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Fear and Voting at the Church

by Izzy Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 07:59:36 AM EST

When I got the notice that my polling place had been changed, I was alarmed to say the least.  When I saw that it was in the next city over, I was outraged.  When I read that it was in the lobby of the Assembly of God Church, I was filled with dread and knew no good could come of it.  

These were all the ingredients of a disaster in the making.

My first thoughts were along the lines of "WTF?!?  Isn't there supposed to be some sort of separation of church and state thingy in this country? (my impromptu outraged thoughts aren't excessively articulate)...  Surely, voting in a church is the THE one line that should never be crossed.  Is this a Bush thing?  When did it start?"

But I told myself I was being prejudiced and irrational in my trepidation about the new polling place.  That the words "Assembly of God" were coloring my outlook.  That I was just suffering from a knee-jerk church aversion reaction.  Think of it as just another public gathering spot, I told myself.

Little did I dream that the reality was going to be so much worse than I imagined.


Voting's always been a simple enough thing and yesterday's local election should have been no different.  Sure, everyone's all hot on the absentee ballots right now, but I've resisted.  Those who know me are astounded.  The mail-in vote seems tailor-made for one such as myself they say.

And I admit that deadlines make me uneasy.  I hate New Year's, for instance, always feeling the whole midnight thing is too definite.  So I have to concede that I might not appear to be a person who wants to be trapped into voting on the actual day.

But, you know, there's something about the ritual of voting that I like.  It's always been a pleasant experience.  My usual polling place was in a school mere blocks from me -- I could zip over there and be in and out in ten minutes if I was rushed or running late, but I also had the secure feeling that I could walk there if necessary.  

Or, I could dawdle around and chat with people over by the bakery table.  Did I mention the bakery?  The kids from the school would have a bake sale every year and there were all sorts of tasty things, very reasonably priced.  Where else can you get a fresh Rice Krispie Treat for a quarter?  It was practically the highlight of my year.

 There was no real reason to think the church would be any different, was there?  Perhaps they'd even have baked goods -- or a potluck!  Aren't churches big on those?  

And, honestly, wasn't I being a bit unreasonable about it being in a different city?  After all, the boundary is, technically, right up the street.  I googled it and found it was 1.6 miles away on a major thoroughfare.  OK, not actually walkable for people without cars, but perhaps I shouldn't be so militant about that sort of thing.

I'd had an appointment earlier in the day, and felt a shiver of apprehension when I exited to go home and found the evening setting in complete with uncharacteristic wisps of fog.  They'd cleared by the time I set out to vote, but still, I was uneasy -- the road to the church was lonely, dark, and somewhat ominous.

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I suppose it was too much to hope for that there'd be an illuminated sign that said "vote here" with, perhaps, some flags and balloons.  But I really did expect to be able to recognize a church somewhere, possibly with "Assembly of God" visible somewhere in the vicinity.  But of course there was no such thing.

Instead, a road which I at first passed, then went back to since it was the only thing lit up for as far as the eye could see.  There was a digital billboard at the turn, but it was only flashing things about an early school dismissal and an upcoming auction.  Nothing about either voting or God.

I entered what seemed to be some sort of complex.  Straight ahead was an imposing structure with, as it turned out, the exact same street address spotlighted on the wall as was helpfully printed on my voter registration card.  The sign said it was a high school.

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There wasn't a soul in sight, nor any flags.  I drove around the building and saw a side entrance, equally deserted.  Scanning the surrounding buildings, this one still seemed the most hopeful, so I decided to go inside and see if there was anyone to ask.  

As I walked up the rather daunting steps, I noticed that each landing was made of little bricks and I stopped to read them.

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Of course.  Donors.  These were the lowly Silver Donors.  As I ascended, I passed the Gold ones and, finally, the Platinum Donors, that much closer to heaven apparently.

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The inside was as abandoned as the outside, with still not even a piece of paper with the word "vote" scrawled on it with an arrow.  

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I finally found a lone girl, evidently a student, sitting alone in a corridor, crying, and whispering desperately into a cell phone.  Normally, I wouldn't dream of interrupting such a thing, but dammit, I was being disenfranchised here!  People had died for this privilege!  I asked her where the voting was.  She didn't know, but thought it was in the church "over there."

I got back in the car and headed in the "over there" direction she'd pointed out.  Nothing but acres of parking lot and, in the far distance, the warm twinkling of an apartment complex.  I imagined them filled with happy, smug people.  People who had voted early in the day.  People who at this very moment were probably sitting by fires, well-fed after their dinners, perhaps even enjoying a warm baked good.

I decided to venture over to the other "over there," and cruised aimlessly for awhile around various other abandoned buildings -- more parts of the high school, a library-looking thing, another entire school, elementary this time, and even what appeared to be a funeral home, complete with white columns.

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I attempted to drive around the elementary school, and found myself on a dirt road, surrounded by trees, strangely isolated and, somehow, rather evocative of the movie Deliverance.

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There was even a street number entirely different from the one on my voter card.

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I was somewhat reassured by this sign.  Could people who advertised Purple Cows be all bad?

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Nevertheless, I was infuriated -- where the hell was I supposed to vote?  Where was the flag?  Why wasn't there a sign anywhere?  I decided to drive home and find out what the hell was going on.  I called the church.  Nothing but a recorded message saying the office was closed.  I angrily punched the number listed on the back of my card for the county elections office.  I'll spare you the details of the conversation, but suffice it to say I probably should apologize someday to some woman named Evalo.

After much ranting, holding, and hearing Evalo type, I was assured that an election official was heading out directly to "the freaking church" to see why the assembly was so unhelpful.  I hopped in the car and tore back there, extremely unhappy with the idea that I might have to go to another location and cast a provisional ballot, or a "provincial" one as Evalo called it.  Poor thing was quite shaken up by something...

In any case, upon returning to the scene, there in the parking lot I beheld an angel.  More accurately, a woman wearing Birkenstocks with thick socks, obviously a democrat.  If anyone could find a ballot in this godforsaken God complex, it was obviously going to be her.  She came through, saying she thought the room was around the side of the library-looking building.  Apparently, this was the actual church.  I suppose they don't want to appear ostentatious.

Upon circling the car in that direction, I realized how I'd missed it the first time -- the road leading past the side door is blocked off, leading one to a circular hotel-like driveway at the front of the pillared mausoleum, or whatever the hell that thing was.

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I still didn't see anything, but parked on faith.  Finally -- ON FOOT! -- I found the right place.  At long last, a SIGN!  Perhaps not actually from God, but a sign nonetheless.

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So I voted.  There was no bakery.  I'll be calling my election officials in the morning.

Display:
I'll keep you posted on any developments after I've had the "talk" with the official.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 08:01:00 AM EST
Izzy, this is outrageous on so many levels.  Voting in a church?  I've never heard of such a thing.  And I think polling stations really are supposed to be in your community.  It sounds like someone's trying to depress voter turnout in your community.  Who decides where polling stations go?  Is it your local officials, or statewide ones?

Grrrr.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 08:07:58 AM EST
I know!  Those are all my questions, too, and I realized I don't have the answers to any of them, but Evelo gave me the number to call.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 08:11:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I voted in an Elks Lodge!  Wonder what secret things go on there to influence elections? Of course your fear of voting in a church is as irrational as my distaste for elks.  If I sincerely believed the election processes were not being overseen by good citizens, election officials, and party loyalists, regardless of where the vote is held, I wouldn't bother to vote at all. I look forward to voting in one of the nearby mosque's or synagogues some day.

But seriously, what's wrong with the perfectly good tax payer supported school buildings in your area?  They are usually easy to find.  
 

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 10:06:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I vote in a church, too.

It is indeed ridiculous.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 10:47:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By "local election" do you mean at county/city, state level or something else? The details of US voting confuse me.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 08:13:00 AM EST
The details vary from state to state, but here they call them general elections, and they involve city, county, and state initiatives as well as certain local offices like port commission and city council seats, etc.  They also take proposals from the state legislature and vote on whether we need to put it to a vote in the next election.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 08:18:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are usually elections somewhere every year.  Local elections refer to municipal & state elections.  Different states and counties and towns etc. have elections different years.  So not everyone in the US had elections this year.  (I did not.)  

What Izzy refers to as "general" elections only indicates that it is not the primaries.  You're not voting to nominate someone but to elect them.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 11:27:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All that and more, typically -- from state legislators to the board members of the local drainage district and everything in between.  It's all quite nauseating here, because somehow every candidate for every office ran on illegal immigration, even if the office had no say in the issue.

