Guest blog: A Riverside County voting experience

By Kelly Alvarez Mace

On October 22nd, in the early afternoon I went to the Temecula Promenade Mall to cast my early vote. I went in the early afternoon, and there were few people at the voting station. The station was very well organized, first you were asked to fill out a form, with that form you would move to the next station where your information was located on a laptop. Then, you would be given a small, plastic card (similar to a card you would get at a hotel to open the door to your room) and you would vote electronically. Quick and organized process.

I did take a couple of pictures, and upon asking to fill out the form to start the process, I was immediately asked why I was taking pictures. I did respond that I have a family member who is involved in politics, the political process and electronic voting who told me that I should come and vote at this particular locale. I also told her that I felt that I was simply documenting the democratic process and that it was important for my children to view and understand that process as well (I had my children with me, ages 10 and 6). I did ask the person if it was an issue, that I had no problem with putting my camera away and she stated that she did not think it was an issue, as long as I did not take pictures of individuals voting.

I must say that it did appear to be an issue, however, as it became apparent that I was being highly scrutinized. Several other people watched the woman who entered my information from the first form to find my registration information. Also, a couple of gentlemen who were first seated, did stand and take positions around the electronic voting booths. Everyone was very kind, positive, helpful. I did not intend to set anyone on edge, but I am sure that they wanted to protect the process, protect the identities of the people voting, and ensure that I was there with the intentions that I stated.

Unfortunately, my registration information was not found in their computers. I had mentioned that I did it at the DMV when I registered my car after relocating from Seattle, Washington. At this news, a few people nodded, one gentleman even made a comment about “Oh…the DMV registrations” (?). As she asked me a couple of different questions (for example, my full name is Kelly Alvarez Mace, I believe that she was trying to see if I was under Alvarez, under Mace, possibly under some hyphenated combination of the two names…) another woman sat next to her and said in a rather large stage whiisper, “You know, she is the one with the camera”!

Again, in the most professional, pleasant and positive manner possible, I was asked to fill out the voter registration form. I was told that the deadline was Monday, October 24th, and that she would personally bring it to the offices and ensure that it was taken care of. I was invited to come back on Tuesday, October 25th as I would be registered and ready to continue the process.

I did return, on Sunday, October 30th. This time, however, there was a line of people and the mall was not even technically open yet. I got the form again, filled it out. I waited a short while for the next station, and indeed my information was pulled up quickly and I was ready for the elecronic voting station. As I went into that line, one of the women greeted me and told me that she was happy that I returned. So, while I obviously made a great impression, these were also people who cared enough to remember me and welcome me back.

The electronic voting was so slick. Easy to understand instructions, the touch screen was easy to use, and I tried to “trick” the system a bit to see what would happen. I “forgot” to vote on one of the initiatives, and I also only voted for one member of the school board when I had the opportunity to vote for no more than two candidates. The prompt was easy to understand and I was easily guided back to the issues that were still outstanding.

My favorite part: the nice gentleman who gave me my “I voted electronically” sticker to wear for the rest of my day! Overall, high rating for the process–the fact that I could vote early was great and very user-friendly. Everyone staffing the entire process was professional and polite and very helpful. Except for the fact that my voter registration form was clearly not handled correctly at the DMV, the process was really flawless.

What was also very interesting for me were the number of families I saw voting, with kids waiting by the side. To allow early voting in the ubiquitous shopping mall is actually quite amazing. It is a place with flexible hours for those with hectic, busy and overscheduled lives. The mall is a social event, is is our new town hall, if you will and somehow I saw the democratic process being impacted by that in an interesting way. We show our children how important it is to vote, this huge voting area is a great reminder for people to vote (it is not just one day, not just a few hours of that one day, and while an absentee ballot is great, mine routinely get thown out with what I typically perceive to be junk mail, sad but true), and we allow people to vote when it is convenient and easy for them. Many people in line had bags with them, others were discussing their shopping or lunch plans. Vote first, then shop til you drop!

Editorial Note: Kelly Alvarez Mace is my sister, who currently lives in Riverside County. She also provided three photographs along with her account: