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Junkyard Voting Machines: Burnet County Is In A Fix

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

The Big Lie and all the rhetoric about fraudulent voting have put Burnet County Commissioners in a pickle.

You see, our county’s voting machines are worn out and our model no longer supported by the manufacturer, but our commissioners don’t dare replace them in a nationwide political climate where Republican voters are being led to distrust the electoral system.

Mike Licht,

Under a dark cloud of lies and fear

From top to bottom, the right has gone all-in on the “stolen election” lie – to the point that any naysayers are booted out of the party. Republicans all agree that voter fraud was rampant in 2020 and cost Trump the election, despite not managing to find any actual proof.

Oh, they tried. Over 60 court cases claiming fraud were brought before judges (many Trump appointees). Every single one was tossed out for lack of evidence.

The spectacle in Arizona is a prime example of the Big Lie running amok. The legislature hired a right-wing outfit called Cyber Ninjas (seriously!) to audit the 2020 Maricopa County election results, despite two previous audits. Comedy immediately ensued as wild theories floated about, such as the infamous “bamboo ballots” – paper that had to be viewed under UV light to reveal bamboo content, “proving” them to be of Asian origin and therefore bogus. (All bamboo comes from Asia, y’know.)

How someone could surreptitiously add 40,000 registered voters’ names to ballots and 40,000 forged signatures to precinct sign-in sheets was never explained. Thankfully, the audit had to be suspended to free the auditorium for high school graduations. We don’t expect it to resume.

It’s not really about fraud

Most of the so-called election integrity measures being proposed have nothing to do with fraud. They are about making it harder for presumed Democrats to vote.

The right has introduced severe restrictions on mail-in voting across the country, but they cannot present any evidence whatsoever that mail-in voting has ever been systematically abused. They conveniently overlook decades of fraud-free elections in states where mail-in voting has been the norm.

The real goal here is to give Republican legislatures the power to override the popular vote – and to put in office election officials willing to help them cheat, as we saw so clearly in Georgia when Brian Kemp was both Secretary of State responsible for conducting the election and the Republican candidate for Governor (a conflict that led to Stacy Abrams’ defeat).

Now that Republicans have convinced themselves they must have been cheated out of the presidency, they figure it’s fair game to openly cheat themselves. Just like fake news came to be any news they didn’t like, fraud has become any outcome they don’t like. You don’t have to catch someone doing it: You just have to believe in only one possible outcome.

Last November, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick posted a million-dollar reward to anyone who discovered voting fraud in the state. He has not had to payout. The Houston Chronicle reports that last year, Attorney General Ken Paxton's office logged “more than 22,000 staff hours” working on voter fraud cases and turned up only a handful of cases (they were address mistakes). They’ve never found a whiff of organized fraud, yet they are certain it exists … somewhere over the rainbow.

Burnet County voting machines ready for the junkyard

For the rest of this discussion of election technology, I am relying on an incisive report prepared for the Burnet County Commissioners by the irrepressible Teri Lum, a local engineer and activist. Her warning is that our current crop of voting machines are ready for the junkyard.

She points out that the Hart eSlate machines we use are beyond end-of-life status with manufacturer Hart InterCivic, which means the company no longer provides parts or service.

The eSlate uses a removable memory card introduced in 1990 and obsolete since 2003. These have a limited life before failing. Some spares have been recovered by stripping junked units, but when this stock runs out, there will be no more.

Lum notes that the user interface of the Hart eSlate is unfamiliar to most voters today. Instead of a touch screen, it’s an awkward, confusing system of knobs and dials.

When the County Commissioners heard from the public on this matter in May, they were generally disinterested and disrespectful to Lum and the other presenters. They obviously had no intention of addressing this problem.

Clearly, these machines need to be replaced, but Republicans are accusing the voting machine companies of rigging their machines against Trump. (Odd to think that Democrats would go to the effort to rig the presidential vote but not the down-ballot races, but Trumpies’ thinking doesn’t need to make sense.)

Putting new voting machines in place now would mean declaring them trustworthy, which would undermine the right’s suppression strategy. Better to let them crater and then blame Biden. So, here in Burnet County, our Commissioners are prowling the junkyard for parts ... and risking our ability to vote at all.

Until a Trump-endorsed company enters the market, they are not going to buy. And don’t be surprised if even Trump-approved voting machines are found to be rigged. After all, they think the Democrats did it once, so why shouldn’t they do it again? As we saw with the proposed Jan. 6 Commission, any attempt to bring in federal regulators will be met with bitter opposition.