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Smartmatic Wikipedia

Wikipedia is one of the five most visited websites in the world, according to the Alexa Internet Index. Yet, despite its undeniable popularity, it is an unreliable source of information on certain controversial topics.

In an age when information is far too often weaponized to influence elections and to delegitimize governments, Wikipedia’s open, collaborative and voluntary model is highly vulnerable and inefficient.

As a company dedicated to serving election commissions around the world, our experience with Wikipedia has been extremely disappointing. Regrettably, the entry about our company includes inaccurate information that has not be corrected due to the actions of anonymous Wikipedia editor(s).

Committed as we are to transparency and honesty, we have “re-written” our entry with verifiable and accurate information about the company.
The following lines have been arranged to hold the same basic structure of the Wikipedia entry, including the controversies.

Smartmatic

Smartmatic (also referred as Smartmatic Corp. or Smartmatic International) is a multinational company specialized in the design and deployment of election technology. It also provides solutions for governments, including public safety and public transportation services, identity management systems for civil registration, as well as authentication for government applications.

Headquartered in London since 2012, Smartmatic was first incorporated on April 11, 2000, in the state of Delaware, United States. 

Smartmatic has offices in 13 countries. A full list of Smartmatic offices worldwide can be found on its official website.

History

Smartmatic was founded in April 2000 as a Delaware corporation, with headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, by Antonio Mugica, Alfredo José Anzola and Roger Piñate [See Incorporation Act]. 

During its beginnings, Smartmatic developed technologies for what today is called “the internet of things”, with a strong focus on cryptography and security. Smartmatic first sold its products and services to the banking sector. Initial deployments involved bank branch automation in Mexico. 

Shortly after the 2000 presidential election put the spotlight on the obsolete U.S. voting system, its founders began adapting their technology for use in elections. Between 2001 and 2003 the company developed its first end-to-end voting system and its first voting machine. 

Smartmatic’s first election – a Presidential Recall Referendum – was held in Venezuela in August 2004. From then on, Smartmatic expanded operations, providing technology and services to election commissions in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America and the Caribbean

In 2014, Smartmatic became a founding member of the SGO Group, a family of ventures that aim to provide societies, governments and individuals with the tools to address some of the 21st century’s most pressing challenges. SGO, formally known as the SGO Corporation Limited was incorporated in the United Kingdom and is run by a UK Board of Directors chaired by Lord Mark Malloch-Brown.

Smartmatic Products

Smartmatic operates through two main business units: Election Solutions and Government Solutions.

Election Solutions

Smartmatic offers an end-to-end suite of technology and services to help election commissions run their elections. Its portfolio of solutions is divided into six basic areas: Voter Management Solutions, Poll Worker Solutions, e-Voting/e-Counting Solutions, Online Voting Solutions, Project Management and Services and Election Management Platform.

Government Solutions

This business unit develops and implements technology solutions to help critical government tasks, including: Public Safety Platforms, Intelligent Transportation System Solutions, Identity Management Solutions and Census, Records, & Document Management.

Smartmatic Elections

Since 2004, Smartmatic’s election technology has been used in local and national elections in Sierra Leone, Venezuela, United States, Belgium, Italy, Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, the United Kingdom, Mexico, The Philippines, and many other countries.

Africa

Smartmatic has run projects in Uganda, Zambia and Sierra Leone. In 2010, Smartmatic worked with the United Nations Development Program and Zambian authorities to modernize the voter registry using biometric technology. In 2016, Smartmatic was contracted to maintain the voter registry ahead of the elections. 

Smartmatic also assisted the Electoral Commission of Uganda in modernizing its election processes to increase transparency of the 2016 General Elections. The election company supplied more than 30,000 biometric machines across 28,010 polling stations, from the capital of Kampala to remote rural communities, to verify the identity of more than 15 million people.

