By Bob Fitrakis
Aug. 15, 2010
The teaser in Thursday, August 12th’s Dispatch proclaimed “Diebold deal helps counties.” It should have read “Diebold settles lawsuits by offering free and discounted shoddy election hardware and software.”
This is the equivalent of the Ford Motor Company settling the lawsuit against its incredible exploding Pintos by offering the dead driver’s family free leases and discounts to buy car that blows up.
So, Diebold gets caught not counting people’s votes – the solution: allow them to destroy democracy on a grander scale.
In the bizarre settlement, more than half of Ohio’s county boards of elections will receive free and discounted voting machines and software from Premier Election Solutions (formally Diebold). This is a result of an August 2008 lawsuit against Diebold by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. In the counterclaim filed by Brunner, she alleged that Diebold voting equipment “dropped votes in at least 11 counties.” The failure to count votes occurred when Diebold memory cards were uploaded to computer servers.
Diebold voting machine malfunctioned during the 2008 primary election prompted Cuyahoga County election officials to accuse the company of breach of contract, negligence and fraud. Diebold filed the original suit against Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) in May 2008 seeking payment and claiming that it had satisfied its contractual obligations in providing touchscreen voting.
Brunner intervened by filing a counterclaim in Franklin County, the state capitol, arguing breach of contract, warranty violations, and misrepresentation by Diebold representatives.
Brunner was elected as an election reformer after the debacle of the 2004 Ohio presidential election. In that election, the then-CEO of Diebold Walden “Wally” O’Dell, pledged to deliver Ohio’s electoral votes to George W. Bush. O’Dell was a major donor to the Bush campaign and a visitor to the president’s Crawford ranch.
In Lucas County, Diebold optiscan machines malfunctioned in the mostly Democratic inner city wards during the 2004 presidential election. Thousands of ballots that were rejected by the Diebold voting machines were never counted.
The settlement that affects 47 counties offers less than half a million dollars in payments, but Diebold is eager to give away and discount its software and hardware. Diebold’s General Election Management Software (GEMS) has come under attack for being designed in a way that allows for two sets of databases independent of each other. Diebold has agreed to give up to $2.4 million of free software licensing to Ohio counties over the next two years.
Along with the suspect Diebold software, the company will give away nearly 3,000 free voting machines in Ohio, up to 15% of a county’s total.
In the 2004 election, Diebold, Election Systems & Software (ES&S) and Triad all were criticized for partisan IT maintenance of election software and hardware. Specific charges made by voting rights activists were that maintenance workers helped rig the recount in Ohio. A Hocking County election official sent an affidavit to U.S. Rep. John Conyers noting that a Triad company worker had installed a new hard drive and had visited several other counties prior to the recount.
An ES&S worker, Sam Hogsett, was also accused of inappropriate behavior during the recount.
Diebold is discounting its maintenance fee by 50% if the counties continue to allow them to service their equipment. Diebold is now owned by the Nebraska-based ES&S and the two companies are estimated to be involved in the counting of 80% of the nation’s ballots using their secret proprietary software.
If counties no longer trust the non-transparent touchscreen Premier machines, the company is offering a 50% discount on new optiscan voting machines. The Free Press documented election tampering in the 2004 election in Miami County (Ohio) involving optiscan machines.
The net effect is that the notorious malfunctioning Diebold machines will be able to drop even more Ohio voters. County board of elections have 75 days to decide to accept Diebold’s partisan hardware and software. Since Diebold’s equipment has historically purged Democratic voters including its infamous purging of nearly 10,000 voters in Cleveland just prior to the 2004 election, you can county on most rural Republican-dominated counties to accept Diebold’s offer.