My Voting Experience: Salt Lake County
Written By Janell Fluckiger
I arrived at my polling place shortly after the polls opened at 7 a.m. After running from my car through the pouring rain (which soon turned to driving snow), I saw lines of voters stretching out of the gymnasium and down the hallway. Several of the other voters commented on how they went to early voting stations but, after seeing the lines there, decided to try their luck on Election Day. While waiting in line, I got to meet many other voters and hear several interesting stories. My favorite was from a woman in her 60s standing behind me. She said “I think we should have to show our Driver’s License!” And the group discussion became about how they could not believe they were not asked for ID. I said that poll workers are not supposed to ask for ID, unless you are a newly registered voter. This shocked them-and they spoke of how insecure it is and how you could easily vote multiple times. One woman said she had a friend who just wanted to know if he COULD vote twice, so after voting, he went to the polls again and was able to vote again, using his own name both times. She said he ended up getting involved in some legal troubles (surprise, surprise!), but had proved just how prone our system is to fraud.
After about 25 minutes we moved into the gymnasium, and one problem became apparent. The poll workers split the line into A-L and M-Z. However, there was not a single person in the M-Z line, so while those of us with last names starting with A-L had been waiting for about half an hour, the poll workers at the M-Z table sat with nothing to do but cut up sheets of “I Voted” stickers. Occasionally someone from the back of the line would be able to move to the front, bypassing all of us into line #2: the wait for the machines.
As we were about to approach the registration table to sign the book and receive our voting cards, the line stopped moving. Soon people start complaining, “They’re out of ballots!” Of course, we don’t use ballots here in Salt Lake County because we vote electronically, so I tried to reassure them. However the mumbles continued with people saying “This is ridiculous! It’s only 7:30! How can they be out of ballots!” I finally got a poll worker to tell me the real story-the line of those already registered but waiting to vote was so long that they were short on the ATM-like cards, so we had to wait for a voter to finish voting before the line could move forward. This was no small task, because our ballot was VERY long, filled with lots of legalistic Constitutional amendments, several propositions, and myriad state/county/judge/school board elections. People were taking 5 to 10 minutes to vote.
Once I was able to verify my registration and move into the second line, I got into an interesting discussion with a group of 2 men and 1 woman, all in their 70s. One man said, “This will be a thing of the past soon!” And we began talking about how it cannot be long until we can vote online. Of course, his wife reminded him that first she would have to teach him how to use the computer. I said, “But I think it’s fun to come out to vote!” To which he looked at me and said “you don’t get out much do you?” and suggested maybe I go to a movie instead. So maybe I’m the strange one. It did make me think that not only will we be voting online before long, but that the public will begin demanding it. I still believe some social capital will be lost but, perhaps more importantly, many more people will be able to vote. In the meantime, I’ll keep going to the polls and walking away happily with my “I Voted” sticker, which I was able to do just 45 minutes after arriving at my polling station. Voting itself went very smoothly. The touch screen voting machines are very user friendly, and the VVPAT allows you to see the paper recording of your vote and verify its accuracy. You cannot tell me that’s not fun!