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Voting Machines - A High Tech Ambush

By Lynn Landes 10/29/02
(edited 10/30/02 see correction below)

"I'm mad as hell!" says Charlie Matulka.

It looks like a high-tech ambush. But Matulka isn't going down without a fight. The feisty construction worker is running for Nebraska's U.S. Senate seat against incumbent Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.  Matulka's "war chest" is less than $5000. But campaign financing isn't his biggest concern. Who owns the voting machines and how easily they can be rigged or "malfunction" is what's got him all riled up. He's calling press conferences... demanding to be heard. 

That might be difficult. Omaha's largest newspaper is part of the only company in Nebraska certified to count votes on election day. And Chuck Hagel has been an intrinsic part of that company for a long time.

According to his press office, in 1995 Chuck Hagel resigned as CEO of American Information Systems (AIS), the voting machine company that counted the votes in his first Senatorial election in 1996. In January 1996 Hagel resigned as president of McCarthy & Company, part of the McCarthy Group that are one of the current owners of Election Systems and Software (ES&S), which itself resulted from the merger of AIS and Business Records Corporation. According to publicist/writer Bev Harris, Hagel is still an investor in the McCarthy Group. ES&S is now the largest voting machine company in America. One of its largest owners is the ultra-conservative Omaha World-Herald Company. 

A call to the Office of Integrity, Voting Rights Division, Department of Justice (DOJ) in Washington D.C. regarding this extraordinary conflict-of-interest, earned this writer a terse "no comment." That makes sense. In over 40 years of voting machine "malfunctions" and election malfeasance, the DOJ still treats voting machine companies and their owners with kid gloves. 

Charlie Matulka is just the latest target of America's thoroughly corrupted voting system.

In a groundbreaking effort, Bev Harris and this writer are compiling extensive information on the voting machine companies operating in the United States. Voting machine companies are privately held and extremely secretive. They form a web of overlapping ownership, financing, staff, and equipment that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to separate one from the other. 

ES&S, the largest voting machine company in America, claims to have counted 56% of the vote in the last four presidential elections. Again, it's owned by the ultra-conservative Omaha World-Herald Company, the McCarthy Group, and former owners of Business Records Corporation. ES&S was created from a merger between American Information Systems (AIS) and Business Records Corporation. Bob and Todd Urosevich founded AIS in the 1980's. Bob is now president of Diebold-Global, while brother Todd is a vice president at ES&S. Business Records Corp. was partially owned by Cronus, a company that seems to have a lot of connections to the notorious Hunt brothers from Texas, as well as other individuals and entities, including  Rothschild, Inc.. Right wing Republicans Howard Ahmanson (who financed AIS) and Nelson Bunker Hunt have both heavily contributed to The Chalcedon Institute, an organization that mandates Christian "dominion" over the world.

Sequoia Voting Systems appears to be the second largest voting machine company, accounting for about 1/3 of the voting machine market. As of May 2002, Sequoia was purchased by Great Britain's De La Rue from Ireland's Jefferson Smurfit Group, who retain a 15% share. Smurfit was just bought by Madison Dearborn Partners, a private equity investment firm. De La Rue owns 20% of the Great Britain's national lottery. In 1995 the Security and Exchange Commission filed charges against four employees of Sequoia, alleging that they inflated revenue and pre-tax profits. In 1999 the Justice Department filed federal charges against employees of Sequoia alleging that during a 10-year period $8 million in bribes were paid out. Louisiana's Commissioner of Elections Jerry Fowler had run up some big gambling debts in Atlantic City, according to reporter Daniel Hopsicker. In all, 22 people were indicted, 9 plead guilty. Fowler went to jail, but big fish Pasquale "Rocco" Ricci of New Jersey got one year of home detention.

Advanced Voting Solutions is the new name of another scandal-ridden voting company, Shoup Voting Solutions. Their current top management, Howard Van Pelt and Larry Ensminger, were executives for Diebold-Global until late last year. Officers of Shoup Voting Machine Co. were indicted for allegedly bribing politicians in Tampa, Florida in 1971, according to the San Francisco Business Times. Ransom Shoup was convicted in 1979 of conspiracy and obstruction of justice related to an FBI inquiry into a lever machine-counted election in Philadelphia.  Shoup got a three-year suspended sentence. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has bought new voting machines from Danaher-Guardian, which appears to only sell voting machines formerly known as the  "Shouptronic." 

Danaher-Guardian is owned by billionaire brothers Steven M. and Mitchell P. Rales, who were described by columnist Jack Anderson in 1988 as "a pair of corporate raiders out of Washington DC." Again, Danaher-Guardian appears to only sell formerly Shouptronic voting machines.

Diebold-Global's current president, Bob Urosevich, was the co-founder of American Information Systems which became ES&S. As mentioned before, Diebold-Global's top managers, Howard Van Pelt and Larry Ensminger, recently moved to Advanced Voting Solutions-Shoup. 

And so it goes. We have an voting system that appears to be in a constant state of name change and rotating management, but always under the private control of the rich and infamous. Meanwhile, Congress has just passed a law that effectively throws hundreds of millions of dollars at voting machine companies that have a record that includes partisanship, bribery, secrecy, and rampant technical "malfunctions."

Personally, I'll never vote on a machine again if I can help it. For the next election, I'll vote "absentee" (i.e., through the mail). In fact, Oregon has wisely rejected voting machines altogether and handles its entire election through the mail. The state of Washington offers that option, and Colorado is considering mandatory mail-in voting. Correction:  Mailed-in ballots in Oregon may be counted by machine, but it may also be the only way to protest the use of voting machines. The real solution is to go back to hand-cast and hand-counted paper ballots. 

Maybe those states are like Charlie Matulka. They know an ambush when they see one.

Lynn Landes is a freelance journalist. She writes a column which is published on her website Lynn has been a radio show host, a regular commentator for a BBC radio program, and news reporter for DUTV in Philadelphia, PA. 

Lynn Landes, 217 S. Jessup Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 629-3553 / (215) 629-1446 (FAX)