Armenia

During the Armenian parliamentary election of 2017, a voter authentication system was used for the first time. The identity of the voter was validated prior to voting using Voter Authentication Devices (VADs) which contained an electronic copy of the voter  database. The introduction of new technologies in the election process was strongly supported by the opposition and civil society. 


Smartmatic provided 4,000 Voter Authentication Devices to the UNDP project “Support to the Electoral Process in Armenia” (SEPA). The automation of the election was funded by the EU, United States, Germany, United Kingdom, and the Government of Armenia.

According to final reports from the International Elections Observation Missions (IEOM) “The VADs functioned effectively and without significant issues.” Observers highlighted that the introduction of the VADs was welcomed by most IEOM interlocutors as a useful tool for building confidence in the integrity of Election Day proceedings.

IEOM observers registered nine cases in which the VADs revealed voters attempting multiple voting. The VADs also provided operators with the possibility to redirect voters to their correct polling station. This occurred in 55 polling stations.

Belgium

After more than two years of evaluation that included a request for the development of a special prototype, diverse certifications by PricewaterhouseCoopers, and a pilot test, the Federal Public Service announced in February 2012 that it would use a voting system designed by Smartmatic for the succeeding 15 years.

Different surveys performed following the pilot test reported that a large majority of participants expressed highly positive perceptions of the system in terms of simplicity and ease of use.  

Since then, Smartmatic has provided technology and services for three elections. Around 34,000 voting machines have been distributed to 3,365 polling stations.

Brazil

Smartmatic provided election technology services to Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court (TSE) for the Brazilian Municipal Elections in 2012, Brazilian General Election in 2014 and Brazilian Municipal Elections in 2016 cycles.

In October 2012, Smartmatic provided election support for data and voice communications to 16 states in Brazil, and the Federal District (FD), deploying 1,300 Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) satellite devices, as well as support services to voting machines. These services entailed hiring and training 14,000 technicians who worked at 480,000 polling stations. In 2014, the Brazilian electoral commission relied on an increased number of BGAN terminals deployed by Smartmatic, to enable results transmission. BGAN satellite broadband voice and data service was used to connect voting stations to the nation’s electronic voting system.

Estonia

In 2014, Smartmatic and Cybernetica, the Estonian IT lab that built the original internet voting system used in the country, co-founded the Centre of Excellence for Internet voting. The Centre is working with the government of Estonia to advance Internet voting on a global scale.

Estonia is the first and only country to run Internet voting on a massive scale. The I-voting system, the largest run by any European Union country, was first introduced in 2005 for local elections, and was subsequently used in the 2007, 2011, 2015 parliamentary elections, with the proportion of voters using this voting method rising from 5.5 per cent to 24.3 per cent to 30.5 per cent respectively.

The number of Estonian i-voters at the 2015 Parliamentary Election swelled to a record-breaking 176.491 (30.5 percent) of votes cast. This record number was superseded by further increased online turnout when in the 2017 Local Elections, 186,034 voters cast online ballots which constituted 31.9 percent of the total votes cast. The year 2017 marked the first use of the new online voting system called IVXV, which saw the deployment of refreshed voting architecture, improved cryptography and enhanced verifiability components.

This new end-to-end verification technology system enables voters to track their votes and verify that the vote was counted correctly. This is the latest step in an effort to counteract perceptions that outside influences can compromise election results, and proves the tallying of election results through electronic voting.

Interestingly, nearly a quarter of internet votes in recent elections have been cast by people over the age of 55, with another 20 percent of internet votes from the 45-54 age range. This suggests internet voting enjoys broad support not just among young digital native millennials, but across the societal spectrum.

Kristjan Vassil, a respected socio-political researcher from the University of Tartu, Estonia, published a paper titled “Behavioural aspects of internet voting”. The paper looks at behavioural aspects of i-voting in Estonia throughout nine election cycles over a 12-year period. In doing so, it provides statistical evidence to support the notion that internet voting has increased voting turnout in Estonia.

