The Problem with Voting Machines is Not Merely Technical

In the controversy over the 2020 election—if you are not allowing the establishment media to redirect your attention—you’ve probably heard the names Dominion, Indra Sistemas, Scytl, Sequoia, and Smartmatic. You’re told that the darker inferences drawn from the history of these voting systems companies are “conspiracy theory.” You are also told that Attorney Sidney Powell, who is pursuing this avenue most aggressively, has been removed from the Trump team interrogating the election. However, there may be something to the darker inferences and they relevant to understanding the problem with the 2020 presidential election. And, while it is true that Powell was removed from the legal team, she continues her work in this area. For purposes of background, this blog takes a look at these companies and ends on a rather disturbing note.

In 1997, in Caracas, Venezuela, three engineers employed by the Panagroup Corporation, Alfredo José Anzola, Antonio Mugica, and Roger Piñate, formed a group to develop data information software. On April, 2000, Alfredo José Anzola, in Delaware (which, as I have blogged about, has the most corporate-friendly court in the United States, the Delaware Court of Chancery, and is the charter home of a large number of global companies) incorporated Smartmatic. Antonio Mugica, the director of Panagroup, remains the company’s CEO. Smartmatic was used in the Venezuelan elections during the Chavez regime, including his recall election in 2004, with an operative of the Bolivarian government sitting on the board of a subsidiary company (Bizta). Smartmatic claims to be an American company. Does anybody believe that home bases like Boca Raton, Florida, are anything but a beard? Smartmatic claims to be US origin, but its actual ownership is hidden behind a web of holding companies in Barbados and the Netherlands.

Sequoia Voting Systems was behind the defective punch-card ballots used in Palm Beach County, Florida during the 2000 election. There is some speculation that the problem with the ballots was known and allowed to be used in a campaign to discredit the use of punchcard ballots as part of a strategy to push electronic voting machines. Florida did in fact replace punchcard systems with Sequoia touchscreen systems. (See Kim Zetter’s investigative journalism on all this in Wired in 2007.) Smartmatic acquired Sequoia in 2005 and redesigned the Sequoia system. This is crucial to understand and problems with this arrangement were understood at least as long ago as 2006, as we can see in this Lou Dobbs’ report carried on CNN.

The Dobbs report appears to have been a kick in the pants for the government agencies governing such things. In 2007, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, because of Smartmatic’s ties to Venezuela, ordered that Smartmatic dump Sequoia, which is did. However, in a clever move, Smartmatic sold Sequoia to its own managers with enjoyed citizenship in the United States. You can read the company statement here: U.S. Voting Technology Leader Sequoia Voting Systems Announced New Corporate Ownership. Note the subtitle that tries too hard: “Sale Creates 100% American-Owned and Independent Company.” Hardly subtle messaging. Almost taunting, frankly. Adding to this darkness was Obama’s Treasury Department action approving these arrangements, ending a government investigation into ties between Sequoia, Smartmatic, and the Bolivarian government of Venezuela.

Sequoia technology, well known for security problems, is considered by many experts to represent a threat to the integrity of elections (see the report “Source Code Review of the Sequoia Voting System.”) The skins of Sequoia executives are thin on the matter. In 2008, Sequoia threatened Professor Ed Felten and a Princeton University team investigating the security of the Sequoia (Smartmatic) system, what Sequoia vice-president Edwin Smith, in what was essentially a cease and desist order, characterized as “non-compliant analysis” (see the article “E-Voting Firm Threatens Ed Felten If He Reviews Its E-Voting Machine”).

Enter Dominion Voting Systems. The Ontario-based company acquired Sequoia Voting Systems in 2010. Earlier that year, Dominion also acquired another voting system company, Premier Election Solutions, a subsidiary of Diebold Election System. Recall that Diebold was embroiled in controversy in the early 2000s due to reliability issues and security problems, as well as political bias among its executives. (Thin skins here, as well. In 2007, Diebold was caught editing its Wikipedia page). With this acquisition Dominion became the second- largest provider of voting machines in the United States (Election Systems and Software is the largest, with its own storied history) and the largest provider of machines in Canada. By acquiring Sequoia, which again runs on Smartmatic design, Dominion deploys that design, with all its flaws, in elections across the United States. While Smartmatic can claim that it does not own Dominion nor provide it with any software and equipment, the fact is that Dominion’s processes are Smartmatic’s. However claiming that one company doesn’t own another is a technicality in a system with interlocking directorates and other techniques of conglomeration.

It has been reported that Indra Sistemas, based in Spain, a competitor of Dominion’s, played some role in the 2020 scandals. Indra specializes in digital voting. According to Rudolph Giuliani, Dominion and Smartmatic are associated though Indra as an intermediary. Moreover, Scytl, another Spanish based company provided products and services to city, county, and state clients across the United States. What products and services does Scytl provide? Election night reporting, online election worker training, online voter education, and election ballot delivery. Scytl claims no association with Indra, Smartmatic, or Dominion. We shall see. There are lot of questions to be answered. I have a lot of irons in the fire, so I encourage readers to follow up on this and stay tuned to ongoing developments.

petter-neffenger.jpg
Petter Neffenger, Chairman of the Board of Smartmatic, tapped by Joe Biden to lead transition efforts in the Department of Homeland Security

I will close with a particularly troubling development. The current chairman of Smartmatic’s board of directors, Peter Neffenger, was recently appointed as a member of Joe Biden’s “Transition Team” to leads efforts related to the Department of Homeland Security. Neffenger also sits on the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience and Northeastern UNiversity’s Global Resilience Institute. I have a blog entry coming out on the interconnectivity of Dominion, Smartmatic, and other companies specializing in voting machines and software. These transnational companies represent a national security threat. Are they are now moving internal to Democratic Party’s takeover of the Executive branch of the United States government?

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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