Thursday, November 09, 2006

Complaining About the Election

You'd think that a democrat like me would be all sunshine and smiles about Tuesday's election, but I'm not. While the results were great, the process here in Kansas City was ridiculous, and I want to know what to do to get it fixed.

Here in Kansas City, we have gone from a relatively easy punch-card system to an awkward, slow, and (perhaps) ineffective optical scanner/SAT-style fill-in-the-ovals-with-a-stubby-pencil-without-an-eraser system. According to the poll worker, if you strayed even a tiny bit out of the line, or left even a tiny bit of the oval blank, your vote would not count, but the scanner would not let you know that your vote was rejected.

Why should Kansas City's electorate be restricted to those who excelled in first grade art class? Why, rather than pushing a button or flipping a switch or jabbing a stylus, are Kansas Citians now required to huddle over a paper ballot with a three-inch pencil? This is progress?

Who made this decision? Why? How do we get it fixed?

20 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous Me said...

Dan:

Personally, I think you've got the best of all worlds. The ballot, it sounds like, is clear, simple, able to be done by anyone, and most important, there is a PAPER RECORD if something goes wrong.

We've gone to touchscreens over here. I simply have to trust that what I touch on the screen is indeed recorded electronically. Don't know about you, but I'm not sure I have that kind of trust.

Do you have issues staying within the lines?

11/09/2006 8:32 AM  
Blogger dolphin said...

I got one better. I had the choice between the one voting machine or a "fill-in-the-oval" paper ballot which goudl be filled out in one of about 6 booths. I opted for the paper ballot which says at the top to fill it out with a number 2 pencil. The booths all had markers in them...

I'm told it was a special kind of marker that the machine would read.

11/09/2006 8:49 AM  
Blogger Ambitious Fledgling said...

We have the ink things that you just punch down and it fills in the circle for you, so it's nearly impossible to get outside of the lines... I just assumed all of Jackson County was that way, I suppose not.

11/09/2006 9:12 AM  
Anonymous T.Reason said...

Ah, so soon after the election and you and I have our feet on “common” ground. Right after I voted I came home and reported on The V.O.T. my own experience with these paper ballots.

First, I was horrified to learn that my state, which is barely in the 20th century anyway, had made the decision without voter input to return to this archaic system. I was perfectly happy with the touch screen.

But, no. We need a paper trail, they say. Don’t want to sound like a Greenie, but I like a paperless system. Why, after all the voter irregularities in 2000 and 2004, did the parties avoid the issue of voting reform? Because, of course – as my corrupt state proves with each crooked election – voter fraud works.

This new paper ballot was top secret until word leaked shortly before the election. A small blurb about it appeared in the voter guide that only people who actually pay attention to our local newspaper would have seen.

The ballot here was long. We were told that we would be required to use “special” pens. The day before the election there were fears that the poll workers would run out of these pens, so voters were urged to bring their own BIC medium point black ink only pen or a number 2 pencil. Suspicious, having been burned before in my state elections – burned like a paper ballot – I said that I wouldn’t be surprised if, after Election Day, it was announced that anyone who didn’t use the “special” pen had his ballot disqualified. So when I heard that other states, like yours, which adopted this foul system, were using pencils, I couldn’t help think that our County Clerk (now newly elected Secretary of State) got it wrong again. Were we supposed to have pencils, not special pens?

The County Clerk plays fast and loose with ballots – she loses them, burns them, hides them in trunks of cars and landfill…and this year, in a rare Republican heavy district of 2500 registered voters, she provided only 150 ballots at the precinct. By 8:30, voters were turned away. “We’ll call you when we get more!”

I’m just getting feeling back in my wrist and cramped little hand. The pain in my lower back has subsided after bending over that table designed for Munchkins. I voted in a school library. If kids are expected to read there, why isn’t there better lighting?

As I pointed out on The V.O.T., anyone with back, vision, bursitis, or carpal tunnel issues would have problems with this horrid, time consuming ballot. How is an elderly person supposed to get through something like this? I’d like to see Michael J. Fox tackle this beast.

And then there were the “counting machines” that didn’t work. Poll workers put the ballots in mystery boxes to be “counted” later. Fifty states and a million different voting systems. It irks me, I tell ya. And I’m not trying to sound like one of those traumatized Florida voters, either.

Now maybe one of your gentle readers could expand on this, but it was my understanding that this push for paper ballots was initiated by “you people.” Democrats and Leftist organizations had a whole campaign to make paper ballots the law of the land. I’m not making this up – I’m sure someone out there can back me up on this.

No offense, but after reading some of the blogs and websites that pushed for this system, I got the heebie-jeebies. Why the hell can’t all states adopt an electronic system that spits out a paper record?

Is this an issue both sides can agree on?

11/09/2006 9:24 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

We have touch screens here in my little Kansas towns. No markers - just our fingers. After we finish marking the ballot, the screen automatically switches to a screen that shows how we voted so we can review it and change it if we want to.

I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for years. For years and years it has been a government requirement that we validate every single piece of equipment before any study utilizing that equipment could be accepted by the government. Seems to me the government should be required to do the same thing; but then, what's good for the goose is never good for the gander.

