In a letter obtained by The BRAD BLOG, Riverside County, California, Supervisor Jeff Stone attempts to move the goal posts concerning the ill-considered challenge he issued to Election Integrity advocates in December during a public, video-taped meeting.
The letter, sent by Stone on Wednesday to outgoing California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, attempts to unilaterally create unrealistic (some might say desperate) conditions for a proposed hack test of the county's electronic touch-screen voting machines, made by Sequoia Voting Systems. When Stone initially issued the challenge, he included no such ground rules.
Computer scientists and security experts interviewed by The BRAD BLOG, as well as a number of reports and studies from nationally-recognized bodies, understand what Stone apparently doesn't: the major threat to voting machine malfeasance comes not from a voter walking up to a voting system on Election Day, but rather from insiders who are easily able to gain unsupervised access to the machines.
The letter to McPherson from Stone is posted in full at the end of this article.
As we reported in mid-December, Stone had challenged Election Integrity advocates from Democracy for America-Temecula Valley, during a public meeting of the County Supervisors, to bring in a programmer willing to attempt a hack of Riverside's voting system. His offer was simply "to set up an appointment with one of our machines and I’d like him or her [the programmer] to verify that they can manipulate that machine."
At the time, Stone also said that he was willing to "bet a thousand to one that they cannot do it." (A transcript of the entire, very brief exchange was posted in full in our initial report of the incident, along with links to two different video tapes of the encounter.)
The challenge was accepted the following week by the activists, who announced that noted Finnish computer security expert Harri Hursti had volulnteered to perform the tests. Hursti previously hacked a paper-based Diebold optical-scan voting system in Leon County, Florida, at the end of 2005, and helped to discover alarming vulnerabilities in Diebold touch-screen systems a few months later in Emery County, Utah.
At the same time, a number of other election integrity advocates announced they would stake $1000 for charity on the bet against Stone's $1 million.
Stone's challenge, as seen in the videos and transcript, specified no ground rules for the hack test, despite what Stone indicates in his letter to McPherson. The Secretary of State recently lost his election bid to the incoming Debra Bowen, who will take office this coming Monday. McPherson had been much criticized for his lax testing of voting systems and his close relationship with a number of voting machine companies such as Diebold. He had also been quite friendly with the all-Republican Board of Supervisors in Riverside, The BRAD BLOG has learned from sources on the ground. Bowen has been an outspoken critic of McPherson's rubber-stamp certification of electronic voting systems in the state as well as the lack of adequate security standards specified for their use.
In his letter --- notably sent to McPherson and not to Bowen --- Stone creates a number of ground rules which were neither specified at the time of the challenge, nor the norm for standard security and vulnerability testing of computer software and hardware. He incorrectly characterizes the December exchange with Election Integrity advocate Maxine Ewig this way, unilaterally creating absurd conditions for the testing in the process...