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Cause of fire that destroyed voting machines still not determined

I sure hope it’s not arson. Lord knows, though, there’s a million conspiracy theories you could spin if it turns out it was.

Houston’s fire marshal’s office hasn’t made a ruling on whether Friday’s early-morning fire was accidental or deliberately set, said Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman, who hopes to hear something on the cause early this week.

“It would break my heart to think someone would do something like this to the election process,” she said, adding that she was unaware of anyone who might have had a motive to burn down the building.

Maybe you don’t have a suspect in mind, but it’s not hard at all to imagine a motive. Everyone knows Bill White will need a strong showing in Harris County to be able to win the Governor’s race. Perhaps someone who doesn’t want him to win decided to do something about it. I’m not saying this is what happened – we don’t even know if the fire was deliberately set or not yet – just that this is what everyone will be thinking if it turns out it was arson. See the comment thread at Political Wire and Burka for examples of this. Believe me, I very much hope this is a tragic accident.

Kaufman said she and the office’s election administrator, John German, are focusing on figuring out where 15 to 30 staff members will report for work, what the county needs to hold the election and how to execute and pay for the plan. The office is exploring whether to borrow machines from counterparts across the state, among other possibilities.

Harris County Commissioners Court will meet in an emergency session Monday to receive the county clerk’s proposed recovery plan.

Joe Stinebaker, spokesman for Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, said Saturday he hasn’t a clue whether the financial needs will be minor or major. County reserve funds may be available for the expense, Stinebaker said.

So, um, does this mean that the county didn’t already have a disaster recovery plan in place? If you’re going to have all of the voting equipment in one place, shouldn’t someone have asked the question “Hey, what do we do if that place burns down”? Speaking as an IT guy, I can tell you that businesses ask these questions, and they make it someone’s job to come up with and test a plan to deal with things like a sudden, catastrophic loss of a data center. Is this really saying that the county had never considered this particular scenario? Because that sure seems like very poor planning to me.

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5 Comments

  1. […] At the same time, all the voting machines in Harris County have been burned up in a mysterious fire. […]

  2. Rorschach says:

    What color is the sky on your planet Kuff? What POSSIBLE motive would a republican have to torch the voting machines? They have this election in the bag and you well know it. The polling data shows even your average generic bum on the street kicking Bill White’s arse. Republicans have absolutely NOTHING to gain and EVERYTHING to lose by drawing Justice Department attention and Democrat lawsuits contesting the election. Perry is going to win this thing in a walk and you well know it. Stop kidding yourselves. White is just wasting you guys’ money. He has no more chance at winning this thing as the man on the moon.

    But I will tell you who DOES have motive and that is the Democrats and again you well know it. You people will scream that there aren’t enough machines in democrat precincts and if Kaufman puts more in Democrat districts and fewer in republican districts then the vote is skewed democrat, you’ll still scream that the lines were too long and too many people were “disenfranchised” because they had to stand in lines, and the justice department will step in and the whole thing becomes a mess. If Kaufman doesn’t reallocate voting machines then you still raise hell and the justice department STILL marches in and bigfoots everything. If Kaufman uses paper ballots then you guys have carte blanche to stuff the ballot boxes just like you used to. That is assuming the justice department even lets them. Kaufman is in a lose/lose situation, there is absolutely NOTHING that she can possibly do that will appease you guys and the lawsuits and justice department inquiries are inevitable. You guys just can’t take your lumps like grown-ups and recognize that not everyone (and most people don’t) agrees with you. You have to FORCE your ideas on other people and that is the absolute opposite of liberty. It is in fact fascism.

    Bottom line there is nothing that the republicans could POSSIBLY gain by screwing up this election, but there is a lot riding on the Democrats doing so. “And the Horse might yet learn to sing” is you guy’s motto.

  3. mollusk says:

    I am absolutely floored that there was apparently no contingency plan for this sort of thing.

    I’ll grant that I was a late adopter, but after seeing what happened during Katrina even I, a master of the manly art of procrastination, managed to put together and implement a plan to deal with a complete loss of on site data and equipment for my VERY small company.

    Personally, my suspicion points towards simple incompetence, aided by a tendency toward self fulfilling prophecy on the part of those who proclaim that government can’t do anything right. For an example of how I get there, check out the relative uselessness of Kaufman’s website compared to those of other county clerks around the state in jurisdictions both large and small.

  4. […] The Cause of fire that destroyed voting machines still not determined. Even if the fire is ruled accidental, its consequences remain the same. If a great number of Houston voters are disenfranchised as a consequence of the fire and the right’s election vigilante effort, democracy loses, and so does the country. […]

  5. Joanaroo says:

    Uh, who forces their ideas on everyone else? Can you say Texas Board of Education? Uh, Glenn “Hide yur signs, I gotta look Christ-ian!” Beck and his Christian Nation crap. How about the birthers, the breeders, the “I don’t want no stimulus money” Rick Perry who wants his Texas Republic, yet when the big one hits Texas he’ll say, “Hey Barack, old buddy! How about y’all send me some money to rebuild my rep- uh- my state?”. All Republican BS!