Tuesday, March 04, 2008

At Least My Chads Weren't Hanging

Today was the Texas Primary, in case there is someone out there in the universe who doesn't know that already. All of this excitement has us somewhat flustered since our primary is so late that it is usually something of a nonevent. I rushed out to the polls on my conference period this morning--it's a small town after all.

I go into the polling place, choose the proper primary. There is no line. I show my ID to the person working the election--my high school home economics teacher--sign the list, and speak to the just-in-case Spanish translator sitting behind the desk. It seemed the thing to do since he is a student in my 7th period class. I pick up my paper ballot and head toward the table with the No. 2 pencils. The election judge stops me and asks if I want to use the machine--pointing to a large printer-like device sitting on a nearby table. I say fine and place my ballot back on the table. She tells me that I need to take the paper ballot with me. The process goes something like this: The voter feeds the paper ballot into the machine. A touch screen lights up and asks for a language preference. Then the voting begins with candidates appearing in lists by office. After touching a selection, the voter touches "next," and the screen changes. When all selections have been made, verification screens appear to confirm the choices. Finally, the voter touches "submit," and the machine starts making all kinds of mysterious mechanical noises for an extended period of time. At last the ballot comes back out the front of the machine. It appears that all the machine has done is fill in the circles so that I didn't have to fill them in with a pencil. It took much, much longer, but it was sort of fun.

I puzzled all day about the actual purpose of the machine. It didn't count or tally anything. It apparently didn't even record the vote because my ballot went into the same ballot box with the hand-bubbled ones. When 7th period started with my student election worker back in class, I asked what the purpose was. It turns out it was a machine for the handicapped. Even the visually handicapped could have used it with a voice feature, if I understood him correctly. Why I was asked to use it, I don't know. It's the sort of thing that makes you wonder if you look sick or something, like when people keep coming up to you at work and asking if you feel ok.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Weird. All of ours are electronic, and there are no paper ballots involved. They put their special key in, select D or R for you, then you use the pointer thingie to make your selections, you get a confirmation screen in case you want to change anything, and then the big blue SUBMIT button lights up and beeps. You press it, it beeps, and you're done.