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Greens question Secretary of State Kate Brown on Trout hiring

Kate Brown has selected Stephen Trout for the Director of Elections here in Oregon despite concerns about his commitment to fair, free and VERIFIABLE elections.
In an open letter to Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, Pacific Green Party of Oregon Secretary Seth Woolley has asked for information about the recent hiring of Stephen Trout as Director of Elections.

"The nation's premier election oversight group, Black Box Voting, says he is 'a supporter of paperless touch-screens and worse, has demonstrated a dreadful attitude towards citizen oversight,'" Mr. Woolley writes.

His letter cites web sources that provide information regarding relationships between Sequoia Voting Systems and Mr. Trout and his associates.

He also reveals that Mr. Trout was effectively fired from his position as Assistant Registrar of Voters for San Bernardino County "with some sharp criticism from his superiors."

"It is simply not acceptable to have a known advocate of paperless, unauditable elections heading Oregon elections. A democratic election is one that is transparent and can be audited," Woolley writes.

He goes on to pose the following questions to Secretary Brown:

1. Were Mr. [Scott] Kanopasek [a Trout associate] or any on the
BBV Gotta Be Replaced list used as a reference for Mr.
Trout?

2. Were any electronic voting system company employees
or consultants, especially for Sequoia, used as a reference for
Mr. Trout?

3. Did anybody do a basic web search for information on
Mr. Trout and his references?

4. Did anybody inquire as to the circumstances around Mr.
Trout's dismissal as the San Bernardino County Asst. Registrar
of Voters?

5. Who was on the hiring committee that was mentioned in
your press release announcing his hiring?

6. Were there any representatives of election machine vendors
on the hiring committee, specifically Sequoia? If so, which
ones?

7. Were there any representatives of public advocacy groups
on the hiring committee that could properly screen Mr. Trout?
If so, which ones?

8. Based on the record provided, did Mr. Trout mislead the
committee or fail to provide any relevant facts at any point in
the hiring process? What is the redress process if this did
happen?

9. What is Mr. Trout's detailed opinion of the security issues
inherent in proprietary voting systems and the need for a paper
trail? Is he at least open to open source voting?


The full text of Mr. Woolley's letter follows:

Open Letter to Secretary of State Kate Brown:

I write to you regarding your recent hiring of Stephen Trout as
the new Director of Elections. I have a few questions, but first,
I will provide the context in which my questions originate.

A number of people have brought to my attention Mr. Trout's
history as an elections administrator. Frankly, the information,
which can now be found online, is disturbing.

Bev Harris, of the nation's premier election oversight group
Black Box Voting (BBV), says he is, "a supporter of paperless
touch-screens and worse, has demonstrated a dreadful attitude
towards citizen oversight."

He was on their "Gotta Be Replaced" list of election administrators
who are hostile to election transparency.

Mr. Trout tried to keep BBV from auditing the election in
San Bernardino County and is closely tied to Scott Konopasek,
who was famously quoted by the NY Times as saying he has to
sometimes "massage the data" when asked how the vote totals
went down in the middle of a count for a progressive candidate.
Konopasek and Trout were ultimately dismissed from both positions
there for cause, including not being responsive to superiors
when problems were pointed out.

Black Box Voting in 2006 listed Stephen Trout again when they updated
their "Gotta Be Replaced" list, highlighting the relationships among
the top four on the list:

 http://www.bbvforums.org/forums/messages/1954/32750.html

Elections work is extremely challenging, but it's made worse when a
small percentage of obstructive and vendor-friendly officials achieve
positions of influence. It's one thing to have a mishap or two, but
certain elections officials seem to be in trouble all the time. [...]

Some of the "Gotta Be Replaced" list remain in office, embattled.
Those who have remained try to hire those who resigned, as consultants,
to come in and give seals of approval to problematic elections and
equipment.

Scott Konopasek: Was elections chief in Salt Lake County (UT)
went to Snohomish County (WA) where he ushered in Sequoia
touch-screens; from there he went to San Bernardino County (CA)
where he also pushed through Sequoia touch-screens.

In August 2004, Konopasek admitted to Black Box Voting
investigators (unbeknownst to him, in front of a New York Times
reporter) that he had occasionally had to "massage" the data on
election night. That admission made the New York Times. Two months
later Konopasek apparently offended county supervisors so badly
that he was terminated.

Konopasek and his sidekick, Stephen Trout (formerly of the Bill
Jones regime at the California secretary of state's office),
formed an elections consulting company.

Conny McCormack: McCormack had been in charge of jury selection
in Dallas County (TX), where she became head of elections. Shortly
after taking office, Drake-McCormack was hit with violations of
the Voting Rights Act of 1964 over an incident related to
installation of voting machines. She subsequently came under
investigation by the Texas Attorney General on allegations that
she had manipulated an election by shorting ballots in
African-American districts.

While still under investigation, McCormack went to San Diego
County, CA. She took over from San Diego's Ortiz, who had been
indicted. McCormack turned over the reins in San Diego County
and took over in Los Angeles County.

