A Problem of Privatization
Criminal behavior in The Netherlands we must heed
16 March 2007, Special to The Bridge by Wayne Stinson
Each morning I turn on the computer and set the email download in motion. Invariably, there’s a flood of messages from the various news groups I subscribe to. Usually I’ll return to the machine after fixing myself a mug of coffee to spend the first several minutes scanning the topics for issues that might be relevant to my election integrity work. This morning was different. There was a word in the subject line of one of the first messages which compelled my immediate attention: "Extortion."
The "extortion" message had originated with our friends in the Netherlands, The "We Do Not Trust Voting Computers" Foundation. I had been expecting a reply concerning the Dutch company Nedap, the manufacturer of an electronic voting machine that serves 90% of Dutch voters and is presently being marketed here in New York State as the LibertyVote. Their reply was a bombshell!
With the help of the Dutch Freedom of Information Act The "We Do Not Trust…" Foundation had uncovered what they describe as an attempted criminal extortion by the CEO of the company which provides the tabulation software used in the Nedap machines. They had acquired about thirty pages of communications between Jan Goenendaal, the owner of the software company which is the exclusive provider to Nedap, and the Dutch Electoral Council (Kiesraad).
Apparently the Dutch Electoral Council has become very dependent upon Goenendaal for the management of their elections. These FOIL sourced letters and email messages reveal that Mr. Goenendaal attempted to coerce the Dutch Government by threatening to withhold his company’s cooperation during the November, 2006 national elections and March, 2007 provincial elections. Specifically, In the midst of preparations for the November elections and in an attempt to prevent the government from appointing the founder of The "We Do Not Trust…" Foundation to an independent commission investigating the electoral process, Goenendaal warns the ministry that "…his company will cease all activity" if Rop Gonggrijp is appointed to the commission."
Mr. Goenendaal, apparently fearing for the fiscal health of his company following the public hacking of the Nedap machines in October, goes on to propose a business transaction of sorts: "…the ministry buys the shares of our company at a reasonable price, …and we will still cooperate during the next election" (the March Provincial elections).
Having not received an answer to his earlier demands Goenendaal again writes the Electoral Council in mid-December 2006 warning "We are heading towards a very dangerous situation" and, right in the heat of election preparations, he tells them "I have ordered my employees to halt all activity until we have received an answer that is acceptable to us."
This is a problem created by privatization. When a primary function of government, in this case management of elections, is allowed to be controlled to such a degree by a private entity you create a situation where a heavy-handed power play such as that exhibited by the Goenendaal software provider can occur.
As evidence of the detrimental effects of such a relationship I am sorry to report that no prosecution of Mr. Goenendaal has been initiated. On the contrary, following all the arm-twisting communications the Goenendaal firm was contracted to replace all the voting machine memory chips so that the Dutch government could issue a press release titled "No Doubts Regarding Reliability of Voting Machines."
As I had previously reported on these pages Nedap is aggressively marketing their machines here in New York State. The LibertyVote machine presently undergoing certification testing is the Nedap voting machine. If New York State were to certify this machine, those counties that buy them will be entering into a business relationship with a company that should not be trusted. Additionally, it would be extremely poor public policy to enter into such a relationship with a foreign corporation (Nedap), selling a sub-standard product (the LibertyVote), and, which is dependent upon a sub-contractor the likes of Mr. Goenendaal.
Schoharie County citizens should speak to their Supervisors and impress upon them that we should not do business with these people. Instead, we should use paper ballots and those ballots must be counted by hand for the official results.*
*The Peacemakers position statement calls for the ballots to be counted even if a ballot scanner is used to produce an early unofficial result. The complete report by The "We Do Not Trust Voting Computers" Foundation is at: http://www.wijvertrouwenstemcomputersniet.nl/English/Groenendaal .
Wayne Stinson is the coordinator of the Peacemakers of Schoharie County, Voting Integrity Project. He can be reached at 518-287-1463 or firstname.lastname@example.org