Election Section

Commentary: How Many Diebolds to Screw Up an Election? By PETER TEICHNER

Tuesday August 16, 2005

Call me stolen-elections-hypersensitive (see 2000, then 2004) but something happened last week that perked up my vote fraud antenna and makes me wonder why no one else I know of has picked up on it. 

Two articles early last week, one by the Associated Press and one online by Guy Ashley of the Contra Costa Times, reported similar failure rates for Diebold AccuVote TSX voting machines equipped with printers during certification tests held in Stockton in late July. 

On Saturday July 30, an Associated Press article stated that they had a failure rate of 10 percent and “Secretary of State Bruce McPherson said that was too high a risk and he notified company officials in a letter sent Wednesday.” 

A few days later an online Contra Costa Times article by Guy Ashley reported that “McPherson said that Diebold machines showed a failure 

rate of about 10 percent in the tests, due mostly to unexpected screen freezes and paper jams.” 

But then on Wednesday Aug. 3, the Contra Costa Times reported that “Officials in McPherson’s office said 19 of 96 machines tested encountered problems including paper jams and screen freezes… ..” By my reckoning, 19 out of 96 constitutes about a 20 percent failure rate—double the 10 percent originally reported by Secretary of State McPherson and his office. 

When I inquired about this of Times reporter Guy Ashley, he confirmed the numbers for me. He explained in an e-mail to me that he was told (presumably by an Alameda County official) that the 10 percent figure cited by AP was low and he should check with secretary of state’s office. He did and was told that 19 of 96 computers used in the testing did have problems. 

I find it hard to believe that the Secretary of State McPherson, who happens to be a Republican, or his office would inadvertently fail to report accurately on this critically important voting rights issue which is all about accuracy of the vote count. 

If the reported figures of 19 out of 96 voting machines having failed are accurate it would appear that Secretary of State Bruce McPherson significantly misrepresented the failure rate. Then one might ask why? Does the secretary of state’s office really have such poor math skills? Or was it a deliberate attempt to gloss over and minimize Diebold’s ineptitude? 

You might say 10 percent, 20 percent what’s the difference? Well, as unacceptable as the reported 10 percent failure rate is, it is somewhat innocuous. To residents of California who are paying something approaching 10 percent sales tax it’s annoying but palatable. On the other hand, if the secretary of state’s office reported that one-fifth, or 20 percent of Diebold’s machines failed the certification tests, that could be expected to generate a heck of a lot more interest and would probably be received by the voting public the way an announced 20 percent sales tax would be.  

I cannot imagine that the secretary of state did not anticipate what reporting a 20 percent failure rate of Diebold machines would evoke from the voting public-and maybe even the lethargic media. I think given Diebold’s extensive record of voting machine irregularities and their CEO’s, now infamous, promise to “deliver the (presidential) vote” in Ohio to Republicans, it might have tipped the scales and generated an outcry that would have precluded giving Diebold another shot at demonstrating their voting machine’s un-reliability for the fast approaching upcoming elections. 

According to the July 30 AP article, Alameda County Election Commissioner Elaine Ginnold “said Diebold officials were “confident” the troubles encountered in last week’s test could be easily fixed. She is hopeful certification will be granted sometime in September.” Hmmm, well, is she now? 

Alameda County has suffered numerous under-reported problems in recent elections due to Diebold machines and now they are in negotiation for more Diebold machines. I don’t know how Ginnold can be so confident that Diebold’s 20 percent, not 10 percent, failure rate can be remedied given any amount of time. And time is running out to make changes for November elections. It should have run out a long time ago for Diebold.  

I think Alameda County should cut the proverbial umbilical cord with dysfunctional Diebold and immediately look to another more reliable, non-partisan manufacturer or simply go to hand counting ballots which they successfully do by the millions in Canada. 

I also think there may be an issue as to the independence and loyalty of Republican Secretary of State McPherson, who appears to be engaging in 

Diebold-like practices. 


For extensive background info on Diebold Corporation go to www.blackboxvoting.org. To get involved in making sure our votes count contact Voting Rights Task Force, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, www.election-reform.us. 


Peter Teichner is a Berkeley resident.