Hugo Chavez Wants Your Vote
Posted 4/5/2006 | Elections: If 9-11 taught us anything, it was to be wary of asym- metrical threats from hostile entities no matter what size. We might just get ambushed again if the Venezuelan government ends up controlling our elections.
Don't think it can't happen. A Venezuelan-linked company called Smartmatic has bought out a U.S. electronic voting device firm called Sequoia, which holds contracts for elections in Chicago and elsewhere.
U.S. foreign investment bureaucrats aren't worried because no military secrets are involved. But that kind of thinking can blindside our democratic institutions as we look for threats to our hardware.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is the foremost meddler in foreign elections in the Western hemisphere and has been accused of secretly financing candidates in Peru, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Mexico. Why wouldn't he be interested in influencing vote outcomes here?
He's already trying to influence our politics through a congressional lobbying effort and a cheap fuel program for welfare recipients explicitly linked to congressional participation.
These and other shenanigans signal interest in influencing perceptions in the U.S.
There's plenty of domestic white noise about electronic machines to cloud the issue. But the problems Chavez could cause are in a different league.
Even as regulators dismiss security threats, the performance of Smartmatic in Venezuela's own elections raises questions.
For example, 82% of voters there sat out last December's Smartmatic-operational congressional race on shattered confidence in the system.
The Smartmatic machines are capable of controlling the speed at which votes are transmitted, creating long lines to discourage voting. They can also instantaneously tally as results come in, giving favored sides information to manipulate turnout.
Mathematicians accuse them of flipping results. And combined with fingerprint machines, they can match votes to voters, violating ballot secrecy.
There may be no problem with Smartmatic working U.S. elections, but just wait for a close call and see how credible the result will be. With as many problems as U.S. elections have seen, the one thing it doesn't need is to import Venezuela's electoral wreckage.