Will Diebold ditch voting machines?

The company is said to want out of a business that tarnishes its reputation.

Published March 6, 2007 1:42PM (EST)

If you're like us, the name "Diebold" stands for exactly one thing: electronic voting machines. And if you're the management at Diebold, that's apparently a problem. As the Associated Press reports, Diebold is apparently thinking about getting out of the voting machine business because it's hurting the company's image.

It turns out that Diebold also makes safes and automated teller machines, and that the division of the company that makes voting machines is its smallest. "This is a company that has built relationships with banks every day of every year," investment analyst Gill Luria tells the AP. "It pains them greatly to see their brand tarnished by a marginal operating unit."

Tarnished? Like by a study showing that it would be easy enough to alter Diebold's machines to flip votes from one candidate to another? Like by a lawsuit in which Diebold ultimately paid California $2.6 million to settle claims that it had sold the state faulty voting equipment? Like by its former chairman's commitment, as a Bush-Cheney fundraiser, to "helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to" Bush in 2004?

According to the AP, Diebold's current CEO told analysts in November that the company would be announcing a long-term strategy for its election unit early this year. Those comments -- plus some in an SEC filing -- have fueled speculation that Diebold will announce soon that it's selling off its voting machine unit.

The problem? Given Diebold's track record and the possibility that future legislation will require changes in voting machines, it may be tough to find a buyer. David Allen at the not-exactly-impartial BlackBoxVoting.com says: "It would be easier to sell Titanic brand cruise ships or Hindenburg brand zeppelins than a Diebold voting machine company."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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