Nov 04 2008

Vote Because You Can!

If you’re on the east coast, I hope you already voted, as polls there are closed.

If you’re on the west coast, please go vote if you haven’t!!

Me, this was my first election voting in the rather large complex I live in, and I had no idea what to expect. My complex has around 20k people, and voting here included four districts…all the surrounding complexes came here as well.

I was initially going to vote this am, and went to the polling place a little before 9 to check it out. I’d been thinking I was going to miss the morning rush by going then.

Not quite. There was a line wrapping around the block (further than I could see), and I was promptly told they were guestimating a three hour wait. I absolutely love that so many people turned out to vote, but I waited four hours to vote in Virginia during the last election (8am – 12pm) and didn’t really want to do that again.

I left, went to work, and went back to vote around 3:30. It was still slightly crowded, but the only problems I could see were due to the terrible process they were using. Every person had to go to a security guard type person who then looked up our apartment building on a map to figure out our district (we’re all in the same zip code). I saw him easily spending 5 minutes per person.

After the district was all figured out, we were shuffled into colored lines. Each district had about four voting booths inside, and a poll worker person would come out and call for more people as they were available. I was pink, which had a short line. Green had a huge line, and the other colors had no line at all.

Couple things worth mentioning:

– You could find out what color line to get in if you looked for your polling place online, but the letter sent in the mail only included district number. If you hadn’t looked online, you had to talk to the dude.

– The places for us to line up were marked by pieces of masking tape on the ground with the name of the color written on it in ballpoint pen.

– Districts are supposed to have the same number of people by census, but
not necessarily the same number of registered voters. Some thought should have been given to the number of machines used per district, it made no sense to have machines sitting idle like that.

– There was no exit. People would have to either smush past people online to walk out the door, or walk around tables, past another district’s voting machines to get out.

Make copies of that stupid map so one person wasn’t the hold up (people really can find their own apartment on a map), make big colored signs to mark where to stand, and massively speed up the process right there. Have signs saying which numbers were which colors, since a ton of people brought their letter. Let people find their own way, and only deal with the dude if they couldn’t read the map.

Obviously, the silly process isn’t important in the long run, but it did astonish me how little thought seemed to go into it. I mean…how hard is it to buy green cardboard. Or at the very least, a green marker.

The complex was great about notifying people about voter registration,
but didn’t mail or post a thing about actual voting – I was amazed there wasn’t at least one sign telling us where to go. How about posting something, and telling everyone to look up their color online before going? Not everyone would, of course, but it couldn’t hurt.

Anyway, once inside, it was the usual. One person looked me up, had me sign, another person looked up my address, checked it off. I was handed a ballot, and waived to the first empty machine.

I voted, making sure to make big strong punch holes in that thingy (no hanging chads for me!). After, I handed the ballot to another person, who made me watch them scan it to see the light turn green (this part was new to me).

I was seeing a high number of people being told they couldn’t vote – I’d previously only seen this happen once before in NY (which didn’t have provisional ballots). I’m not sure of the reasons, at least once person simply “wasn’t on the list,” but it was a little weird, especially since it wasn’t that crowded. 3 people out of the 50 or so in there really is a large number.

Voting is a big deal to me. It’s a right every American citizen has, and needs to exercise. Nobody ever gets to know how I voted. I’m sure everyone could guess my vote for president, but I have a feeling not everyone would agree with me on some of my votes for propositions (of course I voted no on 8). And that doesn’t matter one bit! My vote is my secret, and nobody gets to know anything about how I feel.

To once again use one of my favorite quotes… “the personal is political.” Today, more than any other day in the year, it’s very, very true. The results of this election will effect your life in one way or another over the next few years. It could also drastically effect the lives of other people. Complaining later means nothing. Voting today is what will mean something.

Sure, the process isn’t perfect, and there was a lot of stupidity going on today. At least the process exists, though, and we have that chance to vote…even if it takes hours to do it.

You have a right to make your opinion heard. Use it.

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