If they're going to do that, officials should at least have the decency to keep our state-run liquor stores open at hours a normal person could meet.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 08:40:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's absolutely fucking appalling.  

Accessibility (in all senses of the word), ease of use, an environment that anyone in the community can feel comfortable in etc etc.  That's basic.

The electoral commission in the UK are really big on ensuring that this type of situation doesn't happen.

To me, holding it in a church is more likely to ensure that the turn out is skewed even more over to the right wing religious types.  And having the station in another town is stupid.  People have a right to vote and there is a responsibility on those holding the elections to ensure that everyone in the community can access and exercise that right.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 10:03:42 AM EST
I dunno, I imagine that in rural areas people have to go quite a way to vote, so a coupla miles isn't too much. Neither am I bothered by the fact it's a church. Yea, I know you're supposed to have a separation between church and state, but all joking aside, it's just a local building open to the public. I've voted in a mormon chapel over here. It's cool.

But it needs to be clearly signposted. That's so wrong

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 10:15:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I also don't see the problem with using a church as a voting place, It's just a building.

As for distance to the polling station, it's about three or four miles to the usual local polling station that covers the two or three villages round here

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 10:25:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A church may be just a building for a lot of people, especially if it is a multipurpose building with a hall etc. I don't object to that in itself but more to an environment that is overly religious.

I attended a conference recently that was held in a church and walked in to see posters for the alpha course everywhere.  I am extremely uncomfortable with that because it doesn't respect the space of those without religion or with a different religion.  To me that would be inappropriate in a polling station, more so than the building itself being a church.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 12:39:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree, the thing that bothered me more than anything with Izzy's experience was the difficulty in finding the polling place.  To me the voting experience is about being reasonably close to an accessible polling place, not having to wait in line too long and being able to cast my vote in private.  If those things are satisfied, I really don't care about what the place is normally used for.

That said, "if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out..."

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 10:23:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah with rural areas, places to vote are limited.  I'm trying to remember where my parents voted when we lived out in the sticks. I think even with a small village we had our own polling station.  In a bigger village it was a couple of miles walk to the other end of the village.  Not too bad.  In the city, each ward has one and I've always had a polling station less than 15 minutes walk away.

Postal votes also now.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 12:46:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wards have at least one I should say.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 12:48:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Before about the mid nineteenth century the poll for each British constituency was held at one location only. No doubt this was not a major problem in the urban seats but it could be in the county constituencies.

One of the reason why contested county elections were so expensive was the need for candidates to bring the electors to the polling place. For example in Middlesex, the second smallest of the counties of England, most of the voters lived in the east of the county in and around the City of London. However the county poll was held at Brentford, in the west of the county. I have seen advertisements in early nineteenth century editions of The Times where candidates advertised times for their supporters to catch a coach from London that the candidate provided. No doubt the problems were even worse in the larger counties.

As the electorate increased and poorer people began to vote who could not afford to take a day or two off work to go and vote, it was obviously sensible to provide multiple polling places closer to where people actually lived. Thus we end up with at least one polling place in each local government ward.

The wards in Slough, where I live, are quite small geographically; but most wards have several polling districts usually voting in a school or (as for my polling district) in a mobile polling station the Council parks on a convenient patch of grass.

by Gary J on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 08:26:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My polling station has always been in a school, and it's been at a church school for the past 8 years.  It's never bothered me, even as a pinko commie atheist type.

Here's why:

  1.  Accessibility.  I live in a city and there are polling places in each neighborhood.  I think it is decided by population density, so that those in rural areas have to get in a car and drive (but there are services those with no transportation), whereas those in urban areas can usually walk to their polling place, because there are that many.  The key thing is to avoid long lines.  In our idiot system, election day is not a holiday, so if you are going to vote, you do it before or after work.  Laws vary from state to state, but most give people the right to take off an hour or so from work to vote.  But this is not universal and is rarely tested.  Anyway, when people don't vote, they often blame it on lack of time to do so.  So the shorter the lines, the less time it takes.  And short lines require more polling places.

  2.  Well, there are only so many schools.  Maybe suburbs have a nice voter to school ratio, but not in the city.  There are large, overcrowded public schools here.  So where else is there?  Weather is also a factor, so it must be indoors.  Government offices?  There are laws against electioneering withing x amount of feet from a polling station, and government offices are de facto partisan offices.  So my polling place is the Lutheran church & day school.  I never wait in line and it is a block from my place.  Making voting easy.

