Republican officials are having a major problem with their widely ballyhooed claim that they must create new barriers to voting in order to ensure the “integrity” of the ballot. The problem is this: Their high-decibel effort is completely devoid of integrity.

The real electoral fraud is the GOP’s frantic claim that hordes of ineligible Democrats are voting illegally. It just isn’t true. Indeed, despite all of their squawking, and despite deploying numerous dragnets to apprehend thousands of these election defrauders, they have produced practically no cases of illegal voting.

Nonetheless, what they have produced is a rash of intimidating, show-me-your-papers voter ID requirements. Thus, the GOP is tainting itself with a sleazy legacy of voter suppression, deliberately trying to diminish Democratic turnout by purging voter rolls and scaring off legitimate balloters.

Rather than meekly acquiescing to the suppression, however, the constituencies targeted have been taking the self-serving suppressors to court. And, to the GOP’s chagrin, the courts have been rejecting, setting aside or weakening every one of their repressive laws that have been challenged this year.

In fairness, though, we must concede that fraud does lurk as a threat to our democratic process. Take Sugar Land, Texas, the hometown of Catherine Engelbrecht. A tea party zealot, she founded True the Vote, which has run a nationwide witch hunt to find and indict those imaginary hordes of Democrats casting illegal ballots. No luck there. She could have sniffed out a real fraud case right under her nose.

Bruce Fleming, running for county commissioner in Engelbrecht’s very own precinct, turns out to be a serial violator of voter integrity laws. In 2006, 2008 and 2010, he voted in person in Sugar Land, then voted again by mail in Yardley, Pa., where he owns a home.

And let’s not forget official fraud, such as the blatantly partisan and illegal effort by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to restrict and even ban early voting. Openly defying a court order to allow Ohio’s eligible voters to use this improved access to the polls, the Republican arrogantly insisted that he was the arbiter of voting rules in his state. Ohioans might also worry about the potential of massive election fraud through the electronic voting machines that will count their ballots on Nov. 6. Suspicions about the integrity of these “black box” e-vote machines, owned by Hart Intercivic, was heightened last year when that corporation was taken over by investment fund H.I.G. Capital.

Of the 22 Americans on H.I.G.’s board of directors, 21 are donors to Mitt Romney’s current political campaign, and a third were former officials at Bain & Co. H.I.G. is the 11th largest source of donations to the Republican contender’s campaign.

But Romney’s noose around Ohio’s vote count is even tighter than these cozy connections suggest, for H.I.G. itself is largely owned by a private equity fund called Solamere. Solamere was started in 2008 by Mitt’s eldest son, Tagg, and the fund’s startup cash came from Momma Ann and Uncle Scott Romney, with Papa Mitt chipping in $10 million.

Like father, like son – Tagg disguises Solamere’s revenues and transactions through an array of tax dodges in the Cayman Islands. And now the son has temporarily slid out of the family’s machine-owning money fund to work directly for his father’s campaign.

Can the Romneys even spell “conflict of interest”? The key to America’s ballot integrity is not a voter ID card, but the people’s trust in the system’s fairness.

Jim Hightower is national radio commentator, columnist and author.

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