Democracy, not Dieboldocracy

Jim March is a Sacramento resident who is a member of the board of directors of Black Box Voting, a national voting-reform organization

Voters who’ve been paying attention to the mechanics of elections have followed the stories about Diebold voting machines. We’ve noted the company’s leaked internal memos, in which grossly substandard security was referred to in mocking terms and treated as a “feature, not a bug.”

We’ve seen reports of studies showing how laughably “hackable” Diebold’s systems are, and the speculation that it’s deliberate. We’ve seen the memos in which employees are ordered to mislead and defraud the federally approved test labs supposed to ensure the fairness and accuracy of voting systems.

We’ve read about the recent staff memo to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors describing the “atmosphere” surrounding electronic voting as “poisoned.” We watched with hope as the California secretary of state’s office tossed out Diebold’s newest voting machine in April 2004, after finding that Diebold executives and lawyers had lied to the agency in an open public meeting.

We cheered the security evaluation ordered by Maryland in late 2003 that called for a “total code rewrite.” But there’s been no public evidence of such a rewrite. Instead, Diebold has spent its money on lawyers, public-relations firms and lobbyists.

On a purely fiscal basis, former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley’s office wouldn’t go so far as to throw Diebold out of the state. Solano County realized that the credibility problems were too much and had to pay more than $400,000 to get out of a Diebold contract.

The current secretary of state’s office must finally throw Diebold out of the entire state. Nothing short of this will restore public confidence in our democracy, which is based on the trust that our votes will be accurately counted.

A May 19 hearing was scheduled on Diebold’s latest “products.” Diebold canceled; it didn’t yet have its federal certification (which must be completed before state certification). A new hearing, scheduled for June 16 at 10 a.m. at the secretary of state’s headquarters at 1500 11th Street, is expected to be jampacked with angry voters and activists. Add your voice.

We’ll be on the first floor; Secretary of State Bruce McPherson will be on the sixth. This nightmare won’t end until we’re literally loud enough to reach him.