Most residents of T-Town were familiar with The Machine at the University of Alabama. Its alleged involvement in electing the University of Alabama‘s 2021 Homecoming Queen may have have been considered by some as just another story about The Machine.
The University of Alabama‘s student newspaper The Crimson White in 2020 featured a story about The Machine by Jessa Reid Bolling. Bolling wrote:
Stories of alleged Machine actions have grown over decades, including burglary, cross-burning, vandalism and social ostracism, to name a few. Two decades ago, the Student Government Association was temporarily disbanded after a non-Machine presidential candidate claimed she was assaulted. A former Tuscaloosa school board member sued over claims the group improperly swayed a city election by providing students with booze and concert tickets in 2013. While actions taken by the Machine have become less recognizable and less violent in recent years, the organization’s past has become clearer with time.
Peter Jacobs in The Business Insider gave accounts of The Machine having tapped the phone of a student candidate, permanently closed a local business, and assaulted a rival candidate, among many other nefarious actions.
The Machine‘s involvement in a local school board election in 2013, involving limo rides to the polls and promises of free booze in exchange for voting for a Machine endorsed candidate, achieved national notoriety.
A 2013 entry in the Franklin Stove Blog gave details about the municipal election.
The Greeks now own the dubious honor of controlling Tuscaloosa’s District Four. In 1997 an undergraduate student who was President of the University’s Inter-fraternity Council Lee Garrison was able to secure a seat on the Tuscaloosa City Council with the help of The Machine Vote at the University.
One student supporter of the school board candidate endorsed by The Machine posted on social media that she thought he was hot and she’d be willing to give him a “handy” any day.
WVTM/13‘s Linda White in 2015, wrote about the lawsuit filed by school board incumbent Kelly Horwitz, who had run against the candidate endorsed by The Machine. Horwitz had filed a lawsuit alleging that illegal votes, which violated the 30-day residency requirement for municipal elections, had been cast for her opponent. The Alabama State Supreme Court then had indeed ruled that illegal votes had been cast for her opponent. However, in 2016, Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge Jim Robert dismissed her case.
A Tuscaloosa City Council meeting concerning redistricting had been held in October, 2021. As reported by the Tuscaloosa News‘ Jason Morton, concerns over a future student vote were expressed by the District Four Council member Lee Busby. Morton wrote that “the main sticking point was in District 4, which includes the bulk of students attending the University of Alabama. Mobilization efforts in past elections have helped sway the outcomes based on the votes of temporary or transient residents, many of whom don’t live here long enough to face the consequences of their electoral actions.”
Articles in The Crimson White, after the 2021 Homecoming Queen vote, had been highly critical of its outcome. Keely Brewer and Isabel Hope wrote that the vote was, in fact, invalid.
AL.com‘s Kyle Whitmire mentioned the Crimson White‘s coverage of the vote in an article “What UA’s homecoming queen debacle means for Alabama.”
Whitmire asked, “Who cares if the Machine or anybody else there is up to shenanigans again?” He pointed out that The Machine had been involved in Alabama politics for decades. He wrote that “somebody decided the rules didn’t matter this time.”
He concluded his article in this way: “And there’s better than fair chance that, in a decade or two, one of those somebodies will be your lawmaker, your senator, or your governor.“
Tuscaloosa Thread‘s Lauren Stinson wrote: “While Fouts was one of the most popular candidates in the race, her loss doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Many controversies surrounded this year’s homecoming queen race as McLean Moore was allegedly backed by Theta Nu Epsilon, otherwise known as The Machine.” Added to disappointment felt by many fans in T-Town over the University of Alabama super-star softball pitcher Montana Fouts having lost was the conviction that it had likely been only due to the chicanery of The Machine.