Friday, December 22, 2006

One Less Red Herring Now In The Path Of Electronic Voting Fraud Investigations

In this matter, people conflated the very real threat of electronic voting skullduggery in U.S. elections with the artificially hyped specter of the Venezuelan bogeyman, Hugo Chavez.

A major voting machine company owned by Venezuelan investors said Friday it plans to sell its U.S. subsidiary, ending a federal investigation into alleged ties between the company and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

In March 2005, Smartmatic Corp. acquired the Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems Inc., which produces touch-screen and other machines and is one of the largest voting equipment makers in the U.S.

The U.S. government began informally reviewing the deal earlier this spring after a request by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who cited a potential risk to the integrity of U.S. elections.

Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica, who is a dual-Spanish-Venezuelan citizen, later called for an official investigation to dispel what he said were baseless claims of the company's ties to Chavez.

The announcement Friday did not say whether it had found a buyer. Still, it effectively ends the U.S. investigation by an interagency panel, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. ...

There was no immediate reaction from the Venezuelan government.

William Castillo, spokesman for Venezuela's National Electoral Council, said its nonpartisan members would not be making comments about what was exclusively a Smartmatic issue.

Sequoia officials said the controversy would not affect their company's role in U.S. elections. Company officials insist the Venezuelan government has never had a stake in Smartmatic or Sequoia.

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