  3.  Election judges and poll watchers.  These people have been trained and should be doing their job to oversee fairness of the process no matter what venue they are in.  I repeat, it's not the members of the Church who are overseeing the voting.  It's election judges and poll watchers, and both parties are afforded an equal number of each.  

  4.  And my area is overwhelmingly Democratic.  Even though people vote at churches.  I guess people don't consider the cross over the doorway as GOP electioneering.  

I realize there is a serious issue with the sep. of Church and State here.  But at a non-religious polling place, I watched as election judges threw away stacks of ballots deemed uncountable by the Diebold machines, though, looking at them, it seemed pretty obvious to me the voters' intentions.  Heh.  This, to me, seems like a hell of a lot bigger problem than the fact that I cast my vote in a parochial school.  I just can't get outraged.  Sorry.  

I do sympathize with not being able to find your polling station.  This seems to be common in the burbs.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 11:21:00 AM EST
I do sympathize with not being able to find your polling station.  This seems to be common in the burbs.

Oh, sure -- just pile insult upon insult!  I'll have you know I was NOT lost!  That's the whole point!  I was right there and they were hiding the place.

More seriously, the situation is puzzling on many levels, not the least of which is that we have plenty of schools and libraries, none of which are crowded or have lines.  I don't see why it was moved from a perfectly good school up the street to a church in the next city -- there doesn't seem to be any good reason for the move.  In reality, this has given us LESS polling places in our area.  I am going to call and find out why this decision was made.

And there really is no excuse for them not having signs anywhere AND having the road in front of the mandatory small sign blocked off.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 04:04:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Newcastle some Neighbourhoods are known to vote in Builders/ Cargo containers. Not very pleasent for the person sitting in there all day, but walking close in the constituency.

No problem with Church building voting here either, it is a community building I say, and influencing is legally outlawed, Is it not?, but signposting such a fundamental...

Having said that, my local voting place, in a school also only had one sign directly in front of the door, that however was thirty meters down a path, luckily it was daylight and I had checked out the rough location before hand anyway, otherwise, I probably would not have been able to find it easily either...

by PeWi on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 11:47:09 AM EST
I couldn't find my polling station earlier this year and it is only 10 minutes walk from me.  It is situated on a square and I didn't know which bit, walked around it twice but still managed to miss the building because it wasn't signposted.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 12:42:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it is a community building I say, and influencing is legally outlawed, Is it not?, but signposting such a fundamental...

Having said that, my local voting place, in a school also only had one sign directly in front of the door, that however was thirty meters down

that was exactly this situation, too!  and the signposting was what really got to me, especially in a place with multiple buildings and where the viewable address was on the wrong one.  It's almost like they don't WANT you to vote when they do that...

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 04:07:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The church I grew up attending was and still is the voting location for the local precinct my parents live in, so that goes back to the early 80's at least and probably further. It's very common for both churches and schools to be voting locations. It was never an issue of note within the church nor has the public ever voiced concern that I know of.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 01:18:08 PM EST
Well, I can see having polling places in churches if they're the most convenient accessible public spot, especially in certain settings.  This, however, was moved further away from a perfectly good school for no reason that I can tell.

AND, the church obviously has plenty of school rooms they could've used, rather than shunting it into a small room off to the side of the actual sanctuary.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 04:14:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I definitely agree that moving the poll station to the next city over is ridiculous.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 07:05:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ANd I he3ar the movie... black and white... with Walter COncrite... "democracy in action..."

And then I read this...

Ashaming... on so many levels...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 02:58:37 PM EST
Do call. Making it hard to vote, is making fewer people vote, wheter by malice or stupidity.

I got kind of interested in how far you might have to travel to a polling station in Sweden. Mind you, for me it has always been at the local school a short walk away. But it is not a short walk away everywhere. I choose a polling district (generally there is one polling place for each district) through an advanced selection process. Lets look at it:

Allmänna val 17 september 2006

Valdistrikt Arjeplog

Participation up to 76,09%. Strong Soc. Dem. community. Also strong shoving for the Left party. The Moderates ended on a split third, but up since last time. Pirates 0,58%, not a good result, hm... (you find it under "Övriga")

Sorry I should be looking at Arjeplog, not their election results.

