Diebold Asks HBO to Kill Voting Machine Documentary

| Fri Nov. 3, 2006 11:07 AM EST

You may have seen the premiere of Hacking Democracy on HBO last night, but the folks over at Diebold wish you hadn't. The doc takes a look at the computers that will count 87% of America's votes on Tuesday and the vulnerabilities of the technology. If follows grandmother turned voting-machine-watchdog Bev Harris through her research of Diebold, and looks at the potential risks of the machines from the perspective of computer security experts. Far from a salacious expose on the GOP's attempt to disenfranchise through computerized voting, it's a measured look at the prospects for hacking, tampering and the other risks that could come as a result of the machines capturing nearly 9 out of 10 votes cast next week.

Turns out Diebold has complained repeatedly to HBO about the film, apparently without even watching it. The company's president, Dave Byrd, wrote letters to executives at HBO, complaining about errors and saying that no one spoke with Diebold about the film. In response, HBO Vice President and Senior Counsel, Peter Rienecker, in a November 1 letter, points out that the directors of the film tried repeatedly to get an interview with Diebold and were rebuffed, and that the errors mentioned were on Diebold's part:

You assert in your letter that the Documentary contains "significant factual errors"; however, based on several of the purported examples you have cited, you do not appear to have viewed the film which will premiere on HBO on November 2. HBO stands by the accuracy and fairness of the Documentary. Of course, if after viewing the film on the HBO service tomorrow evening you continue to have concerns, we would be happy to discuss them with you at that time.

Rienecker goes on to discuss point-by-point Diebold's concerns with the documentary, including:

-Diebold's October 31 press release, which also generally challenges the accuracy of the statements in the Documentary, claims that the Documentary states that "Diebold counted more than 40% of the votes nationwide in the 2000 presidential election". The Documentary contains no such statement or implication.

-Contrary to the assertion in your October 30 letter, the Documentary does not report that a Diebold machine subtracted 16,022 votes from Al Gore in Florida in 2000. Rather, the Documentary indicates that the software involved was owned by Global Election Systems, which (as indicated in your letter) was purchased by Diebold in 2002.

-We do not agree that the results of Harry Hursti's investigation in Leon County, Florida were in any way proved to be a sham. Indeed, his findings as depicted in the Documentary have been verified and confirmed in a February 2006 report issued by the University of California, Berkeley.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter yesterday Diebold executives admitted that they had not actually seen the film but were asking HBO to pull it from its schedule or air company disclaimers questioning its accuracy.