Smartmatic Fact-checked

Now in its 20th year as a global supplier of voting systems, Smartmatic has shown through its extensive experience that the smart use of election technology ensures greater security, accessibility, efficiency and, most importantly, transparency.

We are proud of the contribution our technology has made to modernizing elections around the world, as well as the recognition we have received from independent observers such as the United Nations and the European Union. The Carter Center declared that Smartmatic has “the best voting system in the world.”

Following are answers to some of the most pressing questions around elections technology. If you have a question about our company or our technologies, please email us at asksmartmatic@smartmatic.com.

I. About Smartmatic Technology

Q: Are electronic voting machines secure?

A: Yes, Smartmatic voting machines are secure. Since its founding in 2000, Smartmatic has designed, built and sold automated voting technologies on five continents, recording nearly 5 billion votes without any security breaches. Security is “baked into” both our IT infrastructure and our products. We don’t rely on any single security application or off-the-shelf protection. Our systems employ multi-layered protection strategies that include security fragmentation, security layering, encryption, device identity assurance, multi-key combinations and opposing-party auditing.

Q: How vulnerable are voting machines to hacking?

A: Modern electronic voting machines are very secure.  It is extremely difficult to access, much less compromise, modern voting machines.   Smartmatic’s systems detect and protect against unauthorized access to both the electronics and to the device’s physical access points, including insider attacks. Multi-layered systems are much harder to breach than any single security approach.

As a matter of general cyber-hygiene protocol, we provide comprehensive guidance on procedural strategies that help election officials further enhance security. This is the same approach the US military employs to protect nuclear missile launch systems and other critical computer systems.  Moreover, elections happen in compressed periods of time, so any attempts at penetration would not only be thwarted by a system’s built-in security design but by the limited window in which a hacker could have access to the machine.  As has been widely reported, there is no known instance in the US of votes being altered by voting machine penetration.

Q: How do you know if election results are accurate?

A: We include audits and tests before the election, as well as digital records and paper trails after the election that allow multiple cross-checking audits. Smartmatic has always developed its systems based on a dual-record principle: paper and electronic, both auditable. In fact, in 2004 Smartmatic was the first company to introduced paper-ballot backup in a national election and we make that a standard recommendation for all our customers.

Q: What if the voting machine is connected to the internet? 

A:  Smartmatic strongly recommends that no equipment owner (jurisdiction, province, county or state) ever join a voting machine to an internet-connected network. Smartmatic’s voting machines are never connected to the internet during actual voting. This is called air-gapping.

Further, voting machines are never connected to each other. In the unlikely and highly theoretically scenario where a machine is attacked without detection, and the attacker manages to penetrate the multiple layers of security, the attack would be of limited value to the hacker as it would be isolated to that one machine.

As an additional precaution, Smartmatic machines are equipped with security systems that would protect data even if they were connected to a non-secure network. Every machine has a unique set of encryption keys and certificates, and these protocols are changed on every machine with every election.

Q: Aren’t paper ballots the most secure way to vote?

A: Hand-marked paper ballots are the least secure means of voting. Some people claim paper ballots are “unhackable” because they define “hack” in purely electronic terms. The fact is, paper ballots can be destroyed, tampered with, manipulated, intercepted, lost, forged, or fraudulently pre-marked. “Stuffing the ballot box” refers to paper. Almost all known election fraud around the world in the past 30 years were paper ballots. Paper ballots are also prone to unintentional human error.

However, using paper ballots as part of an auditable system that includes automated voting equipment works well to ensure transparency and election integrity. Smartmatic first deployed paper-ballot backups to electronic voting machines in 2004 and has recommended their use ever since.

Q: Aren’t hand-marked paper ballots the best way to prove voter intent?

A: No. The opposite is true. Examining hand-marked paper ballots to decide voter intent is subjective. Paper ballots can be mismarked, incompletely marked, accidently marked or incompletely erased when a voter changes their mind. These situations mean that voting officials must determine the voter’s intent without the voter being present to provide input. If the official can’t make a conclusive decision, the ballot is often sent to the courts.

Our voting machines securely record and tally votes cast without human intervention or the need election officials to interpret the mark. Our voting machines also produce paper trails that allow jurisdictions to easily validate voters’ choices without any specialized technology or expertise.

Q: What are the advantages of ballot marking devices (BMDs)?

A: The most important benefits are reducing doubt about voter intent, preventing under and over votes, and improving security and efficiency. They are also more accessible for all voters.

In addition, all voters deserve to vote privately and independently, and BMDs allow voters to cast their ballots secretly and without assistance. Smartmatic’s BMDs also produce voter-verified paper ballots that allow every election jurisdiction to quickly and easily validate results without any specialized technology or expertise.

Q: Can people with disabilities vote like everyone else?

A: For people with disabilities, voting at polling centers is often challenging. More than half of US voters with disabilities have experienced challenges at the polls, with 28 percent experiencing a voting machine issue.

Smartmatic builds its machines from the ground up so we can ensure both security and accessibility.  As a result, Smartmatic’s voting equipment is secure, accessible and easy to use, guaranteeing ballot secrecy and an effortless voting experience for all, including those with disabilities. Smartmatic makes devices that eliminate the need for voters to handle paper and are equipped with assistive technologies, such as headphones, audio-tactile devices, and touchscreens that can adjust text size and contrast. This ensures that all voters can cast, print and verify their votes independently.

