Steve A. Stone
Dear Friends and Patriots,
On Sept. 29, I saw a post on the Port City Republican Women Facebook page that announced their Oct. 4 gathering in downtown Mobile. It featured two speakers. One was a friend, Common Sense Campaign Tea Party founder Pete Riehm. The other was the Republican candidate for Alabama’s Secretary of State, Wes Allen. I thought it was something I might want to attend. There looked to be something in it for all of us.
I arrived at the venue—a really terrible place for any kind of meeting. The acoustics were the worst I’d experienced, outside a factory. There weren’t all that many people at the table, but it was a dining area attached to a grocery. There were a few other tables filled with people who’d gathered up to visit with their friends. Between the normal noises of the grocery, the background music, the TV that’s always on in the room, and the other diners chittering away in the background, it was almost impossible to hear the two guest speakers. If anyone from Port City Republican Women is reading, I understand why you chose the place, but you need to do better. That place is the pits! But, I was on a mission, so I other than noting how bad the setup was, I dedicated myself to my task.
One person I immediately recognized was Pete Riehm’s campaign manager, Braden Cockrell. He and I got acquainted when he was working on the Mo Brooks campaign. I sat down next to Braden at the end of the table farthest from the speakers. In our conversation, I asked Braden if he understood the ES&S voting machines and their vulnerabilities. He said he didn’t know what I was referring to. I promised to catch him up, then told him I was there to see and hear Wes Allen to find out what he had to say on the subject.
After the opening remarks, Mr. Allen was introduced. He’s a lawyer by training and is a former probate judge. He has years of experience in the mechanics of elections. In his remarks, he made a few that were “applause lines.” He said, “As long as I’m in office, Alabama will have paper ballots.” Another line had to do with Voter IDs. He stated Alabama has the best Voter ID laws in the country. Most of the rest of his presentation had to do with résumé, experience, and Alabama insider stuff. I took note of the comments I was interested in—for later.
My friend Pete was introduced next. He gave a longer presentation than Mr. Allen, but that was okay. Pete’s a Mobile resident who’s running for a state senate seat that’s been encumbered by the same Democrat for 25 years. She “inherited” the office from her deceased husband, who preceded her. Pete won’t be my representative in the state senate, but I’m behind his campaign for all kinds of reasons. He should do very well in the job, and I expect him to be a very visible and approachable presence, which will be a real change for his district.
After the business end of the meeting was concluded, we said our closing prayer and the meeting was closed. That’s when the real fun started—the picture taking and glad-handing. You won’t find my picture anywhere. Whoever was behind the camera was careful to ensure I wasn’t in any shot. But, I wasn’t there to get my picture taken.
About twenty minutes went by. I was standing alongside one wall, by myself, trying to determine the best way to approach Wes Allen. He was engaged in a conversation with the people immediately to my left. Then, just like magic, he was standing in front of me with his hand out. Yeah, that’s what politicians do—they work the room. It’s not that hard to get face-time with them if you just stand in one spot and wait your turn. It looked like I was going to get what I came for without expending any real effort.
I greeted Mr. Allen, shook his hand and said, “Mr. Allen, I want to ask you some questions about the ES&S voting machines.” The look on his face seemed to harden a bit. I asked him if he was aware of the latent vulnerabilities of the machines. He said he wasn’t. Whether that’s true or not isn’t something I can attest to. Besides, my mission was to make absolutely certain he didn’t leave my presence without that knowledge, so I started in. I told him I’d been party to discussions with Judge Harry D’Olive in Baldwin County, Judge Don Davis in Mobile, and with Secretary of State John Merrill and that none of those three seemed to want to talk about voting machine vulnerabilities. I asked Mr. Allen if he wanted to know. He said he did.
This is what I told him: “There are four vulnerabilities that you need to understand. All digital voting machines have vulnerabilities, but there are four that are distinct about the ES&S machines.
