Off Brand

Here’s the Real Scandal With Voting Machines

Why one of the most important technological objects in a democracy — now at the center of every conspiracy theory — has been such a sleepy industry

Rob Walker
Marker
Published in
4 min readMar 2, 2021

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A photo collage of a man driving a horse-pulled cart, with a voting booth on the cart.
Illustration: Julia Moburg/Medium

Before the most recent presidential election, companies in the business of voting technology were hardly household names. That changed as the various wild and unfounded claims (lies) by Donald Trump and his allies about the vote being “stolen” were amplified by pro-Trump media outlets.

Thus the names Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic did become recognizable in plenty of households — and these companies have lately launched aggressive lawsuits to defend their brands. Dominion has filed separate $1.3 billion defamation suits against pro-Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, as well as MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. Separately, Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion defamation suit against Powell, Giuliani, Fox News, and several Fox personalities.

The business of designing and making voting machines — surely some of the most important technological objects in a democracy—has for years been a rather sleepy and uninnovative segment.

It’s all pretty dramatic stuff, and it makes voting tech sound almost thrillingly high-stakes and cutting-edge. But in truth, the business of designing and making voting machines — surely some of the most important technological objects in a democracy — has for years been a rather sleepy and uninnovative segment.

Perhaps the main reason for this is simply that the industry is small. “Only about 150,000 machines are sold every year,” says Jessica Huseman, editorial director of Votebeat, a nonprofit focused on voting and election coverage. “MacBooks might be terrible, too, if they sold so few.” The field is dominated by just a handful of companies: market…

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