Next Tuesday’s presidential election will likely be extremely close, magnifying the potential impact of vote-counting errors. So it could be problematic that several states rely on computerized voting machines that don’t print out a paper record that can be verified by voters and recounted by election officials if necessary.
Such machines are in use in 16 states, as indicated in red on the map above. Computer scientists and fair-election advocates have warned for years that potential software malfunctions are possible threats to the integrity of elections in counties and states that use these machines.
Another 13 states, including battleground states such as Nevada, Wisconsin, Ohio, and North Carolina, have at least some polling stations that use voting machines with a precautionary measure: a receipt that can be checked later—a so-called voter-verified paper audit trail. These machines are still vulnerable to software glitches, but voters at least have a chance to spot errors and make sure their vote gets registered and recorded accurately.
Ask Richard Nixon’s corpse: since 1960 no presidential candidate has taken office without winning Ohio. Voters in that state have since correctly picked the winning presidential candidate in the last 11 elections. Mainstream pundits have also predicted that this year’s contest will be decided by how Ohioans vote.
Which makes it inexplicable – to my mind – the media hasn’t more fully explored the details of Romney’s associates’ purchase of the voting machine company whose products will tally not only the Ohio votes, but many of the ‘swing states’ as well. It is worth noting here that H.I.G. board directors (among them John P. Bolduk and Douglas Berman, major Romney fundraisers), and partners (including H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve, another primary Romeny fundraiser), arrived from Bain Company or Bain Capital, both connected to Mitt Romney. Somewhat less than amazingly, H.I.G. employees have since donated roughly $330,000 to Romney’s campaign.
Other points of interest that mainstream media has so far chosen to ignore:
- H.I.G. was founded by Tony Tamer, a former Bain employee and bundler for Mitt Romney’s campaign;
- Of H.I.G.’s 22 American directors, 21 donated to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign;
- Of these 22 American directors, seven of them (nearly one-third) are former Bain employees;
- Four of H.I.G.’s directors, Tony Tamer, John Bolduc, Douglas Berman, and Brian D. Schwartz, are Romney bundlers along with former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve;
- Two of H.I.G.’s managing directors, Douglas F. Berman and Brian D. Schwartz, were present at the $50,000 per plate fundraiser where Mitt Romney made his notorious ”47%” comments;
- H.I.G. employees currently make up the majority of the Hart InterCivic’s five-member board of directors. Two of these three directors of the voting machine company, Neil Tuch and Jeff Bohl, have donated directly to Mitt Romney’s campaign.
- H.I.G. is the 11th largest donor to Mitt Romney’s campaign. H.I.G. employees have given $338,000 to the Romney campaign, outpacing even Bain Capital itself, which gave $268,000.
While I don’t buy into every conspiracy theory I run across, there has been a documented history of shennaigans surrounding voting machines running back to Bush’s re-election campaign, coincidentally in Ohio.
George W. Bush got a second term in 2004 thanks to the manipulation of the electronic vote count by Ohio’s then-Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. Blackwell served as the co-chair of the state’s committee to re-elect Bush/Cheney while simultaneously administering the election.
The widespread use of electronic voting machines from ES&S, and of Diebold software maintained by Triad, allowed Blackwell to electronically flip a 4% Kerry lead to a 2% Bush victory in the dead of election night. ES&S, Diebold and Triad were all owned or operated by Republican partisans. The shift of more than 300,000 votes after 12:20 am election night was a virtual statistical impossibility. It was engineered by Michael Connell, an IT specialist long affiliated with the Bush Family. Blackwell gave Connell’s Ohio-based GovTech the contract to count Ohio’s votes, which was done on servers housed in the Old Pioneer Bank Building in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Thus the Ohio vote tally was done on servers that also carried the e-mail for Karl Rove and the national Republican Party. Connell died in a mysterious plane crash in December, 2008, after being subpoenaed in the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville federal lawsuit focused on how the 2004 election was decided (disclosure: we were attorney and plaintiff in that suit).
Diebold’s founder, Walden O’Dell, had vowed to deliver Ohio’s electoral votes—and thus the presidency—to his friend George W. Bush. That it was done in part on electronic voting machines and software O’Dell happened to own (Diebold has since changed hands twice) remains a cautionary red flag for those who believe merely winning the popular vote will give Barack Obama a second term.
Fritakis and Wasserman also point out that US courts have consistently held that though local election boards may well own physical voting machines, the software in electronic voting machines is proprietary to the manufacturer. Ergo, there is no such thing as vote count transparency. The Ohio vote this year will be conducted by Hart Intercivic. There is no public recourse, much less accountability.
If you think that glib, far-fetched or outright paranoid, it would be instructive to brush up on the relatively brief life of Michael Connell. Or read the disposition for all the questions his attorneys wouldn’t let him respond to.
Or, you know, blow the whole thing off; doesn’t really matter who’s elected, right? 1
UPDATE: The latest polls from the ‘swing states’ –
Ohio: Obama 50%, Romney 45% (via)
Ohio: Obama 50%, Romney 45% (via)
Ohio: Obama 48%, Romney 46% (via)
Florida: Obama 48%, Romney 47% (via)
Florida: Romney 50%, Obama 47% (via)
Iowa: Obama 50%, Romney 45% (via)
Michigan: Obama 48%, Romney 45% (via)
North Carolina: Obama 49%, Romney 49% (via)
Pennsylvania: Obama 48%, Romney 44% (via)
Virginia: Obama 49%, Romney 47% (via)
Virginia: Romney 49%, Obama 44% (via)
Wisconsin: Obama 51%, Romney 46% (via)
Wisconsin: Obama 51%, Romney 43% (via)