voting. OK, when it comes to the slushy or any use of an ATM machine, or credit card and so forth, you can go back and check to make sure that the transaction was carried out correctly. Your bank can go back and make sure the transaction was carried out correctly.
The credit card company can do this and so forth. You can do this immediately. You can do it weeks later. You can do it years later. So there's that type of transparency to that system. The problem is elections, at least in the U.S., use secret ballots. So once you drop your ballot into the box, whether you literally do it with a piece of paper or you cast it in your scenario online in some fashion, on your phone or on your computer via the internet. There's no way for you to—or there shouldn’t be, at least, any way for you to go back and look at that vote again.
It’s a different animal. It’s a different beast and this is something that, I don’t know why it’s difficult for folks to understand, but voting is not like an ATM transaction. It’s completely different because of the secret ballot and therefore, we have to go about it in a completely different way. So your friend, when he says he can verify his vote in Switzerland, well he really can’t.
What he can verify is what the computer tells him he voted. That does not necessarily mean that his vote was counted that way. Furthermore, he might be able to look at his own vote, but he can’t look at everyone else’s vote, and that’s where oversight and transparency for the public comes in. The public has to be able to oversee the election, not just their own vote, but they have to be able to oversee everyone’s vote to assure that everyone’s vote has been tallied as intended by the voter.
So it’s very different from an ATM transaction, slushy or otherwise. Does that explanation make sense?
Chris Martenson: Well it does and thank you for that. That’s a very clear explanation. I love it. This is why we sometimes have to turn to statistical arguments. Let’s go back to 2004 because this is frankly where things went off the rail for me in terms of my trust in the system. So in 2004, we saw that Bush won the recorded vote nationally, 50.7 percent to 48.3 percent. So that’s a 3 million vote margin, but Kerry won the national exit poll by 51.7 to 47 percent, a 6 million margin.
Exit polls used to be the gold standard. If the exit polls and the results matched, the UN would say that was a fair election in some third world country. But they seem to have gone badly off the rails here in 2004. So that bothered me at a national level, but it was that Wednesday morning right after the November 2nd presidential election; Kerry telephones the White House late that morning, so it’s less than 24 hours, and conceded the election after he and his campaign team looked over the voting numbers from Ohio.
So he tosses in the towel. That always bothered me because of the number of voting irregularities that were apparent in Ohio that year. They were astounding and covered a wide range of things. Ohio and Florida were the pivotal states in that election so it was both the results themselves and Kerry’s immediate fall to the mat after a light tap on the chin—that’s where I lost my faith. Was that an overreaction on my part?
Brad Friedman: No, you’re absolutely right. What Kerry did in basically rolling over the next day essentially made the case that Bush and the Republicans had been making throughout the campaign. It was a nonsense argument oh that Kerry, who was a war hero, was somehow a coward, but in fact, that day, as you say, within 24 hours he conceded an election that he should not have conceded, that he said he was not going to concede. They were promising for months before that election they were going to make sure that every vote was counted and counted accurately in 2004, given what had happened in 2000.
But you're right, he immediately rolled over and justified all of the arguments that the Republicans had been making about him. It was absolutely pathetic. That said, I’ll have some quibble with you, if you’d like, concerning exit polls, but I certainly agree with you on your central thesis there that what John Kerry did was just outrageous.
Chris Martenson: Well good, I’m glad we have agreement there. I would love to understand the exit poll piece. Because if we’re within the margin of error, fine, but when certain results are coming back that are several standard deviations away, I look at people running statistics and they say "well, after you add up enough of those, you get results that should happen one in every 100,000 results or more." What do you say to that?
Brad Friedman: Well we have to break down your original argument just a little bit, because you had taken—you were talking about national exit polls. So I’m not sure where you were getting your data, but we don’t run national elections in the U.S., obviously. In the U.S., we go state by state, we have an electoral college, so let’s get rid of, for the moment, any national averages.
