Diebold voting-machine unit sold to… a Diebold competitor.

The New York Times is reporting that the much-maligned part of Diebold, Inc. that makes electronic voting machines has been sold to Diebold’s bigger competitor, Election Systems & Software Inc.

This makes me uneasy for a number of reasons. First is the question of competition and monopoly. When one company dominates a field, the prices go up almost without end while the quality of plummets. Witness AT&T prior to the breakup in 1974, if you remember that.

Second is the nature of the voting machines. Diebold has come under withering fire from the technology site Slashdot, often over the same concerns that I have. One is that no one but Diebold’s people can see the source code of their machines. How can we trust them if we cannot see the source code? Granted, I wouldn’t know what to do with it if I had the source code, but I could hand it to programmer friends for them to go through and analyze. We can’t know if the machines are set up to not count some votes, or to inflate other counts. And there is reason to believe that has happened in Diebold machines.

Some matters are more obscure, such as the relative security of the software or the machine’s Audit Logs, which were found to be defective. There is even a case of a four-year-old bug in the Diebold code being found by outside researchers using open source tools.

I doubt that any of these issues will be rectified by the new owners.

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.