Sunday, September 4, 2016

Election Follow-Up

Well, here's the report on the local (very local) election here in Buckeye, at least what I saw of it.  First, the local guy from the county election board drove by at 0-dark-30 and picked me up, and drove me and a couple of other volunteers to the nearby high-school gym, where we set up in the front hall.  There was a line of rickety little collapsible tables, shrouded with cardboard privacy screens and supplied with pens, two of them set low to accommodate any voter who rolled in on a wheelchair.  There were locked boxes for taking in the mail-in ballots that other voters might walk in by themselves, and about half the voters did just that little thing.  There were several ballots laid out on the long gym-tables: Republican (with red tabs), Democrat (blue tabs), Libertarian (purple), and Green (green, of course), plus ballots -- and separate tabulating machines -- for folks who lived in the city proper and those living (like me) out in the county.  Finally, there were ballots for voters who had registered "independent" or "no preference", but who could vote in the primary elections for every party except the Libertarians, who have "closed" primaries in this state -- to keep anxious Republicans from sneaking into Libertarian primary elections and taking them over. 

This is a serious concern, since Republicans in the state legislature have pulled various tricks trying to throw the LP off the ballot.  Most recently, they passed a law requiring LP candidates to collect 20 times as many signatures to be put on the official ballot, while reducing the number of signatures for Republican candidates.  The LP replied by sending out two different mailings to its registered members, revealing the trick, listing its own candidates, and telling voters to write them in.  This is pretty clear evidence that the Big Two parties -- particularly the GOP -- are worried about the growth of third parties, especially the Libertarians.

So there we were by the dawn's early light, most of us retired folks with free time for this, laying out ballots and checking the machines, referring constantly to the elections manual (we had about four copies between the ten of us), and setting up the coffee machine and snacks for the staff.  As the juniormost of the lot, I got the job of observing the voters as they put their ballots into the county-residents machnines -- and afterward handing them their "I Voted" stickers.  It was a wonderfully simple job, except for the fact that I'd somehow put my back out of line while running for the transport car, and the plastic chairs we had were godawfully painful.  My job had the label of "elections clerk", which sounds a lot more impressive than it really was.  There were also "elections judges" who checked the voters' registrations, and a roaming "elections inspector" who wandered between our polling-spot and two others in town, checking to see how we were getting along.  Some of the older voters, who'd done this countless times, knew all the older staff and had thought to bring cookies.  The whole scene had a jolly party atmosphere, where we gossiped and munched snacks and talked about anything except -- by common consent -- politics.

'Twas all great fun, except for my sore back, and I promised that when I did this next time I'd bring a back-brace, my own seat-cushion, and a good book for the long slow stretches between waves of voters.  Predictably, we got the waves during lunch-hour and just after quitting-time.

Having been following the story of the Diebolt vote-tabulating machines and how easy they are to hack, I took care to note the name of the machine where I was assigned: "Sequoia Voting Systems -- Optech Insight".  I haven't been able to link that name to any of the incarnations of Diebolt, and would be grateful for any information on it.

Not that I think any election hacker would have had much to work on with that machines.  I kept watch on the ballot counter, and the total number of county-resident ballots that were put into that machine were... 7.  Yep.  7 votes.  There were a whole 42 ballots put into the city machines, another dozen mail-in ballots handed in, and of course nobody knew how many mail-in ballots had been actually mailed in beforehand.  Hey, this is a small town!  The county elections guy promised that we'll get "the really big" numbers in November, but seeing what the total population of the Old Town district is, not to mention the popularity of those mail-in ballots, I somehow don't think anybody will be standing in long lines.     


Aya Katz said...

The nice thing about small towns is that you all know each other, and it's pretty hard for someone to pass for a local voter who isn't. The bad thing about small towns is, they usually know exactly how you voted, secret ballot or not.

Mark Horning said...

The optical scanner system that Maricopa County uses is pretty damn secure.

Black Pen, fill in the Arrow. If a voter fills out the ballot incorrectly (like votes for 2 people instead of 1) the machine kicks it out.

I'm not concerned about in-person fraud. With 70% of voters voting by mail, I am much more concerned with fraud on the mail-in ballots.