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Smartmatic's charm offensive

London 23.11.2012 - Opened my email the other day, and found a LinkedIn invitation from Paul Babic, Smartmatic's Chief Marketing Officer. Just imagine my expression, after all the things I have written about Smartmatic over the years. I thought it was a slip, a case of sending something to the wrong person, though I did reply, with "Hi Paul, did you really sent me an invite to connect?", expecting to never hear from him again. But it got better. Paul did reply, saying "Yes, Alek. I know we don't know each other personally, but we may have the opportunity to meet in the future. Cheers, Paul" At this point, I thought, anything could be expected, so I decided to play along.

My next message was: "Actually Paul, I am glad that you have made this overture, for, as I am sure you can imagine, I have a ton of questions to ask about Smartmatic. As a marketing man, you'll probably know better than me the costs of bad PR. Smartmatic's actions in that front have been poorly, well below par, for a multinational corporation claiming to be a "world-class operation". So how about getting this conversation started, and dealing head-front with the

So here we have an admission, by Smartmatic's CMO, that the "PR side of marketing [I] refer to is not part of [his] function." A marketing guy in charge of "product development and management" is not something out of the ordinary, is it? However, have a look at this comment in the Smartmatic article The Hill published recently. Could the Paul who wrote that reply to my article, be the same Paul who is now throwing a charm offensive? I would hate to think that this is another crude attempt from Smartmatic's marketing office.

Anyway, I did send another comment: "Apologies for the delayed reply Paul. I think you have hit the nail with the claim about how electronic voting can benefit democracy, in fact, I am going to blog about it and try to assess the topic objectively. Hopefully you'll want to move the discussion to a more public venue."

Paul said in his next reply "There have been some very good implementations, as well as some very bad ones. (The same applies to paper-based elections, by the way, some of which have worked very well and some have failed completely.)"

Mmm, "very good implementations" eh? And "paper-based elections" that "have failed completely." Shall I start with very good implementations of electronic voting? Where might that be? I'd say in countries where all parties to an election can audit the entire system, as and when they please. Is that the case of Venezuela, a place that Smartmatic flags as one of its success stories? I don't think so. Is that the case in the Philippines? Filipinos don't seem to think so either. So to which success could Mr Babic possibly be referring to?

A voting system, electronic or otherwise, is as good, or as bad, as those executing it, implementing it, as those in charge of it, as those making use of it. All of Smartmatic's involvements in elections around the world have been marred with controversy, when not with outright accusations of vote rigging. All of them. Regardless of location, culture, language, and people using the system. Chicago? A fiasco. Ditto Venezuela and the Philippines.

So where's your successful example of "very good implementation" of electronic voting Mr Smartmatic's CMO? Be very precise in your next answer, if you could. And what's with the asking where I'm based? Why is that relevant?