The PCOS probability

Elections are over. After just a day of nearly forty million Filipinos lining up under the sun and rain, a new mayor was elected, everybody accepted the results and the faces of those who’ve lost, who have since been forgotten. You may be one of those who decided the fate of our country for the next couple of years, but even if you weren’t, you can’t stop asking the question: “Did that candidate really win?”

Despite the strong support of your community towards the other candidate, you still can’t put a finger on why the results ended up the other way around. In the last 2010 elections, the Philippines embraced the automated process of voting brought by Smartmatic International. The Commission on Elections decided on this after the manual way of elections which brought about recounts, vote buying and other corrupted election phenomenon; but the question remains with the automation of election, is it hacker proof? A look at Smartmatic’s history might make voters doubt.

Smartmatic International is a multinational company founded in 2000 that specializes in the design and deployment of specific technology solutions aimed at helping governments to fulfill their commitments to their citizens. One of the services they offer is automated voting systems.

In 2004, Venezuela embraced Smartmatic’s system and had problems that resulted to the Venezuelan recall referendum. The Venezuelan recall referendum of August 15, 2004 was a referendum to determine whether Hugo Chávez, then president of Venezuela, should be recalled from office. The recall referendum was announced on June 8, 2004 by the National Electoral Council after Venezuelan opposition succeeded in collecting the number of signatures required by the 1999 Constitution to force a recall. The result of the referendum did not recall Chávez, but there have been some allegations of fraud. Deep investigation was done and speculations arose saying Venezuela was Smartmatic’s test trial for their new system. A 2004 report rejected the hypothesis of fraud. In 2006 a peer-reviewed scientific study concluded that the votes in reality was around 56.4 percent – enough to recall Chavez. This brought up a suspicious aura around the reliability of Smartmatic’s voting systems.

In 2005, Smartmatic acquired Sequoia Voting Systems, one of the leading US electronic voting companies at the time. Sequoia Voting Systems has existing contracts to run elections in the entire state of Nevada, and three of the largest counties in both California and Florida. It also tallies the votes in key counties in Colorado, New Jersey, Michigan and Maryland, with the responsibility to run the elections and count the votes for some 40 million U.S. voters.

Sequoia provided the computer election machine system that was responsible for Chicago’s defective and frenzied primary election during that time. The Chicago and Cook County contracts with Sequoia are worth more than 3.7 times the total price Smartmatic paid for the voting machine company, which was formerly owned by De La Rue, a British company that produces currency notes and cash systems.

Chicago and Cook County have threatened to withhold payment to Sequoia after serious problems plagued the voting and vote counting in the recent primary. Members of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners were warned by their lawyer not to talk about Sequoia-Smartmatic. “Serious repercussions” could result from comments they might make about the company or its role in the recent voting fiasco.

“Somehow Smartmatic International [Sequoia’s parent company] and its Venezuelan owners were able to purchase Sequoia last year without the deal receiving any scrutiny from federal regulators – including the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS), which is tasked with determining whether foreign takeovers pose security risks,” Richard Brand wrote in the Miami paper on March 27. At the end of the article, Brand stated that, “In fact, Smartmatic International is owned by a Netherlands corporation, which is in turn owned by a Curacao corporation, which is in turn held by a number of Curacao trusts controlled by proxy holders who represent unnamed investors, almost certainly among them Venezuelans [Antonio] Mugica and [Alfredo] Anzola and possibly others.” The fact that these individuals are among Smartmatic’s top brass only lead the public to further question the integrity of the automation company that supposedly facilitates cleaner elections.

Here in the Philippines, there is news regarding how Smartmatic had faults in the 2010 election. And in its climax, a Smartmatic officer supposedly manipulated data from the unofficial count of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV). Allan B. Borra of the Software Technology department in DLSU, says, “If if there will be a breach in the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, probably more hacking would be [caused] internally; external would consume a lot of resources. And it’s going to be in a position where there is a deep collaboration between Smartmatic and the government.”

In the end, Borra points out, “The people aspect would always be the weakest.” Technology may continue to advance, but as the few overpower the many, system integrity will always be reliant on its human counterpart.

JR Rebellon

By JR Rebellon

Kimberly Ly

By Kimberly Ly

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