Do Electronic Voting Machine Manufacturers Have Ties to 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:
“The 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.’
The 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.
O’Dell 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.”Aug. 23, 2003 - Cleveland Plain Dealer
CorpWatch, a corporate watchdog website, reported in a Sep. 8, 2004 article titled “November Surprise: Electronic Voting Machines Add Uncertainty to Close Election Races”:
“[Former 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.
Diebold 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.”Sep. 8, 2004 - CorpWatch
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:
“Election 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!”Aug. 11, 2006 - Jim Hightower
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 applicable law.
Also, 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.”Feb. 2006 - Diebold Election Systems, Inc.
The Electionline website 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.”Aug. 2004 - electionline.org
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.:
“Each 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.”Apr. 15, 2005 - Harris Miller