Update: Accident or Arson? Paper or Plastic?...
By Brad Friedman on 8/27/2010, 10:09am PT  

First, we didn't do it.

Second, via KHOU in Houston:

HOUSTON – A three-alarm fire swept through a northeast Houston warehouse early Friday wiping out more than 10,000 pieces of voting equipment. City officials said they are unsure what will be done when voting begins in the next few months.

The Harris County Election Technology Center, located on Canino at Downey, caught fire around 4:20 a.m., and the blaze quickly grew to three alarms.

The warehouse stored more than 10,000 pieces of equipment, including voting booths and eSlates, the computer-based machines used for collecting votes.

The fire comes just months before the general elections on November 2, which include the governor’s race. Early voting is scheduled to begin in October.

Former KPFT (Houston Pacifica) radio host and election integrity advocate Pokey Anderson tells us there are some 1.8 million registered voters in Harris County, the third largest in the nation. "Harris County is huge," she writes via email this morning, "est. pop for 2006 is 3.6 million people, which is larger than the population of 23 states. That is about the size of Iowa and Vermont combined."

KTRH NewsRadio reports County Clerk Beverly Kaufman is hoping to "depend on other counties around the state, even across the country, to donate similar machines." Until God tried to intervene this morning, Harris County used 100% unverifiable Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems made by Austin-based Hart Intercivic.

A source familiar with Hart Intercivic tells The BRAD BLOG that the nation's fourth-largest e-voting company has fallen on hard times of late and does not have machines to ship to replace those lost in the fire.

If they can't get "similar machines" from somewhere, how, oh, how will the citizens of Houston be able to have elections this year?! Especially since pieces of paper, pens, eyeballs, citizen oversight and common frickin' sense were all long ago outlawed in Harris County, Texas, apparently.

Also related: This year's Harris County Pac-Man Tournament has been canceled.

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UPDATE 8/28/10: The early work into determining the cause of the 3-alarm blaze, whether or not it was an accident or arson, is underway...along with determining the plan for how the county will proceed with the upcoming elections in the wake of the loss of $30 million dollars worth of unverifiable electronic voting machines...

This from Houston Chronicle's update tonight:

A day after a fire destroyed virtually all of Harris County's electronic voting gear, officials were still determining the cause of the warehouse blaze and furiously exploring ways to accommodate voters come early November.

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.

Once again, we repeat, we didn't do it!

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.

And again, our suggested "recovery plan": Pen, paper, translucent plastic boxes, eyeballs of the citizenry to count all of the ballots, in front of everyone at the polling place. If hand-counting ballots is good enough for really really close elections, when you really really need to know who actually won, isn't it good enough for every election? We argue as much in "Democracy's Gold Standard".