This afternoon, I walked to my children’s parochial school to pick them up and then to go vote at the public elementary school near my house. On the walk there, my daughter asked me who I was voting for her and we talked a bit about the importance of the secret ballot. Outside the voting place, there were many Democratic workers, including three people wearing “I’m With Her” shirts and another guy sitting underneath a tree handing out a Democratic sample ballot. A lone woman was handing out Republican sample ballots. My neighborhood is overwhelmingly Democratic, so this disparity was not exactly a surprise.
I went in to vote and there were over a dozen election judges and volunteers and observers who were handling the bureaucracy. There was no line. There was no one voting in front of me. One guy came in right after me. I showed my identification and verified my address. I was given a ballot and instructions.
It was an easy ballot to fill out, apart from the quality of the candidates in question. Presidential race, Congressional race and two amendments. Having completed my ballot, I went to scan it in one of the two electronic scanning machines.
I hesitated about which of the two machines to use, so I got a good look at both of them. Neither appeared to have a problem but I went to the one on the right. I put it in the scanner and it went right in and told me that it accepted my ballot. An electronic American flag waved. As I returned the folder to the poll worker, she gave me and my youngest kid a sticker. We had a short, pleasant conversation and I thanked her for her work.
I went outside and, ever the reporter, decided to ask the Republican poll watcher how the day had gone. We were talking when the poll worker rushed out and asked me to come back inside. She said the machine hadn’t accepted my ballot.
As I rushed back in, the voter who had come behind me was walking out. The worker asked him what went on with the bad ballot machine and he said he just used the other machine.
I went back inside and my ballot machine was fine, but the one to the left now had a ballot sticking out of it and the electronic reader said the ballot wasn’t accepted and needed to be scanned again.
I have no idea what happened, but I’m worried that somebody else’s ballot wasn’t scanned and was spit out — but long after that person had left. I don’t know what recourse they have for the situation there or what happens to the paper ballot in such a situation.
But I’m also worried about the overall situation. I’m a former election judge so I know some errors happen whether humans are counting with or without machine assistance, but this is a great reminder of the importance of doing a good job at polling stations so that people can have confidence in electoral outcomes.