But state by state, yes, in those swing states, we did see the exit polls suggesting that John Kerry was going to be the winner and instead, we found out that George W. Bush was the winner, according to the reported results. Now, exit polls, for one thing, they do not release the raw data from the exit polls, at least from the exit polls in the U.S. So they serve as a red flag or a yellow flag that hey, there could be a problem here, but they are not in and of themselves proof that there has been fraud.
By the way, when you have a disparity between the exit polls and the results, there could be other reasons as well. Even if you have a disparity between the exit poll raw data and the results, we can have just errors, miss-programming; these systems fail all the time. So it does not necessarily mean fraud. But yes, it’s certainly a red or yellow flag that should be looked into.
But the case that I’ve seen and the reason I’m sort of reacting this way to the exit polls, is because what I’ve seen this year... A lot of Bernie Sanders supporters who are out there making the case that the exit polls show one thing and the results show another and therefore that means the election has been stolen by fraud and the fraud has been committed by Hillary Clinton—and the fact is we don’t have proof of any of that. All we have is some exit poll numbers that don’t necessarily match the results.
The exit poll numbers could be wrong. The results could be wrong. The exit polls, as I say, are not raw data. It would be a different matter—and I don’t want to get into the weeds on how these exit polls are carried out—but it would be a different matter if we had the specific raw data from a specific precinct and then we could compare it to the results at that precinct. But we don’t have that.
The exit poll companies, who are paid for by the corporate media, refuse to release their raw data. So what happens is, Chris, you and I and everybody else just end up guessing. Gosh, the exit polls don’t seem to match up with the results. There’s this presumption in the corporate media when that happens that, well, the exit polls must have been wrong and the machines must have been right. I’ve seen enough machines and enough errors on those machines—whether it’s through fraud or error or manipulation—to know that no, the results are not the gold standard, not the way that we record them right now.
So there is reason to be suspicious. There is reason to be concerned. There is reason to be troubled because we are not allowed to oversee the tabulation of these votes. But in and of themselves, those exit polls do not necessarily mean that there has been fraud or that someone is stealing the election. Does that distinction make sense?
Chris Martenson: Well it does, but it necessarily means that we would want to go and then verify the results if possible. So let’s make this real. Let’s go to a recent example. The Kentucky governor’s race concluded in 2015; it had a smashing last-day 15-point turnaround for the underdog Matt Bevin who I think was trailing three to five points—wins by nine. It was a pretty big turnaround and I should note here, just for those who like their things served with a little humor, that among his first official acts was to propose draconian budget cuts to the committees for ethics investigations and elections oversight.
A lot of people saying there was suspicious things in that. Is there anything suspicious about his last minute come from behind victory in your mind, and would you think we should be looking into that?
Brad Friedman: Oh yeah, of course we should. Small nuance here, but the difference between the polls you mentioned and the results and whatever it was, 15-point swing, that wasn’t from exit polls. That was from pre-election polling, which is a little bit different than exit polls. But still, they give us an indication of what the results are most likely to be, and yes, there was this huge swing. Matt Bevin was a very unpopular candidate and he was running against someone who was thought to be much more popular. It was very odd that some of the down-ticket candidates on that same ballot—some of those Democrats ended up getting more votes than the Democrat at the top of the ticket.
So there was a lot of reason to be concerned about those results in Kentucky. So normally, when this sort of thing happens, one might say "okay count the ballots." Instead of relying on the computer totals, count the ballots. Well in Kentucky, unfortunately—and this came into play a few days ago on the May 17 democratic primary in Kentucky. In Kentucky, they still use enough of those 100 percent unverifiable touchscreens we mentioned earlier, that there absolutely is no way to go back and find out exactly how the voters intended to vote. It is 100 percent faith based voting.
So in an election like that, as we had on May 17, the democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, there was less than 2,000 votes separating the two candidates. Well they use a lot more—a lot more votes were cast on unverifiable touchscreen voting systems than 2,000. So even if you went back and counted the paper ballots in a state like Kentucky, you would still never be able to know for certain who actually won the election.
