There’s so much fabrication floating around the internet, it’s hard to trust anything you read–especially as the election draws closer. So when a Facebook friend posted an article from a source I didn’t recognize, my first inclination was to categorize it with the various paranoid fantasies of “dirty deeds” and “voter fraud” that have grown thicker than ragweed this election cycle. The article claimed that Mitt Romney’s son Tagg, and other members of the Romney family, are part owners of Ohio’s voting machines–specifically, those supplied by Hart Intercivic.
A search of Snopes turned up nothing, pro or con. Google, however, was more accommodating, as were a few Facebook friends. The story was corroborated by several sources, among them Politifact and that noted left-wing publication, Forbes. Forbes reported that Hart Intercivic is largely owned by H.I.G. Capital, that H.I.G. Capital employees hold two of the five board seats–and both of them have made direct contributions to Romney’s campaign. Tony Tamer, the firm’s founder, is a major bundler for Romney, as are three other directors of H.I.G. In fact, H.I.G. is Romney’s 11th largest contributor. And to top it all off, H.I.G. has shared business interests with Solamere Capital, owned by…Tagg Romney.
Election experts have long warned that electronic voting machines are vulnerable to hacking; that’s one reason many jurisdictions have begun insisting on a paper trail. (I’m told some European countries have recently gone back to paper ballots in order to reassure voters of the legitimacy of election results.) There are all sorts of reasons why this latest bit of news is disquieting: the centrality of Ohio in our electoral vote system, the persistent accusations of irregularities in that state’s vote in 2004, and the increasingly brazen efforts by Republicans to suppress minority votes.
It began with so-called “Voter ID” laws, purportedly aimed at in-person voter fraud, a largely imaginary problem. As some unguarded comments by GOP operatives have confirmed, the real aim of such laws is to suppress the votes of elderly, poor and minority Americans–those most likely to lack the documentation, transportation and/or resources needed to obtain the necessary ID.
The Voter ID efforts have been accompanied by persistent measures to restrict voting–to limit early voting periods, and refuse to authorize satellite voting sites, and generally to make exercising ones franchise as inconvenient as possible, again on the theory that such measures would be most likely to discourage lower-income voters who tend to skew Democratic.
In the past week or so, there have been reports from swing states of other shenanigans: in Florida, Republican operatives were caught trashing registrations; in several other localities, robo-calls have been made to minority voters “reminding” them to vote–on November 8th. (The election, of course, will take place on November 6th.) Then there were the billboards in minority neighborhoods, featuring a judge’s gavel and the text “Voter Fraud is a felony—up to 3 1/2 years and a $10,000 fine.” Those appeared in Cleveland, Columbus and Milwaukee. (Clear Channel has now responded to community outrage and begun taking them down; however, much of the harm has been done.)
I’m sure there must be places where the Democrats are engaging in similar tactics, and they certainly have done so in the past, but reports of Democratic chicanery haven’t surfaced in this election cycle. My sense is that these are the sort of tactics used by folks who smell defeat–who realize that winning will require a bit of “fudging” here and there, and for whom winning is more important than playing fair and square. This year, despite the close national polls, that best describes the Romney/Ryan team.
Their faux concerns about voter fraud are an example of what psychologists call “projection.”