11/4: Voting Rites (& Wrongs): Palm Beach County, FL – Dispatches from the Heart of Darkness

November 4, 2012:

Dateline Jupiter, FL: I finally voted on November 2 after waiting in line for 2-1/4 hours. The Supervisor of Elections employees (or volunteers?) at the Jupiter Library were very kind, if exhausted, but the voting procedures are slow and cumbersome: Each voter is painstakingly verified via computer and then his/her ballot (three double-sided pages) must be printed out individually. There were only about 20 voting stations inside, which is more than a little absurd.

Many people arrived in line not having read the ballot propositions (which include a total of 12 LONG constitutional amendments) and so were taking 20-30 minutes to vote. Hello, informed electorate? Make up your freaking minds before you get there so you don’t hold everybody up!

As of the close of early voting on 11/3 (the last day for early voting), about 14% of the registered voters in Palm Beach County had voted via in-person voting. Another large chunk had already voted by mail.

And on that note … In the wake of a successful lawsuit by the Democratic Party, the main SOE office opened on Sunday to accept absentee ballots, but there remained major confusion about what that means.

Much conflicting info is coming out of the Palm Beach County Dem Party, the Obama Campaign, and the SOE itself. The issues of how to communicate the message still don’t seem entirely resolved – and it hardly seems as though it should be so difficult to explain clearly what is happening. In any case, some are calling it an “extension of early voting” (which it is not); others are claiming that only those who have previously requested an absentee ballot can vote at the SOE (which is also not strictly true, though that fact comes with a “but” ).

And where can one turn in a ballot? Only at the main SOE headquarters or at the satellites (the latter weren’t open on Sunday, but will be on Monday and Tuesday — are they accepting absentee ballots or aren’t they? The SOE’