For years, Ohio voting procedures seemingly did not change. The voting booth was a huge metal machine, where you pulled a lever to close a curtain behind you, used toggles to expose checkmarks that reflected your votes on candidates and ballot issues, and then when you were done pulled the lever in the opposite direction to register your votes with a satisfying thunk and open the curtain again. But those huge machines are long gone, and now it seems like the procedures changes with every election.
Yesterday’s election featured another set of changes. Our polling place was switched, from the Schiller Park Rec Center to the Livingston United Methodist Church, and the procedures were different, too. When you showed your driver’s license and signed in–on a touch pad with a stylus, rather than the big voter roll volumes that used to be used–you were handed a manila folder that contained a slip of paper and a long, thin sheet that fell on the dividing line between paper and cardboard.
One of the polling station volunteers then led you to an electronic voting machine, took the slip of paper from your folder and scanned it at the machine to register your precinct, and then inserted the long rectangular piece into the machine before leaving. It was up to the voter to then activate the machine, go through the ballot and use the push buttons on the screen to indicate your votes, and review the ballot before pushing another button to finally confirm the votes on candidates and issues. At that point the machine printed the votes on the long sheet and spit it back out, and the voter put the sheet into their manila folder, walked to another poll worker, and followed their instructions to insert the sheet into a scanning machine. Only then did the voter get the treasured sticker–also featuring a new design this year, if I recall correctly–indicating that they had voted.
I believe this is the first time I’ve used the new electronic machines, and am confident that I’ve never been given a manila folder before. I’m sure the tweaks to the voting procedures are an attempt to hit that sweet spot that allows voters to use electronic processes to register their decisions quickly but also generates some kind of meaningful paper record that can be used in the event of any recount or claim of voting improprieties. And I suspect that the manila folders were used to permit any worried voters to maintain ballot privacy during the short walk between the voting machine and the scanner. (Somewhere in Franklin County, you can probably buy used manila folders pretty cheaply today.) It’s all part of the process of constant improvement as voting moves from those colossal old metal machines to the modern electronic era.
I’m happy to report, by the way, that Columbus Issue 7, the bogus “green energy” initiative that would have raided the city budget to the tune of $87 million, got crushed at the polls yesterday. The supporters of Issue 7 apparently expected that, because last week they submitted a new petition to the city, this time seeking $107 million. That’s the price of living in a free country, where we get to go to the polls, experience the new voting procedures, cast our ballots, and get that sticker that we can proudly display so everyone we see knows we’ve done our part,