Philippines

On August 11, 2008, automated regional elections were held in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the Philippines. Voters in the Maguindanao province used Smartmatic's electronic voting machines, while voters in the other five provinces (Shariff Kabunsuan, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi) used manually marked ballots processed using Optical Mark Recognition technology. The overall reaction of the public and authorities was positive

Sen. Richard J. Gordon, author of Republic Act 9369 or Automated Elections Law, declared the exercise a success. He described it as “orderly and generally peaceful, the voters were excited to try the high-tech equipment, and the teachers were happy because the voting process was quick.”

In 2010, Smartmatic automated the National Elections in the Republic of the Philippines.  The use of Smartmatic technology and services was overseen by the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec).

2010 marked the first time the country automated its general elections. Some 82,000 vote counting machines were deployed across the country for the projectMore than 38 million Filipinos voted in the elections, representing 75 percent of the 50.7-million registered voters.

A Random Manual Audit (RMA) conducted by the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) found that the electronic count and the manual count coincided 99.6 percent of the time.

The U.S. Embassy sent 120 observers across the country to witness the election. On May 11, 2010, the Embassy issued a statement congratulating the country for the democratic feat. The European Union Ambassador, Alistair MacDonald also issued a statement praising the “smooth and generally trouble-free election.”

A survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that a majority (75 percent) of Filipinos were very satisfied with the conduct of the automated elections. The survey also found that voters regarded the 2010 elections as one of the most-credible and transparent in Philippine history.

On 13 May 2013, the Philippines held midterm elections to decide on some 18,000 offices. Smartmatic again provided technology and services to Comelec. The same 82,000 voting machines used in 2010 were deployed.

Election watchdog  National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections  (Namfrel), which is one of Comelec's official citizen's arm, described the polls as "generally peaceful and organized." 

The Philippine National Police considered the 2013 election the most peaceful election in the history of the country. The US Embassy commended the Filipinos for the elections.

On May 9, 2016, the Philippines held the country’s third national automated election. A total of 92,509 vote-counting machines (VCMs) were deployed across this archipelago comprising 7,107 islands. For Overseas Absentee Voting Act (OAV), 130 VCMs were deployed in 18 countries.

Some 44,872 candidates vied for 18,025 national and local posts. 

Voting ran from 6 am to 5 pm. Immediately after the closing of polls, votes were electronically counted by the VCMs and then transmitted to consolidation servers. By election night, about 86 percent of election data had already been transmitted, allowing winners in local municipalities to be proclaimed. By election night, Filipinos already knew who the winning President was, leading other candidates to concede within 24 hours. Over 20,000 candidates conceded.

Many challenges preceded the elections, chief of which was the ruling of the Philippine Supreme Court requiring each counting machine to print paper receipts of each electronic vote. The ruling was handed down on March 17, 2016, giving Comelec and Smartmatic less than two months to adapt the automated platform.

Rodrigo Duterte became the 16th President of the Philippines, succeeding Benigno Aquino III. Legislators elected in the 2016 elections joined the senators elected in the 2013 midterm elections and comprised the 16th Congress of the Philippines.

According to Namfrel , the 2016 elections had “been managed far better than the past two automated elections held in 2010 and 2013... and the electorate seems to have more confidence in the election system this year compared to the past.”

Out of the 54.5 million registered voters, more than 44 million turned out to vote, achieving an 81.7 percent turnout. The last time participation was this high was during the 1987 elections. 

A survey conducted by Philippine pollster Pulse Asia revealed that 88 percent of Filipinos want future elections to be automated.

The majority of the foreign delegates who observed the elections commended the exercise for its orderly conduct and were particularly appreciative of the high acceptability of results. US President Barack Obama praised the elections as “emblematic of the vibrant democracy in the Philippines.” 