In fact, Smartmatic’s newest voting machines enable voters to fill out a sample ballot on their computer, smartphone or tablet and bring those ballots (paper or electronic) to their polling places for speedy and efficient processing. This is an especially convenient feature for people with disabilities or where there are traditionally long voting lines.

Q: How can anyone know if a barcode or QR code has been manipulated if voters can’t read them?

A: Barcodes are designed to aid in speedy tabulation. However, all Smartmatic machines also produce human-readable paper records that allow voters to review their selections for accuracy and to help officials with auditing. The barcode contains a digital signature to guard against manipulation or forgery and is readable by independent third-party barcode scanning applications. They are part of a multi-check system to ensure election integrity that also helps improve speed and efficiency.

II. Smartmatic's role in Los Angeles County's VSAP Project

Q: What is Smartmatic doing for Los Angeles County?

A: Smartmatic was awarded an exclusive contract in 2018 to manufacture, develop software, provide training, and perform systems integration for the Voting Systems for All People (VSAP) solution for Los Angeles County. It will be deployed for use in the 2020 elections. The County designed and developed the parameters for the VSAP solution using an unprecedented level of input from an extremely broad range of stakeholders.

Q: How was Smartmatic selected?

A: Smartmatic was selected through a competitive, year-long public bidding process. All vendor proposals were independently reviewed and scored. Smartmatic scored highest in all three categories: technical, legal and financial. Smartmatic demonstrated superior knowledge of voting system standards, certification practices, and a track record of large-scale voting solution implementations that matched the dynamics and complexity of elections in Los Angeles County.

Q: Where is the work being performed?

A: Adapting the County’s vision for VSAP into a workable design that can be mass produced is being done at Smartmatic’s office in Santa Monica, California. Smartmatic has had as many as 75 employees employed there.

One hundred percent of the software development and testing was performed in Santa Monica. The machines are manufactured in Taiwan and the software is loaded onto the VSAP machines in an LA County facility.

Q: How secure is Smartmatic’s VSAP development process?

A: Very secure.  All of the software was developed in the United States. Every person working on the software or with access to the County’s system-related intellectual property has been rigorously vetted by law enforcement agencies, including a fingerprint background check. The system is certified by the State of California, including hardware testing by NTS, an independent testing, inspection, and certification company.

The technology infrastructure is air-gapped, meaning that it is self-contained and is not connected to the internet. Thus, it is less vulnerable to outside attacks. There are stringent security protocols on system access and strict controls on access to both the County facilities housing the VSAP devices and Smartmatic’s Santa Monica office.

The system is certified by the State of California using the California Voting System Standards (CVSS). All systems undergo extensive testing that includes examination and testing of system software; software source code review and evaluation; hardware and software security penetration testing; hardware testing under conditions simulating the intended storage, operation, transportation, and maintenance environments; inspection and evaluation of system documentation; and operational testing to validate system performance and functioning under normal and abnormal conditions.

The certification requests post-election reports be sent by the County to the Secretary and other conditions being resolved by the County and Smartmatic through process changes, setup changes or training.

Q: Are the machines physically secured?

A: The County operates secure storage facilities for the machines. The County’s server site for the devices is in a separate location from the voting centers. It is access controlled. Only a small number of top County managers have access to the data center control room. Once the election period begins, Smartmatic will not have access to the data center.

As for the VSAP devices, in the extremely unlikely event that someone tries to tamper with one during the election period, the machine would freeze and show an error on the screen. No voting could take place on the machine unless an election worker resets the machine.

III. About Smartmatic

Q: Who owns Smartmatic?

A: Smartmatic was founded in Florida in 2000 and soon after incorporated in Delaware. Two of the founders, Antonio Mugica and Roger Piñate, continue to run the company as CEO and President, respectively. The majority of shares (83%) are held by SGO, a company that is owned by the Mugica and Piñate families. The remaining shares are held by employees (10%) and angel investors (7%).

Q: Isn’t Smartmatic a Venezuelan company?

A: No. Smartmatic was founded in the US and is today headquartered in London. The company has more than a dozen offices in countries around the world and customers in 29 countries. Two of the founders, Antonio Mugica and Roger Piñate, who were both born in Venezuela, continue to run the company as CEO and President, respectively. Literally hundreds of American companies have been founded by people born outside the US, including Google, eBay, Capital One, Kohl’s, Pfizer, Tesla and AT&T. Smartmatic’s situation is similar.

Smartmatic is an approved vendor to the US Department of Defense and a founding member of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Council.

Q: Does Smartmatic do business in Venezuela?

A: The company has, in the past, sold election technology in Venezuela. Following the National Constituency Assembly elections in 2017, Smartmatic publicly stated that Venezuela’s National Elections Council ignored the actual result collected by the voting system and chose instead to announce different vote counts. As a result of the government’s false reporting, the company chose to discontinue doing business there.

Q: Does George Soros have any involvement in Smartmatic?

A: No. George Soros has never had any ownership stake or involvement with Smartmatic.

Q: Is Smartmatic allied with any political parties?

A: No. Smartmatic has no ties to political parties or groups in any country. As a supplier of election technology, Smartmatic believes it is important that the company remain steadfastly neutral. Smartmatic’s employees are required to adhere to a strict ethics code that, among other things, prohibits them from making political donations.