February 28, 2004

Diebold, Electronic Voting and the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy


Bob Fitrakis, Free Press (Columbus, OH): As Blackwell pressures the Ohio legislature to adopt electronic voting machines without a paper trail, Athan Gibbs wonders, “Why would you buy a voting machine from a company like Diebold which provides a paper trail for every single machine it makes except its voting machines? And then, when you ask it to verify its numbers, it hides behind ‘trade secrets.’” Maybe the Diebold decision makes sense, if you believe, to paraphrase Henry Kissinger, that democracy is too important to leave up to the votes of the people.

Thwart the Theft of a Second Presidential Election,
Show Up for Democracy in 2004: Defeat Bush (again!)


Published on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 by the
Free Press, Columbus, Ohiio
Diebold, Electronic Voting and the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy
by Bob Fitrakis

The Governor of Ohio, Bob Taft, and other prominent
state officials, commute to their downtown Columbus
offices on Broad Street. This is the so-called “Golden
Finger,” the safe route through the majority black
inner-city near east side. The Broad Street BP
station, just east of downtown, is the place where
affluent suburbanites from Bexley can stop, gas up,
get their coffee and New York Times. Those in need of
cash visit BP’s Diebold manufactured CashSource+ ATM
machine which provides a paper receipt of the
transaction to all customers upon request.

Many of Taft’s and President George W. Bush’s major
donors, like Diebold’s current CEO Walden “Wally”
O’Dell, reside in Columbus’ northwest suburb Upper
Arlington. O’Dell is on record stating that he is
“committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes
to the President” this year. On September 26, 2003, he
hosted an Ohio Republican Party fundraiser for Bush’s
re-election at his Cotswold Manor mansion. Tickets to
the fundraiser cost $1000 per couple, but O’Dell’s
fundraising letter urged those attending to “Donate or
raise $10,000 for the Ohio Republican Party.”

According to the Columbus Dispatch: “Last year, O’Dell
and his wife Patricia, campaigned for passage of two
liquor options that made their portion of Tremont Road

On November 5, Upper Arlington residents narrowly
passed measures that allowed fundraising parties to
offer more than beer, even though his
10,800-square-foot home is a residence, a permit is
required because alcohol is included in the price of
fundraising tickets. O’Dell is also allowed to serve
“beer, wine and mixed drinks” at Sunday fundraisers.

O’Dell’s fund-raising letter followed on the heels of
a visit to President Bush’s Crawford Texas ranch by
“Pioneers and Rangers,” the designation for people who
had raised $100,000 or more for Bush’s re-election.

If Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Kenneth
Blackwell has his way, Diebold will receive a contract
to supply touch screen electronic voting machines for
much of the state. None of these Diebold machines will
provide a paper receipt of the vote.

Diebold, located in North Canton, Ohio, does its
primary business in ATM and ticket-vending machines.
Critics of Diebold point out that virtually every
other machine the company makes provides a paper trail
to verify the machine’s calculations. Oddly, only the
voting machines lack this essential function.

State Senator Teresa Fedor of Toledo introduced Senate
Bill 167 late last year mandating that every voting
machine in Ohio generate a “voter verified paper audit
trail.” Secretary of State Blackwell has denounced any
attempt to require a paper trail as an effort to
“derail” election reform. Blackwell’s political career
is an interesting one: he emerged as a black activist
in Cincinnati supporting municipal charter reform,
became an elected Democrat, then an Independent, and
now is a prominent Republican with his eyes on the
Governor’s mansion.

Voter fraud

A joint study by the California and Massachusetts
Institutes of Technology following the 2000 election
determined that between 1.5 and 2 million votes were
not counted due to confusing paper ballots or faulty
equipment. The federal government’s solution to the
problem was to pass the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
of 2002.

One of the law’s stated goals was “Replacement of
punch card and lever voting machines.” The new voting
machines would be high-tech touch screen computers,
but if there’s no paper trail, how do you know if
there’s been a computer glitch? How can the results be
trusted? And how do you recount to see if the actual
votes match the computer’s tally?

Bev Harris, author of Black Box Voting: Ballot
Tampering in the 21st Century, argues that without a
paper trail, these machines are open to massive voter
fraud. Diebold has already placed some 50,000 machines
in 37 states and their track record is causing Harris,
Johns Hopkins University professors and others great

Johns Hopkins researchers at the Information Security
Institute issued a report declaring that Diebold’s
electronic voting software contained “stunning flaws.”
The researchers concluded that vote totals could be
altered at the voting machines and by remote access.
Diebold vigorously refuted the Johns Hopkins report,
claiming the researchers came to “a multitude of false

Perhaps to settle the issue, someone illegally hacked
into the Diebold Election Systems website in March
2003 and stole internal documents from the company and
posted them online. Diebold went to court to stop,
according to court records, the “wholesale
reproduction” of some 13,000 pages of company

