E-voting vendors keep a lower profile

The perception that voting-systems vendors have influence over election officials seems to be fading, said John Gideon, co-director and information manager at VotersUnite.

The Election Center, an organization of the National Association of Election Officials, is a case in point, Gideon said. The center holds an annual conference and a number of smaller education and training events throughout the year.

In past years, the Election Center “used to very proudly advertise the fact that at their conferences, Diebold was paying for dinners or that the welcoming party was being paid for” by Election Systems and Software, Gideon said. “I noticed in the EC’s latest flyer for their [2008] conference that they make no mention at all of any of the vendors.”

The North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting published the agenda for the Election Center’s 2005 conference on its Web site, confirming that Diebold Election Systems (now Premier Election Solutions), ES&S and Sequoia Voting Systems — all makers of widely used voting machines — sponsored the conference’s social events. The brochure for the 2008 conference, held in Dallas earlier this month, doesn’t include vendors’ names.  

However, sponsoring conferences isn’t the only way vendors interact with election officials. In many cases, election administrators allow vendors to test their own products for security and compliance, said Rosemary Rodriguez, chairwoman of the Federal Election Assistance Commission.

“That’s not the way to assure the voters that you’ve checked it,” she said.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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