When there is a clear problem with an election’s administration, outsourcing allows for an additional layer of obfuscation and finger-pointing: The much-maligned contractors quickly go on the defensive — instinctively denying culpability, and invoking property rights as they strive to prevent scrutiny of their software and records. Last fall, for instance, Sequoia tried to block the Washington, DC government from access to its records, even as its machines recorded thousands of false over-votes.
The election equipment companies have nested in a rather cozy nook, and will do all they can to maintain their standing. In service of that end, like many corporations, they have discovered the benefits of the “revolving door,” and close relationships with politicians. A few stunning examples:
-Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel ran ES&S — and failed to reveal that fact in mandatory disclosures — as he won an upset bid for Senate in a state that overwhelmingly used ES&S equipment.
-The CEO of Diebold famously wrote a fundraising letter for George W. Bush in 2003, asserting that he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year” — even as his company sought to win Ohio’s multimillion dollar contract for new equipment from the Republican-run state government. (Ohio, of course, was to be the locus of the greatest vote-tallying and administration controversy come Election Day, 2004.)
These sorts of relationships have understandably exacerbated the public’s concerns about opportunity for premeditated malfeasance, and make it clear that the contractors are not disinterested in the outcomes of the elections they facilitate.