Governor of Ohio, Bob Taft, and other prominent state officials, commute to
their downtown Columbus offices on Broad Street. This is the so-called
“Golden Finger,” the safe route through the majority black inner-city near
east side. The Broad Street BP station, just east of downtown, is the place
where affluent suburbanites from Bexley can stop, gas up, get their coffee
and New York Times. Those in need of cash visit BP’s Diebold manufactured
CashSource+ ATM machine which provides a paper receipt of the transaction to
all customers upon request.
Many of Taft’s and President George W. Bush’s major donors, like Diebold’s
current CEO Walden “Wally” O’Dell, reside in Columbus’ northwest suburb
Upper Arlington. O’Dell is on record stating that he is “committed to
helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President” this year. On
September 26, 2003, he hosted an Ohio Republican Party fundraiser for Bush’s
re-election at his Cotswold Manor mansion. Tickets to the fundraiser cost
$1000 per couple, but O’Dell’s fundraising letter urged those attending to
“Donate or raise $10,000 for the Ohio Republican Party.”
According to the Columbus Dispatch: “Last year, O’Dell and his wife
Patricia, campaigned for passage of two liquor options that made their
portion of Tremont Road wet.
On November 5, Upper Arlington residents narrowly passed measures that
allowed fundraising parties to offer more than beer, even though his
10,800-square-foot home is a residence, a permit is required because alcohol
is included in the price of fundraising tickets. O’Dell is also allowed to
serve “beer, wine and mixed drinks” at Sunday fundraisers.
O’Dell’s fund-raising letter followed on the heels of a visit to President
Bush’s Crawford Texas ranch by “Pioneers and Rangers,” the designation for
people who had raised $100,000 or more for Bush’s re-election.
If Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has his way,
Diebold will receive a contract to supply touch screen electronic voting
machines for much of the state. None of these Diebold machines will provide
a paper receipt of the vote.
Diebold, located in North Canton, Ohio, does its primary business in ATM and
ticket-vending machines. Critics of Diebold point out that virtually every
other machine the company makes provides a paper trail to verify the
machine’s calculations. Oddly, only the voting machines lack this essential
State Senator Teresa Fedor of Toledo introduced Senate Bill 167 late last
year mandating that every voting machine in Ohio generate a “voter verified
paper audit trail.” Secretary of State Blackwell has denounced any attempt
to require a paper trail as an effort to “derail” election reform.
Blackwell’s political career is an interesting one: he emerged as a black
activist in Cincinnati supporting municipal charter reform, became an
elected Democrat, then an Independent, and now is a prominent Republican
with his eyes on the Governor’s mansion.
A joint study by the California and Massachusetts Institutes of Technology
following the 2000 election determined that between 1.5 and 2 million votes
were not counted due to confusing paper ballots or faulty equipment. The
federal government’s solution to the problem was to pass the Help America
Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002.
One of the law’s stated goals was “Replacement of punch card and lever
voting machines.” The new voting machines would be high-tech touch screen
computers, but if there’s no paper trail, how do you know if there’s been a
computer glitch? How can the results be trusted? And how do you recount to
see if the actual votes match the computer’s tally?
Bev Harris, author of Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st
Century, argues that without a paper trail, these machines are open to
massive voter fraud. Diebold has already placed some 50,000 machines in 37
states and their track record is causing Harris, Johns Hopkins University
professors and others great concern.
Johns Hopkins researchers at the Information Security Institute issued a
report declaring that Diebold’s electronic voting software contained
“stunning flaws.” The researchers concluded that vote totals could be
altered at the voting machines and by remote access. Diebold vigorously
refuted the Johns Hopkins report, claiming the researchers came to “a
multitude of false conclusions.”
Perhaps to settle the issue, someone illegally hacked into the Diebold
Election Systems website in March 2003 and stole internal documents from the
company and posted them online. Diebold went to court to stop, according to
court records, the “wholesale reproduction” of some 13,000 pages of company
The Associated Press reported in November 2003 that: “Computer programmers,
ISPs and students at [at] least 20 universities, including the University of
California, Berkeley, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology received
cease and desist letters” from Diebold. A group of Swarthmore College
students launched an “electronic civil disobedience” campaign to keep the
hacked documents permanently posted on the Internet.
Harris writes that the hacked documents expose how the mainstream media
reversed their call projecting Al Gore as winner of Florida after someone
“subtracted 16,022 votes from Al Gore, and in still some undefined way,
added 4000 erroneous votes to George W. Bush.” Hours later, the votes were
returned. One memo from Lana Hires of Global Election Systems, now Diebold,
reads: “I need some answers! Our department is being audited by the County.
