Today I sent letters to every member of the Tarrant County Election Board and the members of the Commissioners Court. They went out certified return receipt requested at $7.85 a pop. That was times 9. I think the effort was worth it. Read on for the subject matter.
5 November 2021
To: The Members of the Tarrant County Election Board and the County Commissioners;
On November the 2nd, I spoke at the Commissioners Court on the subject of updating our election equipment. At that time I promised additional details and I will attempt to provide them here.
In the course of my learning about our election systems, I have had two very productive discussions with Mr. Heider Garcia, of the Tarrant County Election Department. Mr. Garcia is included in this mailing. In the course of those discussions, I learned that the county was preparing to do an update on much of our equipment this coming January. I also learned that this update would overwrite any programming, logs and any data stored on those drives.
I am not an attorney, but it is incomprehensible to me that the software used to operate the tabulation equipment and any logs and data generated by it would not be subject to the laws regarding retention of election material. Regardless of a persons interpretation of the law, as a citizen of this county I would would consider the destruction of that material to be an obfuscation of the election process and not to be in the interest of transparency with the citizens of the county. I can guarantee you that many will agree with me.
My conversations with Mr. Garcia have been amiable. In one of those conversations I discussed two alternatives to overwriting the drives and he seemed to find them worthy of consideration. The first is that a forensic, bit by bit copy be made of those hard drives prior to the update. This is a very similar procedure to what would be done if we were to have an audit approved for the election as I am attempting to do. The second alternative is to replace the hard drives while properly cataloging and preserving the current drives and their data. The drives in use today are not terribly expensive and it is conceivable that there might be time saving benefits in using this method. There are now three methods before you that are available to preserve that information.
Mr. Garcia and I did have some points of disagreement. At one point he asked me where does it stop? Do we have to maintain copies of the BIOS and the like as well? I didn’t answer him at the time, but yes. I expect that the BIOS configuration as well as that of any other firmwear or software be maintained as well. I’m kinda thorough like that. I will also have comments on additional matters of concern in the future.
A majority of Americans now have a significant doubt about the 2020 general election. A very large number of us that are dismayed at the opaqueness of the system. The public is not allowed to see the ballots. In the vast majority of jurisdictions the public is not allowed to see images of those ballots. Here in Tarrant County, we don’t even capture all of those images and to my understanding, the requirement to do that is an issue that is currently being litigated in Federal Court. The public is not allowed to examine the software and firmware of the devices that tabulate their votes. This is simply unconscionable. As of this date the Tarrant and Collin County GOP organizations are formally calling for an audit in order to make the election more transparent. I expect more to join that call soon.
Despite extensive opposition, citizens have managed some limited examinations of the equipment in various areas of the country. Even though those examinations have been extremely limited, every time we’ve seen inside of the equipment, things have been found that shouldn’t be there. Now we learn that all three of the major voting equipment manufactures wish to update their systems and overwrite everything from the most contentious election in our history. Coincidences such as this provide ample reason for suspicion on the part of the people.
I will add that the examinations of the equipment that have been made public have been limited. I suspect that there are more thorough examinations that have yet to be released.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise that issues have arisen. A long list of major media organizations have been warning us for years and even decades, of significant vulnerabilities in our systems. I have provided a dozen or more examples of those articles to the Commissioners via email. If you have misplaced them, I’ll be glad to send them again. We should have listened to those in the media, because it is becoming apparent that those vulnerabilities have been known of for quite some time. It has been widely reported that anyone with any basic hacking skills can penetrate these machines if given access. How well that access is protected remains to be seen.
As I mentioned in the Commissioners meeting, I believe that we vastly underestimate the value of our elections. Our Federal Governments computer systems are under constant and often successful attacks. It is well known that we have lost significant amount of data to malicious actors. If these actors are to commit the significant time and resources to obtain plans for equipment and details about our personnel, how much time and money would it be worth to be able to influence the governance of our nation, at every level? As I hope I demonstrated with my electric meter analogy, air gaping really doesn’t provide a huge amount of additional security.*
I consider this matter to be of the upmost importance and I look forward to hearing that our county officials have made the decision to protect this data and information. When that decision is made, if it is one of the two options that would allow for both preservation and the update, I think it would be beneficial if a group of citizens were allowed to observe, and or participate in the process in the interest of transparency. I may be able to recommend some very well regarded and professional members of our community to fill that role.
CC: B. Glenn Whitley
Bill E. Waybourn
Roy Charles Brooks
* For those not present at the meeting; I gave the analogy that our electric meters are “air gaped” and are not connected to the internet. Despite this, the information on them is sent out on about 15 minute increments, and manages to find it’s way to the internet and to the electric companies servers. And I eventually get a bill. The point being, that there are many ways to communicate with technological devices. To protect our election systems, we have to be aware of all of them.