SAN FRANCISCO -- At least five convicted felons secured management positions at a manufacturer of electronic voting machines, according to critics demanding more stringent background checks for people responsible for voting machine software.
Voter advocate Bev Harris alleged Tuesday that managers of a subsidiary of Diebold, one of the country's largest voting equipment vendors, included a cocaine trafficker, a man who conducted fraudulent stock transactions and a programmer jailed for falsifying computer records.
The programmer, Jeffrey Dean, wrote and maintained proprietary code used to count hundreds of thousands of votes as senior vice president of Global Election Systems, or GES. Diebold purchased GES in January 2002.
According to a public court document released before GES hired him, Dean served time in a Washington state correctional facility for stealing money and tampering with computer files in a scheme that "involved a high degree of sophistication and planning."
"You can't tell me these people passed background tests," Harris, author of Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century, said in a phone interview.
Diebold spokesman Michael Jacobsen emphasized that the company performs background checks on all managers and programmers. He said many GES managers -- including Dean -- left at the time of the acquisition.
"We can't speak for the hiring process of a company before we acquired it," Jacobsen said. He would not provide further details, saying company policy bars discussion of current or past employees.
The former GES is Diebold's wholly owned subsidiary, Global Election Management Systems, which produces the operating system that touch-screen voting terminals use.
Dean could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) announced a bill last week that would require stringent background checks on all electronic voting company employees who work with voting software. The bill, which Boxer plans to introduce in January, would toughen security standards for voting software and hardware, and require touch-screen terminals to include printers and produce paper backups of vote counts by the 2004 presidential election in November.
Harris and Andy Stephenson, a Democratic candidate for secretary of state in Washington, conducted a 10-day investigation in Seattle and Vancouver, where the men were convicted. Harris and Stephenson released the findings in a 17-page document online and at a news conference in Seattle.
Also Tuesday, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed announced legislation that would require electronic voting machines in the state to produce a paper trail. If the legislature approves it, touch-screen machines in the state would be required to produce paper receipts by 2006.
Voters would get to see but not touch or remove the receipts, which would be kept in a county lock box. Computer programmers say software bugs, hackers or electrical failures could cause more than 50,000 touch-screen machines used in precincts nationwide to delete or alter votes. California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley said last month that touch-screens in the nation's most populous state must provide paper receipts by 2006.