UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

September 5, 2009

BAD VOTING COUNTING HEADED TOWARDS A MONOPOLY

Rob Richie, Fair Vote - The United States' largest voting equipment vendor Election Systems & Software announced the purchase of Premier Election Solutions, our nation's second largest vendor, and a product of the Diebold Corporation's North American operations. If this sale goes forward, ES&S will control a huge majority of the voting equipment market in the United States. According to Verified Voting, more than 120 million registered voters live in American jurisdictions using one of these two companies' systems. In contrast, the nation's third largest elections vendor, Sequoia Voting Systems, provides equipment in jurisdictions with only some 26 million registered voters -- and seems to be on shaky ground, having been sold several times in recent years and still waiting to have its latest optical scan system certified by the federal Election Assistance Commission.

Whether the sale goes through remains a question. According to election integrity activists at Black Box Voting, ES&S previously attempted to consolidate the voting industry in 1997 with a purchase of Business Records Corporation, but the purchase was blocked by the US Security and Exchange Commission on antitrust grounds, and the acquisition of BRC was split between ES&S and Sequoia.

Regardless of its ultimate outcome, this latest potential consolidation in ownership of our voting equipment highlights the broken nature of American election administration. We run democracy on the cheap at the national level, and pay for it with lost votes, untrustworthy software and exorbitant costs for public interest improvements due to companies recouping expenses by abusing their local monopolies.

Fair Vote has long suggested a full public ownership model, similar to what Oklahoma and other nations have done. We should keep pursuing this "public option," but also consider additional ways to gain control of the election process and foster, better, more reliable equipment. Some groups are seeking to hold vendors legally accountable for past failures to uphold election integrity. address a glaring problem: the process of certifying equipment.

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