Republicans including President Donald Trump, backed up by former Assistant US Attorney Sidney Powell, are launching a series of bombastic attacks against an electronic voting system vendor called Dominion Voting Systems. They claim that the company colluded with Democrats to “flip” thousands of Trump votes to Biden, and/or simply manufactured additional Biden votes in order to steal the election.
In short, Powell and GOP leaders are accusing the Democrats of a massive electoral fraud involving thousands of votes across multiple states.
At first blush, these accusations seem as baseless as they are outrageous. But if you review the history of electronic voting systems (EVS) in the US, you can see exactly why the Right is flipping out. It is not just Trump; the entire Republican Party and the conservative establishment really, really REALLY hate Dominion Voting Systems.
Let me explain why.
The origins of “e-voting” in the US
In the early 2000’s electronic voting was a fairly obscure and modest industry, dominated by just a few companies. The 800-lb gorilla in this business was an Omaha-based firm called Electronic Systems & Security, which had by some counts up to 80% market share. The other two players were Diebold Election Systems (a subsidiary of the ATM manufacturer) and Sequoia Voting Systems.
All three were closely tied the GOP. Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel had served on the Board of ES&S and even as the company CEO (he resigned just days before announcing his candidacy). Diebold was run by Walden “Wally” O’Dell, a GW Bush “Pioneer” level donor.
In short, there were NO electronic voting system vendors that had ties to the Democratic Party.
The 2002 Gold Rush in Electronic Voting
When the GOP controlled Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002, the $3.9 billion that was allocated to upgrade the country’s election systems went almost entirely to the big Republican donors that owned that electronic voting system industry. The money flowed out to the States, who were responsible for choosing a voting system vendor. All the vendors had to do was agree who would take which state, then show up and sign the deals. The GOP donors in the e-voting business got rich.
And in the Presidential election of 2004, those donors decided to say thank you.
The disaster that was Ohio 2004
I’m talking, of course, about the debacle of the 2004 race between John Kerry and incumbent George W. Bush, the first such election after the Help America Vote Act was enacted, and after the mad rush to electronic voting systems had swept the land.
It had all come down to the state of Ohio. Whoever won there would be the next President. And so, with all the eyes on the Buckeye State, the nation got a taste of what to expect by switching to the “modern” system of electronic voting.
It was a disaster.
Canton-based Diebold CEO Wally O’Dell had set the stage, having written a fund raising letter promising to “help deliver Ohio’s electoral votes for the President.” And, by golly, it looked like he did just that. On Election Day reports streamed in about voters seeing their votes “flip” in real time on the Diebold touch screens.
CNN posted exit poll data showing Kerry up by a good 4 points. Somehow, Bush pulled off a mysterious 6 point gain and won by 2 points. An uproar ensued. Nonetheless, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth and hand recounts, Bush was named the winner.
Democrats complained and promptly proposed the Count Every Vote Act (CEVA) to crack down on these “black box” voting systems. But the Republicans running Congress looked out for their donors. They made sure that the bill allowed EVS vendors to deny government inspectors and investigators access to their systems, software and source code under the guise of “trade secrets.” The companies could even keep secret the people or entities that owned them.
A watered-down CEVA passed in 2005, but Democrats continued to try and force EVS transparency through additional bills. Mitch McConnell was having none of it. Why should he? The GOP had a “lock” on the vote counting industry in America.
Why the GOP and Trump Really Hate Dominion Voting Systems
In 2007, after a three year, $1.9 million investigation, the (new) Ohio Secretary of State concluded that it did indeed appear most likely that Diebold and the then GOP Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, had colluded to commit election fraud and to have the Diebold machines in and around Toledo flip votes from Kerry to Bush, allowing the GOP to steal the 2004 election.
By the time the report came out, of course, there was nothing to do. As with Florida in 2000, the truth of the election came out too late.
Nonetheless, Diebold became known as a “vote flipper.” And so in 2009, disgraced and beleaguered by the Ohio fraud findings, Diebold decided to sell off it’s voting system business and 30% market share to fellow GOP supporter, ES&S, thereby giving ES&S an overall market share of 70%.
Enter the Obama Administration and it’s Justice Department.
Obama Attorney General Eric Holder charged ES&S with violating antitrust rules and voided the Diebold deal. In May 2010, the Obama DOJ forced ES&S to sell off their Diebold assets to … none other than Dominion Voting Systems.