"The first is the contract itself. Everyone who has anything to do with the machines makes sure to tell us about the proprietary rights of the manufacturer. There should be a proprietary non-disclosure agreement in that contract, but there isn’t. One could be added by doing a one-page contract modification, but that hasn’t been done. I know what I’m talking about; I dealt with federal government contracts for every day of my 32 years working for the Navy. Every contract I ever worked had proprietary non-disclosure agreements in them. That needs to be addressed.
"The second is that there has never been an internal inspection to verify whether the contract specification was adhered to. They aren’t supposed to have any internet connectivity or internal modems of any kind inside, but no one knows. No one has looked inside. All we hear is, “We can’t. The company has proprietary rights that we can’t violate.” No one in Alabama knows what’s in those machines. If even a few have Wi-Fi modems, anyone who knows the phone number can call that machine and possibly affect its count.
"The third vulnerability has to do with machine-resident software. It has never been analyzed by an independent software engineer to determine if there are options that can be selected to determine how they count. That’s how a modem call can affect the count. If the software has options, a phone call could trigger the option desired. I’m not saying the software is written that way, but no one can assure anyone that it isn’t.
"The fourth is the proprietary flash drives. They’re programmed by ES&S before every election, supposedly according to instructions from the Secretary of State’s office, to give all the information on which machine will be used in which county and which precinct with the counties. I understand that’s how the machine recognizes an improper ballot. But, no one examines any of the flash drives to understand what’s on them. We don’t know if it’s only the information about machine assignments, or if there’s other things that could trigger a machine-resident code option. It’s the 'not knowing' that’s the problem."
Mr. Allen was patient. His demeanor didn’t change while I was talking. He just sort of stared at me. When I finished telling him of the vulnerabilities, I added, “I came here today to make sure you know of the things I’ve just told you. You have to know. Now, I’ll make sure people know I told you. And you need to understand one thing, there are a lot of people who know what I do. We know the machines can change votes, and we understand the easy parts of ballot security have been addressed. We want these machines looked at."
He never responded, other than to thank me for coming. We shook hands, and he was off to the next person. My mission was accomplished. Now, I know Wes Allen has been fully informed on the ES&S voting machine vulnerabilities. He can’t truthfully say he doesn’t know or understand.
What we need to do is begin talking to the politicians—to tell them we know what’s up. They need to know we understand how they’re allowing system vulnerabilities to go unaddressed.
I was talking to Braden about my conversation, and he asked why no one seemed to be interested in fixing machine vulnerabilities. My answer was, “Even an honest politician might want to know there’s a way to steal an election if they want to bad enough. Some people really don’t want to take a chance on losing.” That’s truly what I think is behind it all. I asked him if he noted the emphasis on the use of paper ballots, with a physical trail of records. “They always want you to focus on the obvious. They’ve 'fixed' the easy stuff and want you to focus there. Meanwhile the real problems are still there. They just don’t want to talk about them. They hope you don’t notice.”
The current Secretary of State of Alabama likes to brag about putting the requirement in the contract to ensure no modem or internet connectivity is part of the machine configuration. But, he gets a bit upset whenever asked one simple question, “How do you know?” No one has that answer. But, that’s not by mistake. Trust me on that. Those people involved are far too smart and experienced for those vulnerabilities not to be addressed if their intent was to have 100% honest elections.
Wes Allen’s non-responsiveness is a bit unsettling. Unless he takes specific actions to address those vulnerabilities, my contention will be that elections in Alabama are suspect. Because he’s going to be Candidate Allen until at least November 8, there’s one thing I’m certain of that the 2022 election results in my state cannot be trusted. If he then does as his predecessors have done and ignores what I told him, then no election under his tenure can be trusted. To me, it’s just that simple.