I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct
216 gave Al Gore a minus 16,022 [votes] when it was uploaded.” Another
hacked internal memo, written by Talbot Iredale, Senior VP of Research and
Development for Diebold Election Systems, documents “unauthorized”
replacement votes in Volusia County.
Harris also uncovered a revealing 87-page CBS news report and noted,
“According to CBS documents, the erroneous 20,000 votes in Volusia was
directly responsible to calling the election for Bush.” The first person to
call the election for Bush was Fox election analyst John Ellis, who had the
advantage of conferring with his prominent cousins George W. Bush and
Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
Increasingly, investigative writers seeking an explanation have looked to
Diebold’s history for clues. The electronic voting industry is dominated by
only a few corporations – Diebold, Election Systems & Software (ES&S) and
Sequoia. Diebold and ES&S combined count an estimated 80% of U.S. black box
In the early 1980s, brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich founded ES&S’s
originator, Data Mark. The brothers Urosevich obtained financing from the
far-Right Ahmanson family in 1984, which purchased a 68% ownership stake,
according to the Omaha World Herald. After brothers William and Robert
Ahmanson infused Data Mark with new capital, the name was changed to
American Information Systems (AIS). California newspapers have long
documented the Ahmanson family’s ties to right-wing evangelical Christian
and Republican circles.
In 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported, “. . . primarily funded by
evangelical Christians – particularly the wealthy Ahmanson family of Irvine
– the [Discovery] institute’s $1-million annual program has produced 25
books, a stream of conferences and more than 100 fellowships for doctoral
and postdoctoral research.” The chief philanthropists of the Discovery
Institute, that pushes creationist science and education in California, are
Howard and Roberta Ahmanson.
According to Group Watch, in the 1980s Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr. was a member
of the highly secretive far-Right Council for National Policy, an
organization that included Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, Major General
John K. Singlaub and other Iran-Contra scandal notables, as well as former
Klan members like Richard Shoff. Ahmanson, heir to a savings and loan
fortune, is little reported on in the mainstream U.S. press. But, English
papers like The Independent are a bit more forthcoming on Ahmanson’s
“On the right, figures such as Richard Mellon Scaife and Howard Ahmanson
have given hundreds of millions of dollars over several decades to political
projects both high (setting up the Heritage Foundation think-tank, the
driving engine of the Reagan presidency) and low (bankrolling investigations
into President Clinton’s sexual indiscretions and the suicide of the White
House insider Vincent Foster),” wrote The Independent last November.
The Sunday Mail described an individual as, “. . . a fundamentalist
Christian more in the mould of U.S. multi-millionaire Howard Ahmanson, Jr.,
who uses his fortune to promote so-called traditional family values . . . by
waving fortunes under their noses, Ahmanson has the ability to cajole
candidates into backing his right-wing Christian agenda.
Ahmanson is also a chief contributor to the Chalcedon Institute that
supports the Christian reconstruction movement. The movement’s philosophy
advocates, among other things, “mandating the death penalty for homosexuals
The Ahmanson family sold their shares in American Information Systems to the
McCarthy Group and the World Herald Company, Inc. Republican Senator Chuck
Hagel disclosed in public documents that he was the Chairman of American
Information Systems and claimed between a $1 to 5 million investment in the
McCarthy Group. In 1997, American Information Systems purchased Business
Records Corp. (BRC), formerly Texas-based election company Cronus
Industries, to become ES&S. One of the BRC owners was Carolyn Hunt of the
right-wing Hunt oil family, which supplied much of the original money for
the Council on National Policy.
In 1996, Hagel became the first elected Republican Nebraska senator in 24
years when he did surprisingly well in an election where the votes were
verified by the company he served as chairman and maintained a financial
investment. In both the 1996 and 2002 elections, Hagel’s ES&S counted an
estimated 80% of his winning votes. Due to the contracting out of services,
confidentiality agreements between the State of Nebraska and the company
kept this matter out of the public eye. Hagel’s first election victory was
described as a “stunning upset” by one Nebraska newspaper.
Hagel’s official biography states, “Prior to his election to the U.S.
Senate, Hagel worked in the private sector as the President of McCarthy and
Company, an investment banking firm based in Omaha, Nebraska and served as
Chairman of the Board of American Information Systems.” During the first
Bush presidency, Hagel served as Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer
of the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations (G-7 Summit).
