By Denis Wright
Georgia's Secretary of State, Cathy Cox, could easily be
considered the official Poster Girl for Diebold Election Systems,
Her photo appears on their website alongside a glowing quotation
praising them to the skies. She also loaned them the Georgia
State Seal, for that "official" look. And she is defending
the statewide implementation of Direct Record Electronic (DRE)
voting machines, more commonly known as touch screen voting,
in the face of overwhelming evidence of security flaws and
There have now been at least four major studies regarding
problems with DRE devices and all of them are severely critical
of Diebold and DRE voting. Maryland even hired an independent
group to investigate; they hacked into the system and were
changing votes within ten minutes. Thousands of computer experts
have signed a petition, sponsored by Dr. David Dill of Stanford
University, demanding a voter verified paper ballot. There
is currently legislation winding its way through Capitol Hill
that will mandate back-up paper ballots on every DRE machine.
And California's Secretary of State recently decertified Diebold's
DRE machines in that state, noting that the company was "banned,"
"decertified," "fraudulent," "despicable," and "deceitful"
in their dealings with the state.
What has been the response from Cathy Cox?
We don't know. She and her office have remained virtually
silent on the subject in public - except for actively lobbying
the State Houses in opposition to a voter-verified paper ballot.
After the 2000 election debacle, Georgia invited vendors
to submit proposals to take over the state's voting system
- but those bids, and the deliberations and decisions of the
committee in charge of recommendations, were intentionally
exempt from Georgia's "Open Records" laws, as were the final
So how do we as citizens of Georgia know how Diebold was
selected from the eight bidders?
We don't. What we do know is that Diebold's chief lobbyist
in Georgia just happened to be Lewis Massey, former Secretary
of State - and the former boss of Cathy Cox.
Governor Sonny Purdue was asked about the issue on live
television via C-SPAN and said that he was concerned about
the reports and would support a review of the Georgia voting
So what were the results of the inquiry?
There were no results. Kathy Rogers, Director of the Elections
Division, claims that they never received an official demand
from Purdue's office, therefore no comprehensive review was
required. Instead they promised to hold a series of "Public
Forums" on the issue. When concerns were raised about the
security of the machines attendees were told that the Secretary
of State was "remaining neutral" on the scandal, and would
not be addressing any of the concerns. After two such "Forums"
the remainder were promptly cancelled.
There are serious reasons to believe that the 2002 election
in Georgia was not a legal election, for several important
First of all, according to SB 213, which was state law prior
to November 2002, any election system purchased and used by
the state of Georgia "shall be required to have an independent
audit trail for each vote cast." The Diebold machines provide
none. The only thing they can do is spit out a duplication
of the internally recorded (i.e. invisible) data. That is
not in any way an "independent audit trail."
Secondly, there's the issue of mandatory State and Federal
certification and the mysterious software updates (dubbed
"patches") that were installed just prior to the 2002 election.
When I first heard that Bev Harris found a folder called
"rob-georgia" on an unsecure FTP site run by Diebold, I was
intrigued. I wrote to Cathy Cox's office and was told by staffer
Kara Sinkule that "We were aware of the Diebold FTP site,
but Georgia never used it." Later, after Rob Behler (of "rob-georgia"
fame) was located and confirmed the fact that he had indeed
downloaded and installed software patches from the FTP site,
patches which he believed to be uncertified, Ms. Sinkule wrote
me that "The patch prior to being installed was examined by
the state's certification experts at KSU and discussed with
the national testing labs." Later still, when asked, Secretary
Cox claimed that the patch was only examined after the election
due to time constraints. That is against the law.
Further, I requested copies of any and all certification
documents for the soft and firmware on Georgia's voting machines
and was told by SoS lawyer Clifford Tatum that "no records
exist in the Secretary of State's office regarding a certification
letter from the lab certifying the version of software used
on Election Day." That certification is required by state
and federal law.
Cathy Cox is widely known to be the presumptive Democratic
Party nominee for the Gubernatorial race in 2006 and, as such,
is being sheltered and protected by state Democrats. Jay Bookman,
a progressive Associate Editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
has refused to acknowledge the problem, and goes out of his
way to ridicule concerned citizens via email. Martha Ezzard,
another longtime AJ-C op/ed staple, wrote an opinion
piece that could have easily been written by Diebold's PR
staff. When confronted with the glaring errors in her article
Ezzard said she was "just poking some fun at California" over
their chaotic recall election and casually dismissed concerns
about spreading misinformation.
Inexplicably, the use of unreliable, unsecure voting machines
is being defended by the very people who should be defending
our right to have our votes counted. According to a statement
on the SoS website, "The mission of the Elections Division
is to implement and ensure fair and legal voter registration
and elections in accordance with state laws." But clearly
our recent elections have not been conducted according to
state law, nor is there any way whatsoever to determine that
the elections have been "fair."
Here in Georgia, we will be voting under a cloud of suspicion
and unease that grows with each additional study of the Diebold
equipment. Nearly every computer security expert in the country
says voting electronically without a voter verified paper
trail, and without a meaningful way to recount votes, is a
terribly flawed method just begging for trouble.
Citizens have fought and died for democracy and the right
to vote. Secretary of State Cathy Cox owes her constituents
in Georgia a duty. She must immediately stop stonewalling
the citizens, and correct the flawed voting mechanism she
purchased with our money. A method for obtaining a voter verified
paper ballot must be added to the equipment before the next
election, so that every vote counts, and every vote is counted.