Voting mishaps to avoid

First off – I hope y’all either voted already, or are planning to later! As the social justice calendar on my wall says, “Vote, but realize it is a small part of being a citizen and creating a truly democratic system.” Hell yeah.

Also, for New Yorkers who have not yet voted: note that the ballot proposals are located on the far right of the voting booth panel thingie. Don’t forget to look there.

This morning, I went to the polling place with my girlfriend. On the way there, we discussed the ballot proposals, how confusing they were, and how we planned to vote. She went into the booth before me and took a while in there (she was writing in Norman Siegal for Public Advocate, and write-in votes are tricky!) When she finally came out, I poked fun at her for taking so long, then stepped through the curtain.

And then I panicked.

Pull the red lever which way? Did I do it right? Did I already mess up? OK, Jack, calm down. It’s not all that hard. OK. Where are my candidates? Did I vote for Bloomberg by accident? What the hell is this mess over here where all the third party candidates are? Did I vote for the Green Party candidate or for the Libertarian? Did I remember to vote for folks under Working Party instead of Democratic? Ack. Ack. Ack.

Finally, I pulled the lever back, felt exhilarated at my participation in the democratic process, and went on my merry way to work.

I got to work, started speaking with my coworker about the elections, and suddenly had a Homer-Simpson-slap-my-forehead-moment:

I didn’t vote on the ballot proposals.

I never even saw them! And in my voting-booth-induced panic and confusion, I didn’t even remember to look for them! AUUUUGH!

I know, I know. My votes on the ballot proposals (probably no but maybe yes, yes, no, no) most likely would not have made much of a difference in the end. But still!

I think this speaks to the need for some changes in those damned voting booths. I’ve been inside of them maybe four or five times now, and they still make me all nervous and scared of making a mistakes. Imagine new voters! Imagine folks who aren’t extremely comfortable with the English language! Imagine people with impaired vision!

But I most definitely don’t want the fix to come in the form of electronic voting machines, at least not in their current form. From Democracy Now! a few days ago in a report on how the 2004 vote was may have been stolen :

Last week the Government Accountability Office – the investigative unit of Congress – issued a major report on the safety of electronic voting machines. Although the report has received little attention in the corporate media, its findings have startled critics of electronic voting. There are three main problems the GAO found with the machines: First, some electronic voting systems did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected. Second, it was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works so that votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate. Third, vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level.

Scary stuff, folks. Scary stuff.