14 November 2008

Poll Watching

A few, delayed for obvious reason, thoughts and observations from my day of poll watching for the Obama campaign:
  • The only line we had all day was at 6:00 AM when 43 people were waiting when the doors opened. Otherwise traffic was steady. The precinct at which I worked had double the turnout from the prior election.

  • One of the clerks, when telling people how to complete their ballots, told them that if they marked straight party ticket they should also mark separately for the presidential election. I asked her why and she said, "I want to be sure it gets counted."

    Me: "Supposing they mark Libertarian on the straight ticket vote, but accidentally vote Republican on the presidential line. Which gets counted?"

    Judge: "Well, let's just stick the ballot in the machine and see if it spits it back out as unacceptable or not. That should tell us."

    Me: "No, it doesn't -- it just says the ballot isn't spoiled. It does not tell us whether straight party takes precedence over individual choices, or vice-versa."

    Judge: "See? It's fine."

  • Without exception the people who showed up to vote but found out they weren't registered were black. So what channels of communication were missed when Indiana went around telling folks they needed to register to vote? TV? Radio? Newspaper? At some point individual responsibility comes into play, but the fact that 100% of not-registered attempted-voters were black is a little worrying.

  • Two people showed up with expired IDs. The one the election inspector knew, a white man with an ID eight-months expired, was allowed to vote. The other, a black man with an ID one-year expired, was not allowed to vote. Is this race? Who you know? It is not expiration date -- Indiana law is clear that valid IDs must "either be current or have expired sometime after the date of the last General Election (November 7, 2006)" (http://www.in.gov/sos/photoid/).

  • Absentee and early ballots go to the precinct where the voter would have voted had they waited to vote until election day. I never knew that. I was also delighted to be able to drop my own ballot in the machine.

  • At one point, when the absentee ballots were being processed, the optical scanner was spitting out ballots that the judges both agreed were not spoiled. So they began manually copying those ballots onto new ones. This caught the attention of the poll watchers of both parties. My colleague called the Obama campaign and someone came out and asked to see where Indiana Election Code says that copying ballots is legitimate. This caused a small uproar. Finally a call was placed to the elections board and all was resolved -- the ballots were copied, and the originals marked so that should a hand recount would consider the originals instead of the ones that were scanned.
In short, I'm generally of the following impressions:

1. Election work is kind of fun. I'll probably do it again sometime. Maybe even at the next election.
2. Race was more apparent for me in this election than it is at just about any other time.
3. I could do a better job than some of the other workers. Are conceit and accuracy mutually exclusive?

1 comment:

John David said...

I'm guessing that a disproportionately high percentage of first-time voters in this election were black. Haven't seen any statistics. Maybe that has something to do with the number of black people showing up unregistered.