Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Day Update: Some Good News...

This bit of good news isn't about who won or lost, but rather about the election process itself, as I saw it today from the limited viewpoint of one precinct.

I was an election judge for the first time yesterday, and it was a great experience. In the precinct I worked in, just a few miles from my own, we had a heavy turnout early in the day, but everything worked properly and all flowed smoothly.

Now every state is different, and within states, elections are handled by local (usually county) boards, so what I saw may or may not be typical. Our precinct had 1819 registered voters, and we processed about 1280 today (don’t know how many have voted via absentee ballot.) That was a very comfortable number. I think the maximum wait time was 1/2 hour for the first hour or two, but for the balance of the day, many voters came and went within minutes. I checked in about 400 fellow voters myself, using the “ePollBook” system we have in Maryland - for 98% of those 400, it took about a minute each, and then they went on to cast their vote at the actual voting machine, where most had only a few minutes’ wait. Less than 2% of the voters we helped today needed to vote by provisional ballot.

My greatest privilege during the day was to stand up whenever I checked in a veteran, active military voter, or USNA midshipman in order to thank them for their service to our country. My greatest pleasure was to see the many families who came to vote together, and especially to check in the many newly-minted 1st-time voters, often along with their parents.

We poll workers were Democrats, Republicans, independents, and others, but we all cheerfully worked together (from 6 am to 10 pm!) to help our citizen vote. Also, almost every person I checked in was happy and cheerful today. It was a wonderful experience to be able to play my very small part in the election

It's too bad that some sites had very different experiences from ours. Check out this sad story at Dave Beckerman's photo blog about his polling site in Manhattan.

Elections in the US are more complicated than those in parliamentary systems, but this still isn’t rocket science, and I don’t know why boards everywhere can’t formulate precincts that are small enough to work like this precinct.

Want some real fun? Then Google "Tim Robbins vote" and read some of the stories about Robbins' 5-hour "ordeal" further downtown in Manhattan. Check out the NY Times story in particular - read it all the way through, and you'll find that, despite Robbins' rants about "voter intimidation," the apparent cause of his problem was Mr. Robbins, himself.

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