Diebold withheld proof of motherboard flaws from MD officials

Telling officials they were installing 'technical refreshers,' Diebold workers replaced motherboards in voting machines in 2004, fixing a problem the company knew about three years prior.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

Diebold Election Systems lied to the state of Maryland in 2004, quietly replacing bad motherboards while telling election officials they were merely installing ""technical refreshers," The Baltimore Sun reports.

According to Gilles Burger, chairman of the State Board of Elections, Diebold discovered the problem - which caused the machines to freeze - three years prior but never told elections officials.

"This demonstrates the level of contractor oversight that Diebold requires," Burger said. "On Monday, I'm going to ask our attorneys to report back to me if there was any violation of the contract and what financial remedies are available to me."

The revelation is the latest snafu in Diebold's dealings with Maryland, which suffered bad problems with Diebold's e-poll book system, a separate system that handles voter check in.

The state's contract and RFP contain language that suggeset Diebold may have breached by not informing officials of what was going on.

Diebold's contract with Maryland calls for "prompt" replacement of equipment that does not function properly. Another document - the "request for proposals," which laid out contractor requirements in 2001 - calls on the company to inform the state of "any hardware or software system error occurring in any jurisdiction outside of Maryland in which the voting system is being used."

Only after the motherboard flaw appeared during the state's 2004 elections - when voting units sporadically froze - did the Texas-based company offer an explanation to Maryland elections chief Linda H. Lamone.

Diebold was aware of the bug in 2002 and stopped production of voting machines after reports of malfunctions. Diebold says they tested every motherboard when production resumed. Diebold President Tom Swidarski told in Lamone in April 2005 that Maryland hadn't been notified because all the units that were shipped there had passed the test. But, says the Sun: Logs of machine failures from the 2004 Maryland elections proved, however, that faulty equipment did reach the state.

Ah, Diebold said. "The company then found that the tests it had been relying on were inadequate."

Diebold also failed to upgrade its software in time for Maryland's machines to be federally certified, which was required by Maryland law, although not federal law.

Again, the company did not inform Lamone or her staff that the system was "unqualified" for use. According to a Dec. 22, 2003, letter from Lamone to then-Diebold President Robert J. Urosevich, a consultant for the State Board of Elections had realized that the upgraded machines had not been certified and Diebold later confirmed it.
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