Meet Cathy Diebold
June 11, 2004
By Denis Wright

Georgia's Secretary of State, Cathy Cox, could easily be considered the official Poster Girl for Diebold Election Systems, Inc.

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 unreliable performance.

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 signed contracts.

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 machines.

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 reasons:

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.