Transmission rate for the 2016 elections reached 96.14 percent, the highest in the three previous.  All 12 winning senators were proclaimed on May 19, 2016, merely 10 days after Election Day. The winning President and Vice-President were proclaimed on May 30, 2016. 

The speed with which results were determined in the 2016 elections led to the rapid de-escalation of political tensions and the smooth transition of power. This represents a marked contrast from the experience with manual elections, where long waits often led to fraud and violence. 

The Comelec and Smartmatic conducted numerous audits which included the source code review, Hardware Acceptance Test (HAT), Pre-Election Logical Accuracy Test (Pre-LAT), and the Final Testing and Sealing (FTS). All audits and tests were conducted in the presence of political parties and other witnesses.

United States

2016 Utah republican presidential primaries

In the 2016 Utah Republican caucus, where Utah Republicans voted to choose the party’s nominee for president in the 2016 US Presidential election, voters had the opportunity to vote using traditional methods or to vote online. For online voting, the Utah Republican Party used an internet voting system developed by the Smartmatic-Cybernetica Internet Voting Centre of Excellence, based in Estonia. The Utah caucus was the first use of blockchain technology in voting

Nearly 90 percent of voters registered to vote online participated in the caucus process, marking an extremely high turnout rate. Voters from more than 45 countries, including places as far away as French Polynesia, South Africa and Japan, voiced their opinion.

Voters of all ages, from millennials to people in their 80s, chose to cast their vote online.

Following the vote, the online voting participants were asked to provide feedback on their experience with 94 percent of respondents stating that it was a good experience and 97 percent stating that they would consider voting online in future elections. 82 percent said they want to see online voting implemented nationwide.

There were warnings and praises from security experts. Smartmatic received thousands of calls from Utah voters surrounding issues with the process. The Washington Post states that "the concern seems to be less with the technology and more with the security of the devices people use to vote". Also, the article from the Washington Post explains that “most of the calls came from voters who had missed the March 17 deadline to register to vote online”. 

In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah GOP Chairman James Evans seemed to suggest the errors found were on the user end: "Primarily it was people thinking they were approved to vote online [but were not]," Evans said. "The other category were people who received their PIN and it went to their spam folder or they just deleted it."

Venezuela

Smartmatic’s voting system was first used in 2004 in what became the world’s first nationwide elections using an end-to-end encrypted voting system and the first to use a voter-verified paper audit trail.  Smartmatic was the main technology supplier between 2004 and 2017. 

Prior to the recall referendum, the Venezuelan National Electoral Council (CNE) began a tender process to choose a company to modernize the country’s automated voting system. 

The SBC Consortium won the open tender. Based on several evaluations, SBC Consortium scored 80.25 out of a possible 100. The next highest scores were achieved by Indra and Diebold with 63.05 and 62.95 points respectively. 

The SBC Consortium was formed by Smartmatic, which provided all the voting technology; Bitza Software was in charge of the audit processes; and CANTV (a Verizon subsidiary at the time), managed the telecommunications infrastructure.

The presidential recall referendum of 2004 in Venezuela generated some controversy about the use of electronic voting in the country. 

International election observation agencies however attested that the election conducted using Smartmatic technology was fair, accurate and compliant with the accepted timing and reliability criteria. These agencies included the Carter Center and the Organization of American States

Jennifer McCoy, Carter Center Director for the Americas, stated that several audits validated the accuracy of the machines. “We found a variation of only 0.1 percent between the paper receipts and the electronic results. This could be explained by voters putting the slips in the wrong ballot box”. 

In October 2012, for the first time in the world, national elections were carried out with biometric voter authentication to activate the voting machines. Out of 18,903,143 citizens registered to vote in the presidential elections, voter turnout was around 81 percent, both record figures in Venezuelan electoral history.

On August 2, 2017, Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica stated in a press briefing in London: "Based on the robustness of our system, we know, without any doubt, that the turn out of the recent election for a National Constituent Assembly was manipulated," and added "We estimate the difference between the actual participation and the one announced by authorities is at least one million votes." 

