An Election Day Wish: End Precinct Voting

    In an age where we can pull $1000 out of any ATM worldwide, it's absurd that we're stuck in an age-old tradition of going to a particular precinct on a particular day to stand in a pretty retro booth to vote.

    There's no reason not to have voting places where everyone can vote if we can't just do it via our mobile phones (yes, there are considerations for voting fraud, but as new last minute software for Ohio machines shows, we have this to contend with anyway).

    It's 20 years after the internet became popular with WWW, new 4G LTE is on any decent mobile phone, yet here we are, like Mary & Joseph with preggers belly in tow, making our way to our home precinct to make our voting preference known and find a spare manger as well.

    2012 years later (give or take 4 or more), we still haven't convinced officials that normal people are mobile, active, on the road and on the go. Bring the ballot to the people. It's not so much that people are lazy - they have a life. Yeah, it sounds heart-thrilling to hear that a mother working 2 jobs will take off to go vote. And it's less than heart-thrilling to find out she had too many orders of chicken or withdrawal slips to process or little Sally caught the flu and she didn't quite make it to the overlong voting queue in time. My father has trouble making it out of his chair to reach the shitter - how's he supposed to vote?

    For a nation that celebrates the act of voting so much, we sure do make it a pain in the ass. If they're going to make it long and complicated, why not offer a free MRI at the same time - I hear that's what differentiates us & Canada. Why not put voting booths in emergency rooms? People are used to waiting there, and pulling a lever is easier than pulling a mistaken drill bit out of your arm or pencil out of your eye. Have ballots handy at the driver's license office - it's just like doing 1 more test. For those hit by Sandy, just have the ballots there at the homeless shelters along with food, some warm clothing and a tarp or blanket (yes, they're trying to do this). Hooters? Get your ballot with pigs in blanket and a beer or whatever their specials look like. Sports stadiums? If they can shove 110,000 screaming fans into Michigan Stadium each Saturday, give 'em some forms to do the wave with. Or better yet, run a contest between Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung, Sony, Comcast, CNN, Budweiser, NFL, Starbucks, Warner Brothers & Twitter to see who can pay most & do most with the voter rolls - somehow we'd be able to vote via TV and while sitting in class and on a plane or during a tailgate party or in a theater, while elections would make a profit.

    (Don't go all noble on me - they already make a huge profit for the media and special consultants and pollsters, so it's just just an issue of spreading the wealth)

    Just somewhere, somehow, let's have the next election look like it's in a real social media, audience-centric age, rather than just an upgraded hijackable screen front end to a 1950's voting booth. Do it for the Beav and June, they'll love you for all time. Maybe we can have a voting drive-in just for them - girls on roller skates and all that modern stuff.

    It's strange that we can take a supposedly sanctified Christmas holiday and commercialize the hell out of it, while we can't take an overly commercialized 2 year election process and... commercialize its finale. If Macy's were running elections, they could have everyone in New York voting 10 times on election day. And still run a parade. If it were American Idol, we'd have interactive voting joy-sticks across the land.

    Somehow, somewhere, our ingenuity seems to take a holiday in the wrong places. Maybe next time we can get it right.


    Where do you live?  Way out here in east podunk we have not had booths in decades. They were replaced first by optical scanners then in 2004 by touch screens.  

    I do sympathize about the precincts having been gerrymandered about every other election the past couple of decades because of rapid population growth even though I lived in the same community the whole time.  I moved once during that time, a whopping two miles back to my parents' house which I inherited. 

    Still, I am no longer as sure as you are about making the process more high tech, more ecentralized, more remote. The national campaigns are divisive enough.  We need something to bring us together in a common national experience that is not sports or disaster related.

    You may also like: Why 40% of Americans Won't Vote for President

    Well when I squint, touchscreens remind me of 3 ton voting booths. Where's my pizza, my dog, my hair gel? How can I make a sane voting decision without life support systems like telly and my flowerbed, especially my neglected rhododendra? It's disorienting being so far from my negative ion generator. And did I mention I hate people? Especially touching things after other people? Especially if they voted Republican right in front of me - how unsanitary.

    There are many ways that we could make voting easier and more secure.  That we don't speaks volumes about the process.

