The Wrong Way To Vote

I cast my ballot in the presidential primary today and was very unhappy with the process.

CT Primary BallotI promised to write about this earlier.

I cast my ballot in the presidential primary today and was very unhappy with the process. Until the last general election, my polling station had the same type of machines I remember seeing when I was a kid.

With the old machines you went into the booth, pulled a lever, which closed a curtain. In the privacy of the booth you threw smaller levers to cast your ballot, then ‘unthrew’ the large lever to open the curtain and record you’d done.

Was this system broke? It always worked for me. It was excellent in its simplicity.

Today I was handed a paper ballot which I brought into a small cubicle. There was no curtain behind me. I marked my ballot and carried it to the ballot box in a manilla folder. At the ballot box, I removed my ballot from the envelope and slid it in with the rest.

I went through this before the last time I voted. I felt uncomfortable then because I wasn’t in an enclosed space. Same today.

As if to prove my point, I mistakenly walked behind the other voting booths carrying my ballot in hand. If I would have turned my head, I could have easily seen the votes of others.

When I went to place my ballot in the box, taking it from its Manila folder, it was totally exposed. If he wanted to, the poll watcher could have seen anything I marked.

This process should be absolutely protected and totally secret. As currently run, It is not. That’s very disappointing.

A commenter on the last entry asked if this is the best we could do. Is it?

11 thoughts on “The Wrong Way To Vote”

  1. I totally agree and had the EXACT same thoughts as I was voting this afternoon. The attendant at the ballot box certainly saw who I voted for This ain’t right.

  2. I’ve only voted in a handful of elections, but I think all of them have been this type of process, save for the 1 year I voted absentee.

    But hey, at least it’s not electronic voting. With that, you don’t even know for sure that the candidate you select is the one who will actually get your vote.

  3. For the most part I am OK with the paper ballot system, voting cubicle and all. I feel it provides enough privacy for me, it’s not like I’m getting undressed in there. I also hope that others respect my privacy as I have respected theirs.

    What I do take exception to is the scan machine, there is a lack of privacy there, however you can put your ballot in upside down and maintain your privacy. I have seen similar machines with tinted privacy covers so you can’t really see the ballot being inserted in.

    Maybe I’m idealistic, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to vote and I’m not overly concerned if some nosy neighbor tries to sneak a peek. I mean I already had to identify my party when I walked into the polling place, and with only two (three if you count uncommitted) candidates on the ballot for Democrats, it’s not going to be such a major surprise, unless I make some stray mark on the ballot – that right there takes away some of the privacy.

    Thankfully I don’t have to worry about my neighbors seeking blood after I cast my vote, (see the democratic country of Kenya’s recent elections). I think the system is OK. We will never have a perfect system; it’s politics.

  4. I have voted with a paper ballot and flimsy curtain since moving from NY. I hate this method of voting. I feel I have no privacy. Anyone can look and see who and what I have voted for. If this is progress, I don’t like it!

  5. This seems to have hit a responsive chord. I’m glad I’m not alone.

    I just wonder why we couldn’t continue to use the old machines.

  6. Paper ballots aren’t inherently incompatible with privacy; it’s just that some of the polling setups are poorly thought out. There’s nothing to say that you couldn’t have a system where you fill out a paper ballot in a well-enclosed booth, then seal it in an envelope or fold over a paper flap to keep others from seeing your vote as you walk the ballot to the box or the scan machine.

    The old lever-based machines were expensive and had to be maintained, and don’t even get me started on computerized voting. I think a well-designed optical scan ballot system can be about as accurate and as private as we want to make it.

  7. Maybe its me. I don’t get the whole privacy thing. I don’t care who sees who I vote for. I have nothing to hide. Am I missing something?

  8. Privacy in voting is important because it eliminates intimidation and the purchasing of votes.

    I guess I’m surprised it was even brought up, because I’ve always found it totally intertwined with our whole form of government. I can’t imagine our nation without a secret ballot.

  9. This crossed my mind too. The whole process seemed oddly open.

    But then I didn’t really mind. As soon as I left the building I was asked to participate in an informal exit poll (my polling place is Wilbur Cross High School, and this was a Civics class project), which I gladly did to help the kids out. Nothing secret about my vote there!

    (There were no manila envelopes at my polling place, but I just folded the ballot over as I took it to the scanner. The worker by the scanner politely averted her eyes as I fed my ballot in.)

  10. Geoff,

    The privacy aspect can certainly be improved, but as someone already mentioned, it is not a function of paper ballots, but the way the voting locations are set up.

    There was a very long and detailed article in the NYTimes magazine a few weeks ago. It was very interesting to see how so many states have taken different approaches to the mandates from the Federal government that voting be “updated”. Paper ballots, which always provide a backup hard copy directly from the voter, really do seem like the best option. The security threats to computerized voting systems can never be overcome.

    Anyway, you may want to give it a read. Also, should take your concerns to the CT Secretary of State’s office. I know they have been trying to work the kinks out of the new system and would probably be open to feedback.

  11. Geoff,

    What I don’t understand is why you placed your ballot in a box? I am only 2 towns away, and when we vote:

    1) we take the ballot to the cubicle and mark it (It is not easy for anybody to see it).

    2) Carry the ballot to a reader/cabinet which is locked(If we want privacy, we can flip the ballot over, so all that you can see is the instructions).

    3) We insert our own ballot into the reader (face up or down, doesn’t matter).

    The machine attendant also stands a couple of steps away and only interjects if you break the machine or ask for help.

    I don’t understand why the ballots would go into a box?

    Good luck and “rock the vote!”

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