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For Immediate release -- Diebold troubles deepen

From: Eric A. Smith <snowdog@juno.ocn.ne.jp>
Date: Sat, 13 Dec 2003 15:25:38 +0900
To: <www-html@w3.org>
Message-Id: <20031213062535.0AEC41365B@dr-nick.w3.org>

Eric A. Smith
Hot Damn! Design

Diebold email: "Make vote printouts too costly for MD"

-- Scandals deepen for e-vote manufacturer


ANNAPOLIS, Maryland, December 12th —  An internal memo has just surfaced suggesting e-vote manufacturer Diebold planned to overcharge the state of Maryland and make voter printouts "prohibitively expensive".


An employee named "Ken" wrote the Jan. 3 letter suggesting the company charge Maryland "out the yin" if legislators insisted on printouts.


Referring to a University of Maryland study critical of the company's machines, he added: "[The State of Maryland] already bought the system. At this point they are just closing the barn door. Let's just hope that as a company we are smart enough to charge out the yin if they try to change the rules now and legislate voter receipts."


He goes on to say "...any after-sale changes should be prohibitively expensive."


Delegate Karen S. Montgomery dropped the bombshell on Thursday amid negotiations with Diebold over its touchscreen voting machines.


Montgomery, who has written a bill mandating voter-verifiable ballots, described pressure to drop the issue, saying "scurrilous remarks" were being levelled against proponents of the measure. She said she believes the cost is being driven up to prevent anyone from insisting on verifiable printouts. 


Steven T. Dennis of Gazette.net broke the story yesterday; he said spokesman David Bear deflected criticism by claiming the comments were "the internal discussion of one individual and [do] not reflect the sentiments or the position of the company."


Diebold, whose primary business has until recently been ATMs and ticket-vending machines (all of which produce paper printouts), made headlines last week when it dropped copyright-infringement suits against Swarthmore students who had published thousands of its internal memos on the Internet. 


Prominent among the leaked memos is a missive to Global Election Systems (now Diebold) -- baldly stating that 16 thousand Gore votes were "disappeared" during the 2000 election. Author Lana Hires frantically asks how she should explain the problem to an auditor:


<I need some answers! Our department is being audited by the County. I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16022 [votes] when it was uploaded. Will someone please explain this so that I have the information to give the auditor instead of standing here "looking dumb."


Additional memos are equally candid and suggestive:





<For a demonstration I suggest you fake it. Program them both so they look the same, and then just do the upload fro [sic] the AV. That is what we did in the last AT/AV demo.


<Right now you can open GEMS' .mdb file with MS-Access, and alter its contents. That includes the audit log. This isn't anything new.


<Elections are not rocket science. Why is it so hard to get things right! I have never been at any other company that has been so miss [sic] managed.


<Johnson County, KS will be doing Central Count for their mail in ballots. They will also be processing these ballots in advance of the closing of polls on election day. They would like to log into the Audit Log an entry for Previewing any Election Total Reports. They need this, to prove to the media, as well as, any candidates & lawyers, that they did not view or print any Election Results before the Polls closed. However, if there is a way that we can disable the reporting functionality, that would be even better.


Initially brought to light by activist Bev Harris, these and other alarming disclosures have added weight to the arguments of computer security experts and legislators nationwide, who say that Diebold's machines (as well as those of rivals ES&S and Sequoia) pose a grave risk to America's elections.


Harris received over 7,000 of the Diebold memos from an undisclosed source in early September. For the past three years, she has been arguing for greater security and accountability in electronic voting, last year weathering a similar unsuccesful gag lawsuit from e-vote firm ES&S.


A month after Harris recieved the memos she went public with them; Diebold immediately launched a gag lawsuit, and Harris's ISP shut down her activist site. A group of Swarthmore students and other activists responded by spreading the memos across the Internet. 


When Diebold threatened to sue under the auspices of the DMCA, litigators from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU stepped in to defend activists. Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich added significant support by hosting the memos on his own website. Last week, Diebold withdrew its lawsuits.


With a new ISP, Harris has resumed her activism, and her book "Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century," can currently be downloaded for free from the site blackboxvoting.org.


