Portent of things to come … will voter registration databases work on election day?

Many observers (including myself) have expressed concerns that new statewide voter registration databses might present problems in some locations, especially in states where the new voter registries are really being used for the first time in a major election (see my October 24 essay that discusses this).

Yesterday we had a potential taste of things to come.

I went with an friend to the early voting location in our area (at the Jackie Robinson Center in Pasadena), right after the early voting site opened at 8:30am in the morning. There was a short line (perhaps 6 people waiting), and all of the eight voting machines were utilized. My friend and I had both brought our sample ballots with us, and signed the line on the sample ballot and gave it to the person checking voters in. I received my smart card in just a few minutes (but did have to wait another couple of minutes until a voting machine was available). But my friend had to wait longer; the pollworkers could not find her name in the county voter registry, when they searched for her name (despite the fact that she had her sample ballot with her!).

The hitch seemed to be the fact that she had a hyphenated last name, and when they went to look for her in the database by her voter identification number printed on the sample ballot, they did find her — though it was not clear to either of us at that point exactly what her last name was in the electronic voter registry.

She did get to vote, but had to wait a few extra minutes. The pollworkers were pleasant and helpful about the problem.

But these are highly-experienced election workers (these same people have worked this early voting site for many successive elections), with electronic access to the county voter file. I just wonder how many of these problems may crop up on election day, how they will be resolved, whether they will create lines in polling places as they are resolved, and if they will further stress already stressed pollworkers.