Hey Diebold: Cease and Desist This

October 30th, 2003

[ UPDATE 12-2-03: Diebold backed down and withdrew its legal threats against people who published the memos. ]

I’ve jumped on Berkeley’s latest truth-and-democracy bandwagon. Election machine manufacturer Diebold wants to steal a page from the Church of Scientology playbook: they’re bullying people who speak out against them, trying to silence criticism via threats of frivolous yet expensive lawsuits. Students and indy-media Web sites that criticize the firm have been slapped with cease-and-desist orders from Diebold lawyers.

Now people are slapping back. We’ve turned this into a game of whack-a-mole — if Diebold shuts us down, others will pop up to host this information in our place.

Join the good fight; download a copy of the memos that Diebold doesn’t want you to see:

  • here from my Berkeley server space,
  • here from my Stanford server space,
  • here from my personal Web site, or
  • here from

    You may also browse through the memos in HTML format here (at least until Diebold lawyers tear them down.) There are a ton of memos here; you can check out a list of particularly disturbing outtakes here.

    Why you should care: The mainstream American press is fast asleep, and what little it says about Diebold almost completely misses the point. Unless you look elsewhere for your news (in The Independent or on The BBC, for instance), you probably don’t know what the fuss is all about. Here are a few things you should know about Diebold, the leading manufacturer of touch-screen voting machines in the United States:

  • Diebold voting machines are insecure, buggy, and prone to foul play.
  • Diebold keeps the software inside these machines secret; you and I and the security experts aren’t allowed to look at the source code and see what goes on in those black boxes, to verify that they work fairly and properly. What goes on in those boxes is a key part of our electoral process.
  • Diebold and its executives are closely tied to the U.S. Republican Party and over the past two election cycles the firm made unilateral donations of more than $200,000 to the Republican Party. Whether or not you support the Republicans, this presents a blatant conflict of interest when you consider that Diebold makes our voting machines.

    Now Diebold is taking cheap litigious pot-shots at people who bring these facts to light.

    Computers offer a superior way of counting votes. The design of a computerized voting system that’s simple, secure, reliable, inexpensive and open to public scrutiny wouldn’t be a very difficult task. But as I wrote a year ago, if we keep hiring corrupt and incompetent firms to build our voting tools, we will turn this opportunity into a curse.

    Spread the word: we cannot trust Diebold with our votes.

  • 8 Responses to “Hey Diebold: Cease and Desist This”

    1. comment number 1 by: joe

      Absolutely gorgeous post, Sean! Let me know what happens…

    2. comment number 2 by: sean

      Thanks. I can’t sit back and let them push around my buddy Joe now, can I?

    3. comment number 3 by: 3375537

      INSECURE, BUGGY, & prone to foul play

      From Sean at CheeseBikini: Diebold voting machines are insecure, buggy, and prone to foul play. Diebold keeps the software that runs these machines secret; you and I and the security experts aren’t allowed to look at the source code…

    4. comment number 4 by: Cheryl

      there was actually a pretty good short article in this week’s Newsweek about this.

    5. comment number 5 by: Tom Cleveland

      Out of sheer laziness, I have not confirmed your facts. However, if what you say about the donations is true, then there is indeed a clear conflict of intrest. As a registered Republican, I would be very unhappy if a voting machine company were donating money to the Democratic Party. Although I seriously doubt that Diebold goes so far as to rig elections, their activity is still blatantly impartial.

    6. comment number 6 by: Mark Craddock

      Great post, Sean.

      But I heard an NPR report the other day in which they said the Diebold software was, for a time, accidentally made available for download on their site, and is still available on some FTP servers. This “expert” loaded the software, loaded some returns from a past election, and demonstrated how easy it was for him to doctor the election results. I didn’t get many details (hard to take notes while commuting), but this seems to contradict your bullet point “Diebold keeps the software inside these machines secret.”

    7. comment number 7 by: sean


      I assume you’re referring to the researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Rice University who obtained the Diebold software that was accidentally left on a public FTP server. They examined the software and concluded that it was insecure and buggy and clearly written without the use of industry-standard quality control measures. In the bullet-point just before the bullet-point that you mentioned, I linked to the researchers’ full report about this matter, as well as to an article that summarizes the report.

      Here they are again:

      This doesn’t contradict my claim that Diebold keeps the software inside these machines secret. Diebold DOES keep it secret; in this case they leaked some of their software but this was an accident. It’s Diebold’s policy to keep its software closed to outside scrutiny and most of their code is still presumably secret.

    8. comment number 8 by: Kristen

      I was just doing some research for a school newspaper article, and happened across a site that you all might want to take a look at. It actually has he full instructions if you want to try hacking into the program yourself. It’s sadly very very easy, as a freshman in high school, I was able to do it myself, as research of course. The bypassable passwords and easy changable audit log are frankly spooky just to read.