The money pit: Diebold vs. America
By Denis Wright
Online Journal Contributing Writer
May 11, 2006, 00:50
Georgia was the first state in the nation to go 100 percent with electronic voting, thanks to Secretary of State Cathy Cox. This was a mantle she carried, and continues to carry, proudly. In fact, she's using it to bolster her run for governor in 2006, and indeed she is currently the Democratic front-runner.
But when you look at the facts Cathy Cox should be ashamed. She has failed the voters of Georgia. She has ensured that our elections are subject to fraud; she has knowingly allowed software that violates certification standards to be used in elections. She has wasted huge amounts of taxpayer funds on an election system that is proven to be ineffective at best, a downright scam at worst. And she has hidden or lied about these problems, not only to the voters of Georgia, but also to the state legislature.
A Trail of Amendments
In May of 2002 the state signed a contract with Diebold to provide DRE (Direct Record Electronic) voting machines for the entire state at a cost of $54 million. In July of the same year the first amendment to that contract was signed. It stated that:
Immediately, we can see that elections in Georgia have been entirely turned over to a private corporation, one with strong ties to the Republican Party. But it really gets interesting when we turn to later amendments. Contract amendments that were signed by Cathy Cox without any legislative oversight.
Despite this written contract, during the November elections there was massive failure of the voting machines which was later documented -- and admitted to, quietly -- by Cathy Cox herself. This information came to light in internal documents obtained through FOIA requests. To the press, Ms. Cox consistently praised Diebold and admitted nothing. She even appeared in a promotional video and sales brochures for Diebold.
The second amendment in December 2002 granted Diebold authority to test the GEMS software with Wyle Labs, certification due in January 2003. Wyle Labs is another privately owned enterprise. Diebold pays Wyle to conduct the tests and the results are made available only to their customer -- Diebold. The cost to Georgia voters: $10,029,167.
Third Amendment: Certification has still not been accomplished. Paragraph three states that Federal Certification has not been received but a $1 million dollar payment is demanded, and paid.
August 25, 2003, Amendment Four: The state of Georgia requests three more GEMS servers at a cost of $51,459, which have still not been certified and an additional $23,700 for Kennesaw State testing labs.
Amendment Five: is for a "Security Adjustment" for software glitches, to be obtained by April 29, 2005. Installation of the “security patch” is not to be completed until after the November 2004 election.
Amendment Six: The state bought an additional 955 AccuVote machines from Diebold costing $2.6 million dollars. They also extended their warranty with Diebold through December 2005 at a cost of $1.5 million.
No one in the Georgia legislature knew about any of these amendments. They were not “in the loop.” There was no legislative oversight whatsoever.
A Trail of Money
Georgia has been told by Diebold that its three-year old machines cannot be upgraded to produce a voter verified paper ballot. They recommend that Georgia "toss and buy new" machines if paper ballots are required (Verbal testimony by Senator Stephens at SLOGO hearing). At a huge additional cost, of course. Additionally, the state's "pilot program" to have paper ballots in 2006 has dropped from three counties to merely three precincts, and even those will have only one machine with a printer. So this provides only three machines statewide that can produce a paper ballot in a state that had a 14 percent undervote in the 2004 Democratic Primary and Diebold is making the state rent these machines at astronomical costs.
Georgians have already spent over $100 million on a voting system that has been proven over and over to be faulty, yet they want taxpayers to spent more. The $54 million dollar figure cited by Cathy Cox's office is a lie. Given the costs of programming, ballot creation and new purchases, the cost to Georgia voters exceeds $116 million dollars. And there is NO legislative oversight. Any public forums are shut down as soon as the questions start.
Dr. Brit Williams is the chief consultant from Kennesaw State University who performed the certification test on the Diebold touchscreen machines used for the state of Georgia. At the March 9, 2005, meeting of The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Technical Guidelines Development Committee, Williams said, "Right now the primary use of wireless technology in a voting system is to program voting stations. Because if I have got 3,000 voting stations and I have to load those with pc cards, then I have got to sit down and manufacture 3,000 pc cards, and keep them separated by precinct. Whereas if I could sit in my warehouse and load those ballot images wirelessly, there is a tremendous advantage."
Our vote is sacred -- the centrality of honest, transparent vote tallying to the necessary level of trust that underlies the basic contract between the people and their government. Who does Cathy Cox work for? The citizens of Georgia or the shareholders of Diebold? I personally think the answer is quite obvious.