    In an age where we can pull $1000 out of any ATM worldwide, it's absurd that we're stuck in an age-old tradition of going to a particular precinct on a particular day to stand in a pretty retro booth to vote.

    There is more truth in that one line that I have heard all day from cable.

    I just voted. I had to walk down one flight of stairs and wander into the next building.

    There were more voting assistants than voters.

    There are only a couple/three hundred voters in this area anyway. All the residents here are wearing stickers by noon.

    There was even a screw up with my address. I filled out a form, gave them my DL and voted. My ballot was not provisional in any sense of the word.

    A one page (both sides) ballot...

    But this mess in Florida and, evidently Ohio is unjustifiable.




    I have been looking for somewhere to post this and since you mentioned American Idol, you win:

    Where Simon Cowell got his idea for American Idol?

    2nd prize *two* weeks in Philadelphia?

    Irony is, just so happens that pencil and paper provisional ballots are the most efficient method available right now for a bunch of people in the NYC area.

    It's not easy to email a vote if you ain't got electricity.

    I just had to give my cellular internet code to my next door neighbor, her DSL is down as are are the landlines for 4 houses in a row, including mine. There were two Verizon landline guys here today, they can't figure out how to fix that problem (yes, they were here separately, one for my repair ticket, the other for hers, and no they have no way to coordinate that kind of thing, everyone's call is an individual repair ticket and they will get onery about handling more than one ticket at a time.) Both of em said they will be reporting to their supervisor who will send someone else to try to fix it, but we were also informed that might be that they can't touch anything before ConEd fixes the busted transformer and downedelectric line on the same pole.

    It gets even more complicated, though. The reason the neighbor wanted to get internet from me is that she couldn't get to work because she hadn't been able to get any gasoline and her tank was nearly empty. I got some yesterday, using the internet,  Having checked into gasbuddy the last 24 hours and seeing the on-the-ground situation, I see clearly that something is going on where only 1 station out of 5 in a zip code gets delivery and sells at any one time. There are people without electricity or internet that can't do that....and are just driving around wasting gas looking for gas. And don't know some secret gas god somewhere is allocating 1 out of 5 stations in a zip code get delivery at a time.

    I haven't really crystallized in my own head why I am reporting this here. I guess it's something along the lines of: careful not to put all your eggs in one basket. All systems break and also can be hacked. There are more than a few on Long Island grateful that they have fireplaces tonight.

    Also got me thinking about how conventional wisdom says the U.S.P.S. days are numbered. But but but...also how everything on the internet uses their zip codes to locate anything. They look to have much more potential for extended life than voting precincts.

    Dave Dayan's notes that Washington & Oregon 100% vote by mail. Fine with me - satisfies the "let me vote from where I am, when it's convenient" criteria. Could be combined email/regular mail. For a hurricane zone, you can also pass around a laptop using certain constraints (maybe a signed roster with a ballot).

    The big issue is election after election, certain methods fail repeatedly. And others like voting by mail simply work. Yes, if new problems arise, we fix them, but how come we can't fix a straightforward issue like "not enough polling places/machines"? And the answer is obvious - some people don't want to.

    It's hard for me to envision a down side to as much early voting as possible, by whatever method. Can anyone come up with any strong reasons against it? Besides the old "you get to feel solidarity and pride as everyone does the same thing on the same day" thing? (Always way overblown, mho, a Norman Rockwell mythic kind of thing, nice idea but rarely reality.) I don't think it would even ruin it for horse race junkies, as inevitably, the same people who buy Christmas presents on Christmas Eve would end up voting on the day.

    Even if people can't mail in their ballot, I like the idea of them getting a ballot in the mail and variable ways and variable deadlines to submit it. I betcha that would increase voting in mid-term elections, and mho, the low rate of voting in midterms, as opposed to presidential years, is a major source of our dysfunctional Congress problem

    Besides the old "you get to feel solidarity and pride as everyone does the same thing on the same day" thing? (Always way overblown, mho, a Norman Rockwell mythic kind of thing, nice idea but rarely reality.)

    Just for the record, I was thinking more along the lines of a grand holiday or an old fashioned feast day type of communal experience - the Mardi Gras or the 4th of July kind of thing where a good time is had by all, not some smaltzy, kumbaya, everyone-hold-hands event.  

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