The new, not-entirely-private voting system in New York City

(Note: See, below, Gintas’s photo of Sophia’s voting experience.)

Sophia A. writes:

I voted today. The way the vote was done cut down on the sacred privacy of the voting booth. I live in NYC, the polls were crowded, and all the volunteers are black. In the past my experience with these volunteers is that they are uniformly nasty, boorish and rude. This time I must admit I had no problems—until the last, most important part.

Let me just recap the procedure for effect, even though you know it. [LA replies: How would I know it? Today is the first day of the new voting system. And I dread it.] You have a large manila envelope, in which is the sheet you have indicated your votes, and a voter ID card. You give the voter ID card to a volunteer, who directs you to the scanner and instructs you how to vote, in the event you need instruction. Which I did.

This volunteer was a tall, glowering black woman who exuded bad temper. She stood right over me and clearly saw my voting choices as I fed the sheet into the scanner. I thought of asking her to stand back and not look at my voting sheet, but I didn’t do it.

Why? Because she was large, belligerent—and most important, black.. More trouble than it’s worth. Lawrence, I know what you are thinking. Another white person gave in to physical intimidation from blacks. More encouragement for bad black behavior. But I need to live.

I’m not suggesting she interfered with my vote. Perhaps she didn’t even notice which black dot meant what. I am saying that the set-up cuts down on the sacred privacy of voting, and that I would have asked a white or Asian person to move away.

From now on, I vote by mail. This is another example of how our society becomes progressively deformed by the reasonable white reaction of wanting to get away from blacks.

LA replies:

Forever, New York City has had voting booths. You walk into the booth, pull a big lever which closes the curtain, then you pull down all the little levers for the candidates that you want to vote for, then you double check your choices, then you pull the big lever again which simultaneously opens the curtain of the booth and registers your votes.

This system was private, convenient, efficient, dignified, and a pleasure to use. And now they’ve replaced it by some horrible two-part process where you fill in circles on a piece of paper and then pass it through a scanner.

By the way, in my experience, the black people in the voting places in NYC have always been nice.

Gintas writes:

Ask Sophia, did it happen like this?


Karl D. writes:

I had almost the same experience as Sophia A., except the women at my polling place were white, not so little old ladies. The familiar machines were gone, replaced by what Sophia described, and people were milling about quite close to where you filled out the ballot. The whole experience felt way too casual for my taste. A reflection of society today? When the woman was showing me how to use the scanning machine I had to ask her to please step back because she could easily see my votes as the machine sucked in my ballot. She seemed surprised and a little offended. Then she told me to wait for the machine to tell me the ballot had been accepted. She didn’t say if it would appear on the screen or if a ticket stub would be printed or anything at all? I stood there like an idiot for a good three minutes while she jabbered away with some man until I butted in and asked her for help. She apologized for talking while I was standing there and asked if I saw a confirmation on the screen ,to which I told her I had no idea of what to look for. She said it PROBABLY went through okay as the machine would do something to say otherwise. Oy vey!

James P. writes:

I would encourage Sophia to vote in person rather than by mail, regardless of how unpleasant the experience is. There is a lot more room for monkey business - and a lot greater chance your vote will be cast aside - if you vote by mail rather than in person.

LA writes:

I did not at all like filling in ovals on a piece of paper rather than pulling levers in a voting booth, but the process went along without any hassles. I did find it somewhat disconcerting when I fed my paper into the scanner and then the machine told me that my vote was scanned. How could I know that that was true?

I only had one “incident.” When I arrived, I initially didn’t remember the number of my voting district. I was directed to a table. The young black woman sitting there had metal studs (or whatever they’re called) in her face. I began asking her my question, but as I registered the metal objects in her face, I stopped and said to her. “Those metal things in your face are disgusting and completely inappropriate. I don’t want to speak with you. That’s disgusting.” She responded politely that that was ok, and I turned and walked away.

I then figured my voting district number by guessing which was the right number, and going to that table and asking if my address was in that district.

Sophia A. writes:\

Thanks for printing my “report” at the beginning of the post.

You asked (about the new system, which I assumed you knew): “How would I know it? Today is the first day of the new voting system. And I dread it.”

I reply: because we had a dry-run on the primaries and I assumed you voted then. This is actually the second day of the new system, after that.

Also, If I had edited my letter to you more carefully I’d have said that the new system “violates” the sanctity of the private poll, not that it “cut down.”

LA replies:

You’re right. It was used in the primary. I didn’t vote.

Chris L. writes:

We have the same type of machines where I vote and the same situation. However, there is a fairly simple solution. They should give you a manila folder. Once you come out from voting, put your ballot in the folder with the tear off tab at the bottom exposed so you can tear it off. You remove it so that the watcher can see that it goes with your ballot. After tearing off, slide the top of your ballot up in the folder so that 2”-3” are exposed. Then lightly hold onto the folder while inserting the ballot into the machine. Then put your stub into a box they should have nearby. That’s the purpose of the folder except no one ever seems to tell anyone about it.

Personally, I like the paper ballots as they provide a decent audit trail. Also, I would recommend to always vote in person when possible instead of absentee. Absentee ballots are much easier to tamper with.

Alan Levine writes:

Another problem with the new voting arrangements in NYC is that the ballot is in rather small type,and is extremely crowded, what with the “necessity” of letting people vote in Spanish, Korean and Chinese. What with Mayor Bloomberg’s triumph in allowing voting in Russian as well, it will be more crowded in the future.

LA replies:

Also, each party has a party symbol next to it. It’s so tiny you can’t make out what the symbol is, but it does crowd up the paper even further.

Sophia A. writes:

Actually, the patented Michelle O glare was the first reaction I had to the scowling volunteer. Which I tried to squelch, and to ignore, it was so trite. But yes, the picture accurately sums up what I saw.

Regardless of race, the consensus is that we are all disconcerted by the casual and un-private nature of the new system.

LA replies:

Hah! You’ve made Gintas’s day.

James M. writes:

Here in Kentucky, there were no manila folders or any other privacy measures. You got your ballot and then milled around until you “found someplace” (the lady said “go find someplace”) to fill it out. There were about 18 metal folding chairs. You found a vacant one and attempted to fill in your bubbles on your lap, or you could hold the ballot against the wall or a window. The chairs were in two groups, lined up on either side of the polling place entry hall. Anyone arriving to vote could see your votes. Anyone sitting next to you could see your votes. When you were finished and walking to the scanner anyone could see your votes. And when you fed the scanner, anyone in line behind you, as well as the scanner attendant, could see your votes. I’m wondering how much complaint there will be over this system; I’m afraid that most people were totally oblivious to the wrongness of the situation.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 02, 2010 02:04 PM | Send

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