If you intend to cast a paper ballot today, please be ready for an adventure. This morning in Santa Clara, Vickie and I signed in the way we always do and requested paper ballots. Hilarity ensued: attempting to vote on paper caused a flurry of activity: oh-no-you're-not, you-have-to-vote-with-the-machine, what's-your-major-malfunction-mister, and other clucking noises.Link (Thanks, Kent!)
There was no "votamatic" machine for paper ballots any longer; we had to enter a plain brown cardboard voting station that looked exactly like a refrigerator carton and mark our ballots with a pen. (Pen not supplied; bring your own.) I was first in line; after marking my ballot I approached the desk and asked the Nice Lady on the end if I should put it into the box. She nodded and smiled at me, so in it went.
Then I turned to look at Vickie and the rest of the line and noticed they all had big pink envelopes to put their ballots into when they were done. A tiny peanut-sized bulb flickered to life inside my brain. I went to the stack and checked, and sure enough: the big pink envelope said PROVISIONAL BALLOT on it. It had several choices to check: you had no ID, you had moved after the registration deadline, or were Otherwise Unclean. The Other Nice Lady--the one who had her act together--was making everybody who voted on paper seal it inside the provisional ballot envelope, even though there was no "I HAVE BEEN REGISTERED VOTER IN THIS PRECINCT SINCE 1987 AND I AM CHOOSING TO VOTE ON PAPER DAMMIT" box to check.
Further hilarity ensued: Vickie is a lawyer with a long history of political activism, so there was much back-and-forth between her and the Other Nice Lady, who then got on the phone with Headquarters and came back with the following ruling: we were all to mark our paper ballots, seal them in pink envelopes, and don't worry about filling out our names and addresses on the envelopes. Somehow--the nebulous theory goes--the election workers will be able to magically detect the paper ballots filled out by properly identified voters and pull them out to be counted tonight.
We left the station feeling VERY unsure that our votes would be counted.
If I was a busy election worker tonight, I'd just grab all those pink envelopes and heave them into the Provisional stack. And if I was the guy at the Provisional Counting Station, I'd have to seriously consider trashing all those envelopes without names and addresses filled in on the form on the outside. That's the point of a provisional ballot envelope, after all: to make it possible for them to verify your right to vote.
Update: Wirehead sez, "I'm in Santa Clara for this election and I got up early to vote, by paper if possible. The EFF isn't blowing smoke -- They aren't asking you if you want paper ballots. There's a single, dunce-cap of a voting area for those who ask for paper and clearly not enough paper ballots. To top it off, there's two stickers -- one for if you voted using an eat-my-vote machine, the other for if you voted with paper."
Update #2: Ben Delong sez, "I'm assuming you're having people with voting issues either call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (Kent probably should have while at the precinct), or make an online report at http://voteproblem.org, Must spread the word!! ;)"
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