Riverside County, California, Supervisor Jeff Stone laid down the gauntlet to Election Integrity advocates at a public meeting on Tuesday, offering to bet them "a thousand to one" they can't hack into the county's electronic voting machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems.
Near the end of a contentious meeting of the Board of Supervisors, in which the county's five person board accepted the final canvass of results from the November 7th election from Riverside County Registrar Barbara Dunmore, Stone made his challenge to one of a number of activists from the SAVE R VOTE election watchdog coalition. The advocates were on hand to give testimony about problems they witnessed during the recent election, to present their own report to the board (PDFs: Report, Photos#1, Photos#2), and ask that at least one of their members be appointed to a "Blue Ribbon Commission" being convened by the county to investigate problems during the election.
In the videotaped exchange with Stone, Maxine Ewig, a co-founder of Democracy for America - Temecula Valley and a SAVE R VOTE member, tells the county supervisors that she was informed by a programmer that they "had not seen any machine or program that could not be manipulated."
In response, Stone interrupted Ewig's testimony to offer his challenge.
"I'd like to challenge that programmer," Stone says in the video clip (complete transcript of the exchange at the bottom of this article), "and I'd like to set up an appointment with one of our machines and I'd like him or her to verify that they can manipulate that machine. And I'm gonna bet a thousand to one that they cannot do it...I'll make that challenge."
Stone's stunning challenge continued with an invitation to the media --- reporters from several local papers were on hand --- to witness the attempted voting machine manipulation.
"I'm challenging you to challenge her or him and I...I believe we can make that happen," he said. "And maybe we should bring the media in and let's see if your programmer can manipulate that machine. My guess is that it is not gonna happen, but I'm willing to take a chance on that."
How far Stone may be "willing to take" that "chance" remains to be seen. In the wake of the news, which was reported today briefly by both the Desert Sun and the Press Enterprise, several national Election Integrity advocates have informed The BRAD BLOG that they would be willing to put some money on the line towards accepting Stone's challenge. We hope to have more details on that as the matter develops.
Riverside is the first county in the nation to use touch-screen voting systems. Local Election Integrity advocates have, for some time, been waging a fight for more transparency, security, and accountability from the county and, specifically, the county's Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore.
SAVE R VOTE member Tom Courbat was on hand for the proceedings. Courbat is one of the activists who, as The BRAD BLOG broke in the days just prior to the November 7th election, helped reveal the "Yellow Button" on the back of Sequoia touch-screen machines which could allow a voter to cast as many votes as they wish on those systems.
He complained during his testimony to the board about the planned make up of the county's "Blue Ribbon Commission." The county is convening the panel to investigate several failures during the recent Election and the "operational problems of the registrar of voters office," as Courbat told us tonight.
Courbat suggested to the board that they appoint at least one citizen Election Integrity advocate to the panel after, earlier in the meeting, a board member had responded to critics by saying they didn't want to include anybody who was predisposed against electronic voting systems.
Courbat countered by suggesting that a mix of those both in favor and against such systems would be a healthy idea for the commission. The board seemed less than moved by the idea, and Ewig then proceeded by opening her own testimony informing the board that members of SAVE R VOTE had not come to this cause originally against electronic voting. Rather, she explained, their current position was based on "their own study over the past two years."
It was then that Stone answered with his challenge. The exchange is available on the county's website via online video here (Scroll to the 2:10:00 mark for the beginning of the exchange. NOTE: This video link may only work in Internet Explorer w/ Media Windows Player. Another video of the same event, from a different camera angle --- with some priceless expressions from at least one of the Supervisors --- is now posted below in Streaming Flash.)
It is unclear whether or not Stone is aware of either Sequoia's "Yellow Button" issue or, as we reported earlier this year, that Dr. Michael Shamos of Carnegie Mellon University accidentally hacked into a Sequoia system while demonstrating how such systems couldn't be hacked.
Shamos, a supporter of electronic voting systems, was testing Sequoia's voting machines for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania when he was able "in an instant," as it was reported last March, "to transform a handful of votes into thousands."
We'll hope Supervisor Stone has some deep pockets, as he may have to come up with quite a few dollars to back up his "thousand to one" challenge.
A complete text transcript of the short exchange between Supervisor Jeff Stone and Maxine Ewig follows in full...
December 5, 2006
Supervisor Jeff Stone challenges SAVE R VOTE to manipulate Riverside's Sequoia Voting System.
Maxine Ewig is a co-founder of Democracy For America – Temecula Valley and guiding member of the SAVE R VOTE Project Team. She is a retired educator.
Supervisor Jeff Stone is a first-term County Supervisor and a former city council member in Temecula, CA. He is a pharmacist by trade.
Transcript begins at approximately 2:10:00 in the video posted online by the county at the following address: http://tinyurl.com/y38urj
MAXINE EWIG: Thank you gentlemen for allowing the opportunity for this discussion this morning. Before I give you what I really prepared to say to you, I want to make one statement regarding SAVE R VOTE because I'm here as an EOP [Election Observer Panel] representative. SAVE R VOTE did not start out with any perceived intent that paper ballot was the way to go. Some of the people in this room sat in my living room and vigorously argued that there was nothing possible wrong with the system and with the machines. Some people even got up and walked out because they didn’t want to hear someone who was a programmer saying "these things do fail…you can invade them." So please understand that the things that you are hearing today in regard to that is from their own study over the past two years. So, I would appreciate your acknowledging that…Yes, Mr. Stone, did you…?
SUPERVISOR JEFF STONE: …Is it okay, Mr. Chair?...
CHAIRMAN BOB BUSTER: Sure.
STONE: At your meetings that you had, you said that you had a programmer that said he could, in fact, manipulate the machine as a programmer?
EWIG: He said it, she had not seen any machine or program that could not be manipulated.
STONE: Well, I’d like to challenge that programmer and I’d like to set up an appointment with one of our machines and I’d like him or her to verify that they can manipulate that machine. And I’m gonna bet a thousand to one that they cannot do it. …I’ll make that challenge…
EWIG: Okay…Well, I would be happy to pass that name on to you, she’s…
STONE: But I’m challenging you to challenge her or him and I, I believe we can make that happen. And maybe we should bring the media in and let’s see if your programmer can manipulate that machine. My guess is that it is not gonna happen, but I’m willing to take a chance on that.
EWIG: Good, alright, I will be happy to pass that word along and see if I can help facilitate it happening.
STONE: I’ll wait for your answer.
EWIG: Ok, thank you.
Dialog of transcript ends at video time-clock reading 2:11:39
Transcript and instructions prepared by Tom Courbat, Riverside County, SAVE R VOTE Member.