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Mitt's voting-machine buddies

Posted By Ellen Ratner On 10/14/2012 @ 8:32 pm In Commentary,Opinion | No Comments

Although I spend most of my time commuting between New York and Washington, D.C., I am from the great state of Ohio. I love Ohio, although the state’s Republican officials have not been acting in a way that makes me proud. In fact, they have been behaving poorly toward potential voters.

Last week, the secretary of state petitioned to have the Supreme Court make a judgment that would overturn the federal district court and a higher appellate court on the issue of early voting. Ohio passed a law saying there could be no early ballots within three days of the election. Democrats went to court to have the law declared unconstitutional. The Ohio law would allow early voting for military voters but not others. Both the 6th District Court and Appellate Court ruled that early voting could still take place for all voters – but the Republican establishment was not happy so is now appealing to the Supremes.

To some it looks like voter suppression; to others it does not. I take the voter-suppression side, especially considering what has come to light about some of the very active voter-suppression efforts being made in several states. It has been made to look like voter registration but has the feel of voter suppression, especially if it done by the same people that have had a reputation for that very activity.

Nathan Sproul has been in the lens of Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog for a long time, and this week the New York Times wrote a piece about his Florida activities. According to many news reports, there were several irregularities reported with Sproul’s voter registration activity in Florida. Almost two weeks ago, the Republican National Committee said they had “zero tolerance” for voter fraud and fired Nathan Sproul and his firm. That was great. They took the right action.

However, now there are reports that Sproul’s former company morphed into another company and is still doing voter registration in other states. Bluenc, a blog, found that Sproul’s group is called Issue Advocacy Partners. Citizendc, a blogger, traced Sproul’s company address to the very same address of Karl Rove’s American Crossroads operation in Warrenton, Va. Not exactly downtown Manhattan, it would be highly unlikely that having the same address is coincidental.

In another “connect the dots” development, two journalists at freepress.org have connected Mitt Romney’s former company, Bain Capital, with the owners of a voting machine company some believe have real problems and may even be responsible for some irregularities that could cost President Obama the election in Ohio.

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman write on feepress.org: “Hart Intercivic, on whose machines the key votes will be cast in Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, was taken over last year by H.I.G. Capital. Prominent partners and directors on the H.I.G. board hail from Bain Company or Bain Capital, both connected to Mitt Romney. H.I.G. employees have contributed at least $338,000 to Romney’s campaign. H.I.G. Directors John P. Bolduk and Douglas Berman are major Romney fundraisers, as is former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve.”

Wait a minute, in the “there ought to be a law category,” there are people who work for and are on the board of directors of a company making voting machines contributing to a candidate’s campaign? There have been some real questions in past elections about how the machines functioned or malfunctioned, including what Fitakis and Wasserman describe as “counting errors.”

This all makes me have a pit in my stomach. We all grew up with a great belief in our democracy, in our belief that the great Election Day poll of voting is sacrosanct. We all grew up knowing that whatever it took to cast a vote, even if by absentee ballot, was not only OK but a duty we have in exchange for a great democracy.

In addition, had we learned as kids that that the board of a voting machine company was giving to any political candidate, we would have said it is anathema to our democracy. It would not pass the smell test of a high school civics course.

It should not take sideline journalists to put this kind of “connect the dots” story together. The mainstream press should have done it and should be forcing the conversation about the use and abuse of voting machines and who controls who gets on and stays on the voter rolls. The legitimacy of our democracy depends on it.


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