Ohio's voting machines – brought to you by the Romneys

Manufacturer's ties to candidate's son and donors raise concerns about unfair influence on result

Washington

Mitt Romney's campaign has been hit by his links to a firm providing the voting machines that will be used to tally the ballots in the crucial state of Ohio, as concerns of voter fraud increase in the tightly fought race.

Ohio is traditionally seen as the closest and most important state in a presidential election. The close contest between Mr Romney and Barack Obama could easily come down to the counts in Ohio and Florida – the latter was the scene of a bitter struggle in 2000 between the Democrat Al Gore and George W Bush. Mr Obama still has a narrow lead over the Republican challenger in Ohio, according to polls, while Florida is tilted towards Mr Romney.

Salon magazine reported on Tuesday on the "extensive corporate ties to the Mitt Romney camp" of Hart InterCivic, the voting-machine provider that will be used to count the votes in Ohio, and the other key swing states of Colorado and Virginia. Reports in the US media since the end of last month have linked the company to Mr Romney's campaign donors and his son Tagg.

The Washington Post noted that the implication is that "Romney will enjoy some kind of malign leverage over the vote count in Ohio". Hart InterCivic said in a statement that it has a "long track record of supporting a fair and open democratic process. Any suggestions that the company might try to influence the outcome of election results is unfounded".

The swirling controversy over Hart InterCivic has provided a timely reminder that it's not just how you vote but how the votes are counted that could decide the winner of the election on 6 November. In 2004, the role of voting machines came under scrutiny in Ohio where Mr Bush defeated Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry by 118,601 votes out of more than 5.6 million cast. The result was controversial because Walden O'Dell, the chief executive of an Ohio-based voting-machine manufacturer, had earlier declared his commitment to helping secure Mr Bush's re-election.

With the campaigns going after every vote and the electoral stakes so high there are already signs of attempted election fraud. Voters in Florida, Virginia and Indiana had been receiving phone calls informing them – incorrectly – that they can vote by phone on election day. One Republican from St Augustine, Kurtis Killian, told the Associated Press that he had been called by a man identifying himself as an employee of the Florida Division of Elections.

Also in Florida, where early voting begins next Saturday, bogus letters have been sent to dozens of voters telling them their citizenship is in doubt. The letters – apparently targeting Republicans – say that if they attempt to vote before clearing up their status they would risk a jail sentence.

This year, as in 2008, the Obama campaign efforts have focused on early votes that can be cast either through absentee ballots or by voting in person. Mr Obama will vote in his home city of Chicago today. But in campaign appearances this week, Mr Romney has also been urging Republicans to take advantage of an early vote in states where it is permitted.

In the toss-up state of Iowa, voters can register and cast their ballot on the same day. Timothy Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa, said voting has been made easier in the state thanks to convenient satellite voting stations where people can vote regardless of whether they are registered at that precinct.

Amid what Professor Hagle called a "general enthusiasm gap" for the incumbent President compared with in 2008, Democratic activists have focused on bringing out the student vote through the Campus Takeover initiative. "Celebrities take part and then walk the students to the satellite voting stations on campus," Professor Hagle said. The singer Bruce Springsteen was among those taking part last week.

Senator's rape comments pose problems

Mitt Romney has been embarrassed by a Senate candidate from his own party who said that pregnancy resulting from rape is "something that God intended to happen".

Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party-backed candidate who is running for a Senate seat in Indiana after knocking out veteran moderate Senator Richard Lugar in a primary contest, made the remark during an election debate on Tuesday night.

The timing of the remarks, coming just as Mr Romney is adopting more centrist positions as the election nears, will put fresh focus on the radical social conservatives who make up the party base.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Physics Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Physics Teacher required for ...

year 4/5/6

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you looking for a full...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week