Dominion at that time was a small Canadian company that had no presence in the US market. But the Democrats had high hopes. By acquiring the Diebold technology and installed footprint, Dominion instantly went from 0% to 30% share of the US electronic voting market.
And they were just getting started.
In June 2010, just a month after facilitating Dominion’s purchase of Diebold, the Obama DOJ allowed Dominion to also acquire Sequoia Voting Systems — along with that company’s 20% share of the market. The DOJ would not allow ES&S to bid because acquiring Sequoia would have incurred the same antitrust violations as had Diebold.
And so, in the space of just a few weeks, Dominion Voting Systems went from NOTHING to controlling HALF of the US electronic voting systems market — and rivaling the GOP juggernaut that had been ES&S.
All thanks to the Obama Justice Department — and the Democratic Party.
Still, one needs to ask: why did the Obama Administration choose Dominion? There were, after all, American companies that could have taken on Diebold’s troubled assets. Texas-based Hart Intercivic, for example, had been handling US elections systems since 1912 and had a robust manufacturing capability in the US. Instead, the DOJ approved the sales to Dominion, who was starting from less than zero in the US market.
The DOJ press release at the time explained how they were forcing ES&S to help give their new competitor a helping hand:
“The department also required that ES&S grant the divestiture buyer an opportunity to compete to provide services to Premier customers currently under contract with ES&S, giving customers the option to switch to the divestiture buyer or to remain with ES&S … ES&S also must…agree to offer a supply agreement to allow the divestiture buyer time to establish its own manufacturing of voting equipment systems.”
Why choose a foreign company that was only founded in 2003, with no US presence, no US manufacturing base, and entrust them to handle 50% of Americans’ votes?
Here’s why: the 2004 debacle in Ohio had shown that electronic voting systems could be used to steal elections. The fact that all the e-voting vendors were in bed with the GOP was unacceptable. Democrats needed their own “trusted” vendor.
In “creating” Dominion Voting Systems in the US market and giving it a 50% market share, the Obama Administration restored the balance of power. The two party system would prevail, buttressed by the two-vendor system for secretly and opaquely counting the votes in the great American “democracy.”
The Democrats, who had been so vocal in calling for accountability and transparency in e-voting, fell silent. The outrage that had followed Ohio 2004, the suspicion, the calls for a return to paper ballots — all these things disappeared after 2010. There would be no more questioning of the black box voting systems that each side now supported.
Dominion and the Democrats
And let us be very clear: Dominion Voting Systems is totally in the tank for the Democrats, just as ES&S is in the pocket of the GOP. Dominion has 6 lobbyists in DC, 5 of which are former Democratic Congressional staffers (with ES&S it is just the opposite: 5/6 are ex-GOP staffers). This makes it pretty clear that neither of these companies is neutral or bi-partisan.
Through its lobbying expenditures, Dominion is a large Democratic booster, and has even donated extensively to the Clinton Foundation. In fact, in 2014, the Clinton Foundation entered into a $2.5 million deal with Dominion to bring “modern” electronic voting systems into countries such as Jamaica and Dominica.
So despite their Canadian roots, Dominion Voting Systems are “deep blue” American when it comes to their business interests.
Maintaining the balance of power
For the past several years there has been a balance of power and a status quo that both sides seem interested in preserving — not least perhaps because lawmakers get tons of cash from electronic voting system lobbyists. Mitch McConnell, for example, has blocked several bills to make e-voting more secure and accountable.
Why? Because the current rigged system works well for the two Parties.
While neither Party wanted to tempt fate with a blatant rigging of a national general election, both Parties had no problem enlisting the help of their minions in the EVS industry in order to affect Primary elections.
For example, in South Carolina, where ES&S owns the EVS systems counting the votes, the GOP wanted to ensure that they faced a weak challenger in the 2010 Senate election. ES&S obliged their political patrons by ensuring that Alvin Greene, an unemployed vet with cognitive issues, no money and not even a website, defeated Vic Rawl, a political veteran, a former judge and legislator, to become the Democratic nominee to face Sen. Jim Demint in the general election. Greene won the Primary by a 17 point margin, despite doing no fundraising or campaigning. While Congressman Jim Clyburn called foul, no real action was taken to investigate.