So that’s why it’s insane to use those type of systems and that was the same problem that we had back in the gubernatorial election in Kentucky—when was that, last year? Yes. I’m losing track of time, it’s so insane. But yes, there is every reason to be suspicious. By the way, there is every reason to be suspicious of every election. There's a lot of money at stake—a lot of money, a lot of power at stake in these elections and so people should be suspicious about them.
No matter what you do, people will try to game elections. There's just too much at stake for people to not want to try to do that. That’s why you need a system that is as transparent as possible because people are going to try to game it. The trick is to have as many eyeballs looking as possible to make it as difficult as possible to game the election. That’s the trick. When you begin to use security by obscurity and hide the way that votes are actually counted and the way that votes are actually cast and the systems that are used to tally them, we have no idea in the end.
I think that’s just absolutely crazy. Every time I come out and make that argument, it depends what election has just happened, but I'm either a Democratic partisan, I’m a Republican partisan, I’m a Bernie supporter, I’m a Hillary supporter, whatever it is, people don’t like to hear these facts. So I’ve had to go to bat for a lot of candidate who I would have never ever even considered voting for. But I think that their supporters have the right to know—whether they won or lost— have the right to know that the election was tabulated accurately. That’s what we no longer have in this country and it’s ridiculous.
Chris Martenson: So let me... you mentioned something about precinct level results before... even if these things are tabulated on a voting machine, I’ll tell you a paper that sort of turned my head. It was back in 2012 and it was by Francois Choquette and James Johnson. It’s about election anomalies, where they are looking at the percentage that a candidate would get by the precinct size, and statistically speaking, those should be pretty flat lines and they had example after example after example where they could detect what they consider to be free and fair elections where they had basically a flat line. There should be no reason for a line to slope as you go across precincts.
Then they found other ones where there were clear signs of actual manipulation. So we can see. That turned my head. Are you familiar with that work and does that idea hold any merit to you?
Brad Friedman: There are signs that are anomalous. I would not say there are signs of manipulation. Again, go back to—it could be simple error or there could be reasonable explanations for it. For example, they have put forward—I’ve seen them do those same studies, mapping out some more recent elections showing, for example, that Hillary Clinton was doing better in one precinct… I’m not doing a good job of explaining it, but she was doing better in precincts where you had a big turnout and so forth.
Well, she’s very popular with African-Americans and in urban areas so there was an explanation for that. Bernie Sanders is more popular in rural areas where you have smaller precincts, so that might explain that. That might make perfect sense. But again, we shouldn’t have to be doing all of this. We shouldn’t have to be doing all this algebra and rocket science.
This is pretty easy. This is pretty straightforward. A piece of paper, a pen, you choose who you want to vote for; you drop it in a box. At the end of the night, everybody has been watching that box all day. At the end of the night, you take out the ballots, you count them in front of the people, and you know exactly what the results are. We should not have to have these types of studies that go back and find these statistical anomalies begging explanation.
But that is what we have. So I understand when people like you look at those studies and are troubled by them. You should be troubled by them. There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation, but the problem is we are not allowed to know.
Beth Clarkson, a statistician Wichita, Kansas, she works at I think its Wichita University out there, she’s very well respected in her field. She did that same study you’re talking about with elections in Kansas, found those same anomalies, filed—and she did this twice. So far she’s been rejected twice by the courts—but filed twice to look at the ballots, the so-called paper trails, the audit logs from the voting machines to try to figure out if in fact this is how people voted or if something went wrong, if there was some kind of an anomaly.
She has been disallowed from looking at those materials. And we’re talking about an election—I think the election she was questioning was from 2014. It’s too late to change the results of that election, to overturn it. Whoever won that election gets to keep their seat. But she’s still a citizen who goes to court twice and is being opposed by the secretary of state and the county clerk wherever she lives, being opposed, not allowed to look at those materials.
