RFK Jr. Blows the Whistle on Diebold


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

RFK Jr. Blows the Whistle on Diebold

By John Ireland, In These Times
Posted on July 21, 2006, Printed on July 21, 2006

On July 13, the Pensacola, Fla.-based law firm of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed a 
"qui tam" lawsuit in U.S. District Court, alleging that Diebold and other 
electronic voting machine (EVM) companies fraudulently represented to state 
election boards and the federal government that their products were 

Kennedy claims to have witnesses "centrally located, deep within the 
corporations," who will confirm that company officials withheld their knowledge 
of problems with accuracy, reliability and security of EVMs in order to procure 
government contracts. Since going into service, many of these machines have been
linked to allegations of election fraud.

In the wake of alleged vote count inconsistencies and the "hanging chad" debacle
of 2000, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002. HAVA 
appropriated $3 billion to replace voting equipment and make other improvements 
in election administration. Diebold, Election Systems & Software and Sequoia 
Systems secured the lion's share of nearly half that sum in contracts to 
purchase EVMs. All 50 states have received funds and many are hurriedly spending
it on replacing lever and punch card machines in time for November.

According to the Election Assistance Commission, more than 61 percent of votes 
in the 2004 presidential election were cast and/or tallied by EVMs. Election 
Data Services, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, estimates that the 
figure will jump to 80 percent by November, which will see elections for all 435
seats in the House of Representatives.

Matt Schultz, an attorney with Kennedy's law firm, Levin Papantonio, describes 
the process of competition for HAVA's $300 million of contractor funds as "a 
race to the bottom." "There is no question in my mind that these companies 
sacrificed security and accuracy, mass-producing a cheap product to cash in on 
tons of federal money," Schultz says. "It's an industry-wide problem."

Qui tam lawsuits stem from a provision in the Civil False Claims Act, which 
Congress passed in 1863 at the behest of President Abraham Lincoln to respond to
price gouging, use of defective products and substitution of inferior material 
by contractors supplying the Union Army. The provision allows private citizens 
to file a suit in the name of the U.S. government charging fraud by government 
contractors and other entities that receive or use government funds.

Long known as "Lincoln's Law," it is now commonly referred to as the 
"Whistleblower Law." Since the mid-'80s, qui tam recoveries have exceeded $1 
billion, mostly after exposing medical and defense overcharging.

Mike Papantonio, partner in the law firm and co-host with Kennedy on "Ring of 
Fire," a weekly radio show on the Air America Network, explains the value of the
qui tam approach. "The problem with injunctive relief, or [a writ of] mandamus, 
or prohibition-type writs, is it all comes down to politics. ... How do you 
bring injunctive relief with [Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth] Blackwell? How do
you get [Florida Governor] Jeb Bush to do anything? They won't. You have to move
outside of that political realm."

In 2004, Blackwell was in charge of implementing state and federal election 
laws, while, at the same time, co-chairing the state's 2004 Bush/Cheney 
Campaign. Under his watch, election officials neglected to process registration 
cards from Democratic voter drives, purged tens of thousands of voter 
registrations and distributed EVMs unevenly, leaving some voters waiting up to 
12 hours. According to Kennedy, "at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming 
majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have
their votes counted." Ohio was decided by 118,601 votes.

The contents of the suit could be under judicial seal for at least 60 days while
the U.S. Department of Justice considers whether or not to join the suit. If 
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales decides not to join the suit, Levin 
Papantonio may approach individual state attorneys general. If no one joins, the
firm is free to, as Papantonio puts it, "stand in the shoes of the Attorney 
General and fight on behalf of the taxpayers and the nation."

"The single greatest threat to our democracy is the insecurity of our voting 
system," warns Kennedy. "Whoever controls the voting machines can control who 
wins the votes."

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Escaping the Matrix website     http://escapingthematrix.org/
cyberjournal website            http://cyberjournal.org
subscribe cyberjournal list     mailto:•••@••.•••
Posting archives                http://cyberjournal.org/show_archives/
  cyberjournal forum            http://cyberjournal-rkm.blogspot.com/
  Achieving real democracy      http://harmonization.blogspot.com/
  for readers of ETM            http://matrixreaders.blogspot.com/
  Community Empowerment http://empowermentinitiatives.blogspot.com/
  Blogger made easy             http://quaylargo.com/help/ezblogger.html