There are a couple of things I didn’t tell you before that you need to know now. One is about the Cast Vote Record (CVR). The CVR is a computer-generated record of every transaction the ES&S vote tabulator machine performs subsequent to its last purge. It records actual images of each and every ballot fed into the machine. In theory the images should be a 100% match with each of the ballots in the machine’s hopper. In theory. I would love to say “in fact” but there’s no one who can say that. It’s an Alabama thing that may not apply elsewhere, but I do know in Alabama there has not been an instance where a CVR was ever compared to the physical papers or to the tabulation results paper tapes that are spit out of the machine at the end of Election Day. Why is that important? Because if there has been any intervention into the process, the CVR will tell us. It not only records those images, but any other thing that goes on within the machine. If the machine has an internal modem, anything that goes through the modem would be recorded on the CVR. Also, because the image files are supposedly “true” if you compare one to the printed paper tabulation tapes and there’s not a 100% match, you know immediately something has been done to skew the outcome.
You may wonder why such comparisons aren’t done on at least a random basis. After all, isn’t everyone concerned with ballot integrity? The answer to that question lies in the process followed. In Alabama the probate judge’s office receives all the boxes from the precincts in the county, and each flash drive. Once they’ve verified all the boxes are present and there’s no obvious question, all records that pertain to that election are sealed, except the flash drives, which are returned to ES&S. The CVR is sealed along with the ballots and all the sworn testaments of the poll workers. Once sealed, it takes a court order to unseal them. To my knowledge, no judge has allowed one of those boxes to be unsealed. They sit in the possession of the county sheriffs. They exist, but they may as well not, because no judge seems willing to open any of them.
Processes vary between the states. It pays to understand the process if you want to understand vulnerabilities and how they could be dealt with. I only speak for Alabama, but in doing so I warn all others. You have your own problems to solve, and you need to be out there, learning, and working on solutions.
One thing I noted in all my conversations regarding Alabama’s election integrity efforts is that they love to talk about the obvious. You’ll be proudly informed about Alabama’s single Election Day. We don’t do early voting in Alabama, nor do we allow motor-voters. We seem to have closed the gap on things like ballot harvesting and the use of all-digital voting machines. The state seems proud of the fact that we use only paper ballots. But, you won’t hear them say anything about the vote tabulating machine vulnerabilities. You won’t hear them discuss the truth that once the election is over no one can access the ballots to do an independent audit of any precinct results. You won’t hear them talk about audits at all; they aren’t done in Alabama.
One additional thing that’s germane to Alabama that may be in other states is that voter rolls are continuously updated, but they’re only purged after each election. People who move, change their names, or die during the time between elections have their files updated. I believe that’s generally true. I do think most registrars try to keep the best records they can. But, because of all the “dead” records, which are the voter registrations that are no longer germane for the reasons cited, are still on the books until just after an election, there’s another vulnerability. I’ll play a bit of a “what if” game here. What if each county or maybe just certain counties, have a voting machine or two that’s not out in the precincts? What if some of those records that are about to be purged by the registrar “accidently” get used as valid IDs for the purpose of creating ballots in someone’s offices? What if those created ballots are fed into a “spare” machine and are subsequently counted, with the counts rolled into those reported in from the precincts? If I was in charge of voting in a county and I wanted to skew an election toward one of my favorite candidates, wouldn’t it be easy? I’m not saying it’s happened, but am saying that the existence of IDs in a registrar’s files that aren’t purged until after the election constitutes a vulnerability. One thing I found was true is that once that “dead” file is purged there’s almost no way to tell if any ID on it was improperly used. Once it’s purged, it’s just gone.
That’s all I have for you today. I encourage everyone to get involved now. Now, as in right now! Study your own state’s election laws and learn all you can about any voting machines in use. Try to determine the vulnerabilities attached to any process, product, or machine used to run elections in your state. Learn who the people are who control the process. Find opportunities to be in the presence of those people, all the way up to your Secretary of State. Ask those people hard questions. Ask them if they’ve done vulnerability analysis. Ask them if they have an anti-election fraud task force set up to work on such things. Ask them if they’ve analyzed all aspects of their machines and software to ensure they can’t be tampered with. Understand that any reluctance to discuss those things or to answer any of your questions may just be a sign that your state has a problem in need of addressing.
That is all. Oh, maybe two more things: DO NOT COMPLY! And…MAGA, Baby!
Steve© Steve A. Stone
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.