Our election on Tuesday involved a very limited ballot; we voted for Mayor (where the incumbent was running unopposed, which tells you something about the low-key politics in Columbus), City Council seats, a few judges, and a tax levy. Not surprisingly, turnout was low — which made it a good election to roll out a new, two-step voting system.
As an old codger who cut his voting teeth on old metal machines where you moved a bar in one direction to close the curtain, depressed levers to expose a mark next to the candidate of your choice, and then moved the bar back to register your vote with a thunk and open the curtains again, I’m used to changes in the voting process. I’ve probably voted using about 10 different systems over the years.
The new process involves multiple steps. After first going to the registration people, showing your driver’s license and signing in, you get a piece of paper that you then present to one of the voting volunteers. They lead you to a machine, explain the new process, and scan you in. After you vote on the machine, a paper ballot is printed out, and you walk over to a different area to deposit your completed ballot into a secure box. The last step is new. Apparently the new system was introduced to enhance voting security and also to better comply with federal law on accommodating people with disabilities.
The new process worked just fine . . . in an election where the turnout was low and there were no lines to speak of. But I wonder what it will be like in 2020, where there is likely to be a huge, perhaps even historic, turnout — which is probably one of the few things people at every point on the political spectrum can agree on. There will be a line to get to the registration table, and then a line to wait for a voting official to walk you to a machine and scan you in, and then presumably wait, again, to deposit your ballot into the secure box.
It’s probably going to be a zoo, which makes me wonder whether I should just plan on doing early voting when the 2020 election rolls around. It probably would be less of a hassle, but I’m resisting that because I like gathering with my fellow citizens, waiting patiently and solemnly and thinking about what I’m doing, and then exercising my franchise and getting my voting sticker. It makes me feel good about myself and my country, and I’m not sure that I’m ready to give up that uplifting, shared experience. At the same time, I’m not sure I’m ready for a three-hour wait in an election where passions will be running at their highest, either.