Story by David Bienenstock

"Our analysis shows that this [Diebold] voting system is far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts."
-- Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute Technical Report, July 23, 2003.

"I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
-- Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold Inc., from a fundraising letter dated August 14, 2003.

This month's column is not your excuse to spend Election Day on the couch in a haze of smoke, talkin’ about how whoever runs the government don't matter anyhow. Leave that to the Green Party. Instead, consider this a call to arms: Somebody out there needs to steal the 2004 presidential election, and it shouldn't be too difficult. According to investigative journalist Bev Harris, author of Black Box Voting, Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century, the paper-free touchscreen systems touted by Diebold Inc. and a handful of other well-connected companies are blatantly flawed and ripe for contamination. When obvious safeguards are ignored, argues Harris and a growing chorus of critics, we must suspend the benefit of the doubt—particularly when two of the largest corporations in the growing vote counting industry have deep ties to the Right Wing.

For example: In 1996, former conservative talk radio host Chuck Hagel was chairman of Election Systems & Software, the company which counted the majority of the vote in Nebraska during his first senate run. The Washington Post said Hagel’s victorious campaign was "the biggest upset of the election season." Hagel continues to maintain his part interest in ES&S, which controls roughly half the voting machines in the United States, including those that confirmed his 2002 reelection with a Nebraska-record 85 percent of the vote.

The 2002 midterms also saw two major Democratic incumbents upset in Georgia, a state where all voting took place on Diebold machines with zero paper trail. Senator Max Cleland, who lost three of his limbs in Vietnam, was defeated by Republican Saxby Chamblis, who accused the war hero of lacking the "courage to lead" on defense and national security issues. Georgians also elected Sonny Perdue to be their first Republican governor since Reconstruction. The Associated Press story "Perdue Pulls off Monumental Upset in Governor's Race" concluded as follows: Perdue said there was no mystery about his victory, despite a pre-election poll suggesting Barnes was virtually a shoo-in. "Polls don't test the heart of people who were passionate about changing Georgia," he said.

Quickly: What do the 2000 presidential election, the Texas redistricting battle, and the California recall all have in common? Republican strategists would have you believe they were "circuses," pushing a carefully pre-spun word to make a series of massive power-grabs sound like an anomaly, or innocent fun. It's wacky. And as always, we citizens are fed an appropriate response: When the Supreme Court handed Florida to Bush, we were told to "get over it," in Texas, the Democrats who fled the state to avoid a stacked vote were labeled traitors and hunted down by the Homeland Security Department, and in California, a millionaire's vanity project was elevated to a "grassroots campaign"—the much vaunted "will of the people."

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