Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Yesterday was Primary day, and I was unprepared. As I said in my prior post, I've been a bit distracted, and although I am the PCO* for a neighboring district and spent a couple hours leaving Primary-day endorsement pamphlets (i.e. cheat sheets) on the doorsteps of Democrats in my precinct, I hadn't had a chance to read through and mark up my voter's pamphlet the way I usually do. Plus, at around 7pm I was at C's house as per my normal Tuesday night tradition and realized I had totally forgotten to go to the polls! Luckily, C was understanding so we hopped into my car, drove home to get my voter registration card, voter pamphlet, and one of my left-over cheat sheets, and walked to my polling station.

We arrived in good time - there didn't seem to be many people there and the older women who always (wo)man the sign-in tables seemed excited to see us. I think I was a little more excited than most people who come through there, because they asked me if it was my first time voting, and then were very excited that C was there as an international observer. The poll worker reminded me that if I didn’t want C to look over my shoulder, I had a right to tell her to go away, which was not necessary but kind of cute. We decided to try the electronic voting machine again just for kicks, and headed over to the one machine available. (During this time, perhaps 5-10 people came in and voted, all using paper ballots.) Some things I noticed beyond what I shared during last November’s election:
  • This was the first (and I really hope, last) year of the top-two primary. In this new system, Washington voters who for some reason have missed the fact that the purpose of the primary is to let party loyalists choose their candidates for their own party can now vote for anyone they want, with the top two vote-getters ending up on the general election ballot. Although in most cases this means a Democrat and a Republican will end up there (which cuts out the smaller parties completely) there are some areas and races where, after the election yesterday, two Democrats or two Republicans will end up on the ballot. This seems pretty dumb to me because if you have, for instance, three really capable Republicans and two really capable Democrats on the ballot, and assuming you have approximately a 50/50 split of voters for each party, you could end up with each Democrat receiving 25% of the vote and each Republican receiving 16.5%, and then end up with two Democrats on the ballot because the Republican vote got split amongst more qualified people. I don’t get why this is an improvement.
  • As part of this top-two primary, each candidate has to say which party they associate with, but there’s no way for you to tell which of the “Democratic” candidates is the one that the party is really backing. However, the Republicans have figured out a sneaky system. I’d heard that Dino Rossi, the main Republican gubernatorial candidate, was planning to say “supports the GOP” instead of “supports the Republican Party” to avoid negative connotations about the Republicans in this election year . It turns out that all the “official” Republican candidates were doing the same thing, while the unofficial ones didn’t seem to get the memo. For the Democrats, though, you had to rely on your cheat sheet, if you had one.
  • Last November I said that my printed-out ballot was hidden behind a plastic cover so I couldn’t review it. It turns out you can lift the cover to watch it print out. I have no idea why they wouldn’t have just used a clear cover so you could see it at all times.
  • C and I tried to select a write-in candidate for one office, and it turns out you need to type in the candidate name and also their party affiliation. I found this very odd – I guess you could just type in your party affiliation and hope, but what happens if you got it wrong?
  • I was amused at how uncomfortable C was about looking over my shoulder while I voted, despite the fact that I’d invited her to do so. I don’t know if it was because the whole “secret ballot” thing was drilled into her as a child or if it’s a Canadian thing (always a good place to put the blame) but either way, you should know that if C comes to the polls with you, and you haven’t done your research on a particular candidate so you hand her the voter pamphlet and tell her to read it and tell you who to vote for, you will be privy to a pretty funny look of shock and horror.
  • Finally, some voting machine humor from XKCD for your entertainment:

*Precinct Committee Officer (or something like that)

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