Exercising the franchise

Just a couple of random items from my voting experience:

Paper or plastic?

I have been paying very little attention to the controversy over electronic voting. In Virginia, you went into a curtained booth and toggled little switches on a board till you were happy with your choices, then you pulled a big lever; the machine went “clunk”, and you had voted.

In Colorado, until this year, you were given some pieces of paper and you filled out ovals (just like the SATs!) at a rickety little privacy booth that was just a high table with some sides around it.

At my polling place this year they had 1 electronic machine and about five booths for filling out paper ballots. I’m guessing the poll workers were not instructed (or maybe they were) to push people in one direction or the other, but when I got the the station where you choose, the question I was asked was, “You’re voting with paper, right?” Every person after me was asked the same question as well. The very few who tried to choose the machine were told there would be a long wait, but once you had your paper ballot in hand, the wait was definitely longer than it would have been at the machine.

It’s fun being Ms. Language Person!

I’m going down the table of poll workers, and am handed two pieces of paper which I can see at a glance (and already know from printing out my sample ballot) are different. The poll worker says to me, “I’m giving you two copies of the ballot – fill out the first page, turn it over, fill out the back, then fill out the second page.”

I say, “You mean you’re giving me two sheets, not two copies.”

He looks confused. “No, like I said, here are two copies of your ballot.”

“What am I supposed to do with the second copy?” I ask, playing along.

Now he looks really confused, and we’ve caught the attention of the next poll worker in line. “You do mean two sheets,” she says to him.

“No…” he starts. I interrupt, taking the two sheets: “I understand, thank you”. I get into line behind the dozen or so people who are waiting for one of the 5 privacy booths. Behind me, I hear him say to the next person, “I’m giving you two copies of your ballot…” “Sheets!” the lady next to him hisses.

Privacy: a right or a privilege?

Now that everyone in the place has been persuaded that they want a paper ballot, there’s a longish line for the booths. My turn comes, and I find that the booth that is free has a big sign on it: “Wiggly booth”. I push it tentatively, and sure enough, it is very wiggly. I then reach for the attached pen and find that its chain is so short it will reach no where near the front edge of the too-high, too-wiggly booth. So I get my own pen out of my bag and start marking my ballot in my lap.

After a few minutes, I decide it’s really stupid for me to sit here in front of a booth marking my ballot in my lap; I could do that anywhere. So I motion to the next person in line to take my place, and I back up against a wall to finish. I get through the front of sheet one, and about half way through the back of sheet one (judges! who knows anything about whether judges should be recalled?) when a poll worker comes up to inform me that I am not permitted to vote outside a booth.

I just stare at him for minute, then look at the even longer line of people who are now waiting, then (in the friendliest possible way) ask what he would like me to do differently. “We should have had you vote electronically,” he says weakly. Really? I think. Guess what? I get to vote any way I damn well please! You may not dictate my method of voting based on your assumptions about me. But I don’t say any of that. I ask if I may finish casting my ballot or if I should leave. He makes a sort of resigned gesture and walks away.

Funny, at lunch one of my coworkers was saying that at his polling place, a long line was dispersed to vote quickly when the poll workers announced that anyone who wanted to could just find themselves a corner to mark their ballot rather than waiting for a booth.



  1. Daughter

    I love this entry, especially, “judges! who knows anything about whether judges should be recalled?”

    I was asking myself the very same thing. That and, County Surveyor! What does a County Surveyor even do?

    I’d also like to mention that this entry was a learning experience as well. By reading it, I discovered that there was more to the use of quotation marks than I had previously been aware of.

    Take this example:
    “I understand, thank you”.
    “Wiggly booth”.
    I read these sentences and immediately asked myself if the period belonged inside or outside the end quotation mark. After doing some research I discovered that you, per the usual, were right.

    Courtesy handouts/grammar/g_quote.html: “Put a dash, question mark, or exclamation point within closing quotation marks when the punctuation applies to the quotation itself and outside when it applies to the whole sentence.”

    So thanks, Mother! The things you teach me!
    Lots of love,
    The Daughter

  2. Patricia Tryon

    What was it about voting in Longmont? There weren’t enough booths, the electronic machine’s interface was a witch with a bee, the poll workers were not depriving any drawer of even quarter-sharp knives, and at my precinct voters had the privilege of walking about 1/4 mile from the obvious parking space.

    I emailed the County Clerk and, as the Web page says, apparently she can be reached by email; at least, the email didn’t bounce. No response: as usual, a voter’s reach exceeds a voter’s grasp (of what the hell the county was thinking).

  3. Katja (Post author)

    Hi, Daughter – actually, it’s a good thing your father never reads any of this, because he will tell you that the punctuation mark should be prior to the closing quotation mark, which has traditionally been the American style.

    I take the attitude that unless the punctuation mark is actually part of the quote, it belongs outside.

  4. Bonnie


  5. Blue

    Hmmph. He made that up about being required to vote in a booth, right? I mean, geez. It’s certainly not a rule here. I abandoned the rickety booths completely and used a table — one of many set out for people registering to vote, which can be done here on voting day.

  6. mdmhvonpa

    When can I vote with an inked thumb print? Sheesh.

  7. Mouse

    This is the first time that I didn’t vote since becoming a citizen. I didn’t know any of the candidates for any length of time because I am new to the neighborhood. I did catch a few campaign adverisements though, and decided that none of those people would ever get my vote. Tell me what YOU are going to do, not what the other guy did or didn’t do. That tactic was so irritating to me.

    Anyhow, I digress. Back in California I had many opportunities to vote electronically. The machines were not stuck in booths, i.e., not at all private, but I liked them!

  8. Katja (Post author)

    Blue: gosh, I hope he just made it up!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *