Diebold Met with 'Electronic Civil Disobedience'

jbone at place.org jbone at place.org
Thu Oct 23 09:27:55 PDT 2003

 From kuro5in.  NB:  in the interest of avoiding potential legal 
troubles for xent.com, I decided not to include the text of the memos 
(which wasn't in the k5 article anyway) but --- go to the site and 
chase the links.



Diebold Met with 'Electronic Civil Disobedience' (Technology)

By quixotic1
Thu Oct 23rd, 2003 at 07:55:23 AM EST

Saying they are defending the right to a fair election, two student 
groups, Why War? and the Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons, 
are rejecting Diebold Elections Systems' cease and desist orders and 
are initiating a campaign of electronic civil disobedience that will 
ensure permanent public access to the controversial leaked memos.

As a member of Why War?, I wanted to outline our campaign here -- and 
invite others to join us.

Earlier this week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced that it 
will defend the right of Online Privacy Group, the Internet service 
provider for San Francisco Indymedia, to host links to the 
controversial memos. Going one step further, Why War? and SCDC members 
are the first to publicly refuse to comply with Diebold's cease and 
desist order by continually providing access to the documents.

The documents, from Diebold Elections Systems, a company in charge of 
the electronic voting machines in 37 states, prove that the company 
knowingly produced an electronic election system that contained 
absolutely no security against voter fraud. In fact, the lead engineer 
from Diebold wrote over two years ago that anyone could change votes 
without leaving a trail: "Right now you can open GEMS' .mdb file with 
MS-Access, and alter its contents. That includes the audit log." GEMS 
stands for Global Election Management System and is the central 
computer in each county on which the votes are stored after the 

Diebold has filed cease and desist orders against anyone who has 
attempted to share these memos with the public. They have taken down 
hosts all over the world, including the personal website of the very 
journalist who broke this story, Bev Harris. Why War? and SCDC refuse 
to comply. We cannot allow the suppression of evidence that proves a 
Diebold machine registered 16,022 negative votes for Al Gore in 
Precinct 216 in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. We cannot 
comply with a company whose CEO has given $9,965 to Bush and the 
Republican National State Elections Committee since 2001, while 
declaring that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral 
votes to the President next year."

Through active electronic civil disobedience we can bring to light the 
usually silent act of suppression. The result will be a permanent and 
public mirror of the memos -- documents whose public existence 
strengthens democracy.

One journalist in Seattle has written that Dean Logan, director of 
records, elections and licensing services in Seattle, "decided election 
security was a 'legitimate issue' after internal company e-mail was 
posted on the Internet and discussed in a Salon.com article Monday." 
The goal is to force these documents back into the sunlight.

Logan should be alarmed -- the depth of Diebold's deceit extends far 
beyond what most Americans are comfortable believing. In fact, there 
are already allegations that Diebold was responsible for the highly 
questionable results from the 2002 election in Georgia. Andrew Gumbel 
writes in the Independent:

Something very odd happened in the mid-term elections in Georgia last 
November. On the eve of the vote, opinion polls showed Roy Barnes, the 
incumbent Democratic governor, leading by between nine and 11 points. 
In a somewhat closer, keenly watched Senate race, polls indicated that 
Max Cleland, the popular Democrat up for re-election, was ahead by two 
to five points against his Republican challenger, Saxby Chambliss.

Those figures were more or less what political experts would have 
expected in state with a long tradition of electing Democrats to 
statewide office. But then the results came in, and all of Georgia 
appeared to have been turned upside down. Barnes lost the governorship 
to the Republican, Sonny Perdue, 46 per cent to 51 per cent, a swing of 
as much as 16 percentage points from the last opinion polls. Cleland 
lost to Chambliss 46 per cent to 53, a last-minute swing of 9 to 12 

Why War? believes that the mere possibility that the core principle of 
democracy -- a fair election -- is under attack demands action. Though 
we are concerned with Diebold's unmitigated support of the Republican 
party, this issue should concern Americans across the political 
spectrum. Furthermore, when such action is met with legal threats, we 
believe the conscientious path is to engage in open and democratic 
electronic civil disobedience.

Diebold's use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in order 
to suppress information critical to the public welfare is abhorrent. As 
Bev Harris so succinctly puts it:
I don't believe you can protect intent to break the law by slapping a 
copyright on it. And the memos that we posted show that the law has 
been broken. If you can protect intent to break the law, all anybody 
would need to do is take their bank robbery plans and put a copyright 
on it, and then say nobody can look at them because they're copyrighted.

Diebold broke federal law by applying patches to Georgia election 
machines without having them certified (because it would have taken too 
long and made them look bad). They broke civil law by misrepresenting 
their software to state and local governments contracting them to count 
votes. By continuing to avoid fixing problems they knew were in 
existence -- problems that jeopardized the entire process of voting -- 
they have lost any ethical claim to these documents.

More importantly, however, the process of democratic voting should be 
one of transparency (see, for instance, the Slashdot discussion), not 
of back-room deals and uncertain security using a for-profit company. 
American voters are, quite literally, being robbed of their right to a 
free and fair election.

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