Tuesday, October 31, 2006

You Are There: New Mexico Voting Cubicle, 2006 A.D.

I just returned from a visit to a sort of Colonial Williamsburg of government bureaucracy. A trip back in technological time somewhere between Johannes Gutenberg and the IBM Selectric III electric typewriter. But closer to Gutenberg and the movable type. Quite a bit closer.

I went to vote today.

Conspiracy theories, plausible software hacking stories and verified flipflopping vote tally tales be damned...I hate paper ballots.

Combined with its presence at a cramped, dilapidated strip mall location, stuck between Little Caesar's and a Payday Cash Loanshark storefront, the antiquated early voting spot at Rio Bravo and Isleta in the South Valley reminded me quite a bit of going to a Guatemalan post office...but with even less assurance that my documents were going to be delivered on time, if at all.

I won't go into massive detail...Hell, we're all going to be voting. So I'll just touch on a few things I found interesting:

  1. I loved the humor in being able to vote "Straight Ticket Green Party". Perfect for those David Bacon fans who are too lazy to even mess with finding his race at the bottom of first column. Circle one thing and bam! you're ready to hit the Little Caesar's for some crazy bread.
  2. Instructions were quite specific that voters had to make selections with a "special" writing instrument. The "special" instrument turned out to be a 29 cent Bic pen.
  3. I'm 45 now, and must be getting old enough to be susceptible to butterfly ballots and such...personally I found the ballot confusing. It was especially so on the back, where the For/Against boxes threw me for a minute or two. Which For/Against went with which Bond Proposal? Then I noticed the big culprit. At least in my precinct Judge Sharon Walton's retain vote box is stuck at the top of the back page...throwing all the little bond/amendments stuff slightly off. At least it threw it off to me for a bit. Plus, with my 29 cent Bic pen I knew I couldn't erase if I messed up filling out those little ovals. Could I even get another ballot? Do those cost extra?
  4. Speaking of filling out ovals, the whole voting exercise reminded me of taking the SAT. I could have used a cheat sheet for all those judgeship races.
  5. When finished marking my Conspiracy God Be Praised (CGBP) all paper ballot, I walked to a scanning machine and fed my CGBP ballot into this electronic machine. You know, like an electronic touch screen voting machine, but without the touching part. You know, the electronic part that makes voting simpler because the type is all big and you just touch a huge 'ol circle with your fingertip...you know, that part?
  6. Speaking of type size...yes I did have to use my dork-o-rama reading glasses. There was also a quaint gigantic piece-o-magnifying plastic in the mouse-doing-a-maze sized voting cubicle. Again, I was reminded of taking the SAT as my micro-cubicle was about the size of a student desktop at a really crowded school that can't afford decent furniture.

Lastly, back to the paper ballot thing. I realize that we now have a "paper trail", making the electronic scanning machine only one step on the road to voting verification. Nevertheless, I still hate paper ballots. Elections were stolen before the advent of touch screen voting, and I'm not worried about them being stolen more frequently using touch screen voting. Then again, I bank online, pay bills online. Heck, I even have a blog.

Yes, I want safeguards and all...I just think a more modern system can be designed that includes both ease of use and verification. NM Election 2006 ain't it. I pity those voting on Election Day itself...the lines will be murder, the confusion widespread.

Not to mention what will happen if they run out of those "special" Bic pens.

Update: As you probably know, Jeff Jones in this morning's Journal has a story about the voting process this year and its lack of auditing oversight. The more I think about it, the more I move from simple bemusement to sardonic belly-laughing about the whole thing.

For instance, perhaps you've already voted as well, and have felt that abject vulnerability as you slide your CGBP paper ballot into the scanner, and.....nothing. No veriification of ANYTHING on your ballot, just the simple increase (via 1983 Kaypro graphics card green readout) by one of ballots through that particular machine. No double-check. No "This is how your ballot looks, if correct press yes below". Nothing but your abjectly vulnerable soul scuffling past the rickety voting cubicle, out the dilapidated door of the ill-smelling strip mall storefront, past the Little Caesar' to your car in the paint-faded, bumpy parking lot, your exercise in Democracy complete.


Phiffle said...

How odd - I voted at the same location yesterday. It took me 6 minutes to vote. The location didn't bother me at all, in fact I was impressed that the voting location was so convenient for the people in that neighborhood. Parking could have been better though.

I was disturbed however that I could not find David Bacon's name on the ballot and I read the whole thing over twice to find it or even Carol Sloane's name - but found nothing.

I was disturbed that the election officials did not seem to know that you can vote a straight ticket and still vote for candidates from other parties as exceptions who override the straight ticket. It would have taken less time if people had known that.

This first time for paper ballots was a long way from ideal but I'd be more upset if we went blindly on not realizing that our elections are being stolen right out from under us.

Mark said...

I'm jealous of you and your early voting. Jealous that you got that out of the way and won't have to endure the long lines on e-day. Jealous that you even know how to arrange for early voting, and jealous that you have time to arrange it. My wife has a bit of time too, and she arranged an absentee ballot. It showed up in the mail yesterday, and she has to send it back today! That's rich - one day turnaround.

My landlord, who is in her eighties, was complaining that her ballot had not shown up and that she had been calling around for it but couldn't get a "real person". I'm worried about this, this conspiracy by the right. How did this get botched - who's responisble?

Michelle Meaders said...

Mark, according to the pollworker training I went to yesterday, if her absentee ballot doesn't show up in time, your landlady can go to the polls and vote an "in lieu of" ballot. Also, because of a new law, your wife can take her absentee ballot to her local polling place on Tuesday and deposit it. But she must take it herself and sign a roster.