Mike Richison MFA, assistant professor in the Department of Art and Design, felt there was only one sensible thing to do at this point in electoral history: create a musical polling station art installation by embedding iMacs into eight decommissioned Diebold Accuvote TS voting booths. Electo Electro 2020 is an interactive installation combining audience participation, music, news footage, and politics.
The project allows participants to remix videos from political rallies, debates, and news in a structured 16-beat loop. The touchscreen design is a parody of the system employed by the Accuvote, a voting system that is difficult to audit and susceptible to hacking. Each station features a vocoder, a Roland TR 808 style drum machine, a simple video clip editor, various audio effects and controls, and an extensive library of video clips to choose from. The parody continues into the format of the installation itself which will resemble a polling station.
In an effort to make the project more accessible to the public, Richison has been performing nearly every evening on Twitch, with the exception of Sundays and Wednesdays, at midnight ET on the project’s twitch channel: twitch.tv/electoelectro. The project also offers an online ballot and a mail-in ballot – two ways participants can provide remote input.
Mail-in ballots are now the norm in Richison’s home state of New Jersey, where Gov. Phil Murphy has issued a statewide mandate on mail-in voting. This Election Day, New Jersey polling locations will limit voting booth access, opting instead to collect paper ballots. Given these conditions, this project could ultimately be the largest bank of physical voting booths in New Jersey.
Richison, who teaches motion graphics at Monmouth University, is a graphic designer and multimedia artist who creates interactive video installations. Every four years since 2004, he has made an election‑themed video art project as a means to wade through and process the overabundance of sound bites, catch phrases, and video clips that flood voters’ senses. Electo Electro 2020 is Richison’s response to all things electoral.
The Diebold Accuvote TS debuted in 2002 as the poster child of the Help America Vote Act. In 2003, a group of researchers discovered a long list of vulnerabilities in the Accuvote, including several hardware and software entry points resulting in opportunities to steal votes, lose votes, or render the machine itself unusable. Despite these issues, this system was used as recently as 2018 in Georgia during its gubernatorial election.
The original concept called for an open-format installation where people could enter the art gallery, locate a station, and interact with it – similar to the actual voting process. The content of the project will be continually adapted according to upcoming rallies, and news interviews. Audio from the stream will be edited, mixed, and regularly uploaded to the project Soundcloud account: soundcloud.com/electoelectro.
Electo Electro 2020 was recently live-streamed as part of the BOND International Performance Art Festival and /’fu:bar/ Glitch Art Festival, based in Zagreb, Croatia. A short video demonstration of the installation in action is available at bit.ly/electo_streams2. The schedule of upcoming performances, videos of the project, and virtual ballots, are available at www.electoelectro.com.