26 online
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 14 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds   

Vendors are Undermining the Structure of U.S. Elections

Message Ellen Theisen
A VotersUnite report on the current situation
and how to reclaim elections — in 2008 and beyond.
by Ellen Theisen, Co-Director, VotersUnite.Org
Originally posted at VotersUnite.org 

Read the full report. 

Executive Summary

As we approach the 2008 general election, the structure of elections in the United States — once reliant on local representatives accountable to the public — has become almost wholly dependent on large corporations, which are not accountable to the public. Most local officials charged with running elections are now unable to administer elections without the equipment, services, and trade-secret software of a small number of corporations.[1]

If the vendors withdrew their support for elections now, our election structure would collapse.

However, some states and localities are recognizing the threat that vendor-dependency poses to elections. They are using ingenuity and determination to begin reversing the direction.

This report examines the situation, how we got here, and steps we can take to limit corporate control of our elections in 2008 and reduce it even further in the future.

Case studies presented in this report give examples of the pervasive control voting system vendors now have over election administration in almost every state, and the consequences some jurisdictions are already experiencing. Such dependency has allowed vendors to:

(Image by Unknown Owner)   Details   DMCA
Coerce election officials into risk-riddled agreements, as occurred in Angelina County, Texas in May 2008.


(Image by Unknown Owner)   Details   DMCA
Endanger election officials’ ability to comply with federal court orders, as occurred in Nassau County, New York in July 2008.


(Image by Unknown Owner)   Details   DMCA
Escape criminal penalties for knowingly violating state laws and causing election debacles, as occurred in San Diego, California in 2004.

Analysis of the impact of laws and decisions at all levels of government demonstrates that lawmakers and officials have facilitated the dependence of local elections on private corporations. This report explores:

(Image by Unknown Owner)   Details   DMCA
How the mandates of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) and the inaction of the federal government left the states and localities with nowhere to turn but to the vendors.


(Image by Unknown Owner)   Details   DMCA
How state laws, passed by ill-informed representatives, limited the options of local officials to the voting systems developed by big corporations.

Voting system vendors’ contracts, communications, and histories explored in this report reveal that vendors exploit the local jurisdictions’ dependency by charging exorbitant fees, violating laws and ethics, exerting proprietary control over the machinery of elections, and disclaiming unaccountability.

However, even in the current vendor-dependent environment, some jurisdictions are resisting vendor control and finding ways to decrease their dependency and build an independent foundation for their election structure. See page 40 of the report for case studies that point to the power state and local election officials have to reclaim control of elections.

(Image by Unknown Owner)   Details   DMCA
More than many local election officials realize, they have the legal authority to oversee vendors and limit vendor dependency, as is occurring in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.


(Image by Unknown Owner)   Details   DMCA
States can “kick the vendor out of the state” or at least stop further vendor infiltration into their elections by following the lead of Oklahoma and Oregon.


(Image by Unknown Owner)   Details   DMCA
Paper ballots allow local officials, like those in Curry County, New Mexico, to ultimately rely on their own devices and their own citizens, rather than on the high-tech devices sold by vendors. In the words of the deputy county clerk:

“If necessary, we can always hand count them.”

The final section of this report recommends practical, concrete actions for reducing vendor dependence. Even in time for the November 2008 general election, local officials and citizens can take positive steps to oversee the vendors’ goods and services and mitigate vendor control.

Citizens — both private and public — are beginning to realize that they can and must re-assert their ownership of elections and demand transparent citizen oversight of elections.

[1] Primarily four corporations: Election Systems and Software (ES&S), Hart InterCivic, Sequoia Voting Systems, and Premier Election Systems (formerly Diebold), though a few other corporations have a very small share of the market.

Rate It | View Ratings

Ellen Theisen Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Ellen Theisen is the founder and Co-Director of VotersUnite.Org.
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Regarding Internet Voting in Washington State

Peeling the Onion: Can Voting System Testing be Reliable and Extensive?

Vendors are Undermining the Structure of U.S. Elections

Senator Feinstein's Election Reform Bill: A Constitutional Heresy

U.S. Senate Bill S. 1487: Escalating the Federal Control and Privatization of Elections

'Daily Voting News' for May 07, 2009

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend