November 02, 2004
Well, That Was Easy

I just voted. It took nine minutes total, including the walks from and to my car. The polling place, in the poorer end of one of the richer suburbs of Baltimore, was quite crowded even at 9:50 AM, so it appears that turnout is high and Baltimore County did a good job of preparing for it. When I got in line, there were 5 people waiting for a place to open up at any one of roughly 20 machines. The electronic voting was quite straightforward, and there was at least one hard-copy safeguard: I had to sign a card and drop it in a manila envelope taped to the side of my machine. I trust the pollworkers will count the cards afterwards to see that the number of cards for each machine matches the total number of electronic votes recorded. If the numbers don't match, or the machine at any time displays the 'blue screen of death' and refuses to give any totals, they can at least theoretically contact all the people who voted on that machine and let them vote again, without violating the secrecy of the ballot.

My only complaint has to do with the secret ballot. Like the chad-punch devices in Bowling Green, Ohio, these have very little privacy. I much prefer a booth with a curtain, like the old-fashioned lever-action mechanical voting machines in Rochester, though I can see that there might be problems with providing curtains for electronic machines. Some might wonder whether a computer geek could diddle with the totals while voting or pretending to vote. Baltimore County voting machines are about as private as urinals: it would be very easy to look and see how the person in the next booth is voting, but it would also be easy for him or (in this case also) her to see that you were looking. As with urinals, it did appear that most people were keeping their eyes on their own affairs.

Update: (11:00 AM)

I forgot to mention that there were no visible signs for either side at my polling-place, a public elementary school gymnasium. On the left-hand sidewalk going in there was a blue sign that said "No Campaigning Beyond This Point" or words to that effect, but no one was there except a few voters going in and out. The right-hand sidewalk went past the front door of one of the classroom buildings. There was a clump of maybe a dozen people in the doorway with tables, but no signs I could see from the other side. (I guess I should have gone over and looked.) They looked like mostly students, so I suspect they were taking advantage of the opportunity to sell Girl Scout cookies or those overpriced chocolate bars that students are always peddling.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at November 02, 2004 10:23 AM