Eat At Joes

Just a regular Joe who is angry that the USA, the country he loves, is being corrupted and damaged from within and trying to tell his fellow Americans the other half of the story that they don’t get on the TV News.

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Workers at E-voting Firm Gave to GOP -- $72,000 Linked to Company Certifying Touch Screens

Online article here
By Roger Fillion, Rocky Mountain NewsAugust 21, 2004

A Colorado company under contract to ensure that the nation's touch-screen voting machines are accurate has been a substantial contributor to Republican candidates and groups.

The donations linked to CIBER Inc. are by no means against the law, but have raised some eyebrows with the approach of a hotly contested 2004 presidential election and the recent discovery of flaws in the ATM-like machines that will be used by millions of voters.

At Greenwood Village-based CIBER, employees and some spouses have donated more than $72,000 to GOP candidates and groups during the 2001-2002 and 2003-2004 election cycles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group. Democratic donations linked to the firm were $3,000 during that time.

Such donations from CIBER are "perfectly legitimate," said Rebecca Mercuri, a computer security expert with Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study.

"What should raise eyebrows is that our U.S. government and state governments allow this to happen," she said. "There's been nothing done to dissuade the perception that there's partisan control over the voting process."

CIBER's donations are far less than the hundreds of thousands of dollars given to the GOP or Democrats by companies such as brokerage firm Goldman -Sachs or retail giant Wal-Mart.
A CIBER spokeswoman stressed the CIBER contributions don't affect the company's testing and certification of the voting software, operating systems and other design components inside the touch-screen voting machines. About 30 percent of voters live in counties that will use the electronic terminals on Election Day.

CIBER is an information technology consulting company with a stock market value of $424 million and clients such as General Motors, Merrill Lynch and the state of Colorado. Spokeswoman Jenn Wing noted that the election technology-testing business accounts for less than 0.1 percent of CIBER's revenues, which totaled $692 million last year.

"Any political contributions made by CIBER or its employees are 100 percent removed from this business activity," Wing said.

Still, Douglas Jones, associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa, said it's fair for people to raise questions about such contributions, given CIBER's role as a voting software tester.

But he doesn't think the donations should be seen as evidence that CIBER is engaged in partisan mischief - given that good citizens in a democracy are expected to be active participants in the political process.

"It's fine for it to raise eyebrows," he said of the CIBER donations. "I'd hate for it to generate conspiracy theories."

But Jones does worry about this: If there is a problem with the voting software and votes can't be 100 percent verified, then questions would arise about CIBER's partisan leanings.
"I'm not convinced that the system is bankrupt. I'm convinced we're at risk," Jones said
CIBER and Denver-based SysTest Labs are among the three companies nationwide authorized to test and certify the electronic touch-screen voting systems.

According to Election Data Services, a political consulting firm, more than 45 million registered voters will have the opportunity to vote via the terminals in the fall election. Recent touch- screen failures in Maryland and Georgia have raised questions about whether the technology is vulnerable to software bugs or tampering.

CIBER and SysTest test and certify the software and related components. A third company, Wyle Laboratories, headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., performs trial runs that ensure the machines operate correctly under various conditions and environments. SysTest also recently was authorized to do so.

The companies received the authority to act as official testers from a group of state election officials, the National Association of State Election Directors. The federal government doesn't play a role in granting such authority.

CIBER isn't the only company in the voting machine business at which people are actively involved in politics. Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Ohio-based Diebold Inc., the parent of electronic voting machine maker Diebold Election Systems, has helped raise funds for President Bush. O'Dell attracted attention last year after sending a letter to Ohio Republicans to raise money for the GOP, noting his commitment "to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

In the case of CIBER, employees and their spouses have donated to a variety of Republican causes. President Bush, for example, has received $21,125 for the upcoming election, the Center for Responsive Politics said.

CIBER Chief Executive Mac Slingerlend and his wife, Maria, together donated $4,000 to the president. Chief Financial Officer David Durham and his wife, Ann, also gave $4,000 to Bush.
In the 2002 election, CIBER-related donations to a group working for Colorado Republican Sen. Wayne Allard - as well as donations to the lawmaker himself - totaled $27,500, according to the center. The donations came before the McCain-Feingold law imposed new curbs on giving.
Douglas Weber, a researcher for the center, called CIBER's donations to Republicans "substantial."

"They're not one of the major donors. But they do give a substantial amount of money," he said.
CIBER got into the voting software testing business through its 2001 acquisition of Metamor Government Solutions. The deal brought with it a small testing lab and the voting technology testing services.

At any one time, CIBER said about a dozen of its 7,500 employees are testing election software at the company's office in Huntsville, Ala.

"While we are proud to provide this service, it's not a large practice for CIBER," said spokeswoman Wing. "We don't set the standards for the software. We simply test the software to ensure they meet the standards set by the government."

Voting systems currently are certified under a system established by the Federal Election Commission and the National Association of State Election Directors.

The Center for Responsive Politics found $5,750 worth of campaign contributions from Wyle Laboratories for this year's election. All of the money went to Republicans, including $1,500 to President Bush.

The center couldn't find any donations linked to SysTest, which employs 57. "It's not really under consideration," said Carolyn Coggins, director of ITA voting services at SysTest.
If the company were to consider it, she added: "We would definitely look to see if there was any conflict in taking that kind of action."

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