News Release

Voting Machine Manufacturers Wine and Dine Election Officials


Chellie Pingree is the president of Common Cause. She said today: “Last week, a four-day conference for election officials was held, co-sponsored by voting machine vendors who want their business. The conference was organized by the Election Center, a non-profit organization that describes itself as an association of election and voter registration officials, which is a central source of information for United States election officials and related government agencies. In March, it was revealed that the Election Center, which trains election officials and advises Congress and government agencies on election process issues, has taken large donations from manufacturers of electronic voting machines — even as it has issued strong statements supporting the security of the machines.”

She added: “The plans for the event included women in evening dresses and men in tuxedos carrying a six foot-long check made out to ‘election officials’ for ‘parties, cruises, wining and dining’ and signed by voting machine manufacturers Diebold Elections System, Sequoia Voting Systems and Elections Systems and Software. R. Doug Lewis, the center’s executive director, confirmed that the organization had received donations from Sequoia, Elections Systems & Software, and Diebold. Diebold sponsored the welcome reception, while Sequoia took the conferees out on a Potomac River dinner cruise and ES&S sponsored the graduation luncheon and awards ceremony. As election day approaches amid serious concerns that our nation’s voting system has not been fixed since the debacle in 2000, the spectacle of elections officials sailing down the Potomac on a dinner cruise sponsored by voting machine vendors sends the wrong message to voters.”

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Freddie Oakley is the County Clerk Recorder in Yolo County, California. She said today: “There is a long history of close and congenial relationships between the people who conduct elections and the businesses that supply them with materials and technology. In part, this is inevitable because it’s a small community. However, as a matter of conduct with regard to the public trust, election officials need to be increasingly aware that the scrutiny of the public and the press shines a bright light and that they should probably retreat from the long-time practices of accepting cocktails and dinners from the people they do business with.”

She added: “I have been distressed for a long time that the Election Center, which holds itself out as the impartial association for election officials, engages in and appears to encourage this kind of industry subsidy of get-togethers of election officials. As elected public officials, we should have an arms-length relationship with these businesses. Elections officials should not partake of sponsored entertainment. Regardless of whether or not any impropriety actually takes place, avoiding the appearance of improprieties should be paramount to the members of the election community.”

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Palast is author of the New York Times best-selling book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, an expanded election edition of which has just been released. Formerly a professor of statistics, he is analyzing vote machine manipulations for BBC television and a forthcoming Harper’s article titled “Money Poisoning of the Decision to Choose Computers Over Cheaper, More Reliable Methods of Counting Ballots.” He said today: “Politicians who have fallen in love with computer voting machines find their affection well-rewarded. The head of the National Association of Secretaries of State is a big booster of computers by ES&S and Sequoia … and they boost her … as two of her top ten campaign contributors. For ES&S, it’s ‘all in the family’: they hired the husband of the Supervisor of Elections in Pinellas, Florida, and the husband of the state legislator representing Broward County, the place where non-operating ES&S machines failed in African-American precincts. The company obtained multi-million dollar contracts against the recommendation of the state’s panel of experts. Computers in Florida this year experienced a 600 percent higher ‘spoilage’ (error) rate than paper ballots read by scanners … but the computer manufacturers are winning the cash-for-favors race hands down.”
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