The Mesa County Report Mess—Cleaned Up

I really don’t like starting a post with “I’m sorry to hear that…,” but I truly regret what seems like a large number of people experiencing real—but misplaced—concern about the non-bombshell of non-evidence of non-hacking of election computers in Mesa County, Colorado.

I say misplaced because the concern is based on the contents of a technical report containing claims that sound persuasive, and it’s not the content of the report that’s significant. Rather, the main significance and concern is that this report1 is being used—regardless of the report’s authors’ intent—by stolen-election trolls (one who sells pillows and another who appears to be a hobbyist seditious insurrectionist) as grist for a continuing disinformation and misinformation campaign about the supposedly-stolen election of 2020, that was not.

That continuing campaign is of real significance to public confidence in US elections going forward; the technical report is not. Attacking public confidence is likely their real objective.

To avoid pages and pages of an article debunking the report (although sometimes we’re compelled to spell it out), I’ve made some audio blogs to describe why and how the contents of the report should not be a big concern.

Let me summarily lay it out for you first, and then I encourage you to choose one or more of the three short audiocasts (“installments” linked below) to hear more (they’re about 6-9 minutes each, and have been surprisingly popular, thanks!)

  • In the first installment, I speak to a general audience of concerned citizens about how the report fails on common sense, honesty, and evidence. In brief, the common-sense failure is the claim that Mesa County’s election results are in doubt (because of claimed computer shenanigans) when in fact, the results were based on paper ballots that still exist and can be re-inspected by election officials.
    • The failure of honesty is the claim that the authors are working for the Mesa County Clerk in her official capacity, when in fact, they are working for her defense counsel in a criminal case involving her past conduct as an election official, and she no longer has any official duties as a Mesa County election administrator.
    • The failure of evidence is that report is based on a set of data that the authors obtained from unidentified persons, without any proof that the data set is an untampered copy of data from the actual election management computer in Mesa County.
  • In the second installment, I speak to a more technically-adept audience to go a level deeper on the author’s false claim that certain digital authentication mechanisms called “checksums” actually “prove” the authenticity of the data.  A checksum is a small chunk of data that is created from a larger amount of data the checksum is intended to verify. It is used to detect changes or errors that may be introduced into the data during transmission or storage of the data.  So, it’s a way to verify the data remains what it was at the time of the checksum was generated. We do not argue whether the authors have a checksum—any blob of data anywhere can have a checksum. 
    • But here’s the key: a checksum by itself proves nothing without a prior baseline published by a trustworthy public authority; and there is no baseline or authority in this case.
  • In the third installment, I speak to an audience of elections professionals and election technology geeks regarding some more spurious claims about Colorado Department of Elections statements related to this data set. These bogus claims are particularly vexing because by willfully misconstruing the Department’s statement, such could be misinterpreted to support the report’s authors’ claims. 😡
    • In fact, the Department has stated2in the context of the criminal case I noted above—that there are indications that the report’s authors’ data set may have originated from an actual election management computer in Mesa County.  That means that it could be evidence of a crime (i.e., the data was illegally extracted from a government computer), and the report’s author’s source of the data set is criminally liable for such. However, the Department’s statement does not, in any way, support the author’s claim that their data set is a 100% exact un-tampered copy of the disk image that might have come from Mesa County.

Here is the problem: these Krakenists are taking nuanced issues of technology and practice, out of context, combining them with convenient statements to support their theories and then laying them on an audience who has neither the experience or time to sort out the reality.  They’re intentionally creating a reality distortion field that can only be clarified by the facts, evidence, and an intellectually honest review.

You can listen to my three audio blogs for the details (especially my third audiocast) of why that’s the case, but here is the kernel of truth: if the disk image did come from a criminal who illegally copied it from a Mesa computer, why would you trust the report’s authors’ claims that their criminal data-source performed all of the super-high-hygiene evidentiary practices to preserve the data?  Why, first, based on common sense? And why, second, when there is neither technical evidence nor legal evidence to sustain such a claim?

Hopefully, this provided a sufficient summary of the issues. Sadly, it takes some of this block-and-tackle brute force deconstruction of these reality distortion fields to clarify and demystify what is happening:

The losers do not like the election result. So, blinded by their ideologies and virtual knowledge, they continue to insist the election was thrown—on one baseless theory after another

At some point, this energy must be redirected to ensuring our election technology infrastructure is properly verifiable, accurate, secure, and transparent rather than wasted on bogus claims of things that simply, in 2020, never happened as they construe them to have occurred. To be clear:

  1. Are the systems currently in use not well designed for the purpose intended as critical infrastructure assets, and thus vulnerable? YES
  2. Were any of those vulnerabilities exploited in the 2020 election to cause any of the “Kraken” claims asserted? NO.

Finally, thanks to those who provided comments and encouragement for more information, following on from news media interviews about this Mesa Mess, through the audio blogs, and finally to this recap of yet another Kraken—this time regarding election results in Mesa County, CO.

EJS

Footnotes

  1. A copy of the full “report” is available on request. You can DM us @OSET, or send an eMail request to inquiry at osetinstitute dot org with your full name, preferred eMail address with subject line: “Mesa County Report”.
  2. The CO Secretary of State’s statement can be read here as of publication date of this post. (See: https://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/newsRoom/pressReleases/2021/PR20210817MesaCounty.html )