Early voting on Memorial Day!

Indeed, at least one of the seventeen early voting locations in Los Angeles County was open for business on the Memorial Day holiday — the one at the Jackie Robinson Center in Pasadena. This is an early voting location that I’ve observed at before, and written about in the past, so I won’t go into much detail here, other than to note that the physical layout of this early voting was virtually identical to what I observed in 2005 California Special Election.

The one exception was how they were using the demonstration video. In the past, at this location, the demonstration voting machine was located near the entrance to the early voting site — but was rarely used unless an early voter asked for a demonstration (in my observations). Today, they had set up the video in a very good location, next to the voter check-in station, but there were only two chairs in from of the video (unlike the rows of chairs observed in East LA and Monterey Park last week).

I showed up just before 10am, with my daughter. We were rapidly processed (so rapidly that we really didn’t get a chance to watch the demonstration video through the entirety of the presentation!). We were given the chance to pick whichever machine we wanted, and since I had my daughter with me, I picked the machine set up for disabled voters so that she could sit at the chair and watch the voting process.

Generally speaking, voting on the Diebold device is straightforward (I’ve early voted using it many times before). But this was the first time using the VVPAT, and it was a somewhat complicated primary election ballot. Consequently, I made two mistakes (keep in mind that I’m supposed to be an expert about this stuff!). One was skipping a race (lt. governor) which I really did want to vote in — and the other was mistakenly voting in a race that I did not want to cast a vote in. Perhaps it was the distraction of my daughter, perhaps it was the crowded ballot. But the bottom line is that I did not notice these mistakes until the summary screen!

At that point I decided to see what would happen with the VVPAT, and how it would handle the rejection of an incorrect ballot. So from the summary screen I selected the “print ballot” button at the bottom, and after waiting a few seconds, the VVPAT device roared to life and printed out the first handful of races. Indeed, there was the lt. governor race, with no selection indicated. So I hit “reject ballot”, and the VVPAT roared to life again, scrolling my “rejected ballot” forward along the scroll. I went back to the lt. governor race and the other race I made a mistake in, corrected my mistakes, and repeated the process. The VVPAT roared to life (I use the word “roared” because it is LOUD!) and displayed my ballot for comparison to the video screen.

Here is where I do have one beef with this VVPAT device; as we have observed with other e-voting/VVPAT devices, there is a serious usability issue with how the printed and electronic ballots are displayed. They come up using different types and sizes of fonts, different presentations, and they really hard to compare. I’ll have to consult with some of my VTP colleagues on how to quantify these problems and how we can measure them, but I can’t say that I found it easy to try to compare the printed ballot with the electronic ballot displayed on the screen.

But it was very convenient to vote on Memorial Day, and it was fun to be able to take my daughter with me. I’m wondering how many people voted today, despite the relatively low participation rate in this primary election. It’s not typically the case that we get to vote on holidays here in California, and this is an interesting test in a way of the election-day holiday concept. The staff at the Jackie Robinson site told me that they had “about 20” voters yesterday (Sunday); while I was there we observed three others voting (not including myself).