In an exclusive interview with RAW
STORY, a whistleblower from electronic voting heavyweight Diebold
Election Systems Inc. raised grave concerns about the company’s electronic
voting technology and of electronic voting in general, bemoaning an electoral
system the insider feels has been compromised by corporate privatization.
The Diebold insider, who took on the appellation “Dieb-Throat”
in an interview with voting
rights advocate Brad Friedman (BradBlog.com),
was once a staunch supporter of electronic voting’s potential to produce
more accurate results than punch cards.
But the company insider became disillusioned after witnessing repeated efforts
by Diebold to evade meeting legal requirements or implementing appropriate security
measures, criticizing Diebold for putting corporate interests ahead of the interests
“I’ve absolutely had it with the dishonesty,” the insider
told RAW STORY. Blasting Wally O’Dell,
the current president of Diebold, the whistleblower went on to explain behind-the-scenes
tactics of the company and its officers.
“There’s a lot of pressure in the corporation to make the numbers:
`We don’t tell you how to do it, but do it.’ [O’Dell is] probably
the number one culprit putting pressure on people,” the source said.
Diebold spokesman David Bear rebuts the charges. “Diebold has a sterling
reputation in the industry," Bear said. "It’s a 144-year-old
company and is considered one of the best companies in the industry."
Previous revelations from the whistleblower have included evidence that Diebold’s
upper management and top government officials knew of backdoor software in Diebold’s
central tabulator before the 2004 election, but ignored urgent warnings—such
as a Homeland Security alert posted
on the Internet.
“This is a very dangerous precedent that needs to be stopped—that’s
the corporate takeover of elections,” the source warned. “The majority
of election directors don’t understand the gravity of what they’re
dealing with. The bottom line is who is going to tamper with an election? A
lot of people could, but they assume that no one will.”
Concerns about Georgia, Ohio elections
The insider harbors suspicions that Diebold may be involved in tampering with
elections through its army of employees and independent contractors. The 2002
gubernatorial election in Georgia raised serious red flags, the source said.
“Shortly before the election, ten days to two weeks, we were told that
the date in the machine was malfunctioning,” the source recalled. “So
we were told `Apply this patch in a big rush.’” Later, the Diebold
insider learned that the patches were never certified by the state of Georgia,
as required by law.
“Also, the clock inside the system was not fixed,” said the Diebold
hand, who installed the patches on voting machines in large counties in the
Atlanta vicinity. “It’s legendary how strange the outcome was; they
ended up having the first Republican governor in who knows when and also strange
outcomes in other races. I can say that the counties I worked in were heavily
Democratic and elected a Republican.”
In Georgia’s 2002 Senate race, for example, nearly 60 percent of the
state’s electorate by county switched
party allegiances between the primaries and the general election.
The insider’s account corroborates a similar story told by Diebold contractor
Rob Behler in an interview
with Bev Harris of Black Box Voting.
Harris revealed that a program patch titled “rob-georgia.zip” was
left on an unsecured server and downloaded over the Internet by Diebold technicians
before loading the unauthorized software onto Georgia voting machines. “They
didn’t even TEST the fixes before they told us to install them,”
Behler stated, adding that machines still malfunctioned after patches were installed.
California decertified Diebold TSX touch screen machines after state officials
learned that the vendor had broken state election law.
“In California, they got in trouble and tried to doubletalk. They used
a patch that was not certified,” the Diebold insider said. “They’ve
done this many times. They just got caught in Georgia and California.”
The Diebold whistleblower is also skeptical of results from the November 2005
Ohio election, in which 88 percent of voters used touch screens and the outcome
on some propositions changed as much as 40
percent from pre-election exit polls.
“Amazing,” the Diebold insider said.
Diebold is headquartered in Ohio. Its chairman Wally O’Dell, a key fundraiser
for President Bush, once promised in an invitation to a Republican fundraising
dinner to deliver Ohio’s electoral votes for Bush. The staffer said the
company has a deep conservative culture.
“My feeling having been really deep inside the company is that initially
Diebold, being a very conservative and Republican company, felt that if they
controlled an election company, they could have great influence over the outcome,”
the source, a registered independent, said.
