Walden O’Dell, chief executive of Diebold, recently wrote a fund-raising letter to Ohio Republicans, in which he pledged that he was “committed to helping Ohio to deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.” Why is this GOP-loving CEO more interesting than any other?
Because of the company he runs. Diebold does more than make the card readers for laundry rooms at places like Sarah Lawrence. They also manufacture democracy’s hip new thing: voting machines. And at the time O’Dell wrote the letter, Diebold was bidding for the contract to make the state’s new voting machinery. The (Republican) secretary of state, despite the publication of the above letter, has put Diebold on the state’s list of preferred voting-machine vendors.
The more you read of this, the scarier it gets. Here’s an article from the London Independent (reprinted on a different site, since you have to pay for the Independent’s online material) that gives a good overview; here’s an article from the New York Times about internal Diebold memos which reveal just how shady–and incompetent–the whole thing is. Both articles are fascinating, and really terrifying. The scariest details:
–A standard part of the contracts states sign with the companies that make the voting machines makes it a FELONY for the state to examine the voting machines in any way. Only the companies can control the machines.
–A number of private citizens have been able to examine the code for some ov the voting machines, and have found it to be a mess, full of elementary programming errors and suspicious bits of code.
–There have already been a number of conflicts of interest akin to O’Dell’s letter, the most egregious one being Chuck Hagel, the new Republican senator from Nebraska; 80% of the votes cast in that election were counted by machines owned by his own company.
Luckily, there’s a bill in congress that would require all these machines to provide a voter-certified paper trail that could be used in the event of a recount. Here’s the site for the bill. Please, stop whatever you’re doing right now (which couldn’t have been so important, since you’re reading my blog) and email your congressman; tell him or her to support HR 2239 to safeguard our right to free and fair elections. You can find your congressman here; you’ll need your 9-digit ZIP code, which you can find here.
You’ve heard hippies like me talk about how corporate America is ruining democracy; well, this may be an exact case of that. Write your congressman now, while you still have the power to elect one.