Those who hold the sacred trust of overseeing the election procedures and voting
systems in this country are an alphabet-soup of organizations. The National Association
of Secretaries of State (NASS); the National Association of State Elections Directors
(NASED), the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), the Elections
Assistance Commission (EAC); the Election Center. What do these groups have in
common? They either receive their funding from the vendors or are greatly influenced
by those who do receive funding from the vendors. We can only hope that the EAC
can resist the influence. The others haven't.
Who are these "vendors"? The vendors are the corporate face on our
elections systems the for-profit companies that develop and sell the equipment
used to run our elections. They are those who have the most to gain from the
influence they buy through their donations and dues to the alphabet soup, and
that influence is considerable. They include names like Diebold, Elections Systems
and Software (ES&S), Sequoia Voting Systems, Hart InterCivic, Accenture,
UniSys, Accupoll, and more. In fact they are all proudly named on the list of
corporate affiliates of NASS.
The NASS Corporate Affiliates Program
How does a company become a "corporate affiliate" of the National
Association of Secretaries of State, and what does it mean? According to a description
of the NASS Corporate Affiliate Program, corporations can donate annual dues
in the amount of $20,000, $10,000, $5,000, or $2,500. Those funds go directly
into the coffers of NASS. And what do the corporations get for donating to this
worthy cause? "The NASS Corporate Affiliate Program is a savvy way to share
ideas and build relationships with key state decision makers while supporting
the civic mission of the association."
Build relationships with key state decision makers? In other words, unrestricted
access to lobby the people who will be spending the taxpayers' money to buy
new election equipment. The scale of this unrestricted access is directly, and
openly, related to the amount of "dues" that the corporation pays
to the program.
The Influence of NASS over NASED
The National Association of State Elections Directors (NASED) is not supported
by outside dues. It is supported by members' dues and is loosely under the auspices
of the Council of State Governments. However, NASED is very definitely influenced
by the NASS, which openly invites influence by the vendors. In nearly every
state the Secretary of State has responsibility over the administration of elections.
Almost all the members of NASED work for their state's Secretary of State and
serve at their pleasure. The members of NASED are also included in three out
of four NASS conferences.
"NASED is proud and fortunate to maintain extremely positive relationships
with both the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) and the Election
Center. In order to maintain those relationships and to insure the continued
sharing of information among members of each organization, NASED meets with
NASS in the winter and alternates between NASS and The Election Center for its
And who are the other attendees of these meetings? Of course the vendors get
a place at the table so they can meet, greet, and treat the people who they
hope will be their customers; the members of NASED. Those are important relationships
because ultimately NASED decides the fate of the “vendors” product
via testing guidelines that are written by the TGDC and approved by the EAC
and implemented (or not) by NASED.
The TGDC and Corporate Influence
The Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) is a committee formed
jointly by the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) and NASED. This committee
is in place for only one reason; to formulate new standards against which all
voting systems will be tested. The new standards the TGDC develops will replace
the 2002 standards.
In "Is the NIST Technical Guidelines Development Committee Working For
You, the Voter?" I describe how these new standards are being written
in consultation with the vendors who have to build products that comply with
the standards. It is highly apparent that the corporations are being given a
heavy hand in the formation of the standards that they will be held to in the
NASS Attacks the EAC
The Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) is a federal agency set-up by Congress
as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The EAC is under-funded and under-staffed.
The EAC is also under attack by NASS.
The Associated Press reported in February, 2005 that "the National Association
of Secretaries of State approved a formal resolution that asks Congress to dissolve
its oversight organization, the federal Election Assistance Commission, after
the 2006 elections." Why would NASS want to see the EAC dissolved? They
say it's because elections are a 'states rights' issue.
They ignore the fact that Florida 2000 and most problems encountered in the
2004 federal election can be attributed to the poor or non-existent oversight
of the members of NASS. They ignore the fact that elections are held for federal
offices, and that if they had been administering elections well, Congress would
have had no reason to establish the EAC.
If the EAC is dissolved, NASS will regain its previous power, and through NASS
the corporations will gain even more say in how our elections are administered.
The Elections Center Teaches Ethics but Shows None
Much has already been printed about the Election Center and the organization's
lack of ethics in taking contributions from the voting equipment vendors while
at the same time giving advice and teaching ethics to county and state elections
"The Election Center, which trains election workers and advises Congress
and government agencies on election process issues, has taken donations from
manufacturers of electronic voting machines even as it has issued strong statements
supporting the security of the machines."
