Saturday, April 23, 2011

Problem with electronic voting: Disenfranchised by the clock (May 16, 2007)

Current mood: aggravated aggravated

[This is the text of an email I sent just after that night's election to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and several voters' rights groups, with only trivial edits to make it appropriate for my blog.]

It is my understanding that, in Pennsylvania, if you are physically in the polling place prior to closure, you should be allowed to vote.

We knew we were cutting it close, but my wife was physically inside the polling place at 7:58 p.m.; polls close at 8. (I waited in the car just outside the door, having voted earlier.) There was the requisite filling out of polling slips and registries, and at 7:59 I could see her walking to the voting machines. She had her ticket stub in hand, and the other half of the stub was deposited in the envelope on the side of the voting machine by the precinct worker. She said the worker placed the electronic card in the slot on the machine, and BEEP! Time's up, polls are closed. The machine would not let her start, thus she did not get to vote, even though she had her ticket stub in hand, indicating that she supposedly had voted.

This is not right.

Somewhat related side note: For what it's worth, she works a 10-hour night shift and is asleep from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. By the time she gets up and eats, there is precious little time to do things like vote. It would really help if PA's polls would stay open until 9:00 p.m., and/or open at 6:00 a.m. I now work out of my home, but when I commuted to a day job, I had 10 minutes of time between 7:00 and 7:10 a.m. (in order to get to work by 8), or that last half hour in the evening, during which I could feasibly vote. Pennsylvania makes it extremely difficult for people to vote, with only a 13-hour window.

* * * End of original post * * *

* * * Follow-up comment from 2007 * * *

Yay! I was right! What's more, I now have it in writing! Here is an excerpt from a letter to me from Mark Wolosik, Division Manager, Department of Administrative Services, Elections Division, Allegheny County (PA):

"The Pennsylvania Elections Code requires that any voter waiting in line by the 8:00 p.m. poll closing time be permitted to vote, if found qualified. An election official can override the 'Close Option Menu' that appears when a PEB is installed after 8:00 p.m. by selecting the 'Exit This Menu' option to activate a ballot."

He went on to say that the Judge of Election would receive a copy of my letter and his response, so, at least in my precinct, this should not happen again.

So there!

[A "PEB" is the electronic doohickey the voting booth staff use in Allegheny County to turn on the machine so you can vote.]

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