The New York Times ran a very important editorial this past Sunday. It was about a subject many of us care passionately about: election fraud.
The Times editorial writers wrote:
The Business of Voting
Diebold, the controversial electronic voting machine manufacturer, is coming off a tumultuous week. Its chief executive, Walden O’Dell, resigned. It was hit with a pair of class-action lawsuits charging insider trading and misrepresentation, and a county in Florida concluded that Diebold’s voting machines could be hacked. The company should use Mr. O’Dell’s departure to reassess its flawed approach to its business. The counting of votes is a public trust. Diebold, whose machines count many votes, has never acted as if it understood this.
Mr. O’Dell made national headlines when he wrote a fund-raising letter before the 2004 election expressing his commitment to help deliver the electoral votes of Ohio – where Diebold is based, and where its machines are used – to President Bush. Under pressure, Diebold barred its top officials from contributing to campaigns. But this month, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported that three executives not covered by the ban continued to make contributions to Republican candidates.
Diebold’s voting machines have a troubled history. The company was accused of installing improperly certified software, which is illegal, in a 2002 governor’s race in Georgia. Across the country, it reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the California attorney general last year of a lawsuit alleging that it made false claims about the security of its machines. Last week, the top elections officer in Leon County, Fla., which includes Tallahassee, concluded after a test that Diebold machines can be hacked to change vote totals.
Diebold has always insisted that its electronic voting machines are so reliable that there is no need for paper records of votes that can be independently verified. Fortunately, the American people feel otherwise. Nearly half the states – including large ones like California, New York, Illinois and Ohio – now require so-called paper trails.
Paper trails are important, but they are no substitute for voting machine manufacturers of unquestioned integrity. As Diebold enters the post-O’Dell era, it should work to make itself worthy of the important role it now plays in American democracy.
To those who rely upon The New York Times as their primary news source, most of the contents of that editorial must have come as a big surprise, for virtually none of the “news” referred was “news fit to print” in the news pages of The New York Times. Thankfully, the author(s) of that editorial does not rely on “the newspaper of record” as his/her sole source for news.
So just what are you in the dark about regarding electronic voting and related news if you’ve relied upon The Times for news lately?
A report issued by the GAO (Government Accountability Office) in September revealed serious problems with electronic voting systems, including:
- “… several evaluations demonstrated that… in some cases, other computer programs could access these cast vote files and alter them without the system recording this action in its audit logs.”
- “Two reports documented how it might be possible to alter the ballot definition files… so that the votes shown on the touch screen for one candidate would actually be recorded and counted for a different candidate.”
- “…a county in Pennsylvania made a ballot programming error on its system [that] contributed to many votes not being captured correctly by the voting system, evidenced by that county’s undervote percentage, which reached 80 percent in some precincts.”
- “…California officials documented how a failure in a key component of their system led to polling place disruptions and an unknown number of disenfranchised voters.”
- In a Florida County, “election monitors discovered that the system contained a flaw that allowed one system’s ballots to be added to the canvas totals multiple times without being detected.”
- “…a DRE system in Ohio caused the system to record approximately 3,900 votes too many for one presidential candidate in the 2004 general election.”
The GAO report has never been mentioned, not even once, in the pages of The New York Times.
On December 13th a class action suit was filed against Diebold in the Northern District of Ohio District Court alleging that Diebold “violated provisions of the United States securities laws causing artificial inflation of the Company’s stock price.” The suit alleges that “the Company lacked a credible state of internal controls and corporate compliance and remained unable to assure the quality and working order of its voting machine products. It further alleged that “the Company’s false and misleading statements served to conceal the dimensions and scope of internal problems at the Company, impacting product quality, strategic planning, forecasting and
guidance and culminating in false representations of astonishingly low and incredibly inaccurate restructuring charges for the 2005 fiscal year, which grossly understated the true costs and problems defendants faced to restructure the Company… [and]also alleges over $2.7 million of
insider trading proceeds obtained by individual defendants during the Class Period.
“Finally, investors learned the truth about the adverse impact of the Company’s alleged defective and deficient inventory-related controls and systems on Diebold’s financial performance. As a result of defendants’ shocking news and disclosures of September 21, 2005, the price of Diebold shares plunged 15.5% on unusually high volume, falling from $44.37 per share on September 20, 2005, to $37.47 per share on September 21, 2005, for a one-day drop of $6.90 per share on volume of 6.1 million shares — nearly eight times the average daily trading volume.”
