How to Rig a Democracy: A Timeline of Electronic Voting in the United States

Chris Anderson Oct 12, 2006

Nov 2000

The 2000 presidential election, in which the wide-scale suppression of the votes of African- Americans in Florida is drowned out by images of hanging chads and butterfly ballots, is awarded to George W. Bush by a divided Supreme Court.

Oct 2002
Passage of HAVA

Following the 2000 election debacle, Congress passes the Help America Vote Act, (HAVA) which centralizes county election procedures and strongly encourages the adoption of electronic voting machines. Already, companies like Diebold and ES&S are lobbying fiercely in support of e-voting.

Nov 2002
Controversy in Georgia

Using electronic voting machines manufactured by Diebold, Georgia voters elect a Republican governor for the first time since the Civil War and toss out Democratic Senator Max Clelland. No paper trail is required for voting machines in Georgia. The final election results show a 16 percent swing in favor of the Republican candidate in the governors’ race and a 12 percent swing away from Clelland compared to polls taken days before the vote.

Jan 23, 2003
Diebold Source Code Found

On an unprotected website, muckraking journalist/ activist Bev Harris finds 40,000 files of Diebold Election Systems’ source code. The discovery, distribution, and analysis of the code leads computer scientists from Johns Hopkins University to write that “our analysis shows that this voting system is far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts.”

Aug 14, 2003
O’Dell to “Deliver” Ohio

Diebold CEO Walden O’Dell writes a fundraising letter to Republicans promising “to [help] Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President George W. Bush” in the 2004 elections.

Nov 4, 2003
Problems in Virginia

As 953 voting machines, manufactured by Advanced Voting Solutions, call in simultaneously to report results, modems collapse and e-voting machines go offline, leading to a denial-of-service incident on election day. Fifty percent of precincts are unable to report results until the next day.

April 30, 2004
California Lawsuit Averted

California’s Secretary of State decertifies all touch-screen machines and recommends criminal prosecution of Diebold Election Systems following reports of irregularities in the March recall election. The California attorneygeneral decides against criminal prosecution.

June 14, 2004
Florida Primary

The Associated Press reports that touch-screen voting machines in 11 Florida counties contain a software flaw that would render manual recounts impossible.

Nov 2004
The Kerry Defeat

Although exit polls show John Kerry sweeping a dozen key battleground states including Ohio and Florida, George Bush wins Ohio, Florida, Iowa, New Mexico and the election. Most pundits conclude that there are serious problems – with exit polling. Rather than investigate electronic voting, most media outlets pledge to no longer conduct exit polls.

March 2006
Problems in Maryland

Thousands of Maryland voters are left scrambling on primary day: Polls do not open on time as the Board of Elections failed to get “voter access cards” necessary to operate the Diebold TS machines. It is uncertain how many Marylanders never vote at all.

May 2006
Problems in Ohio

The Election Science Institute (ESI) finds evidence that electronic voting machines in Cuyahoga County experienced major malfunctions and problems, also on primary day. ESI tells CNN that “we’re missing data. We’re missing critical components within the election.”

Did Bush Really Win in 2004?

Writing in Rolling Stone, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. alleges that “Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted –enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.” While many of these voters were suppressed through “old-fashioned” methods, Kennedy alleges that counties using Diebold voting machines show a statistically improbable increase in support for George W. Bush as compared to the 2000 election.

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