Is It Appropriate for Former Election Officials to Work for Electronic Voting Machine Manufacturers?
The Election Technology Council’s explained in its Oct. 2005 “Frequently Asked Questions,” available on their website:
“Question: Should the public be concerned about the ‘revolving door’ of government election officials finding new jobs with election system vendors?
Answer: Ethics laws for government officials in the election systems industry should be no less stringent than ethics laws for government officials moving to the private sector from other fields. Having said that, however, it would be both unfair and unrealistic to bar those with extensive knowledge and expertise in elections from pursuing a professional career in this area.”Oct. 2005
Tim Reiterman and Peter Nicholas, staff writers at the Los Angeles Times, wrote in their Nov. 10, 2003 article “Ex-Officials Now Behind New Voting Machines”:
“As secretary of state in 2001, Bill Jones moved to rid California of the type of antiquated voting machines that helped throw the presidential election into turmoil in Florida. Then last year he sponsored a successful $200-million industry-backed bond measure that gave counties money to buy high-tech replacements. Now, the former elections chief is a paid consultant to one of the major voting machine firms vying for that business…
Voting machine makers are hiring former government officials such as Jones to supply prestige, entre or expertise for a competitive edge. There is no prohibition against former officials working for election machine companies, unless they lobby their old agency within a year of leaving. And elections officials and vendors defend their close relationships, saying that they improve election systems and benefit the public…
Jones said in an interview that he took the [bond measure] actions to provide California with a means of replacing dinosaur voting systems doomed by lawsuits and court rulings, not to benefit elections companies. He denied that his actions created an appearance of conflict, saying that there had been no money for new systems, ‘and counties could not deal with it themselves.'”Nov. 10, 2003
Ed Fletcher, a writer for the Sacramento Bee, reported in an Oct. 31, 2002 story titled “Ex-State Analyst Defends His Ethics: The Voting Machines Expert Is Under Fire After Taking Another Job”:
“The former state voting systems analyst under investigation by California Secretary of State Bill Jones denied Wednesday that he took actions to favor a company [Election Systems and Software] that ultimately hired him. ‘I’m shocked at the idea of anything being said of inappropriate behavior,’ said Louis Dedier, the man at the center of the controversy…
He denied that he had acted in an inappropriate manner before [he offered advise at a meeting of the California Voting Systems Panel on which voting systems to approve] or at the meeting on October 11… He said there was nothing on the agenda directly dealing with his new employer. Dedier recommended that the voting systems panel certify a machine made by Avante International Technology. With the panel’s provisional approval, Avante’s machines were being used for early voting in Sacramento County three days later. ‘What I did was actually create more competition for my current employer,’ Dedier said… Dedier said [in his role as voting systems analyst] company secrets were not handled by him, but by an outside laboratory under contract with the state. He contends that the documents he handled are public records and not proprietary, as the voting systems makers claim.”Oct. 31, 2002
Kim Alexander, President of the California Voter Foundation, explained in her July 7, 2004 “Key Note Address” before the Commonwealth Club:
“In the voting equipment business, we find all the ingredients that make up a typical government debacle. We’ve got… [a] revolving door. The revolving door swings very fast in the voting equipment business. At least five former California election officials, including the former Secretary of State, Bill Jones, have worked for voting equipment vendors. That is a conflict of interest – vendors that recruit former election officials to come work for them do so in order to parlay those former officials’ relationships with current election officials in order to win favor and contracts.”July 7, 2004
Elise Ackerman, a journalist for the San Jose Mercury News, stated in her June 15, 2004 article “E-voting Regulators Often Join Other Side When Leaving Office”:
“Shortly after leaving office, former California Secretary of State Bill Jones sent letters to each member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, reassuring them that the electronic voting machines they wanted to buy were reliable… One month after Jones sent the letters, the Republican became a paid consultant for Sequoia Voting Systems, a touch-screen manufacturer that was bidding for Santa Clara County’s $19 million contract and ultimately won it.
Critics say Jones’ move illustrates a troubling reality of elections in the electronic age: close, often invisible, bonds link election officials to the equipment companies they are supposed to regulate… While a revolving door between government service and private-sector jobs is common, some observers argue that such cozy familiarity has led public officials to overlook flaws in controversial electronic voting systems, putting elections at risk.”June 15, 2004
CorpWatch, a corporate watchdog website, reported in a Sep. 8, 2004 article titled “November Surprise: Electronic Voting Machines Add Uncertainty to Close Election Races”:
“There are conflicts of interest that have called into question the independence of the DRE manufacturers. Among the conflicts:
- Alfie Charles left his job as the press secretary for California Secretary of State Bill Jones to become a spokesman for Sequoia in 2002. It was Jones’ office that pressed for the passage of the $200 million funding initiative for DRE machines.
- Kathryn Ferguson, once the election chief in Clark County, Nevada – where Las Vegas lies – has been a lobbyist for Sequoia since 2001. In 2003, Nevada purchased Sequoia voting machines for the entire state.
- Sandra Mortham was hired as a lobbyist by ES&S to sell DREs in Florida, where she had served as secretary of state from 1995 to 1999.
This revolving door between elected officials and the voting machine companies… makes clear that in many states, the choice to switch to DREs in this election cycle has not simply been a matter of objective decision making, but one where money and political persuasion has held sway.”Sep. 8, 2004