The Governor of Ohio, Bob Taft, and other prominent state officials, commute to
their downtown Columbus offices on Broad Street. This is the so-called “Golden
Finger,” the safe route through the majority black inner-city near east
side. The Broad Street BP station, just east of downtown, is the place where affluent
suburbanites from Bexley can stop, gas up, get their coffee and New York Times.
Those in need of cash visit BP’s Diebold manufactured CashSource+ ATM machine
which provides a paper receipt of the transaction to all customers upon request.
Many of Taft’s and President George W. Bush’s major donors, like
Diebold’s current CEO Walden “Wally” O’Dell, reside
in Columbus’ northwest suburb Upper Arlington. O’Dell is on record
stating that he is “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes
to the President” this year. On September 26, 2003, he hosted an Ohio
Republican Party fundraiser for Bush’s re-election at his Cotswold Manor
mansion. Tickets to the fundraiser cost $1000 per couple, but O’Dell’s
fundraising letter urged those attending to “Donate or raise $10,000 for
the Ohio Republican Party.”
According to the Columbus Dispatch: “Last year, O’Dell and his
wife Patricia, campaigned for passage of two liquor options that made their
portion of Tremont Road wet.
On November 5, Upper Arlington residents narrowly passed measures that allowed
fundraising parties to offer more than beer, even though his 10,800-square-foot
home is a residence, a permit is required because alcohol is included in the
price of fundraising tickets. O’Dell is also allowed to serve “beer,
wine and mixed drinks” at Sunday fundraisers.
O’Dell’s fund-raising letter followed on the heels of a visit to
President Bush’s Crawford Texas ranch by “Pioneers and Rangers,”
the designation for people who had raised $100,000 or more for Bush’s
If Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has his way,
Diebold will receive a contract to supply touch screen electronic voting machines
for much of the state. None of these Diebold machines will provide a paper receipt
of the vote.
Diebold, located in North Canton, Ohio, does its primary business in ATM and
ticket-vending machines. Critics of Diebold point out that virtually every other
machine the company makes provides a paper trail to verify the machine’s
calculations. Oddly, only the voting machines lack this essential function.
State Senator Teresa Fedor of Toledo introduced Senate Bill 167 late last year
mandating that every voting machine in Ohio generate a “voter verified
paper audit trail.” Secretary of State Blackwell has denounced any attempt
to require a paper trail as an effort to “derail” election reform.
Blackwell’s political career is an interesting one: he emerged as a black
activist in Cincinnati supporting municipal charter reform, became an elected
Democrat, then an Independent, and now is a prominent Republican with his eyes
on the Governor’s mansion.
A joint study by the California and Massachusetts Institutes of Technology
following the 2000 election determined that between 1.5 and 2 million votes
were not counted due to confusing paper ballots or faulty equipment. The federal
government’s solution to the problem was to pass the Help America Vote
Act (HAVA) of 2002.
One of the law’s stated goals was “Replacement of punch card and
lever voting machines.” The new voting machines would be high-tech touch
screen computers, but if there’s no paper trail, how do you know if there’s
been a computer glitch? How can the results be trusted? And how do you recount
to see if the actual votes match the computer’s tally?
Bev Harris, author of Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century,
argues that without a paper trail, these machines are open to massive voter
fraud. Diebold has already placed some 50,000 machines in 37 states and their
track record is causing Harris, Johns Hopkins University professors and others
Johns Hopkins researchers at the Information Security Institute issued a report
declaring that Diebold’s electronic voting software contained “stunning
flaws.” The researchers concluded that vote totals could be altered at
the voting machines and by remote access. Diebold vigorously refuted the Johns
Hopkins report, claiming the researchers came to “a multitude of false
Perhaps to settle the issue, someone illegally hacked into the Diebold Election
Systems website in March 2003 and stole internal documents from the company
and posted them online. Diebold went to court to stop, according to court records,
the “wholesale reproduction” of some 13,000 pages of company material.
The Associated Press reported in November 2003 that: “Computer programmers,
ISPs and students at [at] least 20 universities, including the University of
California, Berkeley, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology received
cease and desist letters” from Diebold. A group of Swarthmore College
students launched an “electronic civil disobedience” campaign to
keep the hacked documents permanently posted on the Internet.
