My entire life I voted using a paper punch card ballot. Quick, painless, reliable, and easily tabulated.
Then some presidential candidate in 2000 claimed that any little nick near his name was a vote that wasn’t counted, and we endured endless pictures of people staring at hanging chads, dented chads, and every other kind of chad you can image. Why didn’t someone have the gumption to say “there are probably an equal number of voters who don’t know how to punch a ballot on both sides, so let’s just call it even.”
No-ooo. The would-be-president was certain his voters were more inept and incompetent than the other guy’s voters, so they needed to keep looking for those “intended” votes, and only in the counties of his choosing, please. To give him a better chance, don’t you know.
Well, we all know how that ended, and that the media reviewed those outcomes for months and decided Mr. Sore Loser would have lost no matter how they had counted the votes. They never really reported that though, since that wasn’t what they had hoped to find. “Election Results Accurate” just wasn’t part of their game plan, and didn’t make nearly as good a story as “Election Stolen by Ignorant Reprobate.”
Anyway, to make a long story short, my nice dependable punch card ballots were deemed unacceptable because of this and I now vote on an expensive-to-operate-and-cumbersome-to-transport optical scan machine. You just take a pen and fill in the bubble next to your preferred candidate’s name and stick it into the slot to be counted. The slot of the optical scan machine that isn’t working today.
These machines tend to be reliably cranky, but today the machine for my precinct flat out went on strike.
First I got a call from my daughter, upset that the machine wouldn’t take hers and her husband’s ballots, as well as about half the others who voted while they were there. They were instructed to put them in the “provisional ballot” slot to be tabulated later.
By the time I got there about fifteen minutes later the machine was accepting almost no ballots, then jammed and retired from service for the day.
“Just put your ballot in the provisional slot,” I was told by my precinct worker/neighbor.
“Okay,” I croaked back, the laryngitis still strangling my speaking ability. I then addid, “But the provisional slot is almost full and it is only 9:30 in the morning. What will you do when it is full?”
Deer in the headlights looks all around.
“I don’t know what we’ll do, but they usually come out about halfway through the day and take the provisional ballots, so they’ll empty it then,” replied the same neighbor/worker.
“But it’s almost full now,” I press on. “It won’t make it till halfway through the day.”
The workers acknowledge I am right, then tell me how they will have to somehow get the ballots through the machine to get an accurate count at the end of the day. Or maybe they will bring them another machine in the middle of the day.
Meanwhile, the machine beeps forlornly with annoying regularity, causing me to wonder how the workers will stand it for hours on end. They can tape paper over its slot so no one tries to put their ballots in and have them counted, but they can’t get it to shut up.
Probably deep in its innards it is having a cup of hot cocoa and watching reruns of I Love Lucy or something. And laughing.