Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Early voting in Los Angeles CA: If butterfly ballots in Florida where confusing this is like deciphering the Da vince Code in order to vote.

The whole city of Los Angeles has a total of ONE place for early voting; let me repeat that, one of the largest city in America (pop. 4 million) has one lonely place for early voting. It gets better, the place is at Norwalk, CA. 40 minute drive from my place, although with moderate traffic is about 1 hour.

I got there around 3:30PM. It's a massive public building with a lot going on, the early voting thing appears to be of low priority. One of many other public functions the building serves.
The line is going around the building (the size of a small city block). After asking about 3 different people I found a form to fill and went to the end of the aforementioned line.
I followed the line, turned the corner and keep going, turned another corner and I saw the end of it.

A baby boomer African-American lady is in front of me, I started a mini-rant, "I can't believe this is the only way to vote early, what is the plan? How can this not be on purpose? This is a fig leave to claim they have early voting?. The lady seems sympathetic to my rant,and in a determined but calm tone, she says, "It's OK, they are just trying to discourage us, we just need to keep at it". That sounded a bit conspirational to me but at that point
I was thinking about leaving. It didn't seem like I was going to make it to the front of the cue in one hour and half.

The people waiting in line were -I'd say- about half African-Americans the rest were minorities and women. I think I spotted one white male (hipster looking guy). I don't think I would had notice any of this -it's LA after all- except that I was trying to guess what percentage may be voting for Obama, the white-male dude didn't strike me as a McCainiac, but who knows.

I got to the front of the line at about 4:56pm. They were letting people in 10 at a time, every 8 minutes or so. I was 3rd in line for the next group of 10. I wasn't sure of what would happen if 5 PM struck and I was waiting in line. If they try to send me back home after one and half hours of waiting in line I was getting ready to raise hell. Mercifully, the policy is to let anybody who is in line at 5 PM vote.
They called the next 10, I went in, we had been waiting outside the building, we kind of raced in, the way shoppers do for an early Macy's sale. It is a huge building with teller windows a la DMV and we didn't know where to go. Somehow, somebody knew to go to the 3rd floor. There was a sign on letter sized paper in a font not bigger than 24 that reassure us we where going the right way.
We hop in the elevator. Once in the 3rd floor, there were better signs and poll workers milling around. We went through a few hallways, and ended on a DMV style waiting room. Everything looked very crowed even though it was only 10 of us coming in. There is no way they can handle a big turnout with this kind of crowd management.

I handed in the form, was not asked for ID, (I brought my Passport just in case), and was given and number. I went to the DMVish benches sat and waited for about 15 or 20 minutes.
My number was called and a plastic envelope was handed out to me, I verify the info on my envelope and followed my fellow suffrager down another hallway where they had set up tall plastic cheap looking mini-desk with cardboard visors on 3 sides (I assume that is to preserve the secrecy of the vote) along the side of a hallway. It looked clearly improvised and a bit chaotic.

Where are the machines? Where are the levers? Am I in the right place? That is all it was, a plastic desk. I emptied the contents of the plastic envelope I was handed and realized that that was the total of my voting equipment. a punch card with numbers and little bubbles that I needed to fill precisely (presumably) in order to make my card reflect my intentions.

If butterfly ballots in Florida where confusing this is like deciphering the Da vince Code in order to vote.

Soon enough some lady said "How do I do this, I am from the South and we have machines there." I pipped "Hey, I'm from NY and we have machines
there also.” There was a good deal of confusion. Two very nice helpful ladies (poll workers) where running around answering questions.http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_jIKcBrSyrWA/SQiz9MOWVAI/AAAAAAAAADQ/1ONPkL_IeBk/s200/Ballot+2.jpg
I bet that at least a quarter of the ballots don't reflect the intentions of the voter accurately.
I had to take a picture of it. I read the instructions with great attention and I figured how to put my ballot back together, what envelope goes where, what tab do I tear, what do I leave blank and so on. Then I casted my ballot,hoping I did it right.
I left the voting place at 5:30pm, sat two hours in traffic and after a total of about 5 hours I Voted! I think.

Overall I think the people on the ground running the early voting process are doing a fairly good job, they have a lot of poll workers and it was run
well, despite great obstacles put in place by upper management. The lady in the line may have been right "they're trying to discourage us"

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