There has long been good reason to worry about Diebold voting machines. Many are “black box” electronic machines that do not produce paper records, so voters have to accept the results they report on faith.

Diebold, however, has not inspired much faith. It has been accused of illegally using uncertified software on its voting machines, exposing elections to possible tampering, and of making glitchy machines that misrecord votes.

Then there’s the little matter of the company’s CEO signing a letter before the 2004 election — in which his machines would be counting many of the votes — saying that he was committed to helping deliver Ohio to President Bush.

(The Onion has a hilarious video up on Youtube, a mock news report about Diebold accidently releasing the results of the 2008 presidential election before the voting occurs. View it here.)

Now, there’s a new reason to worry that Diebold plays such a large role in presidential elections. United Technologies has made an unsolicited $3 billion bid to take over Diebold.

United Technologies is one of the nation’s leading defense contractors, which means it has an enormous corporate interest in who gets elected President.

When we heard the news, we couldn’t help thinking of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous warning, in his farewell address, about the dangerously increasing influence of the “military-industrial complex.” (Watch a video of a key part of the speech here.)

Eisenhower told the American people that

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Given his blunt warning, we suspect that Eisenhower would be appalled to learn that a defense contractor could be counting the votes in the next presidential election.

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California Election Official Touts Machines to Sell Paper Short

March 4th, 2008 12:19 pm At least for California, we have a paper trail for all ballots cast. Having said that, once we certify the results of the Feb. 5 Primary (March 4th is the deadline), a neutral party ought to do a clear headed, data driven analysis of what an election looks like when we return to paper as our primary voting method. I suggest that most of the problems associated with the California Presidential Primary are paper based. It also appears that the Electronic Machines (required for accessibility purposes) performed extremely well. — Posted by steve weir

And Tom Courbat Corrects the Misinformation

March 5th, 2008 I would like to correct a factual misstatement by Steve Weir who is the President of the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials (CACEO). He stated, “… the Electronic Machines (required for accessibility purposes)…” The federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), written by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, DOESN’T require electronic voting machines for anyone (it allows for mechanical ballot marking devices for disabled), but the four major voting machine companies who paid Jack to pass the $4 billion law, have sold machines on the premise that HAVA DOES require them. Let me repeat, e-voting is NOT required by HAVA or any other law or regulation. It is a $4 billion scam foisted upon us after the “hanging chads” in FL in 2000. Now every study conducted concludes the same thing - the machines security is so weak that a high school student could penetrate it in a heartbeat and elections can be rigged without leaving a trace. And the machines are left out for up to 10 days before an election in unguarded locations (called “sleepovers”) where anyone with the desire could steal them or compromise them with a vote-rigging virus. Mr. Weir makes two other unsubstantiated statements in his brief entry. 1. “I suggest that most of the problems … with the …primary are paper based.” He offers no substantiation for such a statement. 2. “It also appears that the electronic machines…performed extremely well.” Again, a statement with no substantiation. I have been monitoring elections on the ground at the grass-roots level for over three years now. I have seen numerous problems with e-voting machines from compromises in the chain of custody to loss of voting cartridges to machines flipping votes from one candidate to another. And without paper ballots (not paper trails that can be printed with whatever the virus commands it to print) that are hand-counted in the precincts, we can never know for sure that what our friendly Registrar of Voters tells us is the correct count, actually is. — Posted by Tom Courbat at SAVE R VOTE