This is my attempt at blogging. I'm still learning about the blogging world, and this is my own personal study hall.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Democracy Inaction (not a typo)

On Tuesday I was a poll worker for a local candidate in the primary election here in Montgomery County, Maryland. If you haven't heard, Montgomery County and Baltimore City had HORRIBLE problems on Tuesday with the electronic voting machines. First of all, there were a number of reported cases of machine failure throughout Montgomery County, Baltimore, and I believe also Prince George's County. This is something that was foreseen by a number of people who were fearful of the potential for fraud and abuse. But worse than that, there was human error - none of the precincts in Montgomery County or Baltimore had the electronic cards necessary to operate the voting machines when the polls opened at 7am. Some places did not get the cards until as late as 11:30.

I started the day at Olney Elementary School, where there were a number of poll workers supporting various candidates. They ran out of provisional ballots for Democrats around 8:30, and did not get the electronic cards for the machines until 11:30. That means that for 3 hours, no voting took place in the Democratic primary at that polling place. Meanwhile, a newly arrived pollworker from another place told me that when he voted they were not allowed to use the provisional ballots, despite there not being any cards for the machines. At Olney Elementary, while I was there, a candidate had to vote provisionally. He was one of the best prepared, best organized, most qualified (in my opinion) candidates for his race and he came in 6th or 7th out of 8. So, his polling place, where he lives, and where most of the people who know him likely live, was essentially shut down for three hours in the morning, and he loses by a landslide. Coincidence?

When I voted I personally experienced no problems, but I did overhear someone talking with a poll judge and the chief judge at the polling place. It seems that person was showing up on the computer as already having voted. Their solution: vote on a provisional ballot. Either that means anyone can vote multiple times so long as they use provisional ballots, or it means that the provisional ballots are meaningless and never get counted even in the case of a contested/close election.

The polls stayed open an extra hour in Montgomery County, although I heard that in Prince George's, where there was some sort of problem as well, they closed at the pre-set time. Even in Montgomery County, one hour at the end of the day does not make up for the 2 or 3 hours that the polls were essentially shut down in some places. Not to mention that the extra hour of voting was done on provisional paper ballots. These ballots are counted in the event that the results are very close and there is a contested race.

These polling places were not equipped for this sort of thing, and at the place where I ended my day, they actually ran out of provisional ballots with about 8 people still in line to vote. One woman who showed up to vote walked out a few minutes later in rage about how she had gone out of her way to come back in the evening after the debacle in the morning, but did not have time to sit and fill out the application required to vote on a provisional ballot. (This, I noticed, generally took most people between 15-25 minutes). When the polls officially closed, finally, at 9pm, there were still a number of people in the polling place filling out their ballots. I don't think the place was empty of voters until after 9:15.

This is absolutely ridiculous. It's a travesty. I highly doubt that any fraud or abuse took place during the primary, because that is something that could really damage a candidate in the general election in November, but it shows how ripe the situation is for abuse.

Leave comments.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

TruevoteMD is the non-governmental organization in Maryland that has been attempting to correct the voting machine problems.

10:22 AM

Blogger Düdie said...

That's why you should vote Republican.

3:15 PM

Blogger Seth said...

I tried Dudie, I really did. I tried to be one. But I guess growing up in a Democratic, pro-Union, education-oriented house, with a former hippie for a mother, who had set aside her potentially lucrative legal career to become a special-education teacher, had an effect on a young mind.

When I registered to vote in Michigan in time for the 2000 election I was unaffiliated (I didn't even check the box that said "Independent"). Of course I had to vote for Gore because I couldn't vote for a guy who went by "Dubya". Also, that whole tax-cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans bothered me. After interning for a Democrat in college, I interned for a Republican (a very powerful one) and networked my way into one job, and made lots of Republican contacts. But let me tell you, I've never felt dirtier, sleazier, or more self-loathing in my life. And that's after being a Vice President in the YU hock!

11:09 PM


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