Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Voting in a Small Town

We vote at the church here in my district. It’s a big, evangelical church. I don’t go there because they tend towards religiotainment, but it’s nice of them to loan the local voters one of their large rooms.

We have a cadre of little old ladies, most of them significantly past 70, who are our election judges and volunteers, and they’re usually joined by one or two teenagers who are volunteering to help out as part of their required Community Service for graduation from high school. It’s pretty obvious that the teens function as ears, electronic “experts” and fleet feet.

The little old ladies are in charge of slowly but surely paging through the voter rolls to find my name. I usually wind up having to holler my name out loud enough to make it clear to everyone that I’m there and I’m voting. Then they ask me how to spell it. Most of the time that doesn’t bother me, since my non-BoS name is one of those “what?” kind of names. Sometimes they seem a little deafer than usual, and the teenager has to come over and yell in their ears as to what my name is. Everyone else at the volunteer table is sitting there knitting, crocheting, twiddling their thumbs or paging carefully through something. It’s a little like a quilting bee with paperwork.

I asked for a paper ballot, since I want my vote to be countable in the event of a recount. After watching “Hacking Democracy” and visiting the website http://www.blackboxvoting.org/ I think it’s important to personally take as many precautions as possible to avoid potentially playing into the hands of hackers and cheaters. So, anyway, the teenager was kind enough to ask me if I wanted “paper or electronic” as if she were handing out grocery bags at the Jewel.

There were a couple of observers, making no noise and not being the least bit intimidating, a table full of baked things, possibly for sale for some charity, or possibly there in case one of the little old ladies needed a sugar fix. I don’t know. I kind of got tangled up in my privacy curtain on my way into the voting box, and had to whack at it a couple of times rather ferociously.

I marked my ballot, came out, shoved it in the box, making sure that it was counted (it was). I looked around and noticed that there was no line, and one lady was making disgusted noises at one of the electronic voting machines. She had to ask for help, so all the little old ladies looked at the teenager, who was starting to look a little frazzled, and the teen girl got up and went over and very cheerfully and a little loudly helped out the befuddled e-voter.

On my way out, I read the signs taped to the wall about needing to be a citizen, showing ID, etc. I hadn’t had to show any ID, just holler out my name and reproduce my signature accurately. I did have to sign a second sheet identifying myself, though. I thought about sitting in the lot all day with a sign in my window, “ASK FOR A PAPER BALLOT” or “YOUR ELECTRONIC VOTE IS HACKABLE” but decided against it.

I had a bunch of errands to run, and as I was driving around, I noticed that the town looked deserted, except for polling places. Their lots were full, cars and voters moving briskly and confidently through. They were the busiest I’ve ever seen in the decade I’ve lived here.

I was glad to see so many people voting for a change. Sometimes I’ve felt it was just me and the old people heading for the polls. I’m glad I didn’t have to wait in a huge line, deal with angry people or busted machinery.

Last year, Spawn was a teenaged volunteer during the elections. When he came home, he was amazed at what an amateur operation it was, but he was also amazed at how seriously his fellow volunteers, the little old ladies, took it. When it came time to tally the votes in the tiny, tiny district he was in, the old ladies had trouble with their calculators. They had trouble with pretty much every piece of machinery requiring good near vision or electronics. They did not have any trouble following rules, making sure everyone else followed rules, making sure voters were given privacy and as much time as they needed. All the supplies were in place, and they guarded those votes like they were gold-plated. Every last one of them, doddering and squinty as they may have been, stayed there until well past midnight, dealing with the complications of their machinery and calculators, double and triple and quadruple checking whatever it was that needed checking.

While Spawn did chuckle over the technical problems, he respected the little old ladies, and he had listened to them, their mutterings, their reminiscences, their serious manner of addressing such an important task. He takes voting and the proprieties very seriously now as a result.

So, I don’t mind the “voting bee” at all. I feel pretty sure my vote was in good hands. I hope that such was the case everywhere.

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