Do electronic voting machine manufacturers have ties to a particular political party or candidates from a particular political party?
The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran a story by Julie Carr Smyth on Aug. 28, 2003 titled "Voting Machine Controversy," in which Smyth was the first to report on the fund-raising efforts of former Diebold CEO Walden O'Dell, who has since stepped down:
head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio told
Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is 'committed to
helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.'
Aug. 14  letter from Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold,
Inc - who has become active in the re-election effort of President Bush
- prompted Democrats this week to question the propriety of allowing
O'Dell's company to calculate votes in the 2004 presidential election.
attended a strategy pow-wow with wealthy Bush benefactors - known as
Rangers and Pioneers - at the president's Crawford, Texas ranch earlier
this month. The next week, he penned invitations to a $1000-a-plate
fund-raiser to benefit the Ohio Republican Party's federal campaign
fund - partially benefiting Bush - at his mansion in the Columbus
suburb of Upper Arlington. The letter went out the day before Ohio
Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, also a Republican, was set to qualify
Diebold as one of the three firms eligible to sell upgraded electronic
voting machines to Ohio counties in time for the 2004 election."
CorpWatch, a corporate watchdog website, reported in a Sep. 8, 2004 article titled "November Surprise: Electronic Voting Machines Add Uncertainty to Close Election Races":
Diebold CEO Walden] O'Dell's comments brought out of the shadows the
company's history of staunchly supporting the Republican Party, and
shed some light on the conflicts of interest within the DRE
manufacturing industry as a whole.
and its executives have contributed some $409,170 to Republican
candidates and the Republican National Committee since 2001, while
contributing only $2,500 to Democrats in the same time frame."
Jim Hightower, national radio commentator and author, wrote an article titled "Electronic Voting - The Issue in a Nutshell" for the website Vote America, Vote (accessed Aug. 11, 2006) which explained:
Systems and Software [ES&S]: The largest seller of computerized
voting systems in the country, ES&S counts Nebraska Senator Chuck
Hagel (R) as its former top exec. ES&S is a subsidiary of the
McCarthy Group, Inc., a merchant-banking company based in Omaha. It's
headed by Michael McCarthy, who (coincidentally) serves as Hagel's
campaign treasurer. The senator continues to hold some $5 million worth
of stock in the McCarthy Group - yes, the company that counts Hagel's
votes in each of his elections!"
Diebold Election Systems, an electronic voting machine manufacturer, stated in their Business Ethics Policy, amended as of Feb. 2006 and available on their website:
"In recognition of
the necessity for strict neutrality concerning political candidates and
issues, the chief executive officer, president, and chief financial
officer of Diebold, Incorporated and those Diebold, Incorporated
executives identified by the Company as responsible for the oversight
of its election systems companies, as well as all employees of those
companies, may not make contributions to, directly and indirectly, any
political candidate, party, election issue or cause, or participate in
any political activities, except for voting. This prohibition regarding
political activities and contributions applies to U.S. and Canadian
election systems businesses, and only the extent permitted under
no contributions from Company funds, or use of Company facilities or
equipment, are to be made to or permitted for use by, directly or
indirectly, any political candidates, organizations or causes unless
permissible under applicable law and approved by the Company's
Contributions Committee and the Company's Legal Department."
electionline.org released a report in Aug. 2004 titled "The Business of Elections," which stated:
"Diebold Inc. engages in multiple business activities with the majority of revenue stemming from the sale and maintenance of automatic teller machines worldwide. Consequently, any analysis of Diebold's political activity that associates every contribution with the company's voting machine business runs the risk of misleading the reader...
Diebold aside, it appears that political contributions by the other voting machine manufacturers are relatively small and fairly evenly distributed between the two major parties.
Nebraska based ES&S and its executives made nearly equal donations to Republicans and Democrats. Republicans received $21,900 and Democrats $24,550. Contributions from California-based Sequoia Voting Systems totaled $3,500 to Republicans and $18,500 to Democrats. Texas-based Hart InterCivic made the smallest contributions - totaling just over $6,000 with $3,750 to Republicans and $2,500 to Democrats."
Harris Miller, former President of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), wrote an Apr. 15, 2005 letter on behalf of the Election Technology Council, a committee of the ITAA representing electronic voting machine manufacturers to U.S Representative John Conyers, Jr.:
of our members has policies governing political and partisan activity.
The policies either prohibit, or set strict standards for, engagement
in political activity. Furthermore, the commonly-held belief that
voting systems manufacturers have been particularly active in partisan
activity is simply not based in fact."