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The following column originally stated that Diebold sold its U.S. elections systems business in 2006. In fact, Diebold sold the unit in 2009. The column has been corrected. TheStreet regrets the error.
NEW YORK (
TheStreet) -- My biggest fear over every election doesn't involve who wins. It's whether the result is accepted by the losers.
Democrats accepted the Bush wins of 2000 and 2004 only reluctantly. Their resistance in 2004 was heightened by suspicions about
Diebold(DBD), which held a lot of contracts on voting machines, including those in Ohio, and was suspected of rigging the vote.
John Kerry had led in the late polls. George W. Bush won the state narrowly. The CEO of Diebold, Walden O'Dell, was known to be a key Bush supporter.
Mother Jones called it
"Diebold's Political Machine."
Here is the rest of the story,
Diebold sold that unit in 2009, to a company owned by the
McCarthy Group LLC and the newspaper
The Omaha World-Herald. The newspaper is now owned by
Berkshire-Hathaway(BRK.A), whose CEO, Warren Buffett, is known to be an Obama supporter this year. (Full disclosure. I am, too.)
If you want to make a conspiracy out of that, go ahead. I'm not going there.
Fact is, voting machines are not a great business to be in. There was some profit available in the last decade, as electronic machines replaced paper ballots in many places (including my own state of Georgia), but generally it's more trouble than it's worth.
It sounds like it should be better. You have lots of clients, you have networks to connect the votes to a counting system and, hopefully, you have a lot of security -- both computer and physical -- to protect against fraud.
But the machines are sold once and last for many years. The customers wind up controlling them and back-end revenue is fairly small. Everyone is watching, anyone can jump down a supplier's throat when the count goes against them. It's a lot of hassle for not a lot of gain.
The latest left-wing conspiracy theory, shown here
Simple-politiks.com, involves the company that sold machines to Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located. It's called
Hart Intercivic, and it's owned by supporters of challenger Mitt Romney including (through
Solamere Capital) his son Tagg.