and how to reclaim elections — in 2008 and beyond.
by Ellen Theisen, Co-Director, VotersUnite.OrgOriginally posted at VotersUnite.org
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
 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.