The Associated Press reported in November 2003 that:
“Computer programmers, ISPs and students at [at] least
20 universities, including the University of
California, Berkeley, and the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology received cease and desist letters” from
Diebold. A group of Swarthmore College students
launched an “electronic civil disobedience” campaign
to keep the hacked documents permanently posted on the

Harris writes that the hacked documents expose how the
mainstream media reversed their call projecting Al
Gore as winner of Florida after someone “subtracted
16,022 votes from Al Gore, and in still some undefined
way, added 4000 erroneous votes to George W. Bush.”
Hours later, the votes were returned. One memo from
Lana Hires of Global Election Systems, now Diebold,
reads: “I need some answers! Our department is being
audited by the County. I have been waiting for someone
to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave
Al Gore a minus 16,022 [votes] when it was uploaded.”
Another hacked internal memo, written by Talbot
Iredale, Senior VP of Research and Development for
Diebold Election Systems, documents “unauthorized”
replacement votes in Volusia County.

Harris also uncovered a revealing 87-page CBS news
report and noted, “According to CBS documents, the
erroneous 20,000 votes in Volusia was directly
responsible to calling the election for Bush.” The
first person to call the election for Bush was Fox
election analyst John Ellis, who had the advantage of
conferring with his prominent cousins George W. Bush
and Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Incestuous relationships

Increasingly, investigative writers seeking an
explanation have looked to Diebold’s history for
clues. The electronic voting industry is dominated by
only a few corporations – Diebold, Election Systems &
Software (ES&S) and Sequoia. Diebold and ES&S combined
count an estimated 80% of U.S. black box electronic

In the early 1980s, brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich
founded ES&S’s originator, Data Mark. The brothers
Urosevich obtained financing from the far-Right
Ahmanson family in 1984, which purchased a 68%
ownership stake, according to the Omaha World Herald.
After brothers William and Robert Ahmanson infused
Data Mark with new capital, the name was changed to
American Information Systems (AIS). California
newspapers have long documented the Ahmanson family’s
ties to right-wing evangelical Christian and
Republican circles.

In 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported, “. . .
primarily funded by evangelical Christians –
particularly the wealthy Ahmanson family of Irvine –
the [Discovery] institute’s $1-million annual program
has produced 25 books, a stream of conferences and
more than 100 fellowships for doctoral and
postdoctoral research.” The chief philanthropists of
the Discovery Institute, that pushes creationist
science and education in California, are Howard and
Roberta Ahmanson.

According to Group Watch, in the 1980s Howard F.
Ahmanson, Jr. was a member of the highly secretive
far-Right Council for National Policy, an organization
that included Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, Major
General John K. Singlaub and other Iran-Contra scandal
notables, as well as former Klan members like Richard
Shoff. Ahmanson, heir to a savings and loan fortune,
is little reported on in the mainstream U.S. press.
But, English papers like The Independent are a bit
more forthcoming on Ahmanson’s politics.

“On the right, figures such as Richard Mellon Scaife
and Howard Ahmanson have given hundreds of millions of
dollars over several decades to political projects
both high (setting up the Heritage Foundation
think-tank, the driving engine of the Reagan
presidency) and low (bankrolling investigations into
President Clinton’s sexual indiscretions and the
suicide of the White House insider Vincent Foster),”
wrote The Independent last November.

The Sunday Mail described an individual as, “. . . a
fundamentalist Christian more in the mould of U.S.
multi-millionaire Howard Ahmanson, Jr., who uses his
fortune to promote so-called traditional family values
. . . by waving fortunes under their noses, Ahmanson
has the ability to cajole candidates into backing his
right-wing Christian agenda.

Ahmanson is also a chief contributor to the Chalcedon
Institute that supports the Christian reconstruction
movement. The movement’s philosophy advocates, among
other things, “mandating the death penalty for
homosexuals and drunkards.”

The Ahmanson family sold their shares in American
Information Systems to the McCarthy Group and the
World Herald Company, Inc. Republican Senator Chuck
Hagel disclosed in public documents that he was the
Chairman of American Information Systems and claimed
between a $1 to 5 million investment in the McCarthy
Group. In 1997, American Information Systems purchased
Business Records Corp. (BRC), formerly Texas-based
election company Cronus Industries, to become ES&S.
One of the BRC owners was Carolyn Hunt of the
right-wing Hunt oil family, which supplied much of the
original money for the Council on National Policy.

In 1996, Hagel became the first elected Republican
Nebraska senator in 24 years when he did surprisingly
well in an election where the votes were verified by
the company he served as chairman and maintained a
financial investment. In both the 1996 and 2002
elections, Hagel’s ES&S counted an estimated 80% of
his winning votes. Due to the contracting out of
services, confidentiality agreements between the State
of Nebraska and the company kept this matter out of
the public eye. Hagel’s first election victory was
described as a “stunning upset” by one Nebraska

Hagel’s official biography states, “Prior to his
election to the U.S. Senate, Hagel worked in the
private sector as the President of McCarthy and
Company, an investment banking firm based in Omaha,
Nebraska and served as Chairman of the Board of
American Information Systems.” During the first Bush
presidency, Hagel served as Deputy Director and Chief
Operating Officer of the 1990 Economic Summit of
Industrialized Nations (G-7 Summit).

