Thursday, May 21, 2009

W8! ST8 SK8S ON PL8S' F8!

Nothing can be done, wrote a member of the "design community," defending its eschewal of a serious public-relations strategy . . . and its descent into juvenile parodies and hissy fits over the "winning" design for Nebraska's new license plates.

AHEM. I, uh, told you so.

Nebraska's great license plate flap may not be over after all.

In a sudden turn Thursday night, a top state official said raw data showing voting patterns raise "some real questions and real concern" that the online vote for the state's next plate was compromised.

Beverly Neth, the state's motor vehicles director, looked at the information after it was requested by The World-Herald, which was seeking to determine whether a college humor Web site had succeeded in hijacking the vote. Neth said what she saw in an initial review of the data Thursday evening was "troubling."

Left unsaid, but hanging over Neth's words, was the possibility of dumping the black-and-white plate that Gov. Dave Heineman announced as the winner Tuesday and reopening the plate design selection process. Neth said only that she needed to look through the data more before commenting further.


On Tuesday, Heineman announced the black-and-white plate as the winner. State officials said they were confident that's effort did not skew the outcome.

Neth and Hein both said the votes coming from the humor Web site had been "spread evenly" among the four plate options.

But the story began to change Thursday as state officials were questioned in more detail by The World-Herald.

Hein acknowledged that the state had not been able to track the votes. But she continued to maintain that, based on the consistent pattern of votes for the four plates and the volume of votes coming from the comedy site, the hijacking effort had "no significant impact" on the vote.

But after the newspaper requested detailed information on those voting patterns, Neth looked at the data and expressed concerns.

In the end, Hein blamed the earlier misinformation on Nebraska Interactive, the private company that manages the state's Web site.

Nebraska Interactive is a subsidiary of NIC USA, based in Olathe, Kan. Brent Hoffman, general manager for the Nebraska site, was out of town and did not return a message.
FORTUNATELY, the Omaha World-Herald was on the ball and didn't need any PR lobbying to start digging -- which ended up making the state look foolish enough to start backtracking on those ugly, ugly plates.

After all, even "Bluto" Blutarsky knew that it was far from "over" when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor. (Note: Some "R"-rated language.)

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