Likewise did Dominion Voting Systems help their political patron, the DNC, by ensuring that Hillary won the South in the 2016 Democratic Primary. In Louisiana, for example, where Dominion controls all the voting machines, Hillary defeated Bernie Sanders in a surprisingly massive landslide. A paper published by researchers at Stanford University and the University of Tilburg (NL) showed that while the Dominion systems produced results for the simultaneous GOP primary that were in line with the exit polls taken, the results for the Democratic Primary were wildly divergent from what the exit polls indicated. Sanders supporters complained, but it didn’t rise to the level of scandal.
The end of Mutually Assured Destruction?
Since 2010, the two American political Parties have found themselves in a Mexican standoff, with each side having the power to steal elections through their own stealth voting system vendor. The question has always been: would they ever do it in a Presidential contest?
Would either side risk exposing the system that gives them so much control over the election process? Would either side be willing to pursue the “nuclear option” of exposing just how corrupt the US election systems are?
The answer — at least until this year — has been no. Indeed, it is somewhat like the Cold War: the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction,” or M.A.D., served to keep the US and the USSR from blowing each other up. M.A.D. forced both sides to obey at least some modicum of rules when dealing with each other, either in peace or in conflict. “Norms and guardrails,” in other words.
Enter Donald Trump.
I am sure that Trump knows the history of the electronic voting industry. I am sure that he has heard about all the behind-the-scenes GOP machinations that “delivered” Ohio for Bush in 2004. I am also sure that he knows that Dominion Voting Systems — like ES&S — has the ability to flip votes on the back end, far away from the prying eyes of auditors and investigators. And that they have the capability to do it to many thousands of votes at a time.
The problem is, it serves neither side to make that fact clear and plain to the American people.
Why the US is exceptional
None of the so-called “Western democracies” use the type of electronic voting system that we have. Those that have tried electronic voting have rejected it because it is too vulnerable to hacking, too susceptible to manipulation, and the voting public simply would not accept it. In places like Europe, they use paper.
Indeed, the only countries that use electronic voting like that of the US on a national level are Brazil, Namibia, The Philippines, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and Iraq (thanks to us). Nice company, eh?
The US has always been exceptional in that it is a “two party system.” And in such a bi-polar political system, it was possible for both sides to “agree to agree” that super-secret, completely opaque, unaccountable, un-auditable, highly hackable electronic voting systems were, in fact, safe, secure, reliable, accurate and unbiased. That the Emperor did indeed, have beautiful new clothes, and if you said anything different you were crazy or naive.
No wonder other countries with multi-party systems could not adopt EVS. They could never get all the various factions to agree to look the other way. But in America? It was simple.
Once each Party controlled roughly half the EVS market, everything was fine. Both sides just had to agree not to upset the apple cart, to accept the outcome of national elections, even if it did look fishy. Even if they were sure some votes had been flipped or fabricated. Because the entire system depended on people BELIEVING that the electronic system was legitimate.
That is why Hillary Clinton conceded in 2016. She did not want the American people to question the black box voting system that had made her the Democratic nominee in the first place. It was important above all to defend the perceived integrity of the process.
But Donald Trump couldn’t care less about maintaining the integrity of the process if that process goes against him.
Trump and the Doomsday scenario
As I mentioned above, the only countries that use the voting system that the US uses are all third world countries. And yes, they, too, have riots and protests after every national election, because no one trusts a “black box.”
After the 2016 election, the Left took to the streets because they believed that “Russia hacked the election”. This year, the Right are taking to the streets because “Democrats hacked the election.”
There is, however, a major difference in how Trump and his activist base are protesting the 2020 election. Trump is calling out Dominion Voting Systems by name. This is the nuclear option. This is the suicide bomber that is going to take everyone else with him.
Trump, ever the agent of chaos, is going to blow up the system. He is going to expose the failures and vulnerabilities of EVS and the fact that the US has an insane system in which private companies, which are run by extreme political partisans, all tied both financially and ideologically to opposing political parties, can use their proprietary hardware, with their proprietary software, to run our elections, and the law says that all their software and systems are “trade secrets” that cannot be examined, audited or analyzed.
It is madness. And yet some good may come of it. My wish is that the corrupt system we have now is exposed and that we, like the Europeans, abandon electronic voting and go back to paper ballots.
After all, no one can hack paper.
EuroYankee is a dual citizen, US-EU. He travels around Europe, writing on politics, culture and such. He pays his US taxes so he gets to weigh in on what is happening in the States.