December 11, 2009
FCC Comments re Internet Voting
Yesterday was the deadline to submit comments to the FCC regarding the use of the internet for voting as well as other broadband issues. The context was a nationwide push to extend broadband access to under-served areas of the country, an effort similar in scope to the rural electrification program of the 1930′s and ’40′s. It will take a major infusion of cash to build out this infrastructure.
So the FCC asked for public comment. And, boy, did they get a virtual earful! As of today there are 917 filings posted online.
A quick look at the comment filings is informative. All the big telecoms and mobile providers (T-Mobile, AT&T, Qwest, Frontier,Verizon etc.) are out in force represented by high-powered attorneys. Ditto for media companies such as Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Belo, Univision, Sirius XM Radio, American Cable Association, Dish Network as well as technology firms like Microsoft, Dell Computers and Google. Many of these have multiple comments submitted in their name. Some of these mega-corporations have even submitted comments marked “confidential” to the nominally public comment process (Don’t ask me how a “public” comment can be “confidential” ).
A mere handful of these comments to the FCC seem to have focused on the civic participation aspect of the broadband, particularly internet voting and these can be divided into two groups — election integrity activists on one side and private companies hoping to make a profit from internet voting on the other.
This could also be seen as a division between the “No” and “Yes” sides of the online voting controversy.
Election integrity activists who are speaking out with one voice against internet voting include Pam Smith of Verified Voting, Joyce McCloy of NC Coalition for Verified Voting, David Jefferson, Candice Hoke, Jim Soper, Luther Weeks, Deborah Whitcomb, Ethan Scarl, and the team of Dave and Kathy Jackson (apologies if anyone has been overlooked — it was not intentional).
In the other corner, to use boxing parlance, are companies which hope to make a killing profit by selling internet voting services to gullible election officials across the country. So far the two corporations which have come forward to offer such services are Every1Counts, based in California and Scytl, an Italian firm which recently established a lobbying outpost in the DC area.
The sales pitch of these companies sounds remarkably like that offered by purveyors of DRE voting machines when they touted the features, advantages and benefits of doing away with all those “messy” paper ballots and going paperless – it was the wave of the future, they said then. This is now and election officials across the country are frantically dumping the junk DRE machines they purchased with HAVA funds and looking around for a better solution in the form of optical scanners.
Could election officials be wooed by the siren song of internet voting? It is hard to say how receptive election officials will be to the pitch from these vendors. However, an infusion of Federal money could make a difference. It worked before with HAVA and led to a stampede to paperless DREs.
Just when election integrity activists thought they were stemming the tide of paperless voting via DREs, they can see a new emerging threat to auditable, recountable paper ballot elections. It seems like the work is never done (sigh!).
Anyone interested in perusing the actual FCC filings can go to http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/ and click on “Search for Filings”. Enter the proceeding number 09-47, 09-51 and/or 09-137 and a date range ending 12/11/2009.