Wednesday, October 31, 2012

voting early in Chicago

first things first:

I had a conversation with my boss.  He related that a coworker mentioned that election day was sacred in her home and that she couldn't focus on anything else until it was over.  He himself mentioned at between work and appointments for his children he wouldn't have time to vote.  That troubled me and got me to thinking about previous elections.  Somehow I always made it in, one time just before 7 pm when I was greeted with a hearty "we've been waiting for you."  I saw in the paper that the President voted early in Chicago. I wondered if you had to be a special personage or have some compelling reason to qualify for the earliness, I wondered if the sites would be hard to reach.
I hunted around and found the above link.

Clicking through it seemed that if you had a government ID, you were welcome. I liked the flexibility of choosing a site near where ever you happened to be at the time as opposed to being tethered to a site near home. A library near my children's school was one of the 51 sites. I noticed the relatively high number of voters so far, but hoped that since I was going in the early afternoon before school was dismissed the lines wouldn't be long.  Now that I was thinking about doing it, I wanted to do it, and cross it off my list.

Signs posted with blue arrows pointed to the elevator. The large conference room on second floor of the (overheated) library was (strangely) subdivided into a much too small a space. Several steps to voting lining the perimeter: Two tables on the right to fill out and sign a short form, no line here when I first came in; two stations to check in with a judge and show government ID, the line was about 10 deep; voter's card or driver's license, hand in form, and get thick plastic card to insert in a hooded machine, after waiting in snaky line about 20 deep.  Crowded and hot as this was, the judges were remarking how much more  busy and chaotic things were on Saturday.  There was about a 15 or 20 minute wait to get to one of the machines.  I was surprised that elderly, frail, a blind person and helper, or people in wheel chairs were not taken to the front of the line.  I was getting dizzy and parched standing and waiting.

Once seated at the machine, I inserted the card, was instructed to use the touch screen with my finger or stylus. No stylus was provided, just a pen.  I used the "wrong end" of it to squiggle "x"s in boxes through 12 "pages" of choices.  I reviewed the pages and as it turned out some entries registered as not choices entered, so I when back and filled those in.  There was a set of too small instructions to the bottom right of the hood.  I read through twice and tried to follow but couldn't figure out how to cast my vote, I ended up reviewing again this time with reversed out white print on a black background.  Frustrated, I asked one of the judges, how to cast my vote, he asked me to review to the end, which I thought I did twice already, but finally it worked. Then I looked and read as all my choices printed on a cash register paper/toilet paper roll looking thing behind clear plastic to the right of the screen got filled in. Quite a lot of the paper got used up. Finally the card spit out and I handed it back to the judge. 

While I'm glad I got it done, I wish several things were different. The high heat and small size of the allotted room made it difficult to concentrate.  I was able to enlarge the print on screen itself, but had a hard reading the small print of the instructions at the side of the machine.  It would've been helpful and "user-friendly" to have a larger print size.  I wish there had be an express line for people who had conditions that warranted it.  I can imagine people getting frustrated and giving up before they get to the end of the process.  The follow through to casting a vote did not seem intuitive at all. I remembered the election that Al Gore ran in, the senior citizens in Florida that voted for him, but inserted the cards into the machine in the wrong way so their votes weren't counted.  Seems nutty that nearly every election has a new fangled machine and system to figure out at the spot.

There's a saying in Chicago to vote early and often, a nod to the long-standing reputation of corruption in our toddling town.  One sign was loud and clear that voting multiple times or attempting to was a felony.


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