Secret Society Gets Sorority Sisters to Vote

STORY BY Emily Kirkpatrick

Published: November 27, 2013

A secret society in Alabama has been named, indirectly, in a lawsuit filed by Kelly Horwitz, a former representative on the District 4 Tuscaloosa Board of Education, accusing the group of orchestrating voter fraud and bribery. 

With attention already on the University of Alabama for questionable practices surrounding their traditionally, exclusively all-white fraternities and sororities, the secret society, which goes by the name The Machine, has raised a whole new set of concerns. The Machine has been around for a century or more, culling members from these twenty-eight all-white Southern Greek organizations and is known for their effective, if coercive, “old-fashioned organization politics,” according to The New York Times. Members “secretly” endorse candidates for the University of Alabama’s Student Government Association senate and executive offices, essentially paving their way into office as the students they back rarely, if ever, lose. The fraternities and sororities affiliated with the Machine are made to pay a minimum of $850 a semester, according to the Crimson White, to fund the organization, the money from which goes towards the society’s representatives bar taps and annual beach trip.

Fixing your local school elections is one thing, but apparently The Machine didn’t realize getting involved in big government is a whole other ball game. After Cason Kirby, a 26-year-old former University of Alabama student government president one year out of law school, won the election for the District 4 Tuscaloosa Board of Education, incumbent representative Kelly Horwitz suspected something was amiss. In an election already unusual for the amount of money new candidates poured into their campaigns, the totally inexperience Kirby won by 416 to 329 votes. Of the 369 voters registered in the district, 269 were registered during one week in mid-August and 94 percent of those newly registered voters were under the age of 21. According to The Times, “‘The limos and party bus are running constantly,’ read one of numerous similar e-mails circulated around Machine-affiliated sororities on Election Day. Free drinks were promised at local bars for those wearing ‘I Voted’ stickers. Sorority leaders were careful to emphasize that they were not endorsing a particular candidate but encouraged members to wear Cason Kirby T-shirts to the polls.”

Kirby, however, has denied any affiliation with the organization, claiming that Ms. Horwitz had also campaigned on campus and that, “college students have a right to participate in local elections.” The Machine’s involvement and coercion of young voters from the fraternities and sororities they represent is pretty undeniable, but this case of fraud and bribery really seems to be endemic of a myriad of problems that have run rampant and unchecked throughout the University of Alabama, and the Greek systems as a whole, for far too long.


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