With six months until Election Day, conspiracy theories are percolating on the Internet like bubbling mud pots at Yellowstone: Left-wing billionaire George Soros is going to rig the election for Barack Obama. Foreigners will oversee the nation's entire vote-counting system. The fix is in, and all is lost.
Before conservatives go all Michael Moore-moonbatty, let's calm down and separate voter fraud facts from fiction. There's no time to waste worrying about manufactured scares. And there are plenty of legitimate threats to electoral integrity without having to inflate or concoct them.
FACT: Scytl is a Spain-based business that specializes in "electoral security technology" and electronic voting applications. Its cryptographic research initially was funded by the Spanish government's Ministry of Science and Technology and later was spun off as a private-sector e-voting venture.
FACT: In January 2012, Scytl acquired U.S.-based SOE Software. SOE writes "election management" programs that assist officials with everything from "Internet voting to election night reporting and online poll worker training."
FICTION: According to alarmists, Scytl's acquisition of SOE amounts to a complete takeover of America's election system. No, not really. While SOE boasts of a presence "with 900 jurisdictions as customers in 26 states," there is no single contract that the federal government has entered into, or could, with Scytl to count the 2012 presidential election votes. Much of the work Scytl/SOE analysts do is number-crunching and graphics software work after local and state officials have done the vote-counting.
Scytl does have a contract with the feds to use its technology to help overseas and military voters participate in elections. In 2009, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act mandated that U.S. jurisdictions allow uniformed and overseas citizens to receive and track their ballots electronically. Scytl's online ballot program was used in 14 states during the 2010 midterms.
FACT: The security risks of e-voting are still a legitimate concern. University of California at Berkeley computer science professor David Wagner wrote a critical report for the Pentagon about the privacy and accuracy shortcomings of Scytl's military voting program in 2004 -- which prompted the feds to cancel the initial program, according to PBS.
In October 2010, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics encouraged outside parties to try to find security holes in their online balloting infrastructure operated by Scytl. A group of University of Michigan students successfully hacked into the system, commandeered passwords, doctored ballots and programmed audio of the school's fight song to play whenever an e-ballot was submitted.
Hackers from Iran and China also came close to breaking in. "After the hack," according to AOLNews.com, "(D.C.) administrators decided to relaunch under a download-only format, allowing users to access ballots but forcing them to fax or mail them rather than cast a vote online." The D.C. official who oversaw the system, Paul Stenbjorn, now works for Scytl.
FICTION: Chain e-mails about Scytl claim that George Soros owns, operates or controls Scytl. In reality, the company's investors are Nauta Capital, Balderton Capital and Spinnaker SCR. Soros doesn't "own" any of these international venture capital firms -- and as far as my research shows, he has no involvement whatsoever with any of them. Moreover, Scytl's board of directors doesn't include anyone with Soros financial or management ties. Pressed for evidence, one Internet conspiracy nut cited an "invitation only event" in Moldova that listed both the "Soros Foundation Moldova" and Scytl as attendees.
Soros has enough explicit ties to President Obama's administration and campaign without having to embellish them. Just this week, The New York Times reported that he will donate $1 million each to a Democratic super-PAC and a leading progressive get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operation. Soros previously funded Project Vote, the notorious voter-mobilization arm of fraud-perpetrating ACORN for whom Obama canvassed in Illinois.
And that brings us to the less exotic, but far more routine, kind of election insecurity that plagues the country. Hardware and software will never be completely fail-safe, no matter where it originates. But it's the people, personnel and voter registration and verification rules in place right here at home that matter most.
FACT: Over the past five months, investigative journalist James O'Keefe and his Project Veritas team have exposed systemic lapses at precincts in New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont and Washington, D.C. The ballots of famous public figures have been forked over to complete strangers; disenfranchisement of legitimate voters is routine. While Minnesota and New Hampshire legislators have passed new voter integrity/identification laws, O'Keefe now has been targeted for investigation and possible prosecution for blowing the whistle. And Attorney General Eric Holder is striking his usual see-no-evil, shoot-the-messenger, play-the-race-card pose.
The solution isn't to sit back and bemoan a fantastical global conspiracy. The solution is to get off the couch, support election integrity activists like O'Keefe, and turn out in force on Election Day to eject Obama's voter fraud coddlers. Like the old saying goes: If it ain't close, they can't cheat.