Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A ritual no more

I like living where I do. I like going down to the old schoolhouse to vote in a building where time seems to have stopped about 1950 (except in two classrooms that are now a library).

I like seeing the election judges whom I otherwise might meet only at the post office, since the cafe closed and I obviously don't attend the community church.

"Hi, Irene. How've you been, Alden?"

But after today, no more.

We used to vote on paper ballots that were marked and then fed into a scanner. With three or four booths and only a couple of hundred voters in the precinct, lines were always short. Go in, get registration checked, vote, grab coffee and cookie, and out.

But this year the county went to electronic machines. The machine works great--but that is machine, singular. County funds are short. Our precinct gets one machine, and this year's Colorado ballot is a long one crammed with referenda and initiatives.

Poll workers estimated 10 minutes per voter. I know that I was faster than that, but still, it was 8:20 a.m. and I was only voter number 12. (Polls open at 7 a.m., but they had some trouble getting the voting computer going, they said.)

M. stopped on her way to work mid-morning when the congestion was supposed to be less, and instead it was worse. She eventually gave up. Sorry, Congressman Salazar, that's one less for you.

After today, I resolve to vote early at the courthouse or else by absentee ballot. I will miss Alden, Irene, and the free cookies. I will miss the little civic ritual of climbing the steps of the old schoolhouse, ready to commit democracy.

Cross-posted to Nature Blog.


Blogger Deborah said...

That's a shame. In NY I am still voting on the old fashioned lever machines; the same kind I've voted on every single time I've voted.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Or the county could find money enough for three computerized machines per precinct, but I am not holding my breath. The county commissioners are cutting the Road and Bridge Fund this year, and we know where their priorities are.

Next time, we vote absentee ballots, I reckon.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Zorya said...

I had not thought of the ritual aspect of voting in person vs voting via absentee ballot. I was very resistant to voting absentee this year, even though the option was pushed very strongly by both parties in Ohio.

I think that the fact that my son goes with me to vote (husband tries to vote on the way to work) makes voting in person more meaningful to me.

4:42 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Voting is clearly the central ritual of civic religion, and Paganism, I think, blends well with civic religion.

As a follow-up, the local county newspaper had an article on the voting mess, plus the county clerk wrote a letter to the editor about it.

Apparently the federal govt. paid for the voting machines, but the machines/electors ratio in their formula was way off. And, she said, the county can't afford to buy more just now.

The Colorado secretary of state gave her permission to bring out paper ballots late in the afternoon of Election Day. Is that a clue?

9:15 AM  

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