11/09/2006 9:28 AM  
Blogger emawkc said...

So lemme get this straight. You think people don't have the mental faculties to figure out how to "color within the lines" of a bubble ballot, but you're perfectly fine promoting a 2000+ word constitutional amendment to promote stem cell research?

11/09/2006 9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been missing your blog.

11/09/2006 10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm offended more by the fact that only summaries of the stem cell amendment and the judicial pay raise issue appeared on the ballot. Both glossed over important aspects of the proposals. Copies of the proposals were not available for voters to read.

Yes, I know people should educate themselves before arriving to vote. However, for those who don't, they should not be forced to choose or abstain based on misleading ballot summaries.

For the record, I was in favor of one of those proposals and not the other. I can say it helped my cause in one case and hurt it in another. Nevertheless, the manner in which this was done was not very democratic in my view.

11/09/2006 10:49 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Dan,

Being an engineer I have a little experience with optical recognition systems. Getting outside the oval a tiny bit will not invalidate the vote. They just don't want you making crazy big scrawls all over the place! In cases of a recount it is much easier to determine "intent". No hanging chads or pregnant dimples!

As far as the electronic machine, the one I used printed out an adding machine tape record of my vote that I could watch print through a little window. Seemed pretty up and up to me.

11/09/2006 10:53 AM  
Anonymous T.Reason said...

You make a fine point, Anonymous. Watch out for these summaries, folks. An example in my state was a bond issue that required over one million dollars to renovate a specific building in our city. A building that I’m especially familiar with, having spent three years of my life in it. However, I noticed that when the official ballot was printed, the name of the building did not appear on the bond issue summary. Bait and switch? It was explained to me that sometimes funds are raised for a specific project, but for reasons beyond control, those projects fall through. Oh, but we have all this money now so let’s put it towards another project. My question, now, is: Is something “mysterious” going to happen to the original building in question? Does someone already know that the project will be abandoned? So where will that money be directed if this actually comes to pass?

And regarding stem cell research…I realize Missouri would be the recipient of a whole new lucrative industry, but watch out! You might just have competition for jobs and dollars now that our governor is championing stem cell research here in Nuevo Mexico. The University of New Mexico Hospital has named a new building – The Barbara and Bill Richardson Pavilion – after our governor and his spouse; now he is directing stem cell business their way…in a very big way. I’m sure you’ll learn more about this during his presidential campaign. (Incidentally, the NM film industry that he loves to brag about was, in fact, initiated by our former governor – the illustrious Libertarian-Republican Gary Johnson. To quote Dan: “God, I miss him!”

11/09/2006 12:42 PM  
Blogger reverse_vampyr said...

For what it's worth, we had the "fill in the ovals" ballots here in Texas, too. I was kinda surprised to see the technological step backwards.

11/09/2006 2:07 PM  
Anonymous T.Reason said...

Sorry – me again. I’ll keep this one short. Found an old article from July:

SANTA FE (AP) - Governor Richardson is taking his push for paper ballot election systems to other states.
Richardson is urging elections officials in other states to follow the approach taken by New Mexico in trying to restore public confidence in elections.
Richardson delivered his message in a speech to the National Association of Secretaries of State, which has been meeting in Santa Fe…

Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it true that voting systems are not a federal responsibility? It’s up to the states, no? Would a President Richardson attempt to go nationwide with paper?

Mark, what did your machine spit out? A “receipt” or an actual record of all your votes?

11/09/2006 2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the funny part. It printed out what looked like a cash register tape of my votes. You hit the "Print Page" key and then you could watch your votes being printed on the register tape through a clear window. Everything I had just verified on the screen was being visibly printed for my inspection.

Now the "only Mark would do this" funny part. I was under the impression that printed register tape would become my ballot that I would take to box so I commenced trying to open the plexiglass window to retrieve my ballot! I think I would have got in there too if the election judge hadn't stopped me! :-)

11/09/2006 3:14 PM  
Anonymous T.Reason said...

Gee, now I feel guilty for making fun of voters in Florida. We are not all windowlickers here, are we? Yet everyone seems to have some sort of issue with the system. My real beef is that there seems to be a new one in place every time I go to vote. Is it simply a conspiracy to get us all to stay home?

We mastered pumping our own gas – we should be able to do this, too. I fear that this has become yet another industry that will never go away. There must be really big money in selling voting systems to the states.

11/09/2006 3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in Liberty we had the paper SAT ballot with the scanner. Pencils, not pens.

The machine that scanned the ballots had a big long cash register tape spooling out of it. They might have been individual receipts for the voters that nobody bothered taking. I don't know. Nobody said anything about it.

I didn't touch it because I was afraid it was the OFFICIAL TALLY of the election and if I touched I'd be arrested for vote tampering and none of our votes would count. I'm a lot more paranoid now than I was 6 years ago.

My only complaint was with the tall TV trays with the vertical privacy wings that we used to fill in our ovals. I was circling that pencil inside the lines with a sense of authority to make sure there was no ambiguity about my choice.

