October 27, 2012
What Does it Mean for Pennsylvania, if a Candidate or his Family Owns Part of a Voting Machine Company?
October 27, 2012 -- as the Presidential campaign winds on, reports have surfaced that members of candidate Mitt Romney's family, through their investment firms, hold ownership in America's third-largest voting machine company, Hart / Intercivic. Machines from this company are used in elections in many key swing states including Ohio and Pennsylvania. The story first surfaced in Ohio's Free Press and has since broken through into mainstream publications including Forbes, the Atlantic, Salon.com, The Washington Post, The Nation, and The Huffington Post.
People are understandably concerned when a candidate and/or his family owns an interest in the voting machines that will be counting his own votes, just as they were concerned when Secretaries of State J. Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio 2004, and Katherine Harris in Florida 2000, were state campaign chairs for one of the Presidential candidates. Even if there is no actual impropriety going on, the appearance of a conflict of interest is these cases is not in the best interest of democracy.
In the meantime, many have asked how this specific situation with Hart / Intercivic could affect Pennsylvania. First of all, we believe that county election officials in our state are generally committed to fair elections and they do not take orders from voting machine vendors or allow tampering by anyone. Secondly, at the present time only four PA counties use Hart equipment. Three of these counties, Bedford, Fayette, and Lancaster use voter-marked paper ballots and scanners which means that most votes in these counties can be hand-audited and/or recounted independently of all Hart software. So even if somehow there was a voting system problem that local election officials did not catch, in these counties the will of the voters can still be preserved by hand counting the paper ballots.
For the future, VotePA believes that we need to eliminate conflicts of interest when it comes to canidates for office, partisan campaigns, and voting equipment / conduct of elections. No one who is running for office or who is part of a campaign for office should be in any form of potential control of an election or the equipment used to count an election, financially or otherwise.
We urge the Pennsylvania General Assembly and United States Congress to eliminate all loopholes and end all practices that could create a conflict of interest, or even the appearance of one, in our elections.