Conny McCormack appears to be related to Scott Konopasek through
marriage (her sister-in-law is a Konopasek.) Black Box Voting has
an unconfirmed report from local citizens that Konopasek's new
consulting firm participated in a vendor meeting with McCormack
regarding a telephone voting system.

Mischelle Townsend: (Riverside County, CA) - After a contentious
stint as Registrar of Elections in Riverside County, where
Townsend brought in Sequoia paperless touch-screens, shared a
public relations company with Sequoia, appeared in commercials
for Sequoia, and allowed Sequoia technicians intimate access to
her voting system during live elections, Townsend resigned. She
took a position with Konopasek's consulting firm to make it
Konopasek, Trout and Townsend.

Curiously, Mr. Trout has purged his San Bernardino and ForeFront
Elections information from his Linkedin account, only choosing to
highlight his CA Secretary of State work, and then zooming forward
to his current company, Election Solution Providers.
(  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/stephen-trout/a/b7b/607 )

In your release, you note that a qualification listed was his
"defense" of "election processes" in court.

Under his Election Solution Providers moniker, he has attacked
the California Secretary of State for decertifying election
software when CA Secretary Bowen became convinced the machines
were not secure enough to ensure accuracy of the election:

 link to www.sos.ca.gov

He was clearly working in the interest of the vendors. Why?
He makes a living implementing computerized touchscreen voting.

In addition, I found that it was reported that Mr. Trout didn't
just resign from San Bernardino County Asst. Registrar of Voters.
He was placed on administrative leave with some sharp criticism
from his superiors. The administrative leave was essentially a
firing, as they had already appointed a replacement and said
the leave was required to ensure a smooth transition.

 link to www.google.com
 link to web.archive.org

The Daily Press reported:

Former San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Scott Konopasek
and Assistant Registrar Steve Trout are on paid administrative
leave. Konopasek, who started in January 2003, had come under
criticism for problems at the registrar's office.

"I've been consistently a critic of the Registrar of Voters
during the past year due to the fact that Scott Konopasek has
always had a difficult time working under the management or
leadership here in the county of San Bernardino," said
First District Supervisor Bill Postmus.

Postmus cited problems with preparing and mailing sample ballots
in the primary and general elections this year. Konopasek ignored
a county commission's suggestions to solve problems in the primary
election, the supervisor said.

Konopasek will receive $9,416 a month while on paid administrative
leave through Dec. 24. County spokesman David Wert said the paid
leave is necessary so Konopasek will be available to the county
as needed. His salary was $113,000 a year, plus benefits.

Trout will be on paid leave under the same circumstances through
Jan. 15.

In a press release, county officials credited Konopasek and Trout
with successfully establishing electronic voting in San Bernardino
County and making provisions for disaster victims to vote during
the 2003 wildfires.

His resignation was forced: His administration was bungled.

It's interesting that the article notes "success" implementing
electronic voting while at the same time criticizing his lack
of success actually implementing a key part of the election
that provided transparency and ignoring the county commission
when instructed to fix the problems.

Is that what we actually want in Oregon? Paperless computer voting,
poorly implemented?

You are quoted in the Statesman Journal:

"Oregon is very fortunate to get someone of Steve Trout's caliber
for this job," Brown said in a statement. "I'm confident he will
continue Oregon's tradition of fair, impartial and accurate
elections. He has the knowledge, creativity and on-the-ground
experience to secure the integrity of our elections and foster
the innovative strategies that have made Oregon a model for this
country."

I write software for touchscreen systems on Windows, the most
common platform for election touchscreens, and am an elections
administrator myself for the Pacific Green Party of Oregon.
I can tell you from professional experience that I would never accept
an electronic voting system except as open source software with a
full paper trail. HAVA ties my hands here, as a subsidy for
electronic voting, for I would rather not use electronic voting at
all except in tally and tabulation with a stringent, strong
statistical hand-count. I have also myself written online election
software and processes that are open source and designed for
secure online voting for computer science professionals aware
of how to use advanced cryptographic software.

Sequoia touts its proprietary source code as a security "benefit",
in violation of the Kerckhoffs-Shannon principle, "The enemy
knows the system." The California Secretary of State's Audit
of the Sequoia systems by UC Berkeley found 800,000 lines of
code just for an elections system application, not including
the operating system and library code (based on virus-prone
Windows). That such a system, without public review, is
trustworthy is not taken seriously by any reputable security
researcher. As a security researcher with a dozen discovered
vulnerabilities to my name, I cannot consider it trustworthy,
especially without a paper trail. Vulnerabilities in Sequoia
systems, including those that claim to have a paper trail, are
widely known:

 http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/12/sequoia_evoting_machine_felled/print.html

Computer scientists have figured out to how trick a widely used
electronic voting machine into altering tallies with a technique
that bypasses measures that are supposed to prevent unauthorized
code from running on the device.

The research team - from Princeton University, the University of
California at San Diego and the University of Michigan - pulled
off the attack by obtaining a Sequoia AVC Advantage legally off
the internet ( http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~appel/avc/). Without
access to any of the source code, they reverse engineered the
hardware. They were then able to reverse engineer the software
it ran by analyzing the machine's ROM.

