With six months until Election Day, conspiracy theories are percolating on the Internet like bubbling mud pots at Yellowstone: Left-wing billionaire George Soros is going to rig the election for Barack Obama. Foreigners will oversee the nation’s entire vote-counting system. The fix is in, and all is lost.
Before conservatives go all Michael Moore–moonbatty, let’s calm down and separate voter-fraud facts from fiction. There’s no time to waste worrying about manufactured scares. And there are plenty of legitimate threats to electoral integrity without having to inflate or concoct them.
FACT: Scytl is a Spain-based business that specializes in “electoral security technology” and electronic voting applications. Its cryptographic research initially was funded by the Spanish government’s Ministry of Science and Technology and later was spun off as a private-sector e-voting venture.
FACT: In January 2012, Scytl acquired U.S.-based SOE Software. SOE writes “election management” programs that assist officials with everything from “Internet voting to election night reporting and online poll worker training.”
FICTION: According to alarmists, Scytl’s acquisition of SOE amounts to a complete takeover of America’s election system. No, not really. While SOE boasts of a presence “with 900 jurisdictions as customers in 26 states,” there is no single contract that the federal government has entered (or could enter) into with Scytl to count the 2012 presidential-election votes. Much of the work Scytl/SOE analysts do is number-crunching and graphics-software work after local and state officials have counted the votes.
Scytl does have a contract with the feds to use its technology to help overseas and military voters participate in elections. In 2009, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act mandated that U.S. jurisdictions allow uniformed and overseas citizens to receive and track their ballots electronically. Scytl’s online ballot program was used in 14 states during the 2010 midterms.
FACT: The security risks of e-voting are still a legitimate concern. University of California at Berkeley computer-science professor David Wagner wrote a critical report for the Pentagon about the privacy and accuracy shortcomings of Scytl’s military voting program in 2004 — which prompted the feds to cancel the initial program, according to PBS.
In October 2010, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics encouraged outside parties to try to find security holes in their online-balloting infrastructure operated by Scytl. A group of University of Michigan students successfully hacked into the system, commandeered passwords, doctored ballots, and programmed audio of the school’s fight song to play whenever an e-ballot was submitted.