Meanwhile, on Capital Hill, Congressman Rush Holt has also raised the issue of security, sponsoring  the "Voter Confidence and Increased Accountability Act of 2003" (H.R. 2239), which calls for paper ballots, surprise recounts and auditable software in voting machines.


But while Holt's bill adds a significant level of transparency to the process, Harris says it doesn't go far enough. In a recent Buzzflash interview, she said:


"The problem area, and it is a whopper, is that this bill doesn't attack the crux of the issue, which is proper auditing -- and that is something that is needed for any computerized system, including optical scan machines. 


The very first thing we need to do is get solid input from auditors who are experienced in fraud detection.


While we are designing amendments to the bill, we also must get some people with a solid grasp of history, because we need a voting system that is in keeping with the vision of our founding fathers -- and this is a public policy issue, not a computer issue. The most important thing that we keep forgetting is that the founders, especially Thomas Jefferson, felt that it was critical -- not "important," but CRITICAL to democracy, to keep the vote directly in the hands of the people themselves. Any solution which requires us to trust a handful of experts will, sooner or later, result in the demise of our democracy.




That means we need to retain (and enforce) policies to tally the votes at the polls, in front of observers. In some countries, they let as many regular citizens as can fit in the room in to watch the physical counting. It is this neighborhood tallying, and the open and public nature of it, that is the embodiment of democracy."


In July, Harris demonstrated just how insecure a Diebold machine could be, showing in a step-by-step expose how to reverse a federal election. New Zealand's Scoop Media posted the illustrated account online.


Author Faun Otter and others have also raised the issue of impartiality on the part of Diebold's board, which has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns. National headlines were made when CEO Michael O'Dell, who recently hosted a $600,000 fundraiser for Vice President Dick Cheney, announced in a Republican fundraising letter that he was "committed to delivering Ohio's votes to the President".


But controversy doesn't end with Diebold alone. Rival voting machine company ES&S also came under scrutiny when it surfaced that it was run by Chuck Hagel until two weeks before his own election. Senator Hagel won by the biggest landslide in Nebraskan history; a victory the press characterized as a "stunning upset". His company, ES&S, counted 83% of the votes. 


Hagel left out details of his ES&S involvement in his SEC filings, and, when the discrepancy surfaced, two days after a closed-door meeting with Hagel SEC legal counsel Victor Baird resigned and the matter was dropped.


And Hagel, who prior to his stewardship of ES&S was head of the Private Sector Council for George H.W. Bush, has bigger plans: Harris says the domain name "Bush-Hagel2004.com" was purchased last year but subsequently released and the Senator has already bought the rights to "hagel2008.com" and "ChuckHagel2008.com". 


Meanwhile Hagel campaign manager Michael McCarthy owns over 30% of ES&S's parent company, and even the Senator hasn't fully divested himself of ownership -- he still has a $5 million stake in ES&S parent company the McCarthy Group. 


Harris says there are firms offering comparatively secure systems -- competitors Avante, Accupol and Vogue, for example -- but some activists say any machine offers an opportunity for vote tampering. They're calling for a return to simple ballots, though such a solution is unlikely -- Bush's Help America Vote Act mandates a nationwide migration to electronic voting by 2006.


Secretary of state Kevin Shelley's recent declaration that all California voting machines must provide printouts may prompt the rest of the country to follow the west’s lead. But it may end up being a matter of too little, too late, as Diebold, ES&S and Sequioa systems are already in place in 37 states. 


Harris, for one, is calling for a legal injunction to halt the use of any insecure systems prior to the 2004 primaries. If her instincts are right, a fierce battle may loom on the horizon -- a battle for the very heart and soul of America's democracy.


Officials to phone, fax and email about secure voting: 


State elections boards:

State Attorneys General (party affiliations listed):




State Election Officials

Members, Natl. Assoc. of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks:

Penelope Bonsall, national director of the Office of Election Administration
Office of Election Administration
Federal Election Commission
999 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20463
(202) 694-1095 (phone)
(202) 219-8500 (fax)

Online e-petitions EFF and VerifiedVoting.org:

Media Contacts:










Contact: Eric A. Smith, Hot Damn! Design, Tokyo, Japan ● 81-03-3959-5371

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Received on Saturday, 13 December 2003 01:25:43 UTC

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