Bob Urosevich was the Programmer and CEO at AIS, before being replaced by
Hagel. Bob now heads Diebold Election Systems and his brother Todd is a top
executive at ES&S. Bob created Diebold’s original electronic voting machine
software. Thus, the brothers Urosevich, originally funded by the far Right,
figure in the counting of approximately 80% of electronic voting in the
Like Ohio, the State of Maryland was disturbed by the potential for massive
electronic voter fraud. The voters of that state were reassured when the
state hired SAIC to monitor Diebold’s system. SAIC’s former CEO is Admiral
Bill Owens. Owens served as a military aide to both Vice President Dick
Cheney and former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, who now works with
George H.W. Bush at the controversial Carlyle Group. Robert Gates, former
CIA Director and close friend of the Bush family, also served on the SAIC
Diebold’s track record
Wherever Diebold and ES&S go, irregularities and historic Republican upsets
follow. Alastair Thompson, writing for scoop.co of New Zealand, explored
whether or not the 2002 U.S. mid-term elections were “fixed by electronic
voting machines supplied by Republican-affiliated companies.” The scoop
investigation concluded that: “The state where the biggest upset occurred,
Georgia, is also the state that ran its election with the most electronic
voting machines.” Those machines were supplied by Diebold.
Wired News reported that “. . . a former worker in Diebold’s Georgia
warehouse says the company installed patches on its machine before the
state’s 2002 gubernatorial election that were never certified by independent
testing authorities or cleared with Georgia election officials.” Questions
were raised in Texas when three Republican candidates in Comal County each
received exactly the same number of votes – 18,181.
Following the 2003 California election, an audit of the company revealed
that Diebold Election Systems voting machines installed uncertified software
in all 17 counties using its equipment.
Former CIA Station Chief John Stockwell writes that one of the favorite
tactics of the CIA during the Reagan-Bush administration in the 1980s was to
control countries by manipulating the election process. “CIA apologists leap
up and say, ‘Well, most of these things are not so bloody.’ And that’s true.
You’re giving politicians some money so he’ll throw his party in this
direction or that one, or make false speeches on your behalf, or something
like that. It may be non-violent, but it’s still illegal intervention in
other country’s affairs, raising the question of whether or not we’re going
to have a world in which laws, rules of behavior are respected,” Stockwell
wrote. Documents illustrate that the Reagan and Bush administration
supported computer manipulation in both Noriega’s rise to power in Panama
and in Marcos’ attempt to retain power in the Philippines. Many of the
Reagan administration’s staunchest supporters were members of the Council on
The perfect solution
Ohio Senator Fedor continues to fight valiantly for Senate Bill 167 and the
Holy Grail of the “voter verified paper audit trail.” Proponents of a paper
trail were emboldened when Athan Gibbs, President and CEO of TruVote
International, demonstrated a voting machine at a vendor’s fair in Columbus
that provides two separate voting receipts.
The first paper receipt displays the voter’s touch screen selection under
plexiglass that falls into a lockbox after the voter approves. Also, the
TruVote system provides the voter with a receipt that includes a unique
voter ID and pin number which can be used to call in to a voter audit
internet connection to make sure the vote cast was actually counted.
Brooks Thomas, Coordinator of Elections in Tennessee, stated, “I’ve not seen
anything that compares to the Gibbs’ TruVote validation system. . . .” The
Assistant Secretary of State of Georgia, Terrel L. Slayton, Jr., claimed
Gibbs had come up with the “perfect solution.”
Still, there remains opposition from Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell. His
spokesperson Carlo LoParo recently pointed out that federal mandates under
HAVA do not require a paper trail: “. . . if Congress changes the federal
law to require it [a paper trail], we’ll certainly make that a requirement
of our efforts.” LoParo went on to accuse advocates of a paper trail of
attempting to “derail” voting reform.
U.S. Representative Rush Holt introduced HR 2239, The Voter Confidence and
Increased Accessibility Act of 2003, that would require electronic voting
machines to produce a paper trail so that voters may verify that their
screen touches match their actual vote. Election officials would also have a
paper trail for recounts.
As Blackwell pressures the Ohio legislature to adopt electronic voting
machines without a paper trail, Athan Gibbs wonders, “Why would you buy a
voting machine from a company like Diebold which provides a paper trail for
every single machine it makes except its voting machines? And then, when you
ask it to verify its numbers, it hides behind ‘trade secrets.’”
Maybe the Diebold decision makes sense, if you believe, to paraphrase Henry
Kissinger, that democracy is too important to leave up to the votes of the
is a Political Science Professor in the Social and Behavioral Sciences
department at Columbus State Community College, and author of The Idea of
Democratic Socialism in America and the Decline of the Socialist Party
(Garland Publishers 1993). He is the editor of The Free Press, where this
article first appeared (www.freepress.org).
Other Articles by Bob
Must be Captured and Tried Alongside Saddam Hussein
The Year Democracy Ended
Why Four Died in Ohio: Governor Rhodes and His
Relationship With the FBI
The Rise of Authoritarianism And the Racist
Silence Remains Betrayal