Cartoon by M.e. Cohen / HumorInk.com.Your electronic vote in the 2010 election has just been bought
The ES&S purchase of Diebold's voting machine operation is merely the tip of a toxic iceberg...By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
/ The Rag Blog / September 24, 2009
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder intervenes, your electronic vote in
2010 will probably be owned by the Republican-connected ES&S
Corporation. With 80% ownership of America's electronic voting
machines, ES&S could have the power to shape America's future with
a few proprietary keystrokes.
ES&S has just purchased the voting machine division of the Ohio-based Diebold, whose role in fixing the 2004 presidential election for George W. Bush is infamous.
Critics of the merger hope Holder will rescind the purchase on anti-trust grounds.
only a transparent system totally based on hand-counted paper ballots,
with universal automatic voter registration, can get us even remotely
close to a reliable vote count in the future.
For even if Holder
does void this purchase, ES&S and Diebold in tandem will still
control four of every five votes cast on touchscreen machines. As the
U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to open the floodgates on corporate
campaign spending, the only difference could be that those who would
buy our elections will have to write two checks instead of one.
in fact, it's even worse than that. ES&S, Diebold and a tiny
handful of sibling Republican voting equipment and computing companies
control not only the touchscreen machines, but also the electronic
tabulators that count millions of scantron ballots, AND the electronic
polling books that decide who gets to vote and who doesn't.
Let's do a quick review:
- ES&S, Diebold and other companies tied
to election hardware and software are owned and operated by a handful
of very wealthy conservatives, or right-to-life ideologues, with
long-standing direct ties to the Republican Party;
- As votes
will be increasingly cast on optiscans, touchscreens or computer voting
machines in the United States in 2010, the scant few so-called paper
trail mechanisms that are in place will offer little security against
electronic vote theft;
- The source code on all U.S.
touchscreen machines now used for the casting and counting of ballots
is proprietary, meaning the companies that own and operate the machines
-- including ES&S -- are not required to share with the public the
details of how those machines actually work;
- Although there
are official mechanisms for monitoring and recounts, none carry any
real weight in the face of the public's inability to gain control or
even access to this electronic source code, whose proprietary standing
has been upheld by the courts;
- With the newly merged
ES&S/Diebold now apparently controlling 80% of the national vote
through hardware and software, this GOP-connected corporation will have
the power to alter virtually every election in the U.S. with a few
keystrokes. Unless there is a massive, successful grassroots campaign
between now and 2012, the same will hold true for the next US
- Aside from its control of
touchscreen machines, the merged Diebold/ES&S also controls a
significant percent of the electronic optiscan tabulators to count
cards on which voters use pencils to fill in circles, indicating their
vote. Accounts of fraud, rigging, theft and abuse of these optiscan
systems are well-documented and
innumerable. Any corporation that prints these ballots and runs the
machines designated to count them can control yet another major piece
of the US vote count;
- The merged ES&S/Diebold now also
controls the electronic voter registration systems in many counties and
states. With that control comes the ability to remove registered voters
without significant public accountability. In the 2004 election, nearly
25% of all the registered voters in the Democratic-rich city of
Cleveland were purged, including 10,000 voters erased "accidentally" by
a Diebold electronic pollbook system. So in addition to controlling the
vote counts on touchscreen and optiscan voting machines, the merged
Diebold/ES&S and sympathetic hardware and software companies that
service computerized voting equipment will control who actually gets to
cast a vote in the first place.
Lest we forget: in 2000, long
before this ES&S/Diebold purchase was proposed, Choicepoint, a
GOP-controlled data management firm, hired by Florida's Republican
Secretary of State Katherine Harris, removed up to 150,000 Florida
citizens from voter rolls on the pretense that they were ex-felons. The
vast majority of them were not.
Computer software "disappeared"
16,000 votes from Al Gore's column at a critical moment on election
night, allowing George W. Bush's first cousin John Ellis, a Fox News
analyst, to proclaim him the winner. The election was officially
decided by less than 700 votes and a 5-4 Supreme Court vote preventing
a full recount. An independent audit later showed Gore was the rightful
In 2004, more than 300,000 Ohio citizens were removed
from voter rolls by GOP-controlled county election boards (more than
one million have been removed since).
Various dirty tricks
prevented still tens of thousands more Ohioans from voting. The vote
count was marred by a wide range of official manipulations coordinated
by then-Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.
was a major player in the 2004 Ohio elections, but was joined by
numerous other computer voting firms and their technicians in
"recounting the vote" which confirmed the Bush "victory," despite exit
poll results and other evidence to the contrary. In defiance of a
federal court order, 56 of 88 Ohio counties destroyed some or all of
their ballots or election records. No one has been prosecuted.
short, the ES&S purchase of Diebold's voting machine operation is
merely the tip of a toxic iceberg. Voiding the merger will do nothing
to solve the REAL problem, which is an electronic-based system of voter
registration and ballot counting that is potentially controlled by
private corporations and contractors whose agenda is to make large
profits and protect the system that guarantees them.
elections based on universal automatic registration and hand-counted
paper ballots are not foolproof, they constitute a start. Stealing an
election by stuffing paper ballot boxes at the "retail" level is far
more difficult than stealing votes at the "wholesale" level with an
electronic flip of a switch.
As it's done in numerous other
countries throughout the world, the only realistic means by which the
U.S. can establish a democratic system of ballot casting and counting
is to do it the old-fashioned way. With human-scale checks and balances
we might even be secure in the knowledge that our elections and vote
counts will truly reflect the will of the people. What a concept!
[Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection, available at freepress.org at,
where this article also appears, and where Bob's Fitrakis Files are
also available. Harvey Wasserman's History of the U.S. is at harveywasserman.com.]
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