I was surprised at several things about voting this morning. First, since I’ve moved, I have a new polling place, at an elementary school. There was very little signage directing me where to go, which is quite different from my past experience. In fact, there was no sign near the street, and only one sandwich-board sign on the sidewalk from the parking lot at the main entrance to the school. and then there was no sign directng me which way to go after I entered the door — eventually I just walked into the library because I could see people in there, and that turned out to be the right place to vote.
More significant, there’s been a change in how the voting machines count the paper ballots. In the past, I’ve always drawn a very dark, solid black line (moving the pen back and forth several times) between the two marks, but this time that wasn’t accepted — I’d made the lines too wide. I wasn’t the only one: several other people before me were given replacement ballots because they’d made the same mistake. Instead, we were told, mark only a single narrow solid black line.
When I returned a second time, my ballot was rejected again — this time because I had chosen not to vote in one of the down-ballot elections in which I had no preference (or knowledge). After I confirmed that I did intend to not vote on that contest, the poll worker held down a button on the back of the machine while re-submitting the ballot, and it was accepted (and, I hope, counted).
I’ve been a voter in Alameda County since 1986, and I’ve used these paper ballots in the last several election cycles (since the state ruled that the electronic voting machines, which the state helped the county buy, didn’t comply with state law). This is definitely a change from past elections, and one which will surely lead to longer lines at the polls.. I’m not sure how it will impact folkd who voted by mail — will their votes be rejected if they marked the ballots “in the usual way” instead of with a single line?
I left my polling place feeling very uncomfortable — and quite glad that I’d chosen to vote at 7:15 am, because I now expect long lines due to these changes in the voting system.