North Carolina has early voting - people have been voting now for two or three weeks. I don't know if this is the first time for early voting or not, it certainly is for me, except when I voted with an absentee ballot a time or two. But to walk in and physically vote, I had no idea any such thing existed in the US of A.
I originally was not going to vote early. I kind of like waiting in line on election day, its like a tradition. I like to listen to what people have to say, and just some reason I like the atmosphere. I also thought, if I vote early, then I've voted. What if something happens between the time I voted and election day to change my mind? Its a valid question, but I came to the conclusion that at this point, its unlikely I'd change my mind. So I voted, and on election day & night, I can just relax and see how it goes.
The polling area is in town hall. There are signs for all the candidates across the street - there are rules, of course, about how close to a polling area people can campaign. I have only been in town hall a few times - to pay the water bill. That's kind of a throw back, since normally all my bills are paid online or through automatic withdrawals. The polling booth was in the back, so I walked further into the town hall than I had before. There was the finance director, and other functionaries. Mayor Hatley's office was empty & dark. All in all, it looked like a government building. Functional, not much character to it.
The polling area was fairly crowded. There were several people waiting ahead of me, there were 5 voting stations and all were being used. One person was not registered. Now, this is interesting, because this is also a change in the law - looks like someone has decided that things should not be so anal when it comes to voting. They have one-stop registering laws now in North Carolina. This person could register to vote, and vote right then and there, but it is too late for her to register to vote then wait and vote on the actual election day, Nov 4th. She had no problem with being required to vote right then.
There were a lot of older people, and some were infirm and needed help. This makes a ton of sense, because the actual election day can be more crowded and confusing. Also it was mid-day, and it was just more convenient for them to vote then. In the time I was there, 3 or 4 more people walked in behind me. I think this is early voting is a good thing, over all.
When I made it up to the election official, he asked my name, address, and birth month, verified my middle name, and that was it. Then I had to sign a piece of paper. Then I had to read a little statement saying that if I wanted to vote a straight party ticket, I could, but I had to vote separately for President & some local elections. I have my tendencies, but I've never voted a straight ticket in my life. I like to make the individual decisions, so this was not a problem. Then he walked me over to the voting machine, plugged in a cartridge, punched in some information, told me I was ready and if I needed any help to ask.
The voting machine is touch screen electronic ballot software. There was no paper ballot. Up to the point you hit confirm, you could go back and change anything. There was a printer inside the machine making a hard copy of every choice you made - I guess to be used as verification if need be. In case of recounts. A lot of races in North Carolina appear to be close, so a recount is not out of the question.
Voting was easy, but these machines are just made for something to go wrong. What if that paper jammed? What if it ran out? What if it runs out of ink? What if it just isn't working right? How can I be positive my vote was counted? What if the software crashed? They retrieved my voting record information on a laptop. What if the internet connection crashed? What if the hard drive failed? They printed out the paper for me to sign, what if the printer didnt work? What if the driver got corrupted somehow? All this depends on technology and electricity. Plus, you're dealing with a lot of people, up close and personal. I don't dislike people, but I don't really like to deal with people I don't know up close and personal if I don't have to. Armed with that knowledge, if I told you about my last job, you'd faint. Or at least laugh.
So, I've voted. I have an "I voted" sticker on my monitor now. I've been a good citizen today.