Why? How can we run a system like that? Well, we do, and it’s maddening, absolutely maddening.
Chris Martenson: It is. It is Brad and if I remember that case right, I think in one of the rulings the judge said this would violate a voter’s right to privacy. She countered with the idea that "what privacy? They’re all anonymous ballots, I can’t possibly detect who cast what vote," but he stood by the ruling, or she, I don’t know what the judge was, but that was like the most inane sort of ruling. It was almost like… I call it the subprime court, instead of Supreme Court, after the 2000 piece where they use this arcane weird interpretation of the 14th Amendment to say "uh….. Bush." It’s just crazy making because it doesn’t make any legal sense. It doesn’t have any precedence to stand on and it doesn’t even make logical sense but that’s what we have to deal with.
Brad Friedman: Well that’s right. The argument that was put forward, violating voter secrecy, that has been put forward before on the idea that when you have paper ballots, hand marked paper ballots, that somehow somebody might put a mark on them in some fashion that would then somehow be identifiable. But here’s the problem: We’ve got out here in California for example, I think more than half of the votes that are cast are cast via absentee ballot. Vote by mail.
You can already show your neighbor how it is you intend to vote. Vote buying and selling is a serious concern and that is why you should never be—when you go to vote, you should not be handed a receipt for example of how you voted, because that allows you to go out and sell your vote. That’s something else that people don’t understand. "Hey, why can’t I get a receipt when I go to vote?" Well that’s why you can’t, because it leads to vote buying, vote selling, intimidation, your boss tells you "hey, if you don’t come in tomorrow with a Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump receipt, you’ll be fired," that sort of thing. So you don’t want to be able to do that. Still, you have people who are pushing for more and more vote by mail, more and more absentee voting.
I’m in favor of being able to cast a ballot if you’re not going to be there on Election Day. But we see states now in Oregon, for example, going to all 100 percent vote by mail. I think that’s a terrible idea for a number of reasons, but among them, it’s very easy to buy and sell a vote in that case. And yet, you then have election officials saying "well you can’t look at the votes that have been cast because somehow they might identify somebody and violate their privacy," more insanity.
Chris Martenson: It is crazy making. But let me turn the tables on you real quick; let me turn to the skeptics. I’m going to read a headline here, it’s from 2014... It’s essentially the same one I saw in all the major publications, but this one is from the Washington Post and the headline reads... “Seven papers, four government inquiries, two news investigations, and one court ruling proving voter fraud is mostly a myth.” It seems to me that there was a concerted effort to prove to all of us that voting fraud is just an urban myth. The Brennan Center for Justice, a New York University School of Law housed entity, was especially central to promoting that idea and I have something to say about that particular study itself, but what’s your response to these debunking— seven papers, four government inquiries, two news investigations, a court ruling, what you’re talking about is just a myth?
Brad Friedman: Well it’s not what I’m talking about. They’re talking about voter fraud. I’m talking about election fraud. I’m talking about insiders who have access to the machines, who can change the results of an election in 30 seconds flat. I’m talking about the potential for hackers to come in and game the system. Election insiders—that’s the concern when it comes to elections and fraud, not voters. The voters are doing fine. Leave them alone. And that’s what that paper refers to, voter fraud.
The only type of fraud—when you hear these Republicans who are pushing these photo ID voting restrictions, what they are pushing is to deter the type of fraud that almost never happens, as that study—I haven’t read that specific article, but I’ve read enough of those studies they cite, as that article is referring to. So when it comes to in-person fraud, impersonation at the polling place, that almost never happens, and for good reason. It’s insane.
As it is, people are forced to stand in line for three or four hours to cast their votes. I guess the suggestion is after standing in line for three or four hours to cast one’s vote, you’re going to turn around and get back in the line or back in another line for another three or four hours. You’re going to show up and you’re going to give someone else’s name on the presumption, by the way, that they have not yet voted and that nobody at the polling place knows you. And you’re going to do all of this in order to cast a single vote and risk what is, like a $5-10,000 fine and five to ten years in jail for one single vote.
