Election Technology Council

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On December 9, 2003, the Information Technology Association Of America announced the formation of the Election Technology Council (ETC), aligned with ITAA and "build[ing] on the work of ITAA's Voting Reform Task Group" to "to raise the profile of electronic voting, identify and address security concerns with electronic voting, develop a code of ethics for companies in the electronic voting sector, and make recommendations in the areas of election system standards and certification."[1]

"ETC began operating independently on June 1," 2007, according to the Houston Business Journal. [2]

ETC's formation

The founding members of the ETC are: Advanced Voting Systems, Diebold Election Systems, Election Systems and Software, Hart InterCivic, Sequoia Voting Systems, and Unilect. ETC's chair is Hart InterCivic Chair David Hart, who once called criticism of e-voting security a "cure with no disease." ETC membership is "open to any company in the elections systems marketplace" that's also a member of ITAA.

Tracey Graham, the president of Sequoia Voting Systems, identified ETC's three major goals as development of "a code of ethics for election systems companies, a series of recommendations in the area of standards and certification, and a review of best practices in the area of security," according to Washington Internet Daily. The motivation for forming ETC, said Graham, as quoted by The Seattle Times, is: "We must report to a higher authority - the American public."

Timing is everything

David Hart lauded the timing of the new group's formation as being when "voters are beginning to realize the benefits of electronic voting," according to an ITAA press release. The Computerworld December 15, 2003 issue quoted Hart giving a slightly different account of ETC's formation: "We came together because our environment has become chaotic... We need to be able to speak as an industry in a single voice on the areas being regulated... We want to be part of the debate and tell our industry's side of the story. There's a lot of misinformation."

It's most likely not a coincidence that ETC officially formed one week prior to the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST's) first conference focused on e-voting. Held in Maryland, the NIST meeting was called "to gather input from election officials, secretaries of state, voting-machine makers, computer security professionals and voting activists about how to address voters' lagging confidence in election systems -- particularly in electronic voting systems."[3]

Also during this time, the U.S. Senate confirmed the "two final commissioners of the four-member Election Assistance Commission, which is overseeing the implementation of the Help America Vote Act. The EAC will oversee the work of developing voting-systems standards with NIST providing assistance under the auspices of the Commerce Department. The standards would establish requirements for voting systems and features, such as a voter-verifiable paper trail. But standards would be voluntary. Voting-machine makers would not be forced to follow them."[4]

Black box benefits

ITAA president Harris Miller was quoted in the ITAA press release announcing ETC as saying: "Electronic voting is the logical next step in the evolution of voting systems. The American people expect voting machines to be fast, accurate and reliable. They do not expect the technology, itself, to raise questions or cast doubt on election results. We look forward to working with the members of the ETC to help this industry find its collective voice and to bring the benefits of electronic voting to every citizen."[5]

Hart waxes poetic on the benefits of e-voting: "Millions of citizens are casting ballots that would otherwise be lost without industry innovation. Millions more have the promise of voting a secret ballot for the first time. In short, this industry plays an important role in building a stronger democracy for all Americans. It is time to tell this story, and it is time for election systems companies to join together as an industry to address the many challenges we face in this vital work."[6]

According to National Journal's Technology Daily, at ETC's inaugural press conference, Harris Miller called ETC "a forum to which those in academia, government, interested groups and individuals can turn for constructive dialogue on issues like vote accuracy and security." David Hart said ETC has "an overarching responsibility to build voter confidence in the accuracy, responsibility and security of those systems." Technology Daily further reported that ETC would work "on a 'rapid timetable' due to the upcoming presidential elections," but that they were hampered by Congressional delay "on an omnibus spending bill that would give the e-voting industry $1.5 billion."

The critics

The day after ETC's founding, computer scientist and Harvard University Kennedy School of Government fellow Rebecca Mercuri attacked ETC as an industry effort to control standards and shut out academia. "The American public will not stand for it," she said, according to National Journal's Technology Daily.

The long arm of the ETC

While not being directly quoted in the media that much, ETC's near-instant and impressive influence was evident from a December 26, 2003 column in Wilmington, Delaware's The News Journal. Written by Delaware commissioner of elections Frank B. Calio and titled "Voting machines are reliable," the piece sought to assure the public that "Delaware's electronic voting machines are secure." In fact, Calio warned: "Some people are riding a bandwagon wanting receipts of their votes so they know they have been cast, and some states are obliging that trend. That opens the door for tampering with voting machines to switch and lose votes as well as 'fix' the paper receipts." The piece ended: "Contact my office... for additional information by the Election Technology Council."

Personnel

According to the Houston Business Journal: [7]

Contact information

Election Technology Council
14173 NW Freeway, #239
Houston, TX 77040
Phone: 713.896.9292

Website: http://www.electiontech.org/
Email: info(AT)electiontech.org

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External links