The Last Election Conspiracy (for This Year) (Correct)

The following column originally stated that Diebold sold its U.S. elections systems business in 2006. In fact, Diebold sold the unit in 2009. The column has been corrected. TheStreet regrets the error.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- My biggest fear over every election doesn't involve who wins. It's whether the result is accepted by the losers.

Democrats accepted the Bush wins of 2000 and 2004 only reluctantly. Their resistance in 2004 was heightened by suspicions about Diebold ( DBD), which held a lot of contracts on voting machines, including those in Ohio, and was suspected of rigging the vote.

John Kerry had led in the late polls. George W. Bush won the state narrowly. The CEO of Diebold, Walden O'Dell, was known to be a key Bush supporter. Mother Jones called it "Diebold's Political Machine."

Here is the rest of the story, in Wikipedia. Diebold sold that unit in 2009, to a company owned by the McCarthy Group LLC and the newspaper The Omaha World-Herald. The newspaper is now owned by Berkshire-Hathaway ( BRK.A), whose CEO, Warren Buffett, is known to be an Obama supporter this year. (Full disclosure. I am, too.)

If you want to make a conspiracy out of that, go ahead. I'm not going there.

Fact is, voting machines are not a great business to be in. There was some profit available in the last decade, as electronic machines replaced paper ballots in many places (including my own state of Georgia), but generally it's more trouble than it's worth.

It sounds like it should be better. You have lots of clients, you have networks to connect the votes to a counting system and, hopefully, you have a lot of security -- both computer and physical -- to protect against fraud.

But the machines are sold once and last for many years. The customers wind up controlling them and back-end revenue is fairly small. Everyone is watching, anyone can jump down a supplier's throat when the count goes against them. It's a lot of hassle for not a lot of gain.

The latest left-wing conspiracy theory, shown here at Simple-politiks.com, involves the company that sold machines to Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located. It's called Hart Intercivic, and it's owned by supporters of challenger Mitt Romney including (through Solamere Capital) his son Tagg.

The claim is that Tagg has "purchased voting machines," as Allvoices.com puts it, to guarantee his father's victory.

Here's the problem with that theory, as the Washington Post reports: Hart doesn't own the Hamilton machines. They are owned and controlled by the board of elections.

The county's director of elections was very clear to the Post. "We own our equipment," she said. "Hart has nothing to do with it."

There will always be election conspiracy theories. A man in Arizona claims Republicans there have a 20-point swing, guaranteed, in their favor, by manipulating the results in large precincts -- he wrote about it at Readersupportednews.org .

This particular theory gained traction in the 2008 South Carolina primary, where big precincts gave Romney his best gains against John McCain. But Romney was running to McCain's left. Charleston is where the big precincts were and those Republicans were more moderate than those in the upstate, where McCain won handily. (This year's primary had the same pattern. Newt Gingrich won.)

The point is that conspiracies are as old as elections. One of my favorite scenes in "Citizen Kane" is when Charles Foster Kane's newspaper editors get the results of the election he lost, and sadly go with the headline "Fraud at Polls."

I could be wrong. Maybe Tagg Romney is secretly electing his dad president as we speak. Maybe there's no such thing, really, as democracy. Maybe it's all a game, a fraud, controlled by big businessmen manipulating us from above, an unseen evil conspiracy.

But if that's true, how did a half-black Hawaiian native named Barack Hussein Obama become president in the first place? You keep hope alive for your favorite candidate. I'm going to keep it alive for democracy.

At the time of publication, the author had no investments in the companies mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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