As I did so, the tray would start swaying back and forth, the privacy wings would start flapping...looked like an exorcism was taking place. Which in a sense, I guess it was.

If I could have managed it I would have made my eyes roll back, my head spin around in circles, lowered my voice and gurgled "I'M VOTING FOR DEMOCRATS!!! MWAHAHAHA!!!"

But there was a deputy sherrif there, so I just politely voted and headed on in to work.

11/09/2006 6:26 PM  
Anonymous T.Reason said...

My, my, my. It says here on your profile, Xavier, that your favorite film is The Lion In Winter. It’s been mine, too, since its release. (Yes, that’s a long time, and, yes, I’m old.) How is it that someone who has such good taste can vote for Democrats? Oh, wait – ol’ Dan here has some good taste, too, when it comes to art, music, literature -- and beer. Ah! Is this the “common ground” that will bring us all together in this new age of bipartisanship?

Seriously, does anyone out there really think that everyone in D.C. is suddenly going to play nice? (I have to say that both sides offered some classy concession speeches this week, but I believe that’ll be about as far as it goes. And I’m an optimist.)

11/09/2006 7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

T. Reason - "...does anyone out there really think that everyone in D.C. is suddenly going to play nice?"

Nope. Not really.

I think civility, proportionism, comity and the willingness to compromise left Washington after Watergate.

Politics has always been politics. But things changed with Watergate.

This will sound prehistoric, but Republicans in the '60s viewed rock & roll and the counter-culture as a personal afront to evrything they believe in. Sex, drugs and Rock & Roll!

The Watergate scandal was the championship fight. Nixon waving goodbye from the steps of Air Force One was The Sixties delivering the knock-out punch to Post-World War II America.

< - SWING

Since then it's been punch and counter-punch. Each one a bit harder.

Ford pardons Nixon. SWING - >

1976. Carter allows blue jeans in the White House. A huge swing to the Left. The economy tanks. The American Embassy is held hostage in Iran. The rescue attempt is a disaster.

<< -- SWING

1980. Reagan takes office and the hostages are released during his inauguration speech. A huge swing to the right begins.

SWING ---- >>>>

1988. Bush 1 is elected. Not because he had anything to offer...just left over Reagan momentum.

---- >>>>

Iraq invades Kuwait. We kick their ass out with international support. We fence an impotant Saddam in without invading Iraq.

---- >>>>

1992. The pendulum swings back to the left. Clinton takes office.

<<<<< ----- SWING

1994. Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America slow the leftward swing.

1996. Clintom is re-elected, pissing the right wing off beyond all reason. Clinton, the most powerful man in the entire world, gets a blow job. Power-less republicans don't get any blow jobs from anybody. Right-wing tempers go SUPERNOVA!!

<<<<<<< ------- SWING

2000. Bush 2 steals the election with the help of his brother and the Supreme Court and enters the GPS coordinates for Armageddon into the autopilot.

SWING ------ >>>>>>

2004. Bush 2 steals the NEXT election, claims a mandate, and sends the country to hell in a handbasket.

SWING -------->>>>>>>>

2006. Enough is enough.

< - SWING - >

This is our chance to reset the pendulum and regain some balance porportion.

I hope we ALL take it.

11/09/2006 9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What family doesn't have it's ups and downs?" - Eleanor of Aquitaine

11/09/2006 9:30 PM  
Anonymous T.Reason said...

To X.O. --

“We are the world in small. A nation is a human thing. It does what we do, for our reasons. Surely, if we’re civilized, it must be possible to put the knives away. We can make peace. We have it in our hands.”

-- Henry Plantagenet

11/10/2006 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Henry II: I marvel at you after all these years. Still like a democratic drawbridge: going down for everybody.

Eleanor: At my age there's not much traffic anymore."

******

"Henry II: Oh God, but I do love being king!"

*****

"Henry II: Well I'm off.

Eleanor: To Rome?

Henry II: That's where they keep the Pope!"

*****

"Eleanor: What would you have me do? Give out? Give up? Give in?

Henry II: Give me a little peace.

Eleanor: A little? Why so modest? How about eternal peace? Now there's a thought."

*****

"Henry II: I haven't kept the Great Bitch in the keep for ten years out of passionate attachment."


I'm sorry! I just love this movie!

Watch the Peter O'Toole / Katherine Hepburn / 1968 version.

"Henry II: The day those stout hearts band together is the day that pigs get wings.

Eleanor: There'll be pork in the treetops come morning. "

It just doesn't get any better than that!

"Prince John: A knife! He's got a knife!

Eleanor: Of course he has a knife, he always has a knife, we all have knives! It's 1183 and we're barbarians! How clear we make it. Oh, my piglets, we are the origins of war: not history's forces, nor the times, nor justice, nor the lack of it, nor causes, nor religions, nor ideas, nor kinds of government, nor any other thing. We are the killers. We breed wars. We carry it like syphilis inside. Dead bodies rot in field and stream because the living ones are rotten. For the love of God, can't we love one another just a little - that's how peace begins. We have so much to love each other for. We have such possibilities, my children. We could change the world."

11/14/2006 9:08 PM  

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