- The mid-term elections have been described as "revolutionary"
due to the unusual success of Republican candidates while a president from
the same party occupied the White House.
- However, the upset election results that heralded the
Republican revolution have been accompanied by a credibility gap because
of the historic devolution in how Americans cast their votes.
- As a result of the 2000 election fiasco in Florida, expensive
electronic voting machines have replaced paper ballot voting systems in
a growing number of jurisdictions across the United States.
- However, the electronic touch-screen voting and ballot-counting
machines lack the transparency and credibility of hand-counted paper ballots.
- Furthermore, troubling revelations about the people who
are invested in the companies that make these voting machines raise a host
of serious questions about the condition of the democratic franchise in
the United States.
- The companies that design, build, and operate most of
the voting machines currently being used are privately held and secretive.
Before the 2000 elections, when this reporter tried to learn who owned
Omaha-based Electronic Systems Software (ES&S), the largest voting
machine company in the United States, the information was simply not available.
- ES&S, whose motto is "Better elections every
day," claims to have counted 100 million ballots in the 2000 election
and 56 percent of the vote in the last four presidential elections. However,
company officials have repeatedly refused to discuss the security of their
voting machines or divulge who owns and directs the company.
- Two independent writers, Bev Harris of Talion.com and
journalist Lynn Landes of EcoTalk.org, have investigated the voting machine
companies operating in the United States and discovered a number of political
connections to the Republican Party and a well-know senator from Nebraska.
- According to Nebraska's Elections Office, ES&S is
the only voting machine company certified to count votes in the state.
A small percentage of the vote in Nebraska is still hand-counted.
- ES&S was formed in 1997 by a merger of Omaha based
American Information Systems (AIS) and Dallas based Business Records Corp.
(BRC). BRC was partially owned by Cronus Industries, a company with connections
to the Hunt brothers from Texas, as well as other individuals and entities,
including Rothschild, Inc.
- In 1997, American Information Systems was an unincorporated,
wholly-owned subsidiary of the Omaha World-Herald Company according to
a Department of Justice press release about the merger of AIS with BRC.
American Information Systems' 1996 sales in all of its product lines were
about $14.3 million.
- Nebraska-born Charles T. "Chuck" Hagel moved
to Omaha in 1992 to become chairman of AIS and the McCarthy Group, a private
investment bank, Harris told AFP.
- AIS was the voting machine company that counted the votes
by which Hagel was elected to the Senate in 1996. Hagel had only resigned
as CEO of AIS in 1995.
- Josh Denney, spokesman for Sen. Hagel's Washington
office, told AFP that Hagel had been chairman of the board at AIS "for
about a year." Denney said that Hagel had resigned from the AIS board
on March 15, 1995, but had continued to serve as president of McCarthy
and Co., until 1996.
- Today, Hagel has investments in the renamed McCarthy
Group worth between $1 million and $5 million, according to documents published
by Harris on her web site.
- Because the McCarthy Group reportedly owns some 35 percent
of ES&S, Harris has raised the matter of Hagel's investment in a company
that counts the votes in Nebraska. Omaha World-Herald reportedly owns
about 45 percent of ES&S.
- Lawyers representing ES&S have recently asked Harris
to remove the documents and information from her web site. Harris, however,
has not removed the material, saying that voters need to know who owns
the companies that make voting machines to avoid any possible conflict-of-interest
- Two brothers, Bob and Todd Urosevich, founded AIS in
the 1980s. Today Bob is president of Diebold Election Systems, while Todd
is a vice president at ES&S.
- Georgia became the first state in the country to implement
a uniform statewide computerized touch-screen voting system.
- The Diebold system was sold to voters in Georgia as a
"state-of-the-art system" that is "more accurate, convenient
and accessible to voters."
- The electronic touch-screen system does not provide a
verifiable paper trail, which degrades the credibility of the results.