By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has until April 30 to decide whether to ban the Diebold TSx machine from the November election. The outcome could affect millions of dollars in future business for Diebold. The company also faces multimillion-dollar liabilities. The internal memos plainly confront this possibility. As one memo puts it, “Issue: Whether the use of an uncertified voting system is illegal? Short answer: Yes.”
The same memo then deals with whether the company had violated its contract with Alameda County. “Issue: Whether Diebold breached the Agreement if it provided Alameda County with an uncertified voting system? Short answer: Mostly likely . . . If Diebold materially breached the Agreement, Alameda County can terminate the Agreement and sue for damages.”
A later memo concludes that the company probably crossed the line. “During the conference call with Karen Gantt on January 28, 2004, it was disclosed that [Diebold] modified a California state-certified voting system as an experiment to remedy various technical problems with the system . . . [It] failed to obtain California state certification . . . Issue: Whether a California state-approved voting system may be modified for experimental use without the secretary of state’s approval? Short answer: Probably not.”
A furor ensued last year after the chief executive of Diebold’s parent company invited 100 wealthy friends to a Republican Party fund-raiser. “I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year,” wrote Walden W. O’Dell in the letter. O’Dell belongs to Bush’s “Rangers and Pioneers,” who have each raised at least $100,000 for the president’s re-election campaign.
O’Dell’s letter fueled conspiracy theories about thrown elections. Others accept electronic voting as the future but insist that the technology is far from foolproof. If the machines malfunction — say, by giving votes to the wrong candidate — it may be impossible to recognize the error, absent a paper audit trail. The whole uproar is especially ironic given that electronic voting was championed as the way to prevent a repeat of the 2000 Florida fiasco.
Secretary of State Shelley could elect to shelve all electronic voting. Fourteen counties, with about 45 percent of the state’s voters, rely entirely on electronic systems from Diebold and its competitors. Shelley has to decide by Friday because he is required by law to give local officials six months’ notice. He’ll also have until Friday to decide whether to refer Diebold to the state attorney general for possible civil and criminal prosecution — as recommended by his advisory panel.
But a defense of Diebold emerged from L.A. County, where Diebold machines are just part of the election arsenal. The state’s own spot checks showed 100 percent accuracy in vote recording, said County Clerk Conny B. McCormack, speaking to the Board of Supervisors. “And frankly,” she said, “we know that’s not the case with paper-based voting systems.”
Diebold’s Internal MemosDesi's New California Issues
From the Oakland Tribune