That’s why it’s insane. That’s why it happens so infrequently. So if you want to game an election, all you’ve got to do is get inside the system, inside the election office, hit a few keystrokes and change the entire election and nobody will bother to check it. That’s the problem; nobody bothers to look at it.
Even when we get insane results, even when you had a case back in 2013, a guy by the name of Alvin Greene, you may remember from South Carolina, no one had ever heard of this guy. He was unemployed; he didn’t have a campaign website. He didn’t campaign anywhere. He didn’t even own a cell phone. He lived at his father’s house. He was named the democratic nominee for the United States Senate in 2013 in the state of South Carolina, which by the way, uses 100 percent unverifiable touchscreen voting systems across the entire state. Even with this election of this guy—by the way, he was running against a judge and a former state senator who was well respected, who campaigned in every county in the state, who was spending… who had a big campaign staff, had tens of thousands of dollars in the bank.
That’s who he beat, and nobody—when this happened and it was so clear something went wrong, they still didn’t throw out the election. There was no recount because you can’t recount software vapor. There was nothing to recount and it was allowed to go through. Of course, the guy got his butt kicked in the general election and that was that.
So even when we have these ridiculously anomalous elections, there is literally nothing that can be done about them afterwards. Anyway, that’s a much easier way to scam an election than go one vote by one vote, committing actual impersonation voter fraud at the polling place. That just almost never happens.
If you actually want to commit voter fraud, as opposed to election fraud, again, absentee ballots are the way to go. So there are ways to commit voter fraud. It’s just not done the way that the Republicans are claiming that it is done and they are making that claim for one reason and one reason only, to make it more difficult for democratic leaning voters to be able to cast their vote, period. That’s the only reason why those photo ID laws exist. Every other explanation is complete and utter baseless, evidence-free nonsense.
Chris Martenson: I love that, great distinction there, well said. I did, I skimmed through this paper by Justin Levitt, with 50 pages long. He’s the guy from the Brennan Center and there wasn’t one mention of electronic voting machines. So there was nothing about election integrity in there. It was all just about "oh what if somebody got a fake ID." I felt like I was reading a document that was the equivalent of a little bright shiny thing that a magician might use to keep you off what’s actually happening.
It seemed so insincere. I find it hard to believe that people support looking further into that.
Brad Friedman: Well he was right actually to do that. He has been setting—Justin Levitt has been setting—and he now works, by the way, at the Department of Justice in the civil rights division; the voting division. But he was responding to the claim being made by the Republicans for those photo ID laws that result in voter suppression and the reason those laws exist is in fact to suppress the vote.
So he was responding to that very specific issue, so you need to just keep the difference, because they do both matter. They are two different sides of the same coin. We need to make sure that people can actually access the polls legally as they’re entitled to, and then later, after they cast their vote, we need to be concerned about the tabulation, how it’s counted, and our ability to oversee it and know that it’s counted accurately.
So I wouldn’t be so hard on Justin Levitt and on that study because it was actually a good one. What he ended up finding was that out of—I think it was 30 billion votes, if I’m remembering this correctly, or maybe it was a billion...I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but something like 30 billion votes cast over the past 15 years. They were able to find I think it was 10 or 14 incidents of the type of voter fraud that could possibly even be deterred by photo ID restrictions. Just ridiculous numbers.
There is so little of that type of voter fraud that goes on to justify disenfranchising millions of Americans. That’s what that study by Justin Levitt was focused on. So in that regard, I think it was a good study. He was not looking at the voting machines, but that’s a separate issue.
Chris Martenson: All right, well that’s a fair point and thank you for making that distinction, but what I note is that the newspapers then run with it to say, big headlines, "voting fraud is a myth" and that’s as far as they’re going to look into it. Who is looking into the voting machines and the tabulation errors that we’ve been talking about?
