A friend of mine voted early last Sunday. Here’s the story he told me about the early voting experience. – Dan Rattiner
Early Voting 2022
It was quite different from what it was like when I last did it five years ago.
For one thing, I was tense. I’d just read the Supreme Court said private citizens can come down and watch the trucks unload the voting machines. There’s many nut jobs out there. And of course there’s a lot of guns everywhere.
Five years ago, I voted at the firehouse in Springs. They had your voting registration information and your signature on a clipboard. You showed ID and signed on a new line under your name to show it was really you. They’d usher you to a voting booth, which had a sliding curtain to keep your visit private.
Inside, you flipped levers. They clicked. Pull a big overhead gear and it both accepted your vote and opened the curtain.
Voting this year was at the affordable housing complex on Accabonac Road. A horseshoe of about 40 attached small homes embrace a clubhouse. I drove up.
The driveway loops around, but it was blocked by an SUV. Having to drive off to the side, I was blocked by a person in the road talking to somebody in the driver’s seat of a Toyota sedan. My first thought was there must be a problem. How do I back out of here?
But the SUV was just waiting for someone to back out of a parking space. And the man in the road was just chatting happily with the man in the Toyota.
A greeter was stationed by the front door of the clubhouse. He had an ID sticker slapped over his heart.
“Just go right through to the back,” he said, motioning me in. There was a hallway. A bowl of apples on a table for you. Take one if you wish.
In this big room, a row of women sat at tables. One motioned me over. I took out my ID. She asked me to spell my name. Then to say my address and birthdate. Behind them, a printer emitted a paper with all my info on it.
“Sign here,” she said. It matched up with an earlier signature.
Somehow, a printed receipt got printed out. The woman put a big pink X on it with a magic marker and handed it to me.
“Give this to one of the volunteers at the table across the way,” she said, motioning. “That will get you a ballot. Take it to one of those desk affairs with the high sides. Fill it out there. Both front and back.”
The blank ballot was a huge piece of paper, about one foot by two. I walked with it to one of the desks with the high sides, set it down and picked up a pen that was there. The candidates’ names were alongside small empty circles. I walked back to the man who’d given me the ballot.
“Do I check off the circles or fill them in?” I asked.
“Fill them in,” he said.
I thought – this is where things can go wrong. Have to be careful. Can’t not fill in all the circles. Be sure the fill doesn’t spill over. I took my time.
Finishing, I folded it so nobody could see and looked up to where a volunteer standing alongside a video machine with a slot under the screen was motioning me over.
“Slide it in,” he said. “Unfold it first.”
He could see who I voted for. I didn’t care. I unfolded it and slid it in.
“This is the best machine we’ve got,” the volunteer said, patting it while explaining that the others were having problems with the ink running out. He pointed to a big white number on the screen.
“Watch it go. It will go up one. That shows your vote is counted.”
It read 242. But it didn’t go up to 243. It stayed at 242. Then the word “SPOILED” appeared on the screen.
He helped me pull the ballot out. “You’ll need another ballot. It didn’t take.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Maybe you didn’t fill in a circle right or something. Go back and get another ballot.”
Back at the earlier table, I handed my bad ballot in. The volunteer unfolded it and wrote the word “SPOILED 23” on it, then refolded it and put it into a plastic bag with some of the others.
“You can see who I voted for,” I said.
“I didn’t look. And your name is not on it anywhere.”
I filled out a second blank ballot, took it to the video machine and this time, the number on the screen changed.
“Got it,” the volunteer said.
On my way out, I took an apple.
Hooray for America. Democracy still works.
Visit voteearlyny.org to find your polling place for early voting.