As Printed in the May 2012 Issue of The Northeast Texan.
Evolution of Counting Votes
Will the Sanctity of Elections be Compromised?
By Stephanie Bertorelli
I grew up in a small town and my first lesson in civics and elections was when I was in second grade and my Girl Scout Brownie troop got to go to an actual polling place on Election Day in 1980. I was seven years old and so excited as I went into the booth, pulled the curtain and cast my very first ever vote for Ronald Reagan.
I remember that night that we learned that our “votes” would be taken from the machine and counted by the people who were working in the polling location. The girls in my troop and I were told that the votes were then taken to the people in our county who would add them to the votes from everyone else in our area and after that they would be sent to the state capital where all the votes from everyone in the state were added together. Then those state votes were added together with everyone else in the country and then we would find out who had won the election. It seemed so simple to me at seven.
For many years after that, and in my teens, I watched my grandfather as a precinct captain spend hours at his polling location collecting votes and making sure that everything was accurate. He had to verify the totals and send them to the state to be tabulated. I always thought that he had the coolest job to be able to count all those votes. I asked him once, “What happens if there are too many votes for the guy you don’t like?” He looked at me with a bemused smile and replied. “If that is the way the count comes out, then that’s the way it is. I just count the votes, I don’t control them.” It seemed so simple to me as a teenager.
Technology has, obviously, changed the way that elections are run. Today, software companies design suites of products that allow for automated vote counting and reporting. One of the leaders in the field is SOE Software. This Florida based company has a software product that is used in over 525 jurisdictions in the United States including all of such battleground states as North Carolina and Indiana and in key counties in Florida like Broward, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough for the flow of election results.
SOE has recently been acquired in total by a Barcelona based company, SCYTL, a “worldwide leader in the development of secure solutions for electoral modernization”. SCYTL, according to their company profile, has been and is currently funded by Nauta Capital, Balderton Capital, Spinnaker SCR and the Spanish government. Many of the key personnel within these capital groups (and especially within Balderton) have strong ties to both Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital.
SCYTL has been integral in Governmental elections in Spain, the United Kingdom and France as well as in the private sector in union voting. SCYTL is also the company that was charged with the facilitation and counting of the military and overseas online voting for the 2008 Presidential election and will be again for the 2012 election. And while the company assures that the voting process is secure and not subject to tampering, in 2010, a prototype voting system for Washington DC (which currently uses SOE exclusively) was hacked and with every vote cast, the voter was greeted with the University of Michigan fight song.
The Presidential race in North Carolina (a historically very red state) was decided by about 10,000 votes in favor of Obama. In Hillsborough County, Florida, Obama flipped the previous Republican leaning vote results and won by a margin of 10,077. Maybe it is just a coincidence that both are SOE customers?
But as with most things that we are faced with in the new world order of Obamacare, we should pay no attention to the software behind the curtain. There is nothing to see. According to Janelle Bolton with the Kaufman County, Texas Voter Registration office, use of the SOE software was discontinued prior to 2006 and now an election software from Hart Intercivics is used. A brief sigh of relief? Unfortunately, simple research on the Hart website clearly shows a solid partnership with SCYTL.
With the acquisition of SOE, SCTYL will route all of the controlled votes (including the online military votes) to a server in Spain to be counted. Technology has come so far that in the twenty-two years since I cast that first “vote”, the poll workers and precinct captains have been made obsolete with use of automated software solutions and all of our “votes” don’t even need to be counted on American soil.
Stephanie Bertorelli is an opinion blogger based in Charlotte, NC. She is a single mom to two beautiful girls and works full time in the travel industry. When not working and chasing after the girls, she’s either cooking or writing. She is currently finishing her first novel and preparing to begin a cookbook. You can view past and future articles of Stephanie’s at facebook.com/InMyHumbleOpinions.