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News ::
voting in missouri (english)
06 Nov 2002
the american way
We just returned from voting in Missouri. There were several things worth comment.

We live in a rural area and, thankfully, there were no were no computers in sight. Still a paper ballot here, counted by local residents in the same room with the voters. Interestingly, I was given a pencil to vote with. When I asked why we weren't using pens they said, "They always send us pencils." I asked if I could use a pen and the gentleman in charge handed me a pen from his own pocket with a smile.

"Voting booths" were available for privacy, but most everyone sat down at big tables and marked their ballots in plain sight. There was much discussion amongst folks at the tables regarding the various candidates, ammendments and initiatives and, at least while I was there, about the ballot itself.

I saw three problems with the ballot I was given. The party "logos" at the top where you can choose to vote a straight party ticket were switched around. The Statue of Liberty over the Democrat choice and the Donkey was over the Libertarian choice. When I pointed this out to the "Election Officials" they were all very surprised. Since they hadn't noticed they assured me it was "just a mistake", my suspicions weren't justified and that it didn't really matter anyway. (I know, though, that logos are for those who can't or don't read...) When I asked why names for two Green candidates were missing from the ballot they assured me there weren't Green candidates for those positions. I had to point out to the officials that when there wasn't a candidate from a party for a position the entire space in the column was left blank rather than just missing the name. Needless to say, there was a lot of shoulder shrugging. Another typographical error? Who knew? There was no way, at voting time, to find out. The third problem I found with the ballot was that there was no room to write in candidates. The instructions said to cross out one of the names on the ballot, but mark the box next to that name, then write in your choice. There was, maybe, an eighth of an inch available between the typeset words and dividing lines to scribble in your preference... The election officials shrugged their shoulders again.

We were not allowed to take home copies of the ballot, you know we asked, and I can understand that they keep strict count of every ballot. Next time, however, we're taking our digital camera to take a picture of the ballot and our cell phone to call the county clerk regarding any questions.

I asked the most senior official how I could become an election official next time around. He said, "Well, that depends, are you a Democrat or a Republican?" When I explained that I was neither, but considered myself independent, he, and the other officials present gave me blank looks...that alone was worth voting today... The consensus was that I had to be either a Democrat or a Republican to become an election official, but, of course, I could call the county clerk to find out more information. You bet I will, and if we're still using paper ballots I'm going to do my best to have a hand in creating them. (I'm a typesetter by trade.)

I have to stress that I was inquisitive but not confrontational. One official even told me how pleased she was to have someone with sharp eyes around! At 31 I was the youngest one in the room and the "old-timers" were friendly and as helpful as they could be.

On the way home from the polls, one neighbor commented how our area only had 78 voters show up for the presidential election, yet we were numbers 138+ at 11:00 a.m!

One last thing, you don't see very many American Flags on display around these parts anymore... I think folks have recognized it for the marketing ploy it was and resent having the symbol of our democracy hijacked by propagandists.

Even if you're not tuned into the media revolution, the proof is in the pudding and it looks like a cowpaddy...
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