COMMENTARY:

Counting Votes

by Margie Burns

Why did historically Democratic precincts in Cleveland record up to 22 times more votes for the Constitution Party than all third-party candidates combined received in 2000?
According to the company web site, “Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) is the world's largest and most experienced provider of total election management solutions with over 74,000 systems installed worldwide. Over the past decade, ES&S has handled more than 30,000 of the world's most important events--elections. In the U.S. 2000 General Election, ES&S systems counted over 100 million ballots.” The company provides election machines for local, state and national elections: “Based on the primary voting tabulation system installed within the United States, our customers represent approximately 50 percent of the precincts and registered voters in the U.S. ES&S systems have counted approximately 56 percent of the U.S. national vote in each of the last four presidential and congressional elections.” The company’s connections are also impressive. It was founded in Omaha, Neb., and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) was chairman of the company when it was American Information Services. The founders were two brothers, Bob and Todd Urosevich. Todd Urosevich is currently vice president of ES&S. His brother Bob was head of Diebold Election Systems, another large election machine company based in Ohio, until a few months ago when he was quietly made Director of Strategic Services in Diebold’s McKinney, Texas, office.

As pointed out in the online newspaper American Free Press, “Together, the computerized ballot scanners and touch-screen voting machines systems made by ES&S and Diebold recorded some 80 percent of all votes cast in the recent U.S. presidential election.”

The Center for Responsive Politics reveals large contributions from Diebold, almost all to Republican candidates, including $15,000 in 2000 to the Republican National Committee, $100,000 in soft money to the GOP in 2000 and another $100,965 in 2002. The insider touch got a bit disconcerting in August, when CBS News reported on a letter from Diebold's CEO, Wally Odell, who was also a Republican fundraiser. In an invitation to a Bush fundraising benefit, Odell wrote that "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president." After the news item, Odell announced that he was getting out of politics.

Diebold's CEO, Wally Odell, was also a Republican fundraiser. In an invitation to a Bush fundraising benefit, Odell wrote, "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president." After the news item, Odell announced he was getting out of politics.

This year the election was followed by so many complaints about vote fraud, vote suppression and other anomalies that on Dec. 8, Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) hosted a forum (aired on C-Span) to highlight some of the problems. Last weekend, demonstrations protested vote problems in Ohio, where the Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, was also Ohio’s Bush-Cheney state chairman. Blackwell certified Ohio election results this week. Jesse Jackson called on Blackwell to recuse himself from the election process, saying his objectivity is compromised by his position in the Bush-Cheney campaign. Conyers, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee and dean of the Black Congressional Caucus, has also written to Blackwell, requesting his answer to questions that would have made headlines under any previous administration:

According to a spokesperson for the Judiciary Committee, Conyers placed “a few calls” to Blackwell “yesterday and the day before,” but thus far Blackwell has not responded to the phone calls or the letter. Ohio’s election results certified by Blackwell place Bush's margin at least 18,000 votes lower than the previous tallies. A spokesperson for Blackwell’s office says he did not know that a letter had been placed in the mail but that many of the issues raised by the letter have been addressed by news reports “all across the country.” So far as he knows, Conyers and Blackwell have not spoken.

Conyers has promised that Committee Democrats will review vote problems, and the Government Accountability Office (formerly the General Accounting Office) is also launching a review of the 2004 election. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Administration Committee, has been quoted as saying he will hold hearings on the election, in 2005.

Meanwhile, a federal court ruled that Delaware County will have to participate in the Ohio recount, and the Kerry-Edwards team has decided to support a legal challenge by third-party candidates in Ohio who think it’s funny how many votes they got in proportion to the Dem. The Ohio Democratic Party is also looking for a few good volunteers to monitor the vote counting.

Stay tuned.


Note: For anyone doing holiday gift shopping, author and elections activist Bev Harris’ book Black Box Voting sounds like a terrific recommendation. I don’t have the book (yet) myself but have read some of Harris’ material online, and if there were a Nobel Elections Peace Prize she would deserve it. She has worked dedicatedly since 2000 to warn the electorate about factors undermining the integrity of the vote, one of the most fundamental threats a working democracy can face.

Margie Burns writes freelance in Maryland. She can be reached at margie.burns@verizon.net.




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This story was published on December 9, 2004.