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Will E-Voting Machines Owned by His Buddies Give Mitt Romney the White House?

Electronic voting machines owned by Mitt Romney's business buddies and set to count the votes in Cincinnati could decide the 2012 election.

The narrative is already being hyped by the corporate media. As Kelly O'Donnell reported for NBC's Today Show on Monday, October 8, Ohio's Hamilton County is "ground zero" for deciding who holds the White House come January, 2013.

O'Donnell pointed out that no candidate has won the White House without carrying Ohio since John Kennedy did it in 1960. No Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio's electoral votes.

As we document in the e-book Will the GOP Steal America's 2012 Election? (www.freepress.org) 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.

This November, much of the Ohio electorate will cast its ballots on machines again owned by close cronies of the Republican presidential candidate. In Cincinnati and elsewhere around the state, the e-voting apparati are owned by Hart Intercivic. Hart's machines are infamous for mechanical failures, "glitches," counting errors and other timely problems now thoroughly identified with the way Republicans steal elections. As in 2004, Ohio's governor is now a Republican. This time it's the very right-wing John Kasich, himself a multi-millionaire courtesy of a stint at Lehman Brothers selling state bonds, and the largesse of Rupert Murdoch, on whose Fox Network Kasich served as a late night bloviator. Murdoch wrote Kasich a game-changing $1 million check just prior to his winning the statehouse, an electoral victory shrouded in electronic intrigue. The exit polls in that election indicated that his opponent, incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland, had actually won the popular vote.

Ohio's very Republican Secretary of State is John Husted, currently suing in the US Supreme Court to prevent the public from voting on the weekend prior to election day. As did Blackwell and Governor Robert Taft in 2004, Husted and Kasich will control Ohio's electronic vote count on election night free of meaningful public checks or balances

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.

US courts have consistently ruled that the software in electronic voting machines is proprietary to the manufacturer, even though individual election boards may own the actual machines. Thus there will be no vote count transparency on election night in Ohio. The tally will be conducted by Hart Intercivic and controlled by Husted and Kasich, with no public recourse or accountability. As federal testimony from the deceased Michael Connell made clear in 2008, electronically flipping an election is relatively cheap and easy to do, especially if you or your compatriots programmed the machines.

So as the corporate media swarm through Ohio, reporting breathlessly from "ground zero" in Cincinnati, don't hold your own breath waiting for them to also clarify that the voting machines in what may once again be America's decisive swing state are owned, programmed and tabulated by some of the Romney campaign's closest associates.

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of Will the GOP Steal America's 2012 Election?, an e-book.