“Does that mean fixing elections? Not necessarily, but if your people
are in election departments and they are biased toward Republicans, you will
have an influence…I think this is what they were buying, the positioning.
Obviously screwing with the software would be a homerun—and I do think
that was part of their recipe for getting into the election business. But the
public got involved and said `Hey, what’s going on? That pulled the sheet
off what their plan was with these paperless voting machines.”
The difficulties of installing paper trails
Responding to public demand for paper trails, Diebold has devised a means of
retrofitting its paperless TSX system with printers and paper rolls. But in
Ohio’s November 2005 election, some machines produced blank
The Diebold hand is not surprised. “The software is again the culprit
here. It’s not completely developed. I saw the exact same thing in Chicago
during a demonstration held in Cook County for a committee of people who were
looking at various election machines… They rejected it for other reasons.”
Asked if Ohio officials were made aware of that failure prior to the recent
election, the source said, “No way. Anything goes wrong inside Diebold,
Most officials are not notified of failed demonstrations like the one in Cook
County, the insider said, adding that most system tests, particularly those
exhibited for sale are not conducted with a typical model.
California, which recently conducted a test of the system without public scrutiny
that found only a three percent failure rate—far lower than earlier tests
that found a 30 percent combined
failure due to software crashes and printer jams.
Asked if the outcomes of the newest test should be trusted, the whistleblower,
who does not know the protocols used in the California test, warned, “There’s
a practice in testing where you get a pumped-up machine and pumped-up servers,
and that’s what you allow them to test. Diebold does it and so do other
manufacturers. It’s extremely common.”
Neither the TSX nor the older TS6 election equipment systems used by Diebold
were designed to be retrofitted with paper trails. “The TSX was designed
and brought to market after the paper trail issue erupted, yet it was introduced
as a paperless system. But the uproar became so great… The public forced
Diebold to put printers on their machines.” Adding printers to existing
computer hardware together poses challenges.
The TS6 machines can’t be retrofitted with paper at all, leaving 35,000
voters in Maryland and Georgia to rely on paperless, faith-based voting.
Even if the blank paper problem could be solved, there are other serious problems
with some TSX equipment. “The system that was offered to San Diego was
purely experimental—the TSX and the electronic poll book, the check-in
device,” the Diebold insider stated. “Voters couldn’t access
the system to vote with the electronic poll book if the batteries died.”
The high rate of breakdowns involving access cards for the poll book caused
major problems, the source added. “The interesting part about this device
is that it had never been used before. That was probably not certified.”
San Diego has since warehoused its TSX system, pending a decision by the state
on whether to recertify. San Diego County now uses Diebold optical scanners—but
those pose security problems as well.
Although Black Box Voting demonstrated during a demonstration in Leon County,
Florida that computer experts could hack into a similar system in less than
a minute and alter a memory card to switch votes, election officials still brush
off concerns for additional security precautions.
San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Mikel Haas, for example, was questioned
by this reporter for the city’s local paper, Citybeat. He insisted
that no additional security measures were needed.
Asked if Diebold had implemented any changes to close security holes revealed
by the Leon County hack, the source replied, “None that I know of.”
Informed that Haas allowed over 700 voting machines with memory cards inside
to be sent home overnight with poll-workers, the insider raised alarm. “These
memory cards need to be protected every single step of the way, like money.
If they have people taking these machine home with memory cards, that’s
out the window.”
The Diebold whistleblower also criticized election officials in San Diego and
elsewhere for allowing Diebold personnel to be present when votes reach the
server. “The election office’s employees—people who are paid
with our tax dollars to conduct elections and have proper security elections
and background check should do this – and no one else.” Manufacturers
should be a mile away on election night, the source added.
The best way for concerned citizens to detect fraud is to “be there on
election night” to observe vote tabulations, the insider said. But in
some cities, citizens have been barred from watching votes being counted on
Diebold tabulators – and in San Diego, Black Box Voting activist Jim March
in July 2005 and charged with felony trespassing after entered a secured room
to watch votes being counted. The charges were later dismissed.
