Monday, October 27, 2008

i voted early. now i just need to figure out how to vote often.

i voted today.

i'm glad we have early voting here in illinois. it's ridiculously convenient, especially now that i have a job that has such unpredictable spates of work. instead of having to wait until election day and either get up crazy-early or hope that i can duck out of the office in time to hustle to my polling place after work, i could just go do it on a day when things were slow at work. it's convenient.

the frustration

my original plan was to go to my local polling place after work. chicago has one early voting site set up in each ward, in addition to the board of elections downtown [where anyone in the county can go vote, regardless of their ward]. however, this plan was foiled when i went to the board of elections website this morning and saw that the early voting places are only open from 9-5. i know, i know...this is why they set up the general early voting site downtown, and open the ward sites on saturdays, for people who work downtown and can't be at their faraway local site between nine and five on a weekday.

however, i was in line for about forty-five minutes. the line only got worse as i waited, as more people arrived. i couldn't shake the idea that if they opened the local polling places from 7am-7pm [or even just 7-5 or 9-7], it would be far more convenient for people to early-vote on a weekday, and there wouldn't be hourlong lines snaking through the pedway.

the slightly allayed fear

i've never used touch-screen voting machines. i've had the option to, but i've always had a choice between paper and touch-screen ballots. being enough of a technogeek to be extremely wary about trusting a computer with something that important, i always opted for paper ballots. yes, it was eventually counted by a computer, but there was a paper trail, and people could go back and count the ballots by hand if necessary. as they remarked during last week's fascinating discussion of voting technologies on off the hook, there's a concern about when your vote turns from something tangible that's easy to check into pure data, one part of an amorphous mass of which it's impossible to truly check the validity. in short, i hated the idea of not having a paper trail for my vote.

however, i had to use a touch-screen today. they simply didn't have paper ballots for early voting. everyone used a touch-screen. i was miffed, but what else could i do? i had already signed the form that rescinded my right to vote on election day in favour of a right to vote early. i went through the screens, i chose my candidates...and then, in a little area of the machine that i thought was just blank space, a paper roll came up with all of my votes printed on it. before pushing a button to cast my ballot, i at least got to see a printout of how i voted.

i'm curious...i hope they keep these papers somewhere, and track them well enough to be able to use them in case of some kind of computer malfunction or data corruption. i'm not completely unwary about touch-screen voting; i doubt i'll ever be. but, i like knowing that there is a paper trail of my vote, and that the chicago board of elections could, if all else fails, take out all of the paper printouts of the touch-screen votes and just count those.


Eric Allix Rogers said...

I'm sorry you didn't know this earlier, but you are actually allowed to vote at ANY of the 51 early voting locations, not just the one downtown and the one in your ward.

nicolle said...

that would have been nice to know...although, i don't think it would have changed anything since they're all only open 9-5 and the downtown one is by far the closest one to work.