Tuesday, July 13, 2004

E-voting troubles in Venezuela

The country that one of my best friends believes to have the most beautifull women on earth, is now centre stage for e-voting news.

CARACAS -- A large and powerful investor in the software company that will design electronic ballots and record votes for Venezuela's new and much criticized election system is the Venezuelan government itself, as was reported by the Miami Herald on May 28th.

Venezuela's investment in Bizta Corp., the ballot software firm, gives the government 28 percent ownership of the company it will use to help deliver voting results in future elections, including the possible recall referendum against President Hugo Chávez.

The deal to scrap the country's 6-year-old machines -- for a $91 million system to be built by two fledgling companies that have never been used in an election before -- was already controversial among Chávez opponents who claimed it was a maneuver to manipulate votes amid growing political turmoil.

Government officials insist the investment is an effort to help support private enterprise and its interest in a ballot software company is merely coincidental, one of a dozen such investments made to help struggling companies. ''The whole process led to a decision that was best for Venezuela,'' said Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela's ambassador in Washington.

Until a year ago, the Bizta Corp. was a struggling Venezuelan software company with barely a sales deal to its name, records show. Then, the Venezuelan government -- through a venture capital fund -- invested about $200,000 and bought 28 percent of it.

The government's investment in Bizta made Venezuela Bizta's largest single shareholder and, ultimately, its most important client.

Even without the political implications, the use of electronic voting machines has been widely debated since the United States' 2000 presidential election. Stanford University Professor David Dill, who has studied voting machines, said almost any programmed electronic machine is subject to possible manipulation. ''People just don't understand how easily these machines could fail to record votes accurately -- even by being `fixed,' '' he said.
Quotes are taken from Miami Herald but it requires a (free) registration to read the article in full.

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