The federal government is investigating the Venezuelan takeover of a leading U.S. manufacturer of electronic voting systems:
Smartmatic was a little-known firm with no experience in voting technology before it was chosen by the Venezuelan authorities to replace the country’s elections machinery ahead of a contentious referendum that confirmed Mr. Chávez as president in August 2004.
Seven months before that voting contract was awarded, a Venezuelan government financing agency invested more than $200,000 into a smaller technology company, owned by some of the same people as Smartmatic, that joined with Smartmatic as a minor partner in the bid.
In return, the government agency was given a 28 percent stake in the smaller company and a seat on its board, which was occupied by a senior government official who had previously advised Mr. Chávez on elections technology.
[. . .]
Smartmatic then bought the much larger and more established Sequoia Voting Systems, which now has voting equipment installed in 17 states and the District of Columbia.
The investigation is trying to determine whether the leftist Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chávez has any control or influence over the firm’s operations. The Times reports both Smartmatic and the Venezuelan government strongly deny that the Chávez’s regime has any role in Smartmatic.
Is it not bad enough that the nation is in the process of implementing a voting system reliant upon machines that are demonstrably vulnerable to manipulation? Now we must also worry that a foreign nation, one with a leader hell bent on joining the axis of evil, may control a U.S. manufacturer of these problematical devices.
We must step back and think about how ensure absolute confidence in the results of elections. Bush v Gore made that more than abundantly clear. Electronic voting systems are still not yet ready for prime time.