In March 2018, Smartmatic ceased operations in Venezuela.

Smartmatic Controversies

Relationship with different governments

In some of the countries where Smartmatic has provided election technology and services, competitors or losing political candidates have claimed that Smartmatic is “owned” by the winning party or by an opposing candidate. This has led media outlets to claim, at different times and in different countries, that Smartmatic is owned or has ties with the CIA, and the United States Immigration Department; the Pentagon; the Republican Party; Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan Government; the Mossad; the Israeli intelligence agency; the Arroyo family of the Philippines; and George Soros among many others.

George Soros 

A series of articles claiming that Smartmatic was owned and controlled by George Soros were published during the 2016 US election cycle. Several fact-checking groups cleared the controversy. The fact that Smartmatic’s Chairman sits on the Global Board of a Soros’ owned non-profit Open Society Foundations, fueled this conspiracy theory. 

Purported relationship with the Venezuelan Government

Media outlets have associated Smartmatic with the Venezuelan Government since 2003 when the company joined efforts with Bizta in the SBC Consortium to participate in the open bid launched by the Venezuelan Elections Commission (CNE) to automate voting. The participation structure of the SBC Consortium was: Smartmatic 51 percent, CANTV (a Verizon subsidiary at the time) 47 percent and Bizta 2 percent. 

Before Bizta was invited to be part of the SBC Consortium, the Company received a $150,000 loan from FONCREI, the equivalent of the ‘US Small Business Administration’ in the US. As collateral for loan, FONCREI received a 28 percent non-permanent equity position and one seat on Bizta’s Board of Directors. Bizta repaid the capital loan one year after receiving it.

This loan, given to Bizta by a public financial institution, raised suspicions that the government could be using the company to alter election results of the elections in which Smartmatic took part.

Opposition to election modernization in the Philippines

The project to automate Philippine elections was met with vociferous opposition from the beginning. Groups that had benefitted from the traditional fraudulent conduct of Philippine polls felt threatened by the increased transparency and auditability of automated elections.

After the first national automated election, held on June 29, 2010, the Philippine Computer Society (PCS) filed a complaint with the country's Ombudsman against 17 officials of the Commission on Elections and the Smartmatic-TIM Corp., for alleged “incompetence,” graft and unethical conduct. The complaint failed to prosper.

During the 2016 elections, only 188 of the 92,509 machines deployed needed to be replaced. Some of the issues presented were not directly attributable to the technology, but were caused by human error, such as wrong paper roll orientation.

Days after the May 2016 elections, Bongbong Marcos, son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, alleged that votes had been tampered costing him the election as Vice President. Criminal proceedings were filed against Comelec personnel, as well as Smartmatic employees, with an Election Commissioner stating that Smartmatic had violated protocols. However, in September 2016, the Manila Prosecutors Office dismissed the complaint filed by the camp of Bongbong Marcos Jr. for lack of evidence.

The Philippines and the "ñ" character

On election night of the 2016 Philippine National Elections, an observer monitoring the election from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting Center (PPCRV) realized that the names containing the letter “ñ” were appearing with a question mark (“?”) on the screens of the PPCRV Center. He asked a COMELEC IT Officer to fix this issue.

The PPCRV Center -also called the Transparency Center- was created to provide media outlets and political parties with a timely unofficial count. This center was not part of the Automated Election System (AES) infrastructure used to officially tally votes.

The COMELEC IT Officer notified the Smartmatic Technical Support Team leader about the concern. After validating that changing the "?” characters required a minor cosmetic change to appease the observers at the PPCRV Transparency Center, the Smartmatic Technical Support Team addressed the concern. This was done openly, in the presence of the political parties and witnessed by COMELEC’s IT Officer.

The correction to replace the character “?” involved a cosmetic change which had no impact on the official results. There was no change in the source code of the Automated Election System or the counting and canvassing of the votes.