Brad Friedman: You and me Chris, that’s about it. Just make that distinction between voter fraud and election fraud. There are people who are concerned with election fraud, actually Brennan Center, since you mentioned Brennan Center for Justice at NYU; they actually did a pretty good study. I want to say it was back in 2006, I think, concerning electronic voting systems and just how terrible they are, how easily hacked they are, as we’ve seen now in case after case, study after study around the country. Secretary of State Debra Bowen out here in California years ago—she’s no longer the secretary of state, but when she became secretary of state, she did a top to bottom review of every electronic voting system that had been certified in the state of California. She found that every single one of them could be hacked down to the central tabulator in about 60 seconds’ time and could have their elections flipped without leaving any evidence behind. So she did a good job in getting the information out on that and a bunch of machines were decertified in the state of California.
Then the secretary of state of Ohio at the time, Jennifer Brunner, also a democrat, came in and followed it up with her own study called "Everest" and surprise, surprise, found the exact same thing. So there are people out there doing those studies.
The problem is there's sort of a difference between the studies themselves and what happens in reality. I read those studies. I see what goes on in the elections. I try to connect those dots but many people in the corporate media just don’t connect. I remember it was back in 2008, I believe it was, I want to say 2008, and yes it was 2008—The New York Times Magazine did a Sunday cover story on exactly this and on how easy it was to hack a voting machine.
That was on a Sunday just before the New Hampshire primary. Then the New Hampshire primary came, which everyone thought, all the pre-election polls and I believe the exit, yes the exit polls that day said that Barack Obama was going to win and Hillary Clinton ended up being declared the winner. Now, maybe she really did win that, two days later after the New York Times cover story.
But nobody knew that. Nobody could know for a fact unless they actually bothered to count the paper ballots that were cast in New Hampshire, because they were running them through optical scan computers. Either this records them correctly or incorrectly, who knows unless you bother to count them. Nonetheless, even though they had that cover story, two days earlier in the New York Times warning about "oh get ready, these voting machines are going to be problem in 2008," the New York Times was the first one to poo-poo any concerns about what happened in that election in New Hampshire.
They called it one of the greatest upsets in American electoral history when she won that. The exit polls that day showed that Barack Obama was going to win and yet somehow, she won. The newspaper, which reported on the concerns about voting machines, immediately forgot what they had reported just two days earlier. So that’s the disconnect.
There is information about those machines and concerns that are put forward by scientists and engineers and really smart people, and then the media completely ignore those concerns when you have a questionable election. So amazing disconnects.
Chris Martenson: Here’s a quick question for you then: How many people have gone to jail for election rigging?
Brad Friedman: Let’s see, not many. I can think of one guy who was a Republican who wrote a book, his name was Allen Raymond. He wrote a book called How to Rig an Election; Confessions of a Republican Operative. But it wasn’t rigged by voting machines, it was rigged another way with telephone banking and so forth. But very few people, almost nobody—election fraud is pretty safe it seems to carry out.
There was a group of officials in Clay County, Kentucky in 2011 who were sentenced collectively to 156 years in jail for gaming elections in Clay County, Kentucky. For decades they were doing it, they were both buying and selling votes, and then once the electronic touchscreen voting systems came to Clay County, they figured out frankly a really dumb way, but they figured out how to go in and change the votes of voters after they had left the booth on those touchscreen voting systems.
Now if they weren’t—these guys maybe weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, because they could have just gone back to county headquarters and changed all the votes at once instead of doing it machine by machine, but that’s what they were doing. This was nine top election officials who were sentenced in this case. They were the county clerk—again, so he had access to these machines— the county clerk, a district court judge, the school superintendent of these counties.
These were top officials, well respected in their communities; they were the ones who were gaming the election. So I used to hear a lot when I would bring up these issues, I would hear election officials say "hey, you’re claiming I’m committing fraud." Well I wasn’t claiming you’re committing fraud, but I am pointing out that yes, if you want to commit fraud, again, it’s the insiders. It’s the election officials, they have the best access to do it, and that’s why we, the public, need to be able to oversee everything that those election officials are doing, even the best ones.
