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Ohio Firm Finds Itself in E-Voting Crosshairs

Thursday, September 23, 2004; 2:25 PM

Diebold Inc. -- the Canton, Ohio-based maker of automatic teller machines, high-tech security systems and currency processing systems -- has become synonymous with the potential risks of touch-screen voting.

Diebold's voting technology unit manufactures the AccuVote-TS, which has been bought by election officials nationwide and is the only voting machine used by the states of Maryland and Georgia. Many jurisdictions switched to the computerized voting system after upgrading from Diebold's popular AccuVote-OS ("optical scan") devices.

But Diebold's reputation began to suffer in 2003 after the source code used to run its vote counting system was posted, unsecured, on the Internet for anyone to see. Computer security researchers who analyzed the code said it was full of enough errors that an enterprising hacker could throw an election with relative ease.

The company's reputation suffered further when news reports publicized a political fundraising letter written by the company's chief executive on behalf of the Republican Party. CEO Walden O'Dell later issued a statement saying he would no longer publicly support any political candidate or party.

Diebold also claims that it has fixed problems in the software powering its voting machines. But many groups still are calling for the machines to be connected to printers so that voters can verify that the machines recorded their votes correctly.

Diebold, pronounced "dee-bold," can be found online at www.diebold.com. The company's election technology unit is online here.

-- By Robert MacMillan, washingtonpost.com Staff Writer

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