But no amount of observation can totally protect the public from the dangers
inherent in electronic voting, the whistleblower says. “People are going
to end up losing their rights in many ways that they will never, never understand.
For example, the new electronic databases for voter registration is a great
idea, but it passes control away from local boards of elections and puts it
in the hands of the states…The final database is manipulated by states
instead of counties. Every state must have it. It’s mandated by [the Help
America Vote Act]. It’s a sleeper issue.”
The source, who once supported the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), now concedes
“it’s terrible…Most of this is a big money grab.”
The Diebold hand believes many election officials are na?ve, while others are
“downright arrogant. They are serving politicians and in many cases, vendors.”
How Diebold woos state officials
The insider described a systematic process Diebold uses to woo election officials
via cash doled out by lobbyists or attorneys and favors to assist budget-strapped
public officials. “They promise the election directors the moon and deliver
things to them that really aren’t legitimate parts of the contract.”
Those promises range from providing personnel to equipping warehouses with electrical
systems to recharge batteries in voting machines.
“The corporation pretty much takes over. That’s how they capture
so many of these people. Diebold is making them look good and they’re
not going to bite the hand that feeds them.”
Diebold creates a “monetary incentive” to stay involved via future
servicing contracts after selling election equipment, the whistleblower noted,
adding, “The machines are purposely complex and poorly designed.”
Noting that the GEMS software runs on Microsoft Access, Dieb-Throat observed,
“There are problems that can’t be fixed. I understand they are going
to redesign it around Oracle.”
Diebold spokesman David Bear denied that the company is redesigning software
around an Oracle platform. “No, that’s not true to my knowledge,”
Asked whether any TSX machine produced blank paper during a demonstration in
Cook County, he replied, “I’m not aware of that.”
Bear initially denied that any Diebold machines in Ohio produced blank paper
“That’s not true,” he said. “They just ran an election
November 8th with over 15,000 of the units and the Secretary of State was overwhelmingly
pleased.” After being told of news reports describing blank paper rolls
produced in Ohio, however, he replied, “It would not surprise me if a
paper roll was installed upside down.”
Diebold consultant convicted for embezzlement
The Diebold insider noted that the initial GEMS system used to tabulate votes
for the Diebold Opti-scan systems was designed by Jeffrey Dean, who was convicted
in the early 1990s of computer-aided embezzlement. Dean was hired by Global
Election Systems, which Diebold acquired in 2000. Global also had John Elder,
a convicted cocaine trafficker, on its payroll. Diebold spokesman David Bear
told Citybeat that Dean left shortly after the acquisition and that Elder also
left “long ago.” Black Box Voting reported that Diebold gave Elder
a “golden parachute” in 2004 and that he was let go only after his
criminal past was revealed by BBV and mainstream publications.
But the Diebold whistleblower told RAW STORY
that Elder remained working for Diebold “as recently as the summer of
this year… [Elder creates ] the paper ballots for absentee voting…They
were making the ballots for the November election for sure, for all over the
Bear denied that Elder is still on Diebold’s payroll as either an employee
or independent contractor.
“He was with the company two companies ago, never was an employee of
Diebold, and worked for a company that was acquired by Diebold,” he said.
Asked if Elder works for a company producing ballots for any of California’s
Diebold systems, Bear responded, “The counties contract for that. I don’t
have the slightest idea… There are probably several different companies
that produce ballots for California.”
Bear denied allegations that Diebold has installed uncertified patches. “Nothing
is done in any state except under guidance and authority of election officials
in the state.”
He also stated that the California Secretary of State’s staff has recommended
recertifying the Diebold TSX system retrofitted with paper rolls.
Bear defends Diebold's record.
“In the last presidential election, over 150,000 touch screens were run.
They were recognized by CalTech and MIT for having accurately captured the vote.
From the presidential election 2004, they believe over 1 million more votes
were captured. They singled out touch-screens; the state with the most improvement
was Georgia.” (Full
text of the Caltech/MIT report)
The Diebold insider says Americans who care about their vote must remain vigilant.
“I don’t look for the paperless people, the corporations, to back
off at all. They will continue to try to keep the public in the dark.”