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Observations of a Poll Worker

Yesterday I worked the polls for a local election.  There was a question up regarding building a new library so it brought out everyone. We had about 30% paticipation, the library issue was defeated by an overwhelming amount.

1.  It is incredibly depressing watching who comes out to vote.  People who can barely walk drag themselves to the polls. We had people in casts, people in neck and back braces. people on oxygen, people with skin so papery thin they were bleeding, but still they came out to vote.  They are proud of their right to vote so do.

2. So many young adults can't be bothered, and have wonderful excuses about why they can't be bothered to vote. And they talk about how government doesn't really impact their lives. Idiots.  Expremely depressing.

3. 5:45am to 8:00pm is a damn long day, let me tell you.

4. Voting machines:

Normally we use optical scanners.  People receive a paper ballot, mark the paper and then feed it into an optical reader.  If there is any need for a recount we can look at all the paper ballots and count and compare against the machine totals.

We were ordered by the state to have one touch screen machine (Diebold alas) at each precinct. This election was the first time it was available to all comers.  It is supposedly there for those who are blind, or who can barely see, since it magnifies the text and also has audio and braille keypad.  But this year we are encouraging people to try it to see if they like it.

Generally speaking, people liked it fine. I had one voter who was furious about it because she screwed up her ballot and then couldn't change it.  I had maybe three others who had difficulty understanding the use of the thing and how to vote.  Mostly those mistakes were because they didn't read the directions (vote for TWO commissioners, not three.  If you vote for three it gives you an error).  Even quite old people who were willing to try it found it pretty simple to use.

Alas, the thing has no way to recount votes. We cannot go back and check paper ballots against machine totals. So in the event of a recount we cannot challenge the results in the Diebold machine.  Also, if for some reason the machine malfunctions, we can lose those votes and will have no recourse to get them back unless the state orders a re-ballot for those people and so far it has never allowed such a thing.

I was the 'high-tech" (HAH!) person who told everyone how to use the touch-screen, so I now have had personal experience of what voters who actually use it think.  Quite a few voters, who chose not to use it, were actively dismissive of the technology - mostly not because they had concerns about the counting of the votes,but more because they don't like change.

5.  I am very depressed about the library issue.  Niceville has a very nice library. The one in Valpariaso, where this election took place, has a tiny old library that is extremely outdated.  No one spoke up for this issue, and the objections were that issuing a bond to build a new library would cost the taxpayers more money.  Now I understand that everyone hates taxes (or are supposed to anyway) but where do you draw the line, where do you admit (if you do) that taxes are there to make your community a better place?

It is very much like the acrimony surrounding the building of a county office building that went on back in the 90s.  The anti-tax people dubbed the plans as too fancy and too big (they could not imagine that the county needed that much space - nor, presumably could they imagine the county would have grown as fast as it has since then) and called it "the Taj Mahal" to indicate that it was a massive waste of county tax dollars.  The issuance of bonds to build eventually passed (I think it took several tries) and the building now stands.  It is far from fancy, been in there in most of the offices.  Locals still (and I heard it used just last night) give directions:  take your change of address to the Supervisor of Elections office in Fort Walton.  It is in the "Taj Mahal."   Or, early voting in south county is located at the "Taj Mahal."  And of course the locals knew exactly where the person directiong them meant.


It is indeed incredible. With the young folk you mention: that happens here too. They stand with their back to the light and complain about the darkness in front of them. So dumb.
That new machine does not sound like a big winner... Good luck in surviving!
I get upset with people who don't vote, because I was always taught that it IS a civic duty and if you don't vote you can't complain about your government. It isn't just young people, though. Lots of people my age (soon to be mid 50's) don't vote, and that certainly influences the next generation - their kids. Etc. Etc. etc. The old saying about people getting the kind of government they deserve sort of comes to mind here. (I vote.)

The people who will be complaining about the library issue not passing will be some of the ones who did not vote.

I see the point of the people who voted against it. IN this case, yes, the taxes are justified, but in this society where we are all taxed to death, people on fixed incomes (like my parents, for example) see tax increases with a great deal of alarm.

I am on a local board, so I don't get to work polls, but I have respect and admiration for those who do. Thank you!

We try to give our workers shifts, but it sounds like we have more than you. We have 14 JPs (who make up our Board of Civic Authority, the folks who manage the polls) for one polling place. Last year several were sick or dying and it put more of a burden on the rest.

We had a library bond vote a few years ago. It was very controversial and still causes comment, but it passed. One factor was that 70% of the funds were raised by grants and fundraising, so only a part had to go on the tax rolls.

I am a computer enthusiast. However, I am unenthusiastic about electronic voting. I believe we currently use optical scanners; I think they work very well. There is nothing foolproof about a paper trail, but it is a lot more robust than an electronic trail. The electronic trail could be made a lot more robust (transmission to several sites simultaneously with a unique key handed out to people as they checked in, say). One would have to be very careful not to compromise the secret ballot. Not sure it could be convincingly done. The vote has to be not only secret but obviously and convincingly secret to avoid undue influence. I consider electronic voting a flawed solution to a minor problem.


No taxation without representations ... sounds familiar?

Australia has compulsory voting, and some politicians are forever whining to change it to voluntary.

But one doesn't have to actually vote ... just turn up and be crossed off the list, if you so desire. But the Electoral Commission is an independent body and one doesn't need to register as a supporter of a political party, just to vote. One can refuse to register only under certain conditions (Prison, religious belief, insane hospital &c.)
If one is not ticked off the list, then one gets fined.

Both my kids revelled in the idea that at 18 they would be elegible to vote. It is a big thing to be handed your electoral registration card just before you leave school, a means of marking the point where you are considered old enough to think about the representatives who tax us.

The trouble is, the pollies no longer are seen face to face in their electorates, all we see is the 'presidential style' of the "big man" and voters get to choose who will be in his 'gang'.

I think that is where the dislocation comes. The connection between taxation and generally available infrastructure has been lost, because the taxes (in your country and mine) are just being collected and used as inducements to put the 'ruling gang' back into power, rather than investing in infrastructure to make the whole of society better.

*sly grin* but then, I've been known to write letters to pollies evaluating their performance... not always complementarily!

CuriousWolf, the occasionally bolshie *G*
30% turnout?!!!!! No wonder the referendum failed! Where were the people who got the referendum started?