Bob Urosevich was the Programmer and CEO at AIS,
before being replaced by Hagel. Bob now heads Diebold
Election Systems and his brother Todd is a top
executive at ES&S. Bob created Diebold’s original
electronic voting machine software. Thus, the brothers
Urosevich, originally funded by the far Right, figure
in the counting of approximately 80% of electronic
voting in the United States.

Like Ohio, the State of Maryland was disturbed by the
potential for massive electronic voter fraud. The
voters of that state were reassured when the state
hired SAIC to monitor Diebold’s system. SAIC’s former
CEO is Admiral Bill Owens. Owens served as a military
aide to both Vice President Dick Cheney and former
Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, who now works with
George H.W. Bush at the controversial Carlyle Group.
Robert Gates, former CIA Director and close friend of
the Bush family, also served on the SAIC Board.

Diebold’s track record

Wherever Diebold and ES&S go, irregularities and
historic Republican upsets follow. Alastair Thompson,
writing for scoop.co of New Zealand, explored whether
or not the 2002 U.S. mid-term elections were “fixed by
electronic voting machines supplied by
Republican-affiliated companies.” The scoop
investigation concluded that: “The state where the
biggest upset occurred, Georgia, is also the state
that ran its election with the most electronic voting
machines.” Those machines were supplied by Diebold.

Wired News reported that “. . . a former worker in
Diebold’s Georgia warehouse says the company installed
patches on its machine before the state’s 2002
gubernatorial election that were never certified by
independent testing authorities or cleared with
Georgia election officials.” Questions were raised in
Texas when three Republican candidates in Comal County
each received exactly the same number of votes –

Following the 2003 California election, an audit of
the company revealed that Diebold Election Systems
voting machines installed uncertified software in all
17 counties using its equipment.

Former CIA Station Chief John Stockwell writes that
one of the favorite tactics of the CIA during the
Reagan-Bush administration in the 1980s was to control
countries by manipulating the election process. “CIA
apologists leap up and say, ‘Well, most of these
things are not so bloody.’ And that’s true. You’re
giving politicians some money so he’ll throw his party
in this direction or that one, or make false speeches
on your behalf, or something like that. It may be
non-violent, but it’s still illegal intervention in
other country’s affairs, raising the question of
whether or not we’re going to have a world in which
laws, rules of behavior are respected,” Stockwell
wrote. Documents illustrate that the Reagan and Bush
administration supported computer manipulation in both
Noriega’s rise to power in Panama and in Marcos’
attempt to retain power in the Philippines. Many of
the Reagan administration’s staunchest supporters were
members of the Council on National Policy.

The perfect solution

Ohio Senator Fedor continues to fight valiantly for
Senate Bill 167 and the Holy Grail of the “voter
verified paper audit trail.” Proponents of a paper
trail were emboldened when Athan Gibbs, President and
CEO of TruVote International, demonstrated a voting
machine at a vendor’s fair in Columbus that provides
two separate voting receipts.

The first paper receipt displays the voter’s touch
screen selection under plexiglass that falls into a
lockbox after the voter approves. Also, the TruVote
system provides the voter with a receipt that includes
a unique voter ID and pin number which can be used to
call in to a voter audit internet connection to make
sure the vote cast was actually counted.

Brooks Thomas, Coordinator of Elections in Tennessee,
stated, “I’ve not seen anything that compares to the
Gibbs’ TruVote validation system. . . .” The Assistant
Secretary of State of Georgia, Terrel L. Slayton, Jr.,
claimed Gibbs had come up with the “perfect solution.”

Still, there remains opposition from Ohio Secretary of
State Blackwell. His spokesperson Carlo LoParo
recently pointed out that federal mandates under HAVA
do not require a paper trail: “. . . if Congress
changes the federal law to require it [a paper trail],
we’ll certainly make that a requirement of our
efforts.” LoParo went on to accuse advocates of a
paper trail of attempting to “derail” voting reform.

U.S. Representative Rush Holt introduced HR 2239, The
Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of
2003, that would require electronic voting machines to
produce a paper trail so that voters may verify that
their screen touches match their actual vote. Election
officials would also have a paper trail for recounts.

As Blackwell pressures the Ohio legislature to adopt
electronic voting machines without a paper trail,
Athan Gibbs wonders, “Why would you buy a voting
machine from a company like Diebold which provides a
paper trail for every single machine it makes except
its voting machines? And then, when you ask it to
verify its numbers, it hides behind ‘trade secrets.’”
Maybe the Diebold decision makes sense, if you
believe, to paraphrase Henry Kissinger, that democracy
is too important to leave up to the votes of the

Dr. Bob Fitrakis is Senior Editor of The Free Press ,
a political science professor, and author of numerous
articles and books.

© 1970-2004 The Columbus Free Press


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Posted by richard at February 28, 2004 12:26 PM