Harris writes that the hacked documents expose how the mainstream media reversed
their call projecting Al Gore as winner of Florida after someone “subtracted
16,022 votes from Al Gore, and in still some undefined way, added 4000 erroneous
votes to George W. Bush.” Hours later, the votes were returned. One memo
from Lana Hires of Global Election Systems, now Diebold, reads: “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 16,022 [votes] when it was uploaded.” Another hacked internal memo,
written by Talbot Iredale, Senior VP of Research and Development for Diebold
Election Systems, documents “unauthorized” replacement votes in
Harris also uncovered a revealing 87-page CBS news report and noted, “According
to CBS documents, the erroneous 20,000 votes in Volusia was directly responsible
to calling the election for Bush.” The first person to call the election
for Bush was Fox election analyst John Ellis, who had the advantage of conferring
with his prominent cousins George W. Bush and Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
Increasingly, investigative writers seeking an explanation have looked to Diebold’s
history for clues. The electronic voting industry is dominated by only a few
corporations – Diebold, Election Systems & Software (ES&S) and
Sequoia. Diebold and ES&S combined count an estimated 80% of U.S. black
box electronic votes.
In the early 1980s, brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich founded ES&S’s
originator, Data Mark. The brothers Urosevich obtained financing from the far-Right
Ahmanson family in 1984, which purchased a 68% ownership stake, according to
the Omaha World Herald. After brothers William and Robert Ahmanson infused Data
Mark with new capital, the name was changed to American Information Systems
(AIS). California newspapers have long documented the Ahmanson family’s
ties to right-wing evangelical Christian and Republican circles.
In 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported, “. . . primarily funded by evangelical
Christians – particularly the wealthy Ahmanson family of Irvine –
the [Discovery] institute’s $1-million annual program has produced 25
books, a stream of conferences and more than 100 fellowships for doctoral and
postdoctoral research.” The chief philanthropists of the Discovery Institute,
that pushes creationist science and education in California, are Howard and
According to Group Watch, in the 1980s Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr. was a member
of the highly secretive far-Right Council for National Policy, an organization
that included Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, Major General John K. Singlaub
and other Iran-Contra scandal notables, as well as former Klan members like
Richard Shoff. Ahmanson, heir to a savings and loan fortune, is little reported
on in the mainstream U.S. press. But, English papers like The Independent are
a bit more forthcoming on Ahmanson’s politics.
“On the right, figures such as Richard Mellon Scaife and Howard Ahmanson
have given hundreds of millions of dollars over several decades to political
projects both high (setting up the Heritage Foundation think-tank, the driving
engine of the Reagan presidency) and low (bankrolling investigations into President
Clinton’s sexual indiscretions and the suicide of the White House insider
Vincent Foster),” wrote The Independent last November.
The Sunday Mail described an individual as, “. . . a fundamentalist Christian
more in the mould of U.S. multi-millionaire Howard Ahmanson, Jr., who uses his
fortune to promote so-called traditional family values . . . by waving fortunes
under their noses, Ahmanson has the ability to cajole candidates into backing
his right-wing Christian agenda.
Ahmanson is also a chief contributor to the Chalcedon Institute that supports
the Christian reconstruction movement. The movement’s philosophy advocates,
among other things, “mandating the death penalty for homosexuals and drunkards.”
The Ahmanson family sold their shares in American Information Systems to the
McCarthy Group and the World Herald Company, Inc. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel
disclosed in public documents that he was the Chairman of American Information
Systems and claimed between a $1 to 5 million investment in the McCarthy Group.
In 1997, American Information Systems purchased Business Records Corp. (BRC),
formerly Texas-based election company Cronus Industries, to become ES&S.
One of the BRC owners was Carolyn Hunt of the right-wing Hunt oil family, which
supplied much of the original money for the Council on National Policy.
In 1996, Hagel became the first elected Republican Nebraska senator in 24 years
when he did surprisingly well in an election where the votes were verified by
the company he served as chairman and maintained a financial investment. In
both the 1996 and 2002 elections, Hagel’s ES&S counted an estimated
80% of his winning votes. Due to the contracting out of services, confidentiality
agreements between the State of Nebraska and the company kept this matter out
of the public eye. Hagel’s first election victory was described as a “stunning
upset” by one Nebraska newspaper.
Hagel’s official biography states, “Prior to his election to the
U.S. Senate, Hagel worked in the private sector as the President of McCarthy
and Company, an investment banking firm based in Omaha, Nebraska and served
as Chairman of the Board of American Information Systems.” During the
first Bush presidency, Hagel served as Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer
of the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations (G-7 Summit).
Bob Urosevich was the Programmer and CEO at AIS, before being replaced by Hagel.
