You don’t need me to tell you that it was a hell of an election.
Literally thousands of blogs have covered the election results. Unless you’re in a few select states with very close races, you already know how things came out. Heck, some of us (ahem) were up way too late dancing in the streets on Tuesday night because of how things came out. I wasn’t nearly so cheerful earlier in the day, though, when I tried to vote. I eventually succeeded, despite the best efforts of the local poll workers.
My polling place had no line at all, since I went just after the morning rush. I asked for and was escorted to the accessible voting machine, as I’m fortunate enough to live in a city that boasts one at every polling place. I put on the headphones, cranked up the large print and high contrast, and was cheerfully instructed to insert my ballot. But where? I felt all over the machine and found a likely slot, but it wouldn’t accept the ballot. I couldn’t find any other slot. I’ll admit that I’m not the most mechanically inclined person on the planet, so after a few minutes of waving my hand and calling for help, I caught the attention of a fellow voter who flagged down a poll worker for me. The lady came over and read the instructions over my shoulder.
“‘Insert ballot.’ Okay, go ahead and insert the ballot.”
I’d gotten that far. “Where?”
She couldn’t figure out where it went either. After she’d tried several times, I asked her if she’d been trained on these machines. I’d been assured previously by the city that all poll workers had been trained on the accessible machines. “Oh, sure,” she replied, “I just didn’t pay attention to that part.”
After pointing out that these machines were the only way some people could vote and getting a similarly unconcerned response, I decided that this woman had forfeited all rights to politeness. I’m not sure what exactly I said to her, but I was pretty proud of myself for refraining from swearing. Her compatriots seemed equally unhelpful and equally unrepentant. It took three or four people and probably twenty minutes before they brought over the head of the precinct, who ascertained that the machine hadn’t been set up properly, and the insertion slot wasn’t actually open. After that, it took me five minutes to vote and get out of there, including sneaking an extra I VOTED sticker for my guide dog, who had been very patient. At least the bake sale taking place outside the door was fantastic. Other than that, I was pretty disgusted.
I asked around for feedback from other voters, and I received a variety of answers. Some voters talked about crowded polling places with no room for folks with wheelchairs and other mobility aids to maneuver and no privacy for the accessible voting booths and machines. In some places, the lines to vote snaked down the entrance ramps, blocking access for voters using wheelchairs or scooters. One blind voter from the South said that there wasn’t an accessible voting machine in her entire county. On the other hand, I also heard about polling places that had a staff person entirely devoted to staffing and assisting with the accessible voting booth and machine. So while we still have miles to go, some places are doing the right thing.
If you’ve got stories you’d like to share, please send them in. History was made this week, and I want to know if you were able to be a part of it, no matter how you voted.