Is It Appropriate for Private Electronic Voting Machine Manufacturers to Facilitate Public Elections?

PRO (yes)

The National Academy of Sciences 2005 report "Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting," explained:

"Election administration has never been a function performed entirely by government. Indeed, private political associations (interest groups and political parties) have been involved in the administration of elections for a very long time. These private associations provided ballots under the ballot systems used before secret ballots were introduced.

Private firms have also been involved in election administration, a fact consistent with a trend over the last few decades of many local governments outsourcing certain functions that were previously managed and operated by those governments. There have been many reasons for this practice, including a belief that outsourcing will result in greater responsiveness and reduced costs...

In election administration, private firms have for many years routinely undertaken certain election administration tasks such as the design, layout, and printing of ballots - a practice that generates little controversy. But local government are also turning to private firms to provide electronic voting systems, to program them appropriately, and to repair and maintain them over time... Vendors are often the primary and most important source of expertise, and gone are the days when the county or municipality had its own staff to repair and program its lever machines."

2005 - National Academy of Sciences (NAS) 

Doug Jones, PhD, Associate Professor of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Iowa stated in his May 22, 2001 testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Science:

"Today, we have a diverse marketplace [for electronic voting technologies], and the competition in this marketplace has fueled the development of a number of interesting ideas... If we had a monopoly, as the result of a national standard voting technology, this progress would end and we would be forced to accept a system with known flaws...

If there are 4 makers of voting systems, the gain to be had by subverting one is limited. If there is only one maker, it may only be necessary to subvert one or two people to rig next year's elections nationwide! The fewer people you have to trust, the more vulnerable you are to the subversion of any one of those people! Dispersed authority is resilient in the face of challenges, while centralized authority is vulnerable to corruption!"

May 22 - Douglas W. Jones, PhD 

David Hart, Chairman of electronic voting machine manufacturer Hart InterCivic, stated in a Dec. 9, 2003 press release to announce the formation of the Election Technology Council:

"Millions of citizens are casting ballots that would otherwise be lost without industry innovation. Millions more have the promise of voting a secret ballot for the first time. In short, this [electronic voting systems] industry plays an important role in building a stronger democracy for all Americans."

Dec. 9, 2003 - David Hart 

CON (no)

Bev Harris, Executive Director of Black Box Voting, wrote in her 2004 book Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century:

"In a frenzy of mergers and acquisitions during the 1980s, local election-services companies sold control of our voting systems to a handful of corporations. During the 1990s, these corporations engaged in a pattern of setting up alliances and swapping key personnel that has given just a few people, some of whom have vested interests, far too much access to and influence over our voting systems.

This is not a computer-programming problem. It is a procedural matter, and part of the procedure must involve keeping human beings, as many of us as possible, in control of our own voting system. Any computerized voting system that requires us to trust a few computer scientists and some corporate executives constitutes flawed public policy. It doesn't matter whether they come up with perfect cryptographic techniques or invent smart cards so clever they can recognize us by sight. The real problem is that we've created a voting system controlled by someone else."

2004 - Bev Harris 

John Gideon, Executive Director of VotersUnite!, stated in his June 15, 2005 Vote TrustUSA website article titled "Corporate Control of the Election Process":

"The vendors are the corporate face on our election systems - the for-profit companies that develop and sell the equipment used to run our elections. They are those who have the most to gain from the influence they buy through their donations and dues to to the alphabet soup [of organizations that oversee election procedures], and that influence is considerable...

The voting machine corporations are spending millions to influence the decisions that relate to the qualification and sales of voting systems. They are influencing the development of new voting system standards, whether those standards have to be followed, who buys what type of system, and every step in between. The vendors are in too much control. We can only wrest that control from the vendors by methodically putting out the facts to inform the misinformed and by reducing the vendors' influence on our decision makers."

June 15, 2005 - John Gideon 

Thom Hartmann, a journalist, stated in his Jan. 31, 2003 Common Dreams article "If You Want To Win An Election, Just Control The Voting Machines":

"Many citizens and even a few politicians are wondering if it's a good idea for corporations to be so involved in the guts of our voting system. The whole idea of a democratic republic was to create a common institution (the government itself) owned by its citizens, answerable to its citizens, and authorized to exist and continue existing solely 'by the consent of the governed.'...

Many citizens believe, however, that turning the programming and maintenance of voting over to private, for-profit corporations, answerable only to their owners, officers, and stockholders, puts democracy itself at peril."

Jan. 31, 2003 - Thom Hartmann