In relation to the integrity checks carried out on the data, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) has said “We ran several anomaly tests and I am happy to report there was not a single anomaly… Facts do not lie. Numbers do not lie…the data appear to have been untouched”.

PPCRV ITD director, William Yu, in his report dated May 11, 2017, validated together with members of political parties, that the results were intact.

Comelec Advisory Council Post Election report, dated February 8th, 2017 states: This was done to correct the “?” character that replaced the “ñ” character in the names of the candidates. From a technological standpoint, the change does not lead to any form of cheating or alteration of the election results.

In spite of all the evidence, losing vice-presidential candidate “Bongbong” Marcos, son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, used this ‘ñ’ incident to claim that he was cheated.

Training and operating issues in Armenia

According to the International Elections Observation Missions (IEOM), the late introduction of the Voter Authentication Devices (VADs) could have led to limited time for equipment testing and operator training. In its final report, the IEOM states: "Observers noted some problems with scanning of ID documents and fingerprints; however, this did not lead to significant disruptions of voting”.  

An article reported that a voter authentication device did not recognize President Serzh Sargsyan the first time that he tried to go through the authentication process. 

Debate over the reliability of the Estonian system

Some experts have warned that Estonia's online voting system might be vulnerable to hacking. In 2014, J. Alex Halderman, an associate professor at the University of Michigan described the Estonian "i-voting" system as "pretty primitive by modern standards ... I got to observe the processes that they went through, and there were just—it was just quite sloppy throughout the whole time".  A security analysis of the system by the University of Michigan and the Open Rights Group that was led by Halderman found that "the I-voting system has serious architectural limitations and procedural gaps that potentially jeopardize the integrity of elections".

The Estonian National Electoral Committee responded to the report, stating that the claims "were unsubstantiated and the described attacks infeasible. Before each election, the system is rebuilt from the ground up, and security testing including penetration testing and denial-of-service mitigation tests are carried out. In their statement, the Estonian National Electoral Committee says: “every aspect of online balloting procedures is fully documented, these procedures are rigorously audited, and video documenting all conducted procedures is posted online. In addition to opening every aspect of our balloting to observers, we have posted the source code of our voting software online. In the past decade, our online balloting has stood up to numerous reviews and security tests. We believe that online balloting allows us to achieve a level of security greater than what is possible with paper ballots”.

In addition, the validity and integrity of the Halderman report was debunked by the Republic of Estonia Information System Authority which suggested that the report was politically motivated, and questioned the independence of the security experts who contributed to the report. Additionally, the Information Authority questioned the groups practices around responsible disclosure.

Acquisition and divestiture of Sequoia

In 2005, Smartmatic acquired Sequoia Voting Systems, one of the leading US companies in automated voting products from the British company De La Rue

In 2006, having significantly enhanced Sequoia’s product range and market share, a media campaign was launched putting in doubt Smartmatic’s ownership. 

As a response, Smartmatic requested a voluntary review by CFIUS, with the intention of clearing any doubts and getting a formal approval of the acquisition. During this review process, the path to approval presented to the companies during the CFIUS review involved measures and conditions that both Smartmatic and Sequoia found too onerous to accept. Smartmatic and CFIUS agreed then that the best way forward was for Smartmatic to dispose of its interest in Sequoia. Sequoia was subsequently the subject of a management buy-out.

Brazil voting machines

Around 2014, certain media outlets accused Smartmatic voting machines of rigging Brazilian elections. News about Smartmatic’s participation in public bids to become a provider of the voting machines was used to create the false impression that Brazil used Smartmatic voting machines. 

Smartmatic has never provided voting machines to Brazil. It has only provided maintenance and training in 2012 and data and voice communications in the elections of 2012, 2014 and 2016. 

As confirmed by several fact-checking agencies, the voting machines currently in use in Brazil were manufactured by Diebold.

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