Monday, April 14, 2008

Hart InterCivic attempts hostile takeover of Sequoia

Brad Friedman:

As if Sequoia Voting Systems doesn't have enough trouble already, the company now needs some $2 million dollars in cash... quickly. Without it, it is likely to be subsumed by one of its nearest competitors, Hart InterCivic of Austin, as soon as next Tuesday, The BRAD BLOG has learned.

In what could well be a major shift on the American election industry landscape --- and certainly on elections themselves in dozens of states across the country --- voting machine company Hart InterCivic informed the current owners of the beleaguered Sequoia of their intention to acquire ownership of the company in a move which could take effect as early as next week. ...

Sequoia is believed by election experts to be this country's third largest voting machine company, followed by Hart. The combined operation, should the takeover be completed, could well create a new powerhouse in the industry, displacing #2 Diebold/Premier, and coming up just behind the country's currently largest election vendor, ES&S.

Last night in a interview on KPFT, Friedman revealed that Sequoia has recently secured a $100 million contract with New York to be the e-voting vendor of record for the Empire State, which is why -- coupled with their current cash crunch -- they are such an attractive takeover target.

But while Sequoia faces a plethora of legal liabilities concerning their oft-failed voting systems, Hart InterCivic faces its own share of challenges with a pending --- and damning --- federal fraud/qui tam suit against the company, as unsealed late last month. Moreover, Hart's acquisition plan could face scrutiny from members of Congress and Treasury Department officials, as well as states across the country who thought they had turned over control of their elections to Sequoia, only to soon learn there will be a new owner, not of their choosing, of the secret software and devices which determine the results of their public elections. ...

The news will likely be of particular interest to SF, NY and a host of jurisdictions around the country who have recently chosen to do business with Sequoia, rather than Hart --- a company which, among other problems, now has a serious federal whistleblower suit hanging over their head, alleging all manner of false claims and other criminal behavior --- but who now may be forced to deal with a new corporate entity whether they originally agreed to that or not.

Ah, yes. Hart's whistleblower: William Singer. From the legal complaint (.pdf, 45 pages, excerpt below from page 2):

Mr. Singer frequently accompanied Hart representatives to perform demonstrations, testing, and support maintenance of the machines in various locations, and thus heard firsthand a number of misstatements made by Hart in its attempts to win voting system contracts, as well as misstatements made to conceal the voting machines’ frailties and vulnerabilities. In January 2004, Mr. Singer resigned from Hart under protest, citing many of the fraudulent acts and misrepresentations giving rise to this action. In July 2004, Mr. Singer wrote the Secretaries of State for the States of Texas and Ohio, to alert them to Hart’s misconduct. He received no substantive response. Mr. Singer provided discrete bits of information to the press in hopes of attracting attention to Hart’s misconduct. Having “accomplished nothing” in Mr. Singer’s words, he decided to seek legal redress.

Money shot:

A computer scientist who is familiar with most of America's e-voting systems recently told us that he has come to understand that, of all of the voting systems out there, ironically enough, Hart's systems, which have gotten far less attention in the media than those made by Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia over the years, may, in fact, "be the most insecure of them all" due to their particular architecture.

Never Forget: our soldiers in Iraq are fighting for our freedom. I read these words often as they appear in the comments section of the Houston Chronicle, conservative blogs, and in other online fora I frequent. They are posted there by allegedly patriotic conservatives who remain in full-throated support of the war and the attendant torture of "foreigners" as well as the wiretapping of Americans in order to keep us safe.

The right to have our vote count as we intended it, and for that to be verifiable, is one of those liberties. Presumably.

No comments: