Ogilvy to help Diebold with CA outreach

SAN FRANCISCO: Diebold Election Systems (DES) has hired Ogilvy PR to burnish the company?s image and the benefits of electronic voting in California.

SAN FRANCISCO: Diebold Election Systems (DES) has hired Ogilvy PR to burnish the company?s image and the benefits of electronic voting in California.

DES, the largest provider of touch-screen voting machines in the country, came under fire last year for alleged security flaws in its machines, and for top executives' ties to the Republican Party.

California subsequently decertified the use of DES' TSX machine for last year's election.

As Californians face a special election called by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in November, DES wants to make sure voters understand and appreciate the benefits of electronic voting, said Michael Law, MD of Ogilvy's San Francisco and Los Angeles offices. Ogilvy's Sacramento office will also be involved in the statewide initiative.

DES was not available for comment.

"Since the technology was decertified in California by the Secretary of State, [DES] is most concerned with getting voters to understand the technology in California, and making sure [DES'] story is told."

In the face of well-organized opposition, including organizations that are demanding any touch-screen machine provide a paper receipt, DES doesn't feel the coverage of the company or its technology has been balanced, added Law.

Ogilvy will not focus on public policy, said Law. Instead, the agency's charge is to influence the court of public opinion, among both voters and the media.

While Ogilvy is now working on research of public perceptions, likely messaging will talk about the ease of electronic voting, particularly for voters who do not speak English, as well as for handicapped voters, said Law.

"California has such a diverse population, and electronic voting allows people to vote in their own language," he added.

Diebold worked with Public Strategies on a similar national campaign and Compliance Research Group of Lauderdale Lakes, FL, on a Maryland-focused effort in 2004.

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