Vulnerable Voting Machines in Ohio?

LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 18:  A voter demonstrates use of a touchscreen voting booth on the first day of early voting for the M
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 18: A voter demonstrates use of a touchscreen voting booth on the first day of early voting for the March 2 primary February 18, 2004 in east Los Angeles, California. A California judge today denied a temporary restraining order against use of electronic voting brought by a group of computer programmers and voters that alleges the system is vulnerable to manipulation. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

As if the Republican Party's campaign to win the presidency by mounting systematic voter suppression efforts is not bad enough, that may not be the only poisoned arrow in their quiver. It turns out that many of the touch-screen voting machines in tightly contested swing state Ohio may be vulnerable to interference of various kinds. And, guess what -- these machines were made by a company that is partially owned by Tagg Romney and a bunch of his father's financial backers and bundlers. Highlighting this unusual circumstance -- coincidence, if you prefer -- might sound like the musings of the most bizarre conspiracy theorists until you examine the facts and the context, especially the decisive role Ohio's Electoral College votes could play on November 6.

First, the facts -- many of Ohio's touch-screen voting machines were determined by Ohio's Secretary of State in 2007 to be vulnerable to tampering. As Bob Driehaus reported in a December 15, 2007, New York Times article, titled "Ohio Elections Official Calls Machines Flawed,"

At polling stations, teams working on the study were able to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines. At boards of election, they were able to introduce malignant software into servers.

These flawed electronic voting machines were manufactured by a company called Hart Intercivic. And who are they? It turns out that they are majority-owned by an investment group called H. I. G. Capital, whose founder is one of the largest partners in Tagg Romney's Solamere Capital and, by the way, a major bundler for the Romney campaign, as are three other directors of H. I. G. Capital. Two of the company's directors were at the $50,000-a-plate Boca Raton fundraiser where Mitt made his infamous remark, writing off 47 percent of the electorate as being beneath his contempt and beyond his reach. So what we have here is the possibility of the Ohio vote count and Presidential election being determined by imperfect voting machines manufactured by a company in which the Romney family is deeply enmeshed.

Now all of this information could signify nothing. Under normal circumstances, it would probably be a stretch to suggest that these machines could tilt the Presidential election in a particular direction. But these are not normal times. Aside from the Republican Party's all-out effort to disenfranchise and intimidate Democratic voters and the willingness of the Romney campaign and its surrogates to lie and cheat their way into the White House (I never thought I would have to say such a thing), it would be foolhardy to disregard the threat to the integrity of the Ohio vote in this election.

Just caste your mind back to the 2000 election when the presidency was given to George W. Bush by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court, prematurely halting the effort to count all the votes in Florida -- and Al Gore had won the popular vote. That travesty was caused by faulty vote-counting mechanisms that enabled a Republican power grab that turned out to be disastrous for the country -- two unfunded wars, huge tax-breaks for the most wealthy, and a completely unregulated Wall Street that brought about the financial meltdown of 2008 and beyond.

If Ohio votes fair-and-square for Romney and it helps win him the presidency, we will, of course, have to live with that unfortunate state of affairs and suffer not only a rerun of the disastrous policies of the Bush era but also witness an unprecedented attack on civil liberties, women's rights, ordinary working people, the poor, elderly, and sick. But, a Romney presidency that resulted from gaming the system would be especially hard to accept. We cannot take that chance and must insist that the Justice Department monitor the election processes in Ohio especially closely. Go here and sign a petition which reads:

The Department of Justice must launch an immediate investigation into Hart Intercivic touch screen voting machines in Ohio, and take all actions necessary to block Republicans from stealing the 2012 presidential election with voting machines tied to the Romney family and campaign.