The best ones by the way will tell you "don’t trust me. If you can’t see it, it shouldn’t be trusted." That’s what the best election officials in the country will tell you. Unfortunately, not a lot of them say that.
Chris Martenson: I can understand why. So in closing here, first of all, I’ve read a few things that say states are moving away from electronic voting machines. I want to test if that’s actually true, but secondarily, what’s the gold standard? How should we be doing this so if people wanted to get off of listening to this and agitate for appropriate change in their state, what is it that they should be asking for?
Brad Friedman: Well to the first question, when they say they’re moving away from electronic voting systems, what they’re talking about is moving away from the touchscreen systems, the 100 percent unverifiable touchscreen systems that I mentioned. So there is a move away from those in many states. We’re still using them in a lot of states, which means that it’s going to be impossible to verify a whole bunch of elections this November.
Yes, they have been moving away, but when they say they’re moving away from electronic voting systems, they’re not really telling you the truth, because even as I said, on those hand marked paper ballots, those are still run through optical scan computers. For some reason, these people don’t consider those to be electronic voting systems. So no, we are by and large across the entire country still using electronic voting systems and nobody is bothering to verify that they are actually tabulating correctly.
What is the gold standard? Look to 40 percent of the towns in New Hampshire where they—and they’re not the only ones to do it, but there's not a lot of people doing it. But 40 percent of the towns in New Hampshire hand mark paper ballots, they’re pulled out after the polls close. The entire community comes in, they pull the ballots out of the box, the community themselves bring their own chairs and they oversee the counting. In each precinct, it takes place right then and there.
Those results are posted right then and there before the ballots are moved to the county level or the state level. So even if they are gamed, it would be very difficult to get away with it because there are so many people watching and overseeing it. Even if the numbers change between the time they’re counted at the precinct to when they show up online on the web, you’ve got a whole bunch of people who said no, no, wait, I was there, I oversaw it. Those were not the results.
We saw that for example in the Iowa caucuses, GOP caucuses, back in 2012. In fact, the Republican Party, which runs the caucuses there, put out numbers that night showing that Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucus. In fact, he didn’t; it was Rick Santorum back then. The only reason we know is because the Republicans, for their own caucuses, they used hand counted paper ballots.
People were able to see, "no, Mitt Romney did not get 22 votes at my caucus site, as the Republicans are claiming. He only got two." So once the information got out and people took pictures, they had the original tally sheet that could prove it because they had oversight. Because of that, eventually the Republican Party had to change the results and they admitted "yes, it was in fact Rick Santorum; it wasn’t Mitt Romney."
But that was due to the oversight of the hand counted paper ballots that took place. That’s your gold standard. That’s democracy’s gold standard. And that’s what we need to start seeing in every town, city, village, state in this country.
Chris Martenson: Thank you so much for your time today Brad. That was superb. That was really just superb and I want to thank you for the work you’re doing. It’s so important and in this election cycle, I think people are going to understand that it is really important that our votes actually count. I’m shocked and I hope other people listening to this are shocked that the state of voting is so insecure in America and it would not be that hard to make it secure again— accountability, oversight, to re-double paraphrase Reagan: Verify but then recount.
I just love it. So tell people again how they can follow you and your excellent work more closely.
Brad Friedman: Thank you Chris. You can go to bradblog.com where pretty much everything that I do is posted. We have a daily radio show now, which you can follow at bradblog.com/bradcast or you can subscribe for free at iTunes. We’re syndicated actually all over the world at this point, and I’ll show up everywhere else, I write at Salon and everywhere else, but bradblog.com, that’s your main source for all the Bradness you can possibly stand.
Chris Martenson: Well thanks again and we’ll be following you throughout this election cycle and beyond.
Brad Friedman: Thank you Chris, greatly appreciate it.