Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Voting Machine
Originally uploaded by John C Abell

Voting today was the easiest experience I've ever had: no lines, no poll watchers, lots of friendly volunteers. (Also, no free coffee or "I voted!" stickers, but you can't have it all.)

Our district is sparsely populated; we are told that there are 800 registered voters here in the 11th district of Westchester County, where we have lived for only a few weeks. About 500 is the most any have ever turned out to vote, they tell us; I ask if they expect to break that record today, and I get forceful, pronounced, silent nods.

Another reason why it was so easy? The voting machine was a fine beast of a thing, a relic from a simpler time when machines did the work that circuit and main boards are expected to now, with disputable success. Some solutions are better mechanical than electronic, I believe, and this is one of those areas (also, try digging a ditch with a computer).

The machine's caretaker was delighted to explain exactly how it worked. After his proud recitation I asked I could use a butterfly ballot instead. He declared his polling place a hanging-chad-free zone, and laughed.

The picture on this post shows the clearly-marked rows of levers, an at-a-glance view of one's entire voting intentions, leaving nothing to doubt. I have used touch screens, punch cards and ballots that had to be marked with a pencil -- never a paper ballot, though, as we still see in some showy Third World photo ops.

This majestic machine, complete with lever-controlled curtain, filled me with a confidence I have never had before as a voter. It was sturdy, most becoming for the enormous civic duty it enables.

I am going to brag on myself, as a certain Chappaqua neighbor has been known to say: the picture on this post got plucked for use on the flickr blog in a piece about election day.

And for a great read on the enthusiasm we should all have when we vote, read this essay by Nicole Spiridakis.

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