HBO doc gets vote of no confidence

With the midterm elections just a week away, and concerns in the air about electronic voting systems, Diebold Election Systems has gone on the offensive against an HBO documentary called “Hacking Democracy” that debuts Thursday.

In a letter to HBO CEO Chris Albrecht, David Byrd, prexy of Diebold Election Systems, charges that the documentary “contains significant factual errors and does not meet HBO’s standards for accuracy and fairness.” Among other things, he asks for a rebuttal on the HBO Web site, and that a disclaimer be shown by HBO immediately before, during and after the doc is shown.

“The material errors and material misrepresentations are so egregious that HBO should pull the documentary,” Byrd writes in a letter distributed to the media and posted on the company’s Web site.

The doc centers on a Seattle grandmother, Bev Harris, who helped create a group called Black Box Voting, described as a consumer protection org for elections. In the process, she has frequently clashed with Diebold, charging that their computer systems could be manipulated. The company has come under fire before, including a recent scathing Rolling Stone article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Diebold officials had not yet seen the film but based their concerns on HBO promotional materials and the accounts of journalists who had advance copies. One of Diebold’s biggest concerns involves an election simulation in which computer expert Harri Hursti is shown hacking a Diebold machine in Leon County, Fla. Diebold challenges the authenticity of the demonstration, and claims that such a hacking “could not even begin to be duplicated” when “proper procedures for staging the optical scan unit for an election were implemented.”

An HBO spokeswoman, however, says that the network “stands by the film” and has “no intention of withdrawing it.” Their lawyers were reviewing the Diebold letter and preparing a possible response. She added, “Of course, (the film) went through a lot of vetting.”

Further details are available on Variety‘s new politics and entertainment blog, http://www.wilshireandwashington.com.

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