Bob now heads Diebold Election Systems and his brother Todd is a top executive
at ES&S. Bob created Diebold’s original electronic voting machine
software. Thus, the brothers Urosevich, originally funded by the far Right,
figure in the counting of approximately 80% of electronic voting in the United
Like Ohio, the State of Maryland was disturbed by the potential for massive
electronic voter fraud. The voters of that state were reassured when the state
hired SAIC to monitor Diebold’s system. SAIC’s former CEO is Admiral
Bill Owens. Owens served as a military aide to both Vice President Dick Cheney
and former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, who now works with George H.W.
Bush at the controversial Carlyle Group. Robert Gates, former CIA Director and
close friend of the Bush family, also served on the SAIC Board.
Diebold’s track record
Wherever Diebold and ES&S go, irregularities and historic Republican upsets
follow. Alastair Thompson, writing for scoop.co of New Zealand, explored whether
or not the 2002 U.S. mid-term elections were “fixed by electronic voting
machines supplied by Republican-affiliated companies.” The scoop investigation
concluded that: “The state where the biggest upset occurred, Georgia,
is also the state that ran its election with the most electronic voting machines.”
Those machines were supplied by Diebold.
Wired News reported that “. . . a former worker in Diebold’s Georgia
warehouse says the company installed patches on its machine before the state’s
2002 gubernatorial election that were never certified by independent testing
authorities or cleared with Georgia election officials.” Questions were
raised in Texas when three Republican candidates in Comal County each received
exactly the same number of votes – 18,181.
Following the 2003 California election, an audit of the company revealed that
Diebold Election Systems voting machines installed uncertified software in all
17 counties using its equipment.
Former CIA Station Chief John Stockwell writes that one of the favorite tactics
of the CIA during the Reagan-Bush administration in the 1980s was to control
countries by manipulating the election process. “CIA apologists leap up
and say, ‘Well, most of these things are not so bloody.’ And that’s
true. You’re giving politicians some money so he’ll throw his party
in this direction or that one, or make false speeches on your behalf, or something
like that. It may be non-violent, but it’s still illegal intervention
in other country’s affairs, raising the question of whether or not we’re
going to have a world in which laws, rules of behavior are respected,”
Stockwell wrote. Documents illustrate that the Reagan and Bush administration
supported computer manipulation in both Noriega’s rise to power in Panama
and in Marcos’ attempt to retain power in the Philippines. Many of the
Reagan administration’s staunchest supporters were members of the Council
on National Policy.
The perfect solution
Ohio Senator Fedor continues to fight valiantly for Senate Bill 167 and the
Holy Grail of the “voter verified paper audit trail.” Proponents
of a paper trail were emboldened when Athan Gibbs, President and CEO of TruVote
International, demonstrated a voting machine at a vendor’s fair in Columbus
that provides two separate voting receipts.
The first paper receipt displays the voter’s touch screen selection under
plexiglass that falls into a lockbox after the voter approves. Also, the TruVote
system provides the voter with a receipt that includes a unique voter ID and
pin number which can be used to call in to a voter audit internet connection
to make sure the vote cast was actually counted.
Brooks Thomas, Coordinator of Elections in Tennessee, stated, “I’ve
not seen anything that compares to the Gibbs’ TruVote validation system.
. . .” The Assistant Secretary of State of Georgia, Terrel L. Slayton,
Jr., claimed Gibbs had come up with the “perfect solution.”
Still, there remains opposition from Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell. His
spokesperson Carlo LoParo recently pointed out that federal mandates under HAVA
do not require a paper trail: “. . . if Congress changes the federal law
to require it [a paper trail], we’ll certainly make that a requirement
of our efforts.” LoParo went on to accuse advocates of a paper trail of
attempting to “derail” voting reform.
U.S. Representative Rush Holt introduced HR 2239, The Voter Confidence and
Increased Accessibility Act of 2003, that would require electronic voting machines
to produce a paper trail so that voters may verify that their screen touches
match their actual vote. Election officials would also have a paper trail for
As Blackwell pressures the Ohio legislature to adopt electronic voting machines
without a paper trail, Athan Gibbs wonders, “Why would you buy a voting
machine from a company like Diebold which provides a paper trail for every single
machine it makes except its voting machines? And then, when you ask it to verify
its numbers, it hides behind ‘trade secrets.’”
Maybe the Diebold decision makes sense, if you believe, to paraphrase Henry
Kissinger, that democracy is too important to leave up to the votes of the people.
Dr. Bob Fitrakis is Senior Editor of The Free Press , a political science professor,
and author of numerous articles and books.
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