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Romney-linked Voting Machine Company Will Count Votes in Ohio and Other Crucial Swing States

The company counting critical votes in Ohio and Colorado has extensive connections to the Mitt Romney camp.
 
 
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Voting machine provider Hart Intercivic will be counting the votes in various counties in the crucial swing states of Ohio and Colorado and elsewhere throughout the country come November 6—even though it has extensive corporate ties to the Mitt Romney camp, and even though a study commissioned by the state of Ohio has labeled its voting system a “failure” when it comes to protecting the integrity of election.

Reports of Hart Intercivic’s ties to Romney first surfaced in late September, in a  blog post by Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis in The Free Press, an Ohio website which reported that a key investor in Hart was HIG Capital, seven of whose directors were former employees of Bain & Co., a consulting company of which Mitt Romney was once CEO. (Romney left the company in 1984 to co-found a spin-off company, Bain Capital.)  HIG Capital announced its investment in Hart on July 6, 2011, just one month after Romney formally announced the launch of his presidential campaign.

Nor were those the only ties between Hart and the Romney camp. Four of the HIG 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, and,  according to Opensecrets.org, a website run by the Center for Responsive politics,  HIG Capital  has contributed $338,000 to the Romney campaign this year. Moreover, according to  a report in The Nation, HIG Capital is tied to the Romney family via Solamere, a private equity firm that has invested in HIG and is run by Tagg Romney, the candidate’s son.

A spokesman for Hart Intercivic, Peter Lichtenheld, vice-president of operations, confirmed that HIG was a major investor, but downplayed its role in Hart’s management. “HIG Capital is an investor with Hart,” Lichtenheld told Salon, “but it has nothing to do with management at Hart. We don’t want the perception that we have some political agenda. We are in the election business and integrity is paramount.”

In the event of a close election, however, the ties between the Romney family, their supporters, and the voting machine company raise the specter of a potential conflict of interest and the memory of the controversy surrounding the 2004 election results in Ohio.

In that election, as I report in “ Boss Rove,” Democrat John Kerry had a 4.2 percent lead in the exit polls in Ohio, which would have given him the presidency. George W. Bush won the state by more than two points, however, and, as a result, kept the White House. But a civil suit subsequently alleged that the Ohio results were fraudulent because the Republican Secretary of State of Ohio, Ken Blackwell, contracted with SmarTech, a Tennessee-based tech firm indirectly tied to Karl Rove, to serve as the “failover” site for election results in Ohio on Election Night.

At approximately 11:14 p.m. on that night, SmarTech did in fact link up with servers for Ohio’s election returns. After SmarTech became part of the process, the Ohio returns were characterized by anomalies involving the tabulation of punch cards, electronic voting machines of various types, spectacularly high turnouts in pro-Bush precincts, and turnouts in pro-Kerry precincts that were astoundingly low. Virtually all the irregularities favored Bush, and the vast majority of them remain unexplained.

When I questioned about his relationship to SmarTech for my book, “ Boss Rove,” he told me, “I have no idea who SmarTech is.”

He later added, “I am so many layers removed from that I wouldn’t even know who those guys were.”

 
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