Wednesday, April 08, 2009
I voted Yes on Garver with a photocopied flimsy ballot the machine couldn't even read
There's normally something so familiar and reassuring about the voting process in a progressive city with a tradition of honest elections like Madison. The ballot for the optical reader is printed on substantial card stock. You sort of feel you're holding democracy itself in your hands as you carry it to the voting booth. You mark your ballot clearly with a black marker and slide it into the reader. The machine takes the ballot from your hand with a reassuring swoosh, the LED counter on the machine goes up by one vote, and you know your vote will be counted. The physical ballots provide a paper trail, the card reader is quick and accurate, and there are no hanging chads or touchscreen monkey business that doesn't leave a paper trail.
Last night the familiar pattern was broken. We were handed flimsy photocopied ballots printed out on really cheap office paper. You marked them the same way, but the machine couldn't read them and was taped over. Instead, we were asked to put them in a slot beneath the machine that could just as well have led to a wastebasket for all we knew. And there was no little little LED registering that it had counted our vote.
If we were living somewhere else (like Florida or Ohio, for example) and were voting for a national office (like president, for example), I would really have worried about what was going on. But we live in Madison. What happened at Wingra School was that they ran out of ballots. A low turnout of 20% had been predicted for the election, but we nearly doubled that at Wingra. When we voted, not long before the polls closed, the turnout was 37% -- respectable, if not great, for a spring election. The Garver referendum, btw, won in a landslide.