Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Day 1 of Early Voting: Needs work

I thought to do a post on early voting to feature the statistics from the first day. But, funny, early voting statistics are “coming soon,” it says on the Miami-Dade Elections Department site. Wonder why? Answer: pretty chaotic out there, right? People complaining of three or four hours waiting to vote – and this is still just early voting!?!

Before ripping into our election leaders, let’s pause for some statistics that are available: Absentee ballots. Yes, there are up-to-date statistics on this part of our method of voting. The Elections Department mailed out 144,515 ballots to people from Miami-Dade County, and as of Monday, 50,450 had been received back at Elections Department. That’s about a third already in the bank. Now, where are the rest of yous’ ballots?

You can check whether the ballot you put in the mail has been received at this web address:


Much of my day Monday was spent looking at TV news programs showing unpleasant scenes around the county and adjoining Broward with people in long waits to vote. Everywhere, people are wilting out in the boiling sun. I also got a phoned report of people getting soaked in the rain around midday at West Kendall Library. (Thank you, Michael Calderin.)

Why are we forced to hang out in these primitive conditions in order to vote? Roofs were invented long long ago specifically to protect elderly Floridians from the elements. We have roofs all over the place. Why don’t we vote there?

Beyond that, let’s be a little suspicious that quite a few of the problem areas with long lines were in Democratic-leaning areas such as Liberty City, where the voting site at the Caleb Center, the Model City Library, had dozens of people peeling off from an interminable wait; also at West Kendall, and Miami Beach City Hall.

I peeked at the early voting site near my North Beach home, the North Shore Branch Library on Collins Avenue at 75th Street on Miami Beach, and it was pretty calm about 9 a.m., with a dozen people waiting outside the building. There had been some modest problems getting started at 7 a.m., but not really a big deal.

It seemed to take 20 minutes or so for one person to vote. So let’s say 800,000 of our 1,243,315 registered voters actually go to do their civic duty. There’s 16 million minutes of voting behavior there, in Miami-Dade County alone. Awesome.

And what do people get at the end of that massive effort? Not confirmation of how they voted, but a note on the screen saying Thank You.

That, at any rate, was the dumbfounding impression reported by one of the first people to vote, Dave Doebler, who spent the night camped out at Miami Beach City Hall with his girlfriend, Dara Schoenwald, so they could be first to vote for Barack Obama.

They were so looking forward to a feeling of completion but the process did not include it.

“My problem is I don’t know what the machine interpreted. It’s a flawed process. There is a paper trail, and they can do a recount. But I have a real problem with no confirmation of how I voted,” Doebler said.

The previous system, the touch-screen voting method, didn’t have a paper trail, but at the end of the process, the screen showed how you had voted on each question, and if you were satisfied, you pushed the button to record the vote. Now you just get Thank You.

Doebler enumerated other issues. Some were mechanical, such as machines not being ready when the poll opened at 7 a.m. The script was rather small and he expected some elderly people with vision problems to find it difficult. (Remember the misaligned butterfly ballot in Palm Beach?) Then the two-page ballot also posed a problem, because when the voter feeds a completed page into the scanner, the machine prompts you to touch the Finish button. Ooops! If you haven’t fed both pages in, you’ll be starting over. That happened to one of Doebler’s friends.

His bottom line: “Nov. 4 is going to be a nightmare. People have to vote early. If they vote on election day, they might as well take the day off.”

Not all agreed. A voter getting into his car after voting at the North Shore Library said it all had gone smoothly and he had no complaints.

Here’s a link to the Miami Herald’s roundup of early voting: more machines being added, the election supervisor “explaining” that it’s a presidential year and people have to be patient. Oh, yeah? This sounds like a definition of bad government.

1 comment:

Michael Calderin said...

That was actually the Coral Reef Library where it was raining yesterday.

I'll be posting updates from early voting sites on my Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/michaelcalderin