“Let’s go and test with the test tube.”
These are the first sounds you hear as Mike Richison launches his demo of Electo Electro 2020, an art installation combining music, news footage and footage of the two primary candidates in the November 3 election.
The raw material of Electo Electro 2020 are the words of the candidates themselves, constantly updated with source material from new debates, rallies and news clips. The hardware that makes it possible is a bank of Diebold Accuvote TS voting booths stuffed with the guts of iMacs and an iPad interface. Due to the pandemic, the installation is “installed in a locked gallery,” which Richison makes accessible to the public via online streaming with — and this is the hook — remote input from the audience via “online ballot and a mail-in ballot.”
Of all of the thousands of millions of words that have fired through the internet about America’s 2020 election, few have been devoted to actual voter machine security. Long before stories of state-sponsored hacking gangs and exfiltrated voter databases, election machine security was almost an obsession in American political discourse — one which the Diebold Accuvote TS machines that form the infrastructure of Electo Electro 2020 were created to address. Part of the source code for these famous touchscreen voting machines was leaked and a Princeton study found these reputedly ultra-secure voting systems riddled with design flaws and vulnerabilities. “Anyone who has physical access to a voting machine,” they noted, “can install said malicious software using a simple method that takes as little as one minute.”
More than 33,000 of the Diebold Accuvote TS machines were in circulation at the time of the Princeton study in 2006. Shockingly, the Diebold Accuvote TS was still in use as recently as 2018 in Georgia, according to Richison.
Richison, who teaches motion graphics at Monmouth University, livestreams with the project nightly (with the exception of Sunday and Wednesday nights) at twitch.tv/electoelectro and audio is edited, mixed and uploaded to soundcloud.com/electoelectro. Here’s another cut: