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.