Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Explicit Joys of Poll Working

I wrote this last thursday, didn't finish until today.

Well, I spent Tuesday working the polls. It was a fun and interesting experience. decent turnout, had about half the people in the district vote directly, I'm sure more voted early or by mail. I didn't take notes, So I'll go by what I recall. In the morning we had a short line of people waiting to vote as soon as the polls opened. It went a bit shaky at first because most of the people working hadn't done this before (including two cute girls, one of which I got the number of), but we smoothed it out as we went ahead. As is expected, there was an eclectic bunch of voters. All sorts of people. Mostly older professionals, as the precinct I was working at is in the middle of a large high end apartment complex.

A few interesting things happened. Around 4 o'clock or so, a polite guy a bit older than me from the Buchanan campaign came by to "flush votes" wherein they look at the publicly posted rolls to see who hasn't voted yet and go hassle them to vote. He actually went outside and took his outer shirt off when he realized he still had a "Buchanan" shirt on. It wasn't that big a deal, as no one was there, and we were being somewhat lax anyways. (several people came in with Obama shirts on and sort of rushed through the process before they could be admonished, in a hurry to vote for the only candidate they cared about, apparently) He came back later with a voter who was clearly mentally challenged and had him vote. He didn't stand over him or anything (In fact, he actually stood way in the back and was covering the Buchanan embossment on his shirt with a folder he was carrying. He looked rather silly) and one of us pollsters helped him vote (the first ballot, he had just checked next to the names of the candidate)

Fortunately, no one wanted to vote electronically, as us poor poll workers had no idea how that would work out. A thing in the instructions said that if one person were to use it, four more people would also have to use it, for whatever reason. It's very complicated, involving a second machine we would use to activate little cards and password lock them and give them to the people, when they would take it over and insert it to display the ballot. from there they would vote and the card would be deactivated.

It seems a lot more inconvenient than just the paper ballots, which work similarly to "Scantron" technology that instructors have been using for years to grade tests, albeit with ink instead of pencil. After a person fills all the lines to choose the candidate they wanted, they would insert it into a big, vaguely evil looking machine that would take the ballot, scan it, and deposit into a bin inside. The machine at the end of the day prints out a tally of the votes it received and we post a copy that just outside the door. We then take the ballots, put them in a secure box thing and deliver them to the registrar to be (presumably) hand counted later. Much less complex than the machine voting thing. I think.

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