The suit was brought by Scott+Scott, LLC, “which has significant experience in prosecuting investor class actions… Its success has brought shareholders hundreds of millions of dollars in cases against Mattel, Royal Dutch/Shell, Sprint, ImClone and others.”
You could have read about this in The Houston Chronicle or in The Akron Beacon Journal, or at Reuters, but you did not see it in the news pages of The New York Times.
The same day Diebold’s Walden W. O’Dell abruptly resigned his positions as chairman and chief executive officer as well as his place on the company’s board of directors. O’Dell had raised eyebrows in 2004 when, in his role as head of the Ohio Bush re-election committee he had promised to “help Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president.”
O’Dell’s resignation was not reported in The New York Times.
A second lawsuit was filed three days later on December 16th alleging “that Diebold violated federal securities laws by making false representations concerning its financial condition and prospects,” thus damaging those who bought stock through through the Diebold, Incorporated 401k Savings Plan. Not “news fit to print” in The New York Times.
Diebold has been very much in the news in Florida where Leon and Volusia Counties reversed their previous decisions to use Diebold paperless touchscreen voting machines after an outside tester was able to hack the machines in a “test election.” He found, among other things, that although the machine asked for a user name and password, it didn’t require it. He was able to get into the voting machine, manipulate its data and leave without a trace. He was also able to re-program a memory card resulting in the machine reading a result that should have been “2 yes; 6 no” as “7 yes; 1 no.” Various aspects of this story have been reported in the pages of The Miami Herald, The Tallahassee Democrat, Associated Press, The Palm Beach Post, The Boston Globe (owned by The New York Times), USA Today et al, but you did not read it in The New York Times.
The Times actually did run a somewhat innocuous Reuters story On December 21st that reported on, but seriously understated, Diebold’s problems in California where a decision has been made to seek a federal review of some of its machines “based on the discovery that federal officials had not tested software on cards that voters would use to operate the Diebold electronic voting machines.” “At issue is the source code that is located on the memory card” said [spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns], adding that if the software is found to be secure then [Secretary of State] McPherson could move forward on evaluating the Diebold systems.”
A much more thorough story ran in The San Francisco Chronicle:
…Secretary of State Bruce McPherson on Tuesday told electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold Election Systems that it must submit two of its machines for more rigorous federal testing before they can be certified in California.
The memory cards on the systems have “unresolved significant security concerns,” according to a letter sent to Diebold Tuesday from McPherson’s elections chief, Caren Daniels-Meade.
She asked the company to submit source coding, or program instructions, for the machines to federal investigators.
The problems were discovered during routine testing of the machines by state employees and independent consultants, said Secretary of State spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns. She said each system approved for use in California must meet 10 security requirements, and the Diebold machines did not meet one of those standards. [emphasis added]
“This is a unique case in which we discovered that the source code had never, ever been reviewed,” said Kerns. “There were potential security risks with it.”…
The Times, along with most of the mainstream media, has also completely ignored Mark Crispin Miller’s new Book: Fooled Again – How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal The Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them),” a solid exposé of widespread voter intimidation and fraud in Ohio and elsewhere in the 2004 presidential election.
Miller wrote me that: “aside from the pre-pub reviews (Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews), which were all largely positive… [and] exposure from Air America (Morning Sedition, Thom Hartmann, Laura Flanders), Pacifica (Democracy Now!) and C-SPAN (“Washington Journal”)… [but] as for “the liberal media,” nothing on the networks, cable, NPR or PBS. Nothing in the NY Times, WashPost, LA Times, Chi Tribune or USA Today, Time or Newsweek.”
More news is breaking concerning Diebold’s impending withdrawal from North Carolina rather than comply with state law that requires it to submit its proprietary source codes. None of the earlier developments in that case were covered by the Times.
Alas, lest you come to the conclusion that the Times never reports on the trials and tribulations of Diebold or the electronic voting controversy, take heart. On December 17th Dan Mitchell, in his “What’s Online: Betting on Bird Flu” column, weighed in on the “conspiracy theorists”:
…Few companies this side of Halliburton elicit as much black-helicopter theorizing as Diebold, which makes automated teller machines, security equipment and, most famously, electronic voting machines. The company may have largely itself to blame for the conspiracy theories surrounding it, what with the security flaws in its systems and the urgings last year of Walden W. O’Dell, then its chief executive, for potential campaign donors to “help Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president.”
For those of you who take this issue seriously and want to learn more, I recommend Mark Crispin Miller’s book, Fooled Again. Brad Friedman’s Bradblog has also done an outstanding job covering breaking news on this subject.
The one thing I can assure you is that you WON’T find it in The New York Times.