Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Problems with Early Voting at the Clerk's Office Today?

I voted today. I went downtown to the Marion County Clerk's office to do so. There were a lot of people down there to vote, probably because of the GOP early voting rally taking place across the street in the City Market property.

I would like to say that my experience was without any problem or confusion, but that was not the case.  Unfortunately, the problems were not mine alone. Several people voting while I was there seemed to have at least one, if not several problems.

Before I begin to delve into exactly what all went wrong, I'll explain the steps that were involved in the early voting process.

First, by entering the building through the Delaware Street entrance, you are able to proceed directly into the Clerk's office and bypass the line for security. Actually, you bypass security altogether which I find somewhat amusing.  But, the Clerk's office is right inside that entrance, and a path is set up so you can only go to and from that office if that is your need.

Once inside, you go to a front desk with several of the early/absentee voting envelopes set up. At this point you fill out the highlighted sections of the envelope, and then are instructed to take the envelope into the next room and have your ID ready.

When you enter the next room, your first step is a person that identifies your proper voting precinct and labels your envelope as such. You present her your ID, she looks you up in her computer, and she prints off a little label with your name and precinct on it and sticks it to your envelope.

Next, you take a couple steps down to another person that looks at your newly acquired sticker and prints out a proper ballot for you.

You then take a couple steps more down to a couple of ladies who now check your ID, your ballot, and your envelope to make sure that all three properly match each of the others. Then, they both initial off on your ballot, tell you to complete your ballot in one of the many voting stalls crammed into the room, fold your ballot in half, and take it to the ladies at the other side of the room.

When you get there, the ladies again confirm that you do indeed exist and are, in fact, in front of them. They turn the open end of the envelope to you, ask you to insert your folded ballot, and then seal the envelope yourself. Then, you sign the envelope stating that you have been checked, rechecked, and checked yet again, and place your sealed envelope into the ballot box.

Now that you know what the process is like, let me explain the two areas where there is problems and/or confusion.

The first problems lie at your first stop, the entry desk where you complete the information on your envelope.  See, the areas of essential information you need to fill out have been highlighted for you. The problem is, many (if not all) of the envelopes in use are left over from the primary. The problem with that is that the section asking for you to declare a party for your ballot are highlighted.

I'm knowledgeable enough about politics that I am aware that declaration does not occur in a general election, only in a primary. I asked why it was highlighted, the gentleman said it was a leftover from primary and to ignore it. Then the gentleman to my right asked why he had to declare and was told the same thing. The person to my left did not ask, and checked the box for a political party.

It makes me wonder his many people didn't bother or know to ask, and just checked a party. If there, God forbid, was a nefarious election worker, they would then have clear indication of what ballots to "misplace" on election day.

The next problem came in the 4-step voting room, although the problem may have been included on the left-over-from-the-primary envelopes, I did not confirm which.

You see, on the back of the envelope where you sign after sealing, there's a little mini-affidavit that says you are who you say you are, and that you live where you say you live, and that you believe you are properly allowed to vote in the election you are voting in. The envelope has boxes to check whether it was a primary or a general election, and a blank line for the date to be inserted. For convenience, they placed a sticker over the section that was pre-printed with which election and date the envelope was for.

The problem here is that many, if not all, of the stickers were also leftovers and read, "Primary Election, May 2011."

I wasn't sure what was happening at first. When I first entered the room there was a voter that was very upset because of the sticker on her envelope. The election workers assured her it was OK, that the sticker would be ignored. Correctly,  the lady stood up and said it wasn't OK with her. She wanted to be sure that there were absolutely no irregularities with her ballot so that it definitely got counted. She was offered the chance to start from scratch. While that annoyed her, it appeared that is the path she took.

As I said, though, as that was going on I was unsure of the issue. When I got to the first set of ladies that signed off on my ballot is when I first started to put it together. The first lady looked at my envelope, smirked, and showed it to her counterpart, saying, "see, they're all for the primary."

I asked if there was a problem, and was simply told that the other ladies at the other side of the room probably had stickers to replace it with.

Remember, at this point I'm only aware that there is some problem, but not aware what it specifically is. This response did not help me understand the issue, and when I asked I simply got handed my ballot and envelope, along with a "thanks for voting."

So, I voted. Then I took my ballot and envelope to the other ladies at the other side of the room. By this time I had examined my envelope and found its primary 2011 designation. The ladies at that end of the room ignored my sticker until I pointed it out and asked about it. The lady on the left indicated that the lady on the right had the proper stickers. The lady on the right interjected, "well I only have two more. What am I supposed to do then?" The first lady just told her to not worry about it if they weren't brought more stickers.

My old sticker was then peeled off, leaving a huge tear on the surface of the envelope's paper, and the new sticker was affixed. I was told to place my envelope in the ballot box, and go about my way.

These problems all appear associated with the reuse of envelopes set up for the 2011 primary. That reuse is, albeit small, a taxpayer savings and I support it. For next time, though, I wholeheartedly suggest the following:

A) if you're going to reuse ballot envelopes from a primary that are highlighted asking for party declaration, reuse them in the next primary election. Do not use them in a general election where party declaration does not and should not, even accidentally, occur.

B) If you're going to affix stickers to a ballot envelope to easily identify what election that envelope belongs with, then for heaven's sake change the damned sticker if the envelope gets used in a different election.

C) if A and B are too difficult to achieve, then all prepared ballot envelopes need destroyed after the election they were originally intended for.

Easy enough?


  1. years of hollering CUT MY TAXES have consequences when city agencies are forced to economize too much on printing

  2. Pinching pennies is important. You can pinch the wrong pennies, though.