By Brad Friedman on 1/16/2012, 8:05am PT  

This distressing news was flagged for us by Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.org late Friday...

SCYTL, the global leader in secure electronic voting technologies, announced today the acquisition of 100% of SOE Software, the leading software provider of election management solutions in the United States. The integration of these two software companies creates the industry leader in the election software market with a full range of solutions covering from Internet voting to election night reporting

And how do we know SCYTL's electronic (Internet!) "voting technologies" are "secure"? Well, they tell us so themselves -- twice --- in their press release, silly!

SCYTL is a technology company specializing in the development of secure electronic voting and election modernization solutions. Based in Barcelona and with offices in Baltimore, Toronto, New Delhi...[blah, blah, blah]

They couldn't just say it was "secure" if it wasn't! Right?!

In any case, here's a bit of the red flag Harris waved on Friday to help unpack what all of this actually means for the future of what's left of our small-d "democratic" elections...

In a major step towards global centralization of election processes, the world's dominant Internet voting company[, SCYTL,] has purchased the USA's dominant election results reporting company.

When you view your local or state election results on the Internet, on portals which often appear to be owned by the county elections division, in over 525 US jurisdictions you are actually redirected to a private corporate site controlled by SOE Software, which operates under the name ClarityElections.com.

The good news is that this firm promptly reports precinct-level detail in downloadable spreadsheet format. As reported by BlackBoxVoting.org in 2008, the bad news is that this centralizes one middleman access point for over 525 jurisdictions in AL, AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, KY, MI, KS, IL, IN, NC, NM, MN, NY, SC, TX, UT, WA. And growing.

As local election results funnel through SOE's servers (typically before they reach the public elsewhere), those who run the computer servers for SOE essentially get "first look" at results and the ability to immediately and privately examine vote details throughout the USA.

In 2004, many Americans were justifiably concerned when, days before the presidential election, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell redirected Ohio election night results through the Tennessee-based server for several national Republican Party operations.

This is worse: This redirects results reporting to a centralized privately held server which is not just for Ohio, but national; not just USA-based, but global.

Harris goes on to point out that citizen photographs of poll tapes printed out by voting and tabulating machines at the precinct, just after the close of polls, are very helpful in the attempt to mitigate "man-in-the-middle" manipulation of results which can occur between the time precinct results are actually produced and the time a government jurisdiction or private company finally posts those results to the web on Election Night.

However, she notes, when that same private company posting results is also the same private company running the election itself, via Internet Voting --- where there are no such poll tapes to even be seen by anyone on Election Night, much less photographed as one form of independent check and balance --- what little protection there might have been to help deter that form of manipulation is all but gone.

Couldn't we all save a whole lot of time, money and resources by just letting one huge, private corporation tell us who our "elected" officials will be? By the time all this privatization of our previously-public elections is all said and done, that's pretty much all that we'll have left anyway.

Democracy? Voting? Citizen oversight? Self-governance? Who really needs it?

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