by Lynn Landes 4/27/04
Voters can run, but they can't hide from these
guys. Meet the Urosevich brothers, Bob and Todd. Their respective companies,
Diebold and ES&S, will count (using BOTH computerized ballot
scanners and touchscreen machines) about 80% of all votes cast in the
upcoming U.S. presidential election.
Both ES&S and Diebold have been caught
installing uncertified software in their machines (example - Diebold in
Alameda County CA 2003 -
- and ES&S in Marion County IN -
If you want more examples, do a search of
Google ("Diebold" or ES&S" and "uncertified software").
Although there is no known certification process that
will protect against vote rigging or technical failure, it is a
requirement of most, if not all, states. And, according to author Bev Harris in her book,
Black Box Voting, "...one of the founders of the original ES&S
(software) system, Bob Urosevich, also oversaw development of the
original software now used by Diebold Election Systems."
Talk about putting
all our eggs in one very bogus, but brotherly basket.
Even if states or counties hire their own
technicians to re-program Diebold or ES&S software (or software
from other companies), experts say that permanently installed software, called
firmware, still resides inside of both electronic scanners
and touchscreen machines and is capable of manipulating votes.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term 'firmware', here's a
definition by BandwidthMarket.com: "Software that is embedded in
a hardware device that allows reading and executing the software, but
does not allow modification, e.g., writing or deleting data by an end
The ability to rig an election is well within
easy reach of voting machine companies. And it does not matter
if the machines are scanners or touchscreens, or are networked or hooked
up to modems.
So, for those states and
counties who think they're dodging the bullet by not buying (or not using) the
highly insecure and error-prone touchscreen voting machines (which will process 28.9%
of all votes this year), a huge threat still remains -
computerized ballot scanners. They will count 57.6% of all votes
cast, including absentee ballots.
And don't count on recounts to save the day. In most
states, recounts of paper ballots only occur if election results are
close. The message to those who want to rig elections is, "rig them
by a lot." In some states, like California, spot checks are
conducted. But, that will not be an effective way to discover or
deter vote fraud or technical failure, particularly in a national election where
one vote per machine will probably be enough to swing a race.
Although touchscreens have been getting the bulk of negative
publicity lately, electronic ballot scanners have a long and sordid past,
as well. Electronic scanners were first introduced into U.S.
elections in 1964, and ever since then a steady stream of
reports of technical irregularities have caught the attention of
scientists, journalists, and activists, most notably the 1988 report, Accuracy,
Integrity, and Security in Computerized Vote-Tallying,
by Roy G. Saltman, and the 1992 book, Votescam: The Stealing of America,
by Jim and Ken Collier.
Even though there are several foreign and domestic
corporations involved in the U.S. vote counting business, ES&S
and Diebold clearly dominate the field. ES&S claims that they have
tabulated "56% of the U.S. national vote for the past four
presidential elections", while a Diebold spokesperson told this
writer that the company processed about 35% of U.S.
electronic vote count in 2002.
But, is there any real difference between
Diebold and ES&S? Perhaps not.
Bob Urosevich is currently president of Diebold. Todd
is vice president of ES&S. In 1999, American Information Systems
(AIS), purchased Business Records Corporation (BRC) to become ES&S.
AIS (1980) was formerly Data Mark (1979). Both AIS and Data Mark were
founded by the brothers Urosevich. In 2002 Diebold acquired Global
Election Systems. Global was founded 1991, which itself acquired the
AccuVote system the same year. Bob Urosevich is a past president of
Of course, most interested observers don't believe that
the Urosevich brothers are the real brains behind their respective
operations. For information on their financial backers, check out
Chapter 8 of Bev's book - blackboxvoting.com, and my webpage - ecotalk.org/VotingMachineCompanies.htm.
Diebold and ES&S have been involved in countless
election irregularities over the years, involving both ballot scanners and
touchscreens. But, it seems that they've always managed to finesse a
happy ending for themselves. Now, it appears that at least Diebold might
be in real trouble.
On April 22, 2004, Jim Wasserman of the
Associated Press (AP) reported, "By an 8-0 vote, the state's (California)
Voting Systems and Procedures Panel recommended that (Secretary of State)
Shelley cease the use of the machines, saying that Texas-based Diebold has
performed poorly in California and its machines malfunctioned in the state's
March 2 primary election, turning away many voters in San Diego County...In
addition to the ban, panel members recommended that a secretary of state's
office report released Wednesday, detailing alleged failings of Diebold in
California, be forwarded to the state attorney general's office to consider
civil and criminal charges against the company."
Interestingly, no one in the U.S. federal
government seems to be paying attention...as usual. There is no federal
agency that has regulatory authority or oversight of the voting
machine industry - not the Federal Election Commission (FEC), not
the Department of Justice (DOJ), and not the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS). The FEC doesn't even have a complete list of all the companies
that count votes in U.S. elections.
Once again we are witness to an 'eyes closed,
hands off' approach to protecting America. The 2004 election rests in the private
hands of the Urosevich brothers, who are financed by the far-out right wing
and top donors to the Republican Party. The Democrats are either
sitting ducks or co-conspirators. I don't know which.
My mantra remains - Vote Paper Ballots,
Ditch the Machines.
Landes is one of the nation's leading journalists on voting technology and
democracy issues. Readers can find her articles at EcoTalk.org.
Lynn is a former news reporter for DUTV and
commentator for the British Broadcasting Corporation
(BBC). Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
/ (215) 629-3553