Rage Against The Machine

The Machine Graphic by John Earl

Since the Tuscaloosa municipal election on Tuesday there has been controversy over The Machine‘s role in the election. Whether the Elections Division of the Alabama Secretary of State or the Attorney General’s office will investigate is another matter entirely.

An email sent to  members of the University of Alabama’s Chi Omega chapter offering them drinks for votes has been widely distributed. Referring to the two candidates supported by the University’s Machine, Lee Garrison and Cason Kirby, the email said, “Both of these guys are absolutely qualified for these positions and we need to do our part by going out to support them. (P.S: if you wear your “I voted” sticker you will receive a free drink at Moe’s and Innisfree on election night…so seriously, go vote)”

Melissa Brown reported: A second University of Alabama Greek email has surfaced in which a ranking fraternity officer offers free drinks to members to vote in the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education while specifically advocating support for two board candidates.

“If you all get out and vote, Cason will win,” the author writes. “This is a smaller election and your vote will make a difference. I wouldn’t send out these emails and get y’all registered and shit if it wasn’t for a good reason. It barely takes any time at all and there are a lot of other people you’ll know that are getting in the limos.”

Like the Chi Omega email that surfaced Wednesday, the message stated members could get rides to the polls in chartered limousines and would also receive wristbands for free drinks at Innisfree and Moe’s, local bars where vote parties were hosted. Innisfree had no comment for AL.com reporters Wednesday.

The fraternity leader told members to go to the polls regardless if they were registered to vote in Tuscaloosa or not and encouraged them to use provisional ballots to cast their votes.

Buying votes with alcohol isn’t exactly kosher. It’s a Class C misdemeanor to “buy any vote of any qualified elector at any election … by the gift of intoxicating liquors” according to the Alabama Elections code.

Stephen Dethrage further reported: “Voter registration records, provided to AL.com Wednesday by the Secretary of State’s Elections Division, reveal that more than 60 percent of people who signed up to vote in District 4 in 2013 were college-aged women who did so during the last week of registration. … the total number of women who are 23 or younger who registered to vote in District 4 at the last minute was 219, accounting for more than 60 percent of the people who signed up to vote in District 4 in all of 2013.
Seventy-six of the August registrants listed a total of four different houses on Magnolia Drive, UA’s Sorority Row, as their residential address. Ten men and a woman listed their residence as 42 University Circle, a home near campus. Twenty-two voters came from units in the East Edge apartments, a student housing complex that opened in 2012, and 10 voters registered from the University Downs complex.”

Law professor Paul Horwitz, who is the  husband of School Board candidate Kelly Horwitz, sent a message to the University of Alabama’s Faculty Senate yesterday:

“I do not seek to tar members of the Greek system with a broad brush. The Greek system is certainly a longstanding part of the university, and I’m sure that many fine individuals, including friends of mine, participate in it. But neither can there be any question that the relationship between the university and the Greek system is not a healthy one.

“As for the ‘Machine,’ it is difficult to talk about an organization that takes such a lack of pride in itself that it continues to deny its very existence–while, every now and again, sending out one or two people to explain to the press that it’s really not a big deal. I suppose if it didn’t exist, it would by definition not be a big deal! But it does and it is. Its conduct yesterday was atrocious and illegal, and it besmirched the university–all of it, including its faculty and leadership–every bit as much as it did itself.In important ways, our university is corrupt.
“Both the Greek and Machine questions have of course come up many times before. But they have not been addressed with clarity, tenacity, and a willingness not to stop until the issue is fully and completely aired in the open and addressed forcefully.
“In important ways, our university is corrupt. It seems to me that it is the duty of the Faculty Senate to arrest this corruption. Dealing with these issues is in my view an obligation, and one that we should take on–not just this year, but until we are done–as a signature issue of the Faculty Senate. I would add in that light that I am a little disturbed on two counts. The first has to do with the credibility of the university leadership. Both President Bonner and Chancellor Witt made sizeable donations to at least one of the Machine-backed candidates.
“An even greater cause to be disturbed is the lack of will and resolve on the part of the university administration when it comes to issues involving, inter alia, the Machine. These issues arise from time to time, are not firmly addressed, and continue to haunt us on a regular basis–as yesterday’s law violations demonstrate. It is our job as the Faculty Senate not to rest until the university leadership, including President Bonner, Chancellor Witt, and the board of trustees, have shown a full measure of a quality they have seemed too often to lack: courage. Otherwise, people of good faith who give all their time and effort to making this university great will continue to have reason to wonder just who runs the university, and whether anyone does at all.”

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