When the State BOE met in the third week of January they were struggling to
retain some semblance of their bureaucratic identity while complying with the Federal District Court’s directives. Impeded by an absolute partisan split, Judge Sharpe’s corrupting time schedule, and a limited offering of Ballot Marking Devices to choose from, the board was initially able to approve only one BMD for purchase by the county Boards of Elections.
Despite the success of vendors’ legal challenges which eventually allowed other choices almost ninety percent of NY Counties and all but one upstate county have maintained their selection of the Sequoia machine. The Justice Department has indicated they will not allow any additional changes.
The Sequoia ImageCast is a ballot marking device combined with a ballot scanner that is capable of tabulating votes. It was, at the time of selection, a new assemblage of devices which had not undergone any testing in NY. The scanner portion of this machine is the result of Sequoia’s collaboration with Dominion Voting, Ontario Canada. It is Sequoia’s other interests and obligations which have recently surfaced that are of more serious concern.
Posting on ComputerWorld.com and his own blog Brad Friedman reports that almost simultaneously with Sequoia’s NY success a competitor voting equipment company, Hart InterCivic Inc. of Austin TX, launched a hostile takeover of S.V.S. Inc. And we learn that the takeover is facilitated by Sequoia’s two million dollar obligation to their former parent company, Smartmatic Inc., an offshore consortium with ties to the Venezuelan government. www.bradblog.com/?p=5885
Mr. Friedman had previously reported (3/27/08) that an unresolved whistle-blower initiated fraud complaint against Hart InterCivic will now be allowed to go forward after being held up for months by the Justice Department. In this litigation Hart is accused of committing fraud by presenting their election software and machines as secure and reliable even though they knew otherwise. www.bradblog.com/?p=5847
Hart InterCivic has a partner company which provides the software side of their package: SOE Software of Tampa FL. A brief visit to their web page www.soesoftware.com reveals that two of their top management team have previous business relationships with Mobil, Sperry Univac, General Dynamic, IBM, Raytheon, AT&T, MCI and Motorola. This does not give me hope for tamper free elections should Hart have any access to our votes.
Regardless of how this corporate war ends it seems obvious that New York State should take another look at their hopeful voting equipment vendors. The BOE and the State Comptrollers Office have to do a new Vendor Responsibility Investigation (at this writing do not know if this investigation was originally done as required). This investigation would rightly be triggered by either the foreign financial interest in Sequoia or the vendor substitution by Hart, especially since both vendors have been untruthful or are now accused of being untruthful. Don’t expect this to happen. Even if the State did do an investigation the Bush Justice Dept. would render it moot.
More importantly, we need to consider what this is all about, and it's not only about the immediate profit from the sale of voting machines. It's about power and the possibility of much greater future profits. No one knows better than the machine manufacturers and vendors how efficient computerized vote counting can be for controlling elections.
If you doubt this analysis please consider how much money the presidential candidates are spending on their campaigns. That's what control of vote counting is worth, again and again, year after year.
So where does this leave the New York State voters?
Unable to rely on state bureaucracies, the Justice Department or Federal Courts to protect us from the threats to voting integrity privatization and lack of transparency represents, the task falls to us. As citizens we have to assume responsibility for the vote count. The verifiable paper ballot is of no service to election integrity unless they are counted by the voters themselves. A scanner using open source software and maintained by municipal workers might be used to confirm the count but the official count has to be the one performed by citizens, at the polling place upon closing of the polls.
I do like to end on a positive note with an action suggestion. We should slaughter the golden goose and disappoint all the wolves that are circling us. We can ban the scanners and decide to hand count the paper ballots. If we did that the wolves would quickly lose interest. Then we will need only to concern ourselves with dealing with each other instead of the corporations.