(A great story, including Sequoia machine problems. – promoted by SFBrianCL)
Crossposted from my livejournal.
I spent the day working the polls in Santa Clara County (where the voting method is Sequoia touch-screen machines with VeriVote printers) with auros. This is the third election we’ve worked together (the first being the stupid special election last fall) and the second in the same precinct but so far it was definitely the most exciting, the busiest and the most fraught with problems! Below is a synopsys of how the day went, just to give one snapshot of the sorts of glitches we dealt with, similar to problems I’m sure happened all over the state and the country. I’m sure my timeline isn’t perfect – the times things happened at are estimates from memory since I don’t have a copy of the procedural or technical exception logs from the precinct (we had to turn them in of course).
5am – wake up, groggy but excited, shower and make last poke at political blogs and news websites.
6am – grab coffee at starbucks and head to polling place to set up. Set-up goes fairly smoothly, though the one machine that had failed to power up the night before still fails to power up. But we have 4 working machines so we’re all good, right?
7am – polls open! 6 people are in line already. And… our card reader is broken! None of the machines recognize the cards! Now you know that manual mode you heard so much about on the news? (Well, if you’re in CA that is). THIS is exactly why it’s there. We put two machines in manual mode and had one person watching them to make sure noone went around to the back. As it turns out you actually have to press the yellow button in the back one time per vote, so it would be pretty hard for people to really vote a LOT of extra times this way. Still, we didn’t want to have more than two machines going just in case. Meanwhile, half a dozen or so people opt for paper ballots so they don’t have to wait.
7:30-or-so – field inspector shows up with spare card activator. deems our old card reader defective (so, no, it wasn’t just user error on our part). Now we are up and running with 4 good machines. And already we have a line of 20 people outside the building and another 5 or 6 inside the building signed in and waiting for a machine. Wheeeee!!
10:30-or-so – a 6th machine gets delivered to replace our dead machine.
12:30-or-so – ok, we’ve finally cleared the line and there is an afternoon lull. Auros and I take time to eat the lunch we brought with us.
4-ish – Things start to pick up again. One of our printers allegedly runs out of paper (I’m dubious on this one – when I asked the precinct inspector how he knew it ran out of paper he said “make up a reason”. I think he’s a bit of an ass and sloppy in his methods, but I’m also probably too uppity about questioning him. Next year I wanna be inspector, damnit!). Another printer jams. We make several attempts to unjam it but none are successful. Now we are out of spares, but we still have 5 fully working machines.
6:30-ish – we’re full up in the middle of the dinner rush – I can’t even see the line because it’s dark out and we can’t find a switch for the outside lights, but it’s got to be at least 20. and now the chaos really begins – more printers start running out of paper. this time for real. pretty soon we’re down to only 2 working machines so we start asking people to vote on paper ballots. Inspector gets even more sloppy and starts pulling people out of line and giving them envelopes before they’ve officially signed in. I am working the sign in page. I am trying to keep track of who has paper ballots. People are bringing paper ballots to stuff in the ballot box next to me. Some are asking to sign in when they hand them to me. Some are not. Meanwhile I am still signing people in to vote on the two remaining touchscreen machines. We are running out of paper ballots in english. Some people say they are willing and able to do theirs in spanish. We’re also running out of ballot envelopes.
7:20-ish – We are down to ONE paper ballot envelope and are considering using the spare absentee ballot envelopes when the field inspector shows up with a stack of spare envelopes and an extra printer. Now we have 3 machines up and running. Chaos is still continuing. I’m still trying to manage signins for paper and touchscreen and get ballots into the bag. Everyone else is also working like crazy.
8pm – polls officially close. We have maybe 15 people still in line. The LAST guy in line gets to me at about 8:20. He’s in the wrong precinct. It’s too late for him to get to the right one so I have him vote provisionally. The line clears and I start tallying the signatures in the book. I am tired and low-blood-sugar from skipping dinner (the plan had been to order chinese but we never got a break). The numbers don’t match and I stress and recount them 3 times. Until I finally realize I missed the supplemental roster index. I add it all up. The numbers match. We have 483 signatures. Other people tally the machines and count the paper ballots. 36 paper ballots. 448 electronic votes. 484 votes. The numbers don’t match. Count checkmarks in the book. 35 people recorded as voting paper. 36 paper ballots. That means someone handed me a ballot in an envelope without signing in. Honestly, given how chaotic it was I’m impressed I did that well, but of course it bugs me when the numbers don’t match. Fill out exception log noting explanation. Pack up rest of equipment. Sign stuff, seal stuff, put stuff in car.
9:45 – leave polls. Call county dem headquarters but get no answer. People done partying? Head home. Turn on MSNBC. Shwarzenidiot is on giving his “go me I won!” speech. Check dailykos, electoral-vote.com, cnn… OMG dems win house! OMG McNerney is ahead! Oh fuck we’re losing Lt Gov and Sec of State.
11pm – flip from MSNBC to Comedy Central to watch Daily Show / Colbert Report combined coverage. I think some of it was funny but I was really paying more attention to reloading kos and cnn.
12am – head upstairs to get ready for bed. at some point Lt Gov and SoS races start turning around. McNerney’s gain is widening. Getting really tired.
1:30am – see that CNN had called CA-11 for McNerney. Realize MT is not going to be called before dawn. Go to sleep. Long fucking day.
Seriously, despite all of those technical glitches we had at the polls I think we did an excellent job. We processed 484 voters in 13.5 hours – that’s 36 voters per hour at an average of one voter every 1.7 minutes. And that includes the afternoon lull (when we sometimes had only one voter in the building), so it was really closer to a voter every minute and a half during the heavy periods. We also had 103 absentee ballots collected, for a total of 587 votes cast in a precinct of roughly 1100 registered voters. That’s an estimate based on the people listed as active voters. If I count inactives the number would be higher. I am not sure which number is used when determining turnout, but if it’s the same one I used then we definitely had an above average turnout in our precinct vs national, state, and even county.
And now that Debra Bowen will be our secretary of state I am really hopeful that some of the issues we encountered will be dealt with intelligently. I can’t wait for next election!
Well, no, actually, I can. I need a rest.