NORTH CANTON (TDB) -- Mired in a maelstrom of suspicion that its electronic voting machines are prone to mistakes and attacks by hackers, Diebold Inc. changed the name of its election systems subsidiary. From today forward, it is to be known as Premier Election Solutions.
The company portrayed the name change as a step to make the voting machine unit more independent so it can grow and prosper. Others saw it as an effort to jettison a problem, or distance Diebold from a troubled subsidiary plagued by controversy that its products are unreliable. Diebold said the election division already was largely independent and received mostly financial support from the parent in Ohio. At the same time, Diebold lowered revenue expectations for the voting unit by nearly $120 million. It had projected sales of up to $215 million.
The corporation in North Canton did not sound very upbeat, and while it did not say Democrats were to blame for lowered sales expectations, it noted a change in the political environment. Democrats took over Congress in January, and some party activists contend that Diebold's machines were manipulated to benefit President George Bush -- a charge that has never been proven but has taken on the trappings of an article of faith.
"As a result of the rapidly changing political environment and pending legislative initiatives related to electronic voting, several large anticipated orders for electronic voting systems have moved from 2007 into 2008 and beyond. Competing federal legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, both related to the use of specific election technologies, has created uncertainty amongst the jurisdictions that make purchasing decisions. In addition, several states have initiated separate, independent reviews of voting technology within their jurisdictions. These combined actions, along with certain key states to move up their primary elections to very early 2008, have significantly delayed purchasing decisions throughout the election systems industry."
Compare that to Premier Elections Solutions, which said it is going to be managed by an independent board. The unit made its comments from Allen, Tex., and sought to distance itself from the parent.
"This is both a fresh identity for our company and a unique opportunity for us to concentrate our focus on providing best-in-class elections solutions for current and potential customers. We will build on a strong tradition of excellence, innovation and customer service, armed with the resources to develop innovative products and service. Premier is and will remain the leader in the election systems industry, and will be an even more engaged, agile and responsive company."
Around the U.S., there are about 25,000 optical scan units and 126,000 touch-screens made by Diebold. There are suspicions they cannot accurately count votes, or can be manipulated to show bogus outcomes.