Voting Twilight Booth

I slodged over to Haisley today and entered the new (and highly over-rated, imho) “multi-purpose room” to do my civic duty and cast my vote against various politicians. This is the procedure for voting here on The Planet Ann Arbor, maybe throughout the Great Lake State, I’m not up on all of that political stuff:

  • You check in with an election volunteer, who gives you a paper ballot and a sleeve to put it in.
  • You take your ballot to a little booth and mark your selections with a black felt-tip pen, filling in little circles, kind of like taking the SAT.
  • You put your ballot into the sleeve, take it over to a machine, and stick the end of the ballot into a mouth that eats it.

Or not. To my horror, that mouth spat my ballot right back out. A cryptic error message in a little digital display box said I had “over-voted.” Say what? A nice election lady carefully began explaining to me that you were usually limited to a specific number of choices for each item and I must have selected more than the maximum somewhere. Well that’s perfectly understandable but I didn’t *select* more than *one* person for *any* office. Anything where there were two or three allowable choices, I left blank because I didn’t know who the heck to vote for (university regents, etc.).

I was told I had two choices. 1) I could get a new ballot and do the whole dern thing again. 2) If I didn’t care about the item I had “over-voted” on, I could feed the ballot back in and they could override the machine so that my vote for that *one* item was not counted. Okay. This story does not have a particularly happy ending. These people were *nice*. They were not threatening. Nobody yelled at me or accused me of anything. But I didn’t know what I had supposedly “over-voted” on and there seemed to be no real procedure or way for me to double-check my ballot without waving it around in the middle of the room in front of everyone in the neighborhood.

So I caved in and said, “okay, I’ll take option 2.” I was flustered and embarrassed. I felt like I’d been caught cheating, trapped in a vortex of swirling chads. I didn’t want to re-vote and have the machine spit my ballot back at me again. I just wanted to get outta there, go back outside and slodge home.

Now I’m a little dumbfounded. What just happened? I’m a champ at reading directions and filling in little circles with a felt-tip pen. I don’t know what I did wrong. Why isn’t there a better way to deal with errors than to say, right out loud, “she over-voted,” and then discuss what to do in the middle of a room full of people. Secret ballot? Yeah, right. I do know I’ll be nervous about going over there to vote the next time. And I wonder about the people who are *not* all that good at reading directions (or even reading, fer Kee-reist) and filling in little circles.

2 Responses to “Voting Twilight Booth”

  1. susie Says:

    Supposedly that isn’t a terribly uncommon problem… I would guess it is just an issue with the paper having imperfections.
    A machine like that probably has an issue everytime it passes a sheet that has a thickness slightly off or slight dakening of the natural tree pulp.

    This makes me curious how often students are marked wrong on tests for the machine making a reading error.

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