Miami Votes

'Rumpole', he of the Justice Building Blog, describes his experiences voting in our primary/judges/etc election here in Miami today in DEMOCRACY IN ACTION,

Here is democracy in action- Miami style:

I parked and approached the polling site. There were several elderly women sitting on chairs surrounding the entrance. Upon seeing me, they immediately sprung into action, grabbed their walkers or canes and cards containing ads for various candidates and descended upon me.

Now I ve lived in Miami long enough to understand most Spanish, so I immediately recognized when an elderly woman loudly insulted the heritage and family members of Fidel Castro while thrusting a Rick Corona for Judge card into my hand. Another woman attempted to press a voting slate into my hand while complaining, I m pretty sure, of the Dolphins decision to release their kicker from last year and go with a rookie. She also doesn t like the 3-4 defense, which she made quite clear to me in Spanish while handing me a Harvey Ruvin for Clerk card.

Finally, as I almost entered the polling place I felt a distinct tug on the back of my Team USA Basketball shirt that I always wear when traveling. A woman thrust a slate of candidates into my hand and told me in no uncertain terms that I had to vote for them. My Spanish is not great, so I carefully inquired if I could vote for anyone else?
NO came the loud response. These were the people I must vote for. I waived over a polling marshal, whom I m pretty sure I recognized from the security screening at the REGJB. Therein ensued a loud argument in Creole and Spanish between the marshal and the woman.

I walked into the voting area adjusting my Team USA shirt and handed another elderly woman aren t their any retired men who work at polling stations? my election card and driver s license.

WHO ARE YOU ? she screamed at me in Spanish.
Well I certainly wasn t about to reveal my identity as the blogger at this point, so I said my real NAME.
NO. WHAT ARE YOU? My spanish isn t great so I had not correctly understood the first question. It has been a long time since anyone ever seriously asked me that question and it caught me by surprise.

American? I ventured.

NO. WHAT ARE YOU? She screamed again. She was shouting in Spanish loud enough to actually wake up the other poll workers.

A human being? I mumbled, although some who read my blog might disagree. Really I just want to vote.

Another poll worker came over and explained I needed to tell her if I was a Republican or Democrat. The crisis being settled, I signed my NAME, received a ticket, a large folder and a special pen and was sent to the voting booth.

So much for electronic voting. We are now back to the days of SATs and the like. It s the good old fill in the oval with the special pen.

After you vote you have to take your ballot to an optical screening machine. The one I used was one of the newer ones, which I could tell because the tape holding it together was still sticky. A polling official came over and took my ballot and (I kid you not) carefully looked at every choice I made.

“What are you doing?” I said.

She replied in Spanish that she was checking to make sure I voted correctly.

“I don't think you're allowed to do that” I said. And she scowled at me like I was a relative of Fidel Castro. Another official came over and I inquired if voting in the United States Of America was by secret ballot.

“Que?” was the response. I did not know the phrase “secret ballot” in Spanish, so I had to wait several minutes for another supervisor to come over, wherein I explained the situation. The three of them huddled for a few minutes, casting glances at me that I had not seen since I had tried to board a plane earlier in the morning. Eventually the supervisor and returned and explained to me (and I have not made any of this up) that If I really wanted to, I had the right to have the ballot put through the electronic screener without it being reviewed.

I opted for that decision, and someone pulled a starter cord and the high tech optical screener coughed to life and I put my ballot through and voted.

I love this country. And I really love my town. Who could think of moving anywhere else, when this kind of entertainment is available for free?

I voted too. It wasn't nearly as entertaining in my precinct.

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7 Responses to Miami Votes

  1. Suwannee says:

    I had a milder version of this at my precinct in north Broward County.

    I bought my completed ballot, placed in the privacy envelope,to the poll worker. He pulled it out, gave it a quick glance and handed it to me to insert into the scanner.

    I thought at the time, this seems a tad irregular, but since the pollworker was a neighbor who I have known for about 25 years (and who I know to be pretty much apolitical), I chalked it up to getting the kinks out of a new system, and I’m sure that was the case.

    But it didn’t have to be.

  2. voter says:

    Several years ago, when Diebold(*) optical scan machines were first rolled out into my former precinct, I had sorta the same experience: A large, heavyset man guarded the scanner/ballot box. As I approached, he snatched the ballot out of my hand. Then he looked at both sides carefully. And he grunted. He grunted ! Then he injected the ballot into the machinery, with the air of someone sweating a distasteful task.

    I had never seen this large, heavyset man before. I vaguely thought about protesting. But I didn’t want to make a fuss —perhaps get arrested!— in front of the eighty-five year-old poll-lady who lived down the street from me. Eighty-five year-old poll-ladies…. now those are the ones who really intimidate you… if it came down to combat, she probably could have finished off the large, heavyset man with one long, withering look.

    Perhaps she did eventually take a long, withering look at the large, heavyset man. After that first year, he was no longer seen guarding the opscan machine, snatching ballots and grunting. I still don’t know whether he was a Diebold(*) technician or a partisan. But he bugged me. I’m glad not to see him anymore.



    (*) Diebold is a registered trademark of Diebold. Diebold Election Systems is now Premier Election Solutions. Premier is a subsidiary of Diebold. Premier might be a trademark. Premier is a proud member of the Election Technology Council. Premier is still teh evil.

  3. Bizarre! In Michigan we got covers to fit over our ballot, with stops on them to keep them from feeding into the reader along with the ballot, and then inserted them ourselves. They went to great lengths, routinely, to make sure nobody could see your filled out ballot.

    It’s not like it’s some kind of secret how you run these systems.

  4. howard says:

    I filled my ballot out and put it into the security envelope in the Grove. A poll worker walked me over to the scanning machine. I gave him the envelope, and he took the ballot out of the envelope and put it into the machine. I’m sure that he glanced at it, but he didn’t stand there and review it before he put it into the machine. What’s the proper procedure anyhow? Are they supposed to turn sideways and feed paper ballots into the machine without looking? Or is the voter the one who is supposed to put it into the machine? It does seem strange that its so easy for a poll worker to read your ballot responses.

  5. Well, to be fair, there must be a lot of people out of there to whom the value of a secret ballot is opaque; Otherwise how can you explain the Democratic enthusiasm for card check legislation?

  6. Adam says:

    I was also a little bit annoyed at this, considering I had voted against the incumbent commissioner who lives a block from the polling place and clearly has the neighborhood in her pocket. Why not just make the privacy envelope (stupid thing) expose the scan dots so you could feed the whole thing in?

  7. “Why not just make the privacy envelope (stupid thing) expose the scan dots so you could feed the whole thing in?”

    Because then you’d need a privacy envelope for every ballot, instead of just enough to handle the people voting at any given moment. The way the system is supposed to work, is that you get a privacy envelope with your ballot, fill out the ballot, place it in the envelope with the ballot number sticking out, the elections officials record the number, and then the exposed end of the ballot is stuck into the reader, and drawn out of the envelope by the reader, at which point the privacy envelope is recycled. Normally if you’ve over-voted, the reader kicks your ballot back out, and you’re issued a new one.

    It’s actually a very cost effective system for keeping anybody but yourself from seeing the votes cast, if it’s implemented properly. And implementing it properly is not rocket science. At best what’s described above is serious negligence on the part of elections officials in training poll workers, at worse, a deliberate violation of procedure.

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