The Election Center also arranges conferences, sponsored by vendors, where
the state and local elections officials who attend are inundated with propaganda
from the vendors. In August, 2004, elections officials from all over the U.S.
met in Washington DC where they were treated to a dinner cruise on the Potomac
sponsored by Sequoia and a welcoming party underwritten by Diebold. The graduation
and send-off party was sponsored by ES&S.
The Vendors Purchase a Spokesman From the Disabled Community
Even the public face of the American Association of People with Disabilities
(AAPD), Mr. Jim Dickson, has admitted to being in the pocket of the vendors.
Mr. Dickson has testified in favor of electronic voting machines and against
paper-based voting systems before governmental panels, committees, and commissions
across the country. However, he doesn't begin his testimony by saying that he
receives money from the vendors for that testimony.
In an article in Wired News on October 12, 2004, journalist Kim Zetter reported:
"The government lobbyist for the American Association of People with Disabilities,
who has traveled around the country testifying on behalf of touch-screen voting,
acknowledged this year that his organization received at least $26,000 from
voting companies, but only after first denying it."
The Vendors Lobby Asks That Customers Buy Defective and Not Effective
Very recently another ingredient in the alphabet soup has spoken out. The Information
Technology Association of America (ITAA); a coalition of, and lobbying agent
for, voting equipment manufacturers; testified before the EAC that counties
and states should not wait any longer for new standards, but should purchase
their new election equipment now. They testified, "Under a best-case scenario,
it will be difficult for states and counties to meet the HAVA deadlines for
the purchase and implementation of accessible voting systems"
In other words, "Don't wait until new standards are set and the voting
systems have been brought up to standards that may improve those systems. It
is better to go out and purchase the equipment that is still being qualified
to standards written in 1990. Buy defective and not effective."
What Must be Done to Counter the Vendors' Influence?
The voting machine corporations are spending millions to influence the decisions
that relate to the qualification and sales of voting systems. They are influencing
the development of new voting system standards, whether those standards have
to be followed, who buys what type of system, and every step in between. The
vendors are in too much control. We can only wrest that control from the vendors
by methodically putting out the facts to inform the misinformed and by reducing
the vendors' influence on our decision makers.
The news from Miami-Dade County, Florida is a strikingly big step. The
county supervisor of elections is recommending dumping the flawed and expensive
electronic voting machines and returning to paper ballots in order to
save the taxpayers' money.
With easy access to the county officials, through NASS, NASED, and the Election
Center, vendor lobbyists managed to sell defective election equipment to Miami-Dade.
Dedicated voting activists researched the facts and brought them forward with
a determination that could not be ignored. None of the alphabet-soup organizations
could deny that what the activists were saying was true.
The activists were also aided by the fact that the county has a new elections
director who had no hand in the decision to buy the DRE voting machines. Stepping
into a new position, outside of vendor control and with no risk to his own credibility,
he was able to declare that the county made a huge mistake and wasted millions
of dollars of taxpayer's money.
If all our election officials were out from under the influence of the vendors,
if they weren't defensive about poorly informed decisions they had made because
of that influence, what would the face on our election system look like? Certainly
it's worth finding out.
 2005 NASS Corporate Affiliate Roster; http://www.nass.org/corpaffiliates/roster.html
 NASS Corporate Affiliate Program; Pg. 4; http://www.nass.org/corp_brochure.pdf
 "Conferences", National Association of State Elections Directors;
 “Is HAVA Being Abused?”, by John Gideon and Ellen Theisen,
 Is the NIST Technical Guidelines Development Committee Working For You,
the Voter? By John Gideon, http://www.votetrustusa.org/blogs/nist&tdgc.htm
 "Election Officials Work on Making Changes" by Robert Tanner,
Associated Press, February 8, 2005; http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/2005/02/07/national/w121345S54.DTL
 "Group that called electronic vote secure got makers' aid", by
Linda K. Harris, Philadelphia Enquirer, March 25, 2004; http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/world/8273865.htm?1c
 "Diebold Wines and Dines Officials", by David Corn, blog in The
Nation, August 26, 2004; http://www.thenation.com/blogs/capitalgames?bid=3&pid=1708
 "Diebold and the Disabled", by Kim Zetter, Wired News, October
12, 2004; http://wired-vig.wired.com/news/evote/0,2645,65292,00.html
 "ITAA Warns Purchase Delays will Endanger HAVA Compliance",
Press Release, Information Technology Association of America, May 26, 2005;
 "Voting system change in Dade likely", by Noaki Schwartz And
Tere Figueras Negrete, Miami Herald, May 28, 2005; http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/11759284.htm
John Gideon is the Information Manager of Voters Unite and VoteTrustUSA. He
is the editor of Daily Voting News. Readers can comment on this column by visiting
his blog at www.VoteTrustUSA.org.