November 07, 2006

A ritual no more

I like living in southern Colorado. I like going down to the old schoolhouse to vote in a building where time seems to have stopped about 1950 (except in the two classrooms that are now a library).

I like seeing the election judges whom I otherwise might meet only at the post office, since the cafe closed and I don't attend the community church.

"Hi, Irene. How've you been, Alden?"

But after today, no more.

We used to vote on paper ballots that were marked and then fed into a scanner. With three or four booths and only a couple of hundred voters in the precinct, lines were always short. Go in, get registration checked, vote, grab coffee and cookie, and out.

But this year the county went to electronic machines. The machine works great--but that is machine, singular. County funds are short. Our precinct gets one machine, and this year's Colorado ballot is a long one crammed with referenda and initiatives.

Poll workers estimated 10 minutes per voter. I know that I was faster than that, but still, it was 8:20 a.m. and I was only voter number 12. (Polls open at 7 a.m., but they had some trouble getting the voting computer going, they said.)

M. stopped on her way to work mid-morning when the congestion was supposed to be less, and instead it was worse. She eventually gave up. Sorry, Congressman Salazar, that's one less for you.

After today, I resolve to vote early at the courthouse or else by absentee ballot. I will miss Alden, Irene, and the free cookies. I will miss the little civic ritual of climbing the steps of the old schoolhouse, ready to commit democracy.

A little piece of culture gone.

POSTSCRIPT The county clerk wrote an apologetic letter in the county newspaper this week: "The machines that we have now were purchased with funds we received from the federal government . . . according to their formula [it] was a sufficient number of machines for our total number of registered electors. It was very obvious at this election tht the formula was not correct."

At 4:30 p.m. on Election Day the state gave her permission to get out the paper ballots. Too late for M. to vote, though.

1 comment:

PBurns said...

This is the saddest thing I have read about these infernal electronic machines. Please God, let's next time do it different. Community is too tenuous and important a thing to lose.