Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Throwing the bums out

Place: "Studentville," MA
Time: 9:25AM-9:55AM
Line length: Approximately 40-50 ahead of me. 20 minutes long. By 9:35, approximately 30 more were behind me. The line length was getting slightly shorter over time, but was still out of the polling place and around a corner when I left. For reference, the longest voting line I had waited on previously in Studentville was about 5 minutes, during the previous state gubernatorial election. I usually vote at about the same time of day.

The apparent average age of the voters was definitely younger (20's-30's) than usual (40's+ -- "usual" is based on a much lower sample size!).

Studentville uses optical scan paper ballots; Disabled voters can uses an ES&S AutoMark (link is to a press release) machine, which marks the same optical scan ballots, but does not record votes.

Voting problems: The usual procedure for checking voter eligibility is to check off address-associated names from the list at the entrance/exit. Some names (including mine) were not on the voter lists. When that happened, the poll workers were checking IDs and writing names and addresses on a list at the entrance and exit from the polls. They were making some people sign forms, and others not. Sometimes, they seemed to be giving provisional ballots, sometimes, not. (They gave me a real ballot). I'm not sure what differentiated what happened to whom (having a photo ID?). A call to the Studentville Elections Commission revealed that they printed incomplete lists and were delivering complete lists to polling places. They verified my registration over the phone.

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I voted around 2 PM. There were only 2 people ahead of me, and the registration list problem had been rectified. I noticed that your name had been checked off. With any luck, they even counted your vote.
The strange thing is that they didn't give me a provisional ballot -- my vote was not marked differently and went in the optical scanner just like everyone else's. If I had been committing election fraud, there would have been no way to differentiate my vote from the legitimate ones. (They could, in theory, try to prosecute, given that they had my name and address, but they couldn't correct the tally.)
It's interesting; when you read in the papers about these sorts of problems, you never picture them happening to hyperliterate grad students who are well aware of their rights. It's good to know voter-registration confusion can be equal-opportunity.
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