The bot that said ‘yes’

The bot that said ‘yes’
Automation customer service concept with 3d rendering cute robot working with headset and notebook

The Mysterious Case of the Bot That Likes Outside Interference in Elections descended on Serverville this week, as someone or some entity attempted to skew the Alexandria Times’ weekly poll toward a desired outcome. See our story, “Times detects likely bot interference in weekly poll,” on page 13 for more information.

Yep, someone possibly intentionally interfered with our poll that was asking readers’ opinions about outside interference – which is odd to say the least.

You could say, since our monthly wedding section is running this week, that a “yes” answer is better than a “no.”

Who and why are mysteries worthy of Sherlock Holmes, and while we are investigating in search of the culprit(s), we could use that fictitious sleuth’s help on this case.

It’s all rather funny, in a sophomoric kind of way. But outside interference is actually no laughing matter, in polls or elections.

The poll was paired with our story from last week, “Mysterious election placards baffle residents.” In this story a resident related her conversation with a Unite Here worker tasked with distributing endorsement placards in the neighborhood. The worker allegedly told the resident that the slate on the placard had been chosen by mayoral candidate Alyia Gaskins. Gaskins and Unite Here both denied that the current City Council member had any role in determining the endorsed slate.

Unite Here later admitted they didn’t meet individually with any of the non-endorsed candidates, though they said they were part of a group Zoom meeting with two candidates for City Council that they ultimately did not endorse.

Unite Here endorsed Alyia Gaskins immediately after her December 2023 announcement that she was running for mayor, without meeting with current Vice Mayor Amy Jackson, whose intent to run for mayor was clear and who launched her own campaign just days later.

Since Unite Here has no office in Alexandria, nor to our knowledge any unionized workplaces within the city, the fact that the union is weighing in on Alexandria’s local election by spending tens of thousands of dollars both in cash donations and in-kind campaigning strikes many, including us, as odd.

The union gave Gaskins a $10,000 cash donation in February. And the current door-to-door campaigning on behalf of Gaskins and a mysteriously chosen slate likely cost approximately $30,000 more, based on current prices to hire door-to-door canvassers and printing costs.

Roughly $40,000 is a lot for an entity with no clear presence in our city to drop on a local race. And lest anyone forget, Alexandria is a city manager/Council system, meaning our mayor does not run the city on a daily basis – they are simply one of seven legislators, albeit the one who wields the gavel during meetings.

Mysteries abound. We don’t understand what Unite Here is seeking in Alexandria. We also don’t understand why anyone would engineer a bot to drop more than 500 votes into our little Alexandria Times weekly poll. Such polls are not scientific in nature, but they do help give a sense of what regular residents think about any given current issue in Alexandria.

By attempting to wildly skew the results in favor of outside influences, the bot creator has simply raised more questions about who these outside influencers are