Less than two weeks after Halloween, many Americans may wind up casting their ballots on haunted voting machines.

When they enter voting booths, millions of citizens in Texas, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Washington, Colorado, and Virginia, along with a few counties in the pivotal state of Ohio, will make their choices on eSlate and ePollbook machines made by an Austin-based company called Hart InterCivic.

Last year, an $8.5 billion investment fund known as HIG Capital acquired a “strategic” stake in Hart, which gave it at least three of the five board seats for the nation’s No. 3 voting machine company.

And why does the HIG connection matter? HIG’s directors are among the Romney campaign’s top supporters. HIG cofounder Anthony Tamer and eight of its managing directors once worked for Bain & Co., the private equity firm that Mitt led during his corporate plundering career.

But the enigma within these machines goes even deeper than these cozy partisan ties suggest. Yet another private equity outfit called Solomere has a small stake in HIG. And Solomere was formed by Tagg Romney, and financed by Mama Ann Romney and Uncle Scott Romney, with Papa Mitt himself chipping in $10 million and personally pitching Solomere to other rich investors.

Like father, like son — Tagg cloaks the fund’s operations within a dark maze of offshore tax shelters. And, now, the son has slipped out of Solomere to be a top campaign manager for his father. This slippery guy gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “playing Tagg.”

One wonders if Tagg’s campaign duties include “monitoring” voting machines. Can the Romneys even spell “conflict of interest”?

What are we to make of a multimillionaire presidential candidate with shady financial and crony ties to the machines that can decide the outcome? I ask you: Of all the things the Romneys and their buddies could invest in — why voting machines?

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown and he writes a short weekly column distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

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