Sequoia and manufacturers of other brands of e-voting machines
frequently discount vulnerability research into their products
by pointing out that the underlying source code is closely guarded.
Researchers in many studies, they argue, have unrealistic
access to the devices' inner workings.

"What we have shown or what I hope we have shown in this paper is
that that criticism in untrue," Hovav Shacham a professor at UC
San Diego, told The Register. "It might take a little more work
if we don't have the source, but nevertheless we're able to find
vulnerabilities and exploit them in useful ways in machines where
the only access we have is the physical artifacts themselves."

Sequoia in the past has gone to great lengths to prevent outsiders
from peering into its proprietary voting machines. Last year
( http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/20/sequoia_kills_evoting_review/),
it threatened to sue after a county in New Jersey asked Princeton
University researchers to inspect election gear suspected of
malfunctioning during the presidential primary election.

I am concerned that Mr. Trout's advocacy of paperless touchscreen
voting and past work against election transparency will interfere
with his ability to provide Oregonians an accurate election, as
BBV noted, "Those who have remained try to hire those who resigned,
as consultants, to come in and give seals of approval to problematic
elections and equipment."

It is simply not acceptable to have a known advocate of paperless,
unauditable elections heading Oregon elections. A democratic election
is one that is transparent and can be audited. In addition to his
anti-democratic advocacy, we risk his hiring or paying as consultants
the rest of his associates.

Due to my concerns, I have a few questions regarding his hiring:

1. Were Mr. Kanopasek or any on the BBV Gotta Be Replaced list
used as a reference for Mr. Trout?

2. Were any electronic voting system company employees or
consultants, especially for Sequoia, used as a reference for
Mr. Trout?

3. Did anybody do a basic web search for information on Mr. Trout
and his references?

4. Did anybody inquire as to the circumstances around Mr. Trout's
dismissal as the San Bernardino County Asst. Registrar of Voters?

5. Who was on the hiring committee that was mentioned in your
press release announcing his hiring?

6. Were there any representatives of election machine vendors on
the hiring committee, specifically Sequoia? If so, which ones?

7. Were there any representatives of public advocacy groups on
the hiring committee that could properly screen Mr. Trout? If so,
which ones?

8. Based on the record provided, did Mr. Trout mislead the committee
or fail to provide any relevant facts at any point in the hiring
process? What is the redress process if this did happen?

9. What is Mr. Trout's detailed opinion of the security issues
inherent in proprietary voting systems and the need for a paper
trail? Is he at least open to open source voting?

It is unfortunate that these questions need to be asked, but, for
the sake of Oregon's election system, somebody must do the asking.

I opposed you in the 2008 general election for Secretary of State
based on Bill Bradbury's historical work as a partisan hack,
viciously working to keep ideas and candidates he disfavored off
of the ballot and rigging the redistricting process. Your historical
support for 2005 HB 2614, initial shyness regarding finance reform,
and other democratic election reforms were why I entered the race.
You also stated that you wanted to run the office like Bradbury did.

While Bradbury was terrible, I was concerned you were going to end up
like him if I did not provide a progressive challenge.

After the election was over, I was hopeful that you were changing
the direction of the Secretary of State's office from Bradbury's
historical work as a partisan hack by at first keeping John Lindback
from giving false testimony against ranked ballots to the state
legislature, and the election reform community was quite excited
to see Lindback leave his position.

Things were looking up.

This new appointmentment, however, while it doesn't look partisan,
appears to have been a major gaffe. I encourage you to review
the suggestion of your hiring committee and exercise your power
to seek the answers to my questions and take any appropriate action
you deem is necessary to correct the situation.

I am CC'ing a number of reporters who have reported on the appointment
and a number of newspaper editors who may also be interested.
I'm sure they would appreciate a reply to my questions as well.

With great concern for our democracy,

Seth Woolley
Secretary, Pacific Green Party of Oregon
2008 PGP Candidate, Secretary of State

To Kate Brown, Secretary of State < oregon.sos@state.or.us>
CC Jeff Mapes, Oregonian < jeffmapes@news.oregonian.com>
Peter Wong, Statesman Journal < pwong@StatesmanJournal.com>
Mark Zusman, Willamette Week < mzusman@wweek.com>
News Editor, Portland Mercury < news@portlandmercury.com>
Tim King, Salem News < tim@salem-news.com>
Eric Howald, Salem Monthly < editors@salemmonthly.com>
Jack Wilson, Register-Guard < jack.wilson@registerguard.com>
Kim Jackson, Albany Democrat-Herald < kim.jackson@lee.net>
Mark Garber, Portland Tribune < mgarber@theoutlookonline.com>
City Desk, Bend Bulletin < news@bendbulletin.com>
News Desk, East Oregonian < eonews@eastoregonian.com>
Bob Hunter, Ashland Daily Tidings < bhunter@mailtribune.com>
Oregon Voter Rights Coalition < info@oregonvrc.org>
Bev Harris, Black Box Voting < crew@blackboxvoting.org>
Rick Dancer, 2008 Rep. SOS Candidate < rick@rickdancer.com>
Jeff Alworth, Blue Oregon < alworth@gmail.com>