A legitimate election means that all candidates meet the same minimum qualifications, they adhere to the ethical standards set out by the state government, and no candidate has manipulated the actual voting process in his favor.
But this is America, and our brand of capitalism has a way of making this much more difficult than it sounds, especially when you're someone with as many financial ties as Mitt Romney.
According to an op-ed published by Forbes contributor Rick Ungar, several large Romney campaign donors and Romney's own son Tagg have financial ties to voting machine producer Hart InterCivic, Hamilton County, Ohio's voting machine provider.
OpenSecrets.org reports that as of October 21, H.I.G. Capital and its employees are the 15th largest contributors to the Romney campaign. What isn't widely publicized is that H.I.G. Capital has significant investments in Hart InterCivic, and two H.I.G. executives, Neil Tuch and Jeff Bohl, sit on the board of directors at Hart according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
Along with other key executives at H.I.G., the Federal Election Commission reports that both Tuch and Bohl have directly contributed to the Romney campaign despite being board members at an organization that must, by its nature, remain neutral in campaigns. Also according to the FEC, no other executives at Hart InterCivic have so much as dropped a penny on campaign contributions this election cycle.
Romney's son's company, Solamere Capital or one of its subsidiaeies, also holds investments with HIG Capital according to Ungar. Several members of the Romney clan, like Tagg's uncle Scott and Romney himself, have financial connections with Solamere.
To bring the scope of this problem full circle, according to the EVERST study conducted in 2007 by the Ohio Secretary of State, Hart InterCivic's election systems provide “numerous opportunities to manipulate election outcomes or cast doubt on legitimate election activities.”
When you put together the Hart executives' obvious bias toward Romney, the opportunities for manipulation of election results, the fact that Ohio is a key battleground state, and the reciprocation of investments between the capital firms, it's not hard to feel a certain note of disconcert.
According to the Ohio laws on ethics in public office, "a potential conflict of interest exists if the private interests of the person, as indicated by the person’s disclosure statement, might interfere with the public interests the person is required to serve in the exercise of the person’s authority and duties in the person’s office or position of employment." Did Romney disclose that some of his largest campaign contributors were some of the people who are supposed to ensure that this election is conducted fairly?
It would seem that there is definite possibility for a conflict of interest.
In Romney's contributors defense, correlation does not necessarily imply causation. That is to say, just because these connections exist does not mean that there is any foul play at work here. But the sanctity of elections that many Republicans across the country have been fighting for in the form of voter ID laws, would seem to be in jeopardy in this case. Just in a very different way.
Maybe this is just a case of bad judgement the part of the executives, but given the close nature of this presidential race, any person using a Hart voting machine is due an explanation of these connections. For a government to be legitimate, its citizens have to be assured that their vote is counted fairly and accurately, without any doubts about those performing the counting. One would think such business leaders would know better, but then again, this is America. With enough money and the right friends, anything is possible.