Arjeplog Municipality - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Area 12,804 km²

Number of polling places: apparently 1. This is roughly equal to the size of Northern Ireland, and one lousy polling place. Call the papers!

Well, to be fair my advanced process consisted of finding the least densely populated election district in Sweden. Arjeplog has 2539 voters (3,224 inhabitants all in all), giving each inhabitant a nice square with a 2 km side (roughly 1,25 miles) to inhabit all on their lonesome. So maybe it is not that strange that they only have one polling place. (If they do, you might note I just assumed it would be the same there as in more populated areas.)

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 08:05:42 PM EST
Looking at the place's map, i'd bet 90% of the population lives close enough to to voting place to go by ski...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 08:31:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My guess is that most Americans would consider the use of a church as a polling place to be far lower on the problem list than the availability of adequate numbers of ballots, voting challenges to certain minorities, paper trails, etc.

Perhaps Americans don't have quite the same experience with churches that Europeans have. Conventional churches have a "community church" feel to them, and there is a strong history of ecumenicalism, so it's probably fair to say that most people have been in most churches in town on business other than voting. It's not that intimidating if you've been there at a spaghetti dinner or VFW meeting or student dance or wedding.

I would venture that most American polling places are in schools. However, there are more precincts than schools, so election officials have to find other places to hold the vote. Churches are big buildings, generally empty on Tuesdays.

However, this coming year is going to be a real problem, particularly in the early primaries, because the dates have been moved forward so much and with so little notice that just finding suitable polling places that are not already booked is a problem.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16058535

by asdf on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 08:31:39 PM EST
Hey asdf!  I haven't seen you in ages.  Have you been around or have I just been not paying attention?  

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 01:59:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
talking about polling stations and manning them? I watched an episode of the wire last night (4th season) and they had an election on. One thing that struck me, and had not really thought about before, they had police on hand at all polling stations. And it appeared to be for all polling stations. Was that a plot invention? Or is that born out of reality. (I think I have seen reports about police at voting stations before, but the show made a standart procedure out of it, rather than a "special needs" situation. (Well, it had a role to play in the plot)

If so, is that the case in any other country? (or dare I say, democratic country)

Are these purely historical reasons, areas where vote rigging and voter intimidation took place, and in a preventative manner, they have police there now?

by PeWi on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 07:29:42 AM EST
The Wire is a great show, and very realistic about conditions in the inner-city here.  I've never seen police at a polling station and have no idea if it's routine in the inner-cities, but given how segregated we are here, it wouldn't at all surprise me if it was the case and I just didn't know about it.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 01:57:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've seen that.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 02:04:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know if it's a general rule, but many American polling places I've used in the past have had policemen present. My interpretation is that they are there to enforce the rules about "no campaigning within 500 feet of the polls."

It's probably fair to say that in most parts of the U.S., the police are not a particularly active player in the political system. This might not hold in the big cities, though.

by asdf on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 09:31:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Assigned polling places?  What the hell kind of mickey mouse election administration do you have over there?

Its not that difficult to get a common roll sorted by electorates, and to have simple checks in place to prevent multiple voting.  And its a hell of a lot more convenient for the electorate.

But then, making it inconvenient (and so suppressing turnout of the "wrong" people) is the point, isn't it?

by IdiotSavant on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 07:55:21 AM EST
Hey, we have assigned polling places in Denmark, and there's nothing remotely 'Mickey Mouse' about our elections. As far as I can figure out, your polling place is the nearest public school to your registered address (or something like that). 'Course we have a central housing register. I guess that simplifies things...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 10:36:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Spain we have assigned polling places. Just about every public school or local community centre will be used as a polling station. In urban areas it's a 15 minutes'walk away, tops.

Each polling station is divided into several sections or "tables". Each table is manned by three people plus observers from political parties. Being at the electoral table is like jury duty. We vote on Sundays so people don't have to take time off work. In the US they vote on Tuesdays and the polling stations are manned by volunteers, usually local retirees. The system is understaffed but I don't know how many voters there are per polling station.

I have been registered as an absentee voter for the past 7 years. You can vote in person at the consulate the weekend before the election, or mail your ballot in. Your ballot papers are mailed to you at the address given by you at the consulate if you bothered to register as an absentee voter. If you mail your ballot in, your mailing costs are reimbursed by the Spanish government.

It doesn't have to be hard to vote.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 10:42:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The polling places in France are about the same. However, they are manned by volunteers ; if those are hard to find, then the mayor can order someone to man the table - it's a bad idea to go voting at eight P.M. sharp in an unimportant election...

There's no absentee ballot in France. I am uncomfortable with the idea of voting by mail because it undermines the secrecy of the vote... Instead, there is the vote by procuration where you can design somebody else to vote in your place (One person can only vote for one other person, to prevent large-scale vote buying/tampering this way).

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 11:32:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, the postal vote is secret. The ballot papers include the envelope in which the ballot is put in the ballot box, and another envelope. You put your ballot in the ballot envelope, seal it, put your voting slip with the ballot envelope in another envelope, and mail it. When the postal vote is opened, they check the validity of the voting slip and then toss the ballot envelope into the ballot box before counting the ballots. So there is no loss of secrecy.

How does telling someone else to vote for you not disclosing your vote to this someone?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 11:54:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Someone puts a gun to your head and tells you "put this ballot in this envelope, then i'll put it at the post office". Absentee ballot doesn't guarantee secret voting ; the voter has to be verifiably alone when putting the ballot in the envelope for that to be true.

I suppose the idea of procuration voting is not making your vote absolutely secret, but rather to make sure a whole lot of people are aware if one is trying to buy and/or force votes : there needs to be as many people willingly participating in the tampering as people whose vote is being bought/forced. Whereas absentee voting seems easier to tamper.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 12:53:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you're going to be putting guns in people's heads there's no voting system that will protect the secrecy of the vote.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 12:56:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It can be guns or it can be dollars, I was exaggerating a bit. It can also be manipulation of old people, as was done in the 5th arrondissment in Paris ; UMP supporters accompanying the elderly voters into the voting booth, which is explicitly forbidden. Impossible to prevent with absentee ballots (and probably happenning.  

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 01:13:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Denmark absentee ballots are handled by the county office and/or the people at the local central person registry office. You go there, you hand over your voter registration card, you get your ballot, you go in behind a curtain and vote, you put the ballot in a provided envelope, you go out of the enclosed area and hand over the envelope with the ballot in it, you leave. At no point during the process does the ballot or the envelope leave the room. At no point does anybody else get to see the filled-out ballot.

I presume that it works the same way if you vote from a Danish embassy somewhere (the scale of voting from embassies is probably limited, given that our constitution specifies that one must be a permanent resident in Denmark to vote. But I digress).

A much bigger problem in terms of keeping the vote secret is the fact that there used to be a lot of polling stations serving very few people - and the news on election night would report the result from those polling stations, even though they might only serve a hundred or so people, making it relatively straightforward to identify who voted for who if you knew the locals...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 09:23:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
making it relatively straightforward to identify who voted for who if you knew the locals...

Well, people making there political opinions clear makes it very hard for them to keep their political opinions a secret :)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 09:25:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course. But if you have a sufficiently small polling place, you can make a very educated guess based on demographics alone. Certainly not 100 %, but good enough that I'd place bets on it.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 05:45:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm still cracking up at the woman in Birkenstocks with thick socks being an obvious sign of a Democrat.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 08:58:40 AM EST
This is Izzy here: shoe blogging!

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 09:04:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, good point.  I should've known EuroTrib's resident foot-fetishist would bring shoes in somehow.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 09:29:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm still cracking up at the woman in Birkenstocks with thick socks being an obvious sign of a Democrat.

Well, say what you will about Republicans, they don't wear Birks.  I'll give them that one thing.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 02:04:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's true.  They just wear knock-offs from Wal-Mart.  (Camouflage, no doubt.)  But, alas, I reveal my East-Coast elitism once more.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 10:39:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, say what you will about Republicans, they don't wear Birks.

And, anyway, I'm pretty sure they can put you to death for wearing those in Texas.  So it's really not a fair comparison.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 10:48:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My polling place in Tallahassee was in a church, now that I think about it.  I suppose, now remembering that, I have to side with everyone here who's taken the "It's just a building" stance.  It didn't bother me -- although, granted, this was very much a left-leaning, majority-black church in a part of town dominated by working-class and student voters.  So, as a Democrat, my chance of being intimidated was zero.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 10:43:35 AM EST


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