Republican officials across the country are having a major problem with their widely ballyhooed claim that they must create new barriers to voting in order to ensure the "integrity" of the ballot. The problem is this: Their high-decibel effort is completely devoid of integrity.
The real electoral fraud being perpetrated across our country is the GOP's frantic claim that hordes of ineligible Democrats are voting illegally. It just isn't true. Indeed, despite all of their squawking, and despite deploying numerous dragnets to apprehend thousands of these election defrauders, they've produce practically no cases of illegal voting happening anywhere.
Nonetheless, what they have produced is a rash of intimidating, show-me-your-papers voter ID requirements. Thus, the GOP is tainting itself with a sleazy legacy of voter suppression, deliberately trying to diminish Democratic turnout by purging voter rolls and scaring off legitimate balloters.
Rather than meekly acquiescing to the suppression, however, the constituencies targeted by the GOP's hokey poll-integrity campaign (mainly going after darker-skinned voters, poor people, students and others inclined to vote for Dems) have been standing up for their rights and taking the self-serving suppressors to court. And, to the party's chagrin, the courts have been rejecting, setting aside or weakening every one of their repressive laws that have been challenged this year, including those in Florida, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.
In fairness, though, we must concede that fraud does lurk as a threat to our democratic process. Take Sugar Land, Texas, the hometown of Catherine Engelbrecht. A tea party zealot, she founded an outfit called True the Vote, which has run a nationwide witch-hunt to find and indict those imaginary hordes of Democrats casting illegal ballots. No luck there. But rather than charging pell-mell across the country, she could have sniffed out a real fraud case right under her nose.
Bruce Fleming, running for county commissioner in Engelbrecht's very own precinct, turns out to be a serial violator of voter integrity laws. In 2006, 2008 and 2010, he voted in person in Sugar Land, then voted again by mail in Yardley, Pa., where he owns a home.
But he's a Republican, and Engelbrecht's fraud squad wasn't looking for those. In fact, this fraudulent voter had been named "precinct chairman of the year" by the county GOP in 2010!
And let's not forget official fraud, such as the blatantly partisan and illegal effort by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to restrict and even ban early voting. Openly defying a court order to allow Ohio's eligible voters to use this improved access to the polls, the Republican arrogantly insisted that he was the arbiter of voting rules in his state and that he considers early voting to be "un-American."
Ohioans might also worry about the potential of massive election fraud through the electronic voting machines that will count their ballots on Nov. 6. Suspicions about the integrity of these "black box" e-vote machines, owned by Hart Intercivic, was heightened last year when that corporation was taken over by an obscure investment fund named HIG Capital.
Of the 22 Americans on HIG's board of directors, 21 are donors to Mitt Romney's current political campaign, and a third were former officials at Bain & Co. (where Romney got his start as a corporate takeover artist). HIG is the 11th largest source of donations to the Republican contender's campaign.
But Romney's noose around Ohio's vote count is even tighter than these cozy connections suggest, for HIG itself is largely owned by a private equity fund called Solamere. Who dat? Solamere was started in 2008 by Mitt's eldest son, Tagg, and the fund's startup cash came from Momma Ann and Uncle Scott Romney, with Papa Mitt chipping in $10 million and making a personal pitch to other potential investors.
Like father, like son — Tagg disguises Solamere's revenues and transactions through an array of tax dodges in the Cayman Islands. And now the son has temporarily slid out of the family's machine-owning money fund to work directly for his father's campaign. This gives a whole new meaning to "playing Tagg."
Can the Romneys even spell "conflict of interest"? The key to America's ballot integrity is not a voter ID card, but the people's trust in the system's fairness. That trust has already been deeply undermined by the unlimited corporate cash flooding into the process, but now comes a presidential candidate with a big personal investment in and crony control of the voting machines that will decide the outcome in the key swing state of Ohio.
Of all the things the Romney's could invest in, why voting machines?
To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.