These are exciting times with the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election only a few days away. Many voters have been able to take advantage of early voting and others have already mailed an absentee ballot. Each state seems to have different rules, guidelines or provisions for early voting. For example, here in Los Angeles County where I live there are a very limited number of early voting sites and none very close to my city. When I've listened to news accounts of those voting early in the city to which I would have to go, the lines have been described as long, sometimes requiring standing in line for two or more hours.
Recently I learned the absentee ballots mailed in before the election here in L.A. County California are counted first as I had been concerned about that process. In fact, as someone commented on that matter on another blog in response to my raising that question, their experience working in an election precinct in their home state (unnamed) had been like the concern I described. Absentee ballots were counted last or not at all if the election wasn't close. I just wanted to know my vote got counted if I voted absentee as my husband did for many years.
Especially this year I didn't want my ballot left in a box somewhere that might conveniently "get lost." That former election volunteer writer suggested we each needed to check our own state and county election rules also. We might want to familiarize ourselves with the voting processes and ballot counting where each of us lives since there can be such a variance. Ask your election officials or call the election office just for your own edification, to let them know you are keeping track of what happens to ballots, however and whenever the vote is cast. Also, this information can help us determine exactly how we might want to vote in all future elections, not just important Presidential ones.
Actually, I decided to follow my usual pattern and vote at my designated voting place on the traditional election day, the first Tuesday of November which falls on the 4th this year. I'm curious to see who the election staff is, how efficient the operation is, what the turn out is like when I'm there and what sort of wait I have, if any, before I can enter a voting booth. Rarely ever have I had to wait, and then only five minutes or less at the most.
In L. A. County we use the Ink-a-vote system. We adopted this system after considerable concerns with the reliability of various computer systems. I've been feeling pretty confident this was a wise move until the touch screen computer voting system is determined to be more trust worthy. I'd not read about any major problems with our current temporary Ink-a-vote system, but I just thought I'd look this up on the Internet. This is the informative web site I located which provides information about most states for the purpose of educating the public. VerifiedVotingFoundation.org's mission statement follows:
"The Verified Voting Foundation is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization championing reliable and publicly verifiable elections. Founded by Stanford University Computer Science Professor David Dill, the organization supports a requirement for voter-verified paper ballots (VVPBs) on electronic voting machines allowing voters to verify individual permanent records of their ballots and election officials to conduct meaningful recounts. The Verified Voting Foundation is the recognized leader of the nationwide grassroots movement for VVPBs and verifiable elections..."
They have a section about a voting system company "Election Systems and Software" (ES&S) you may be interested to learn states "The company's products can be found in more than 1,700 voting jurisdictions in 47 US states and Canada." Also of interest are some reported malfunctions of their machines in France and New Jersey.
On the VVF site was this section titled "ElectionAudit.org -- The nation's clearinghouse for election audit information."
They revealed the ES&S company is the manufacturer of L.A. County's Ink-a-vote system "...as well as the iVotronic systems that made news in Sarasota, Florida in 2006..." Also of note is the company has submitted a new system for California's approval. VVF's ElectionAudit page notes: "ES&S systems were also considered by Ohio’s study last year, which found a variety of security problems."
I'm not suggesting we will experience voting problems with this 2008 Presidential Election. But I must admit I believe a better part of wisdom is for all voters to make themselves aware of the system in which they cast their votes, how they're tabulated and how any needed recount could accurately be conducted. This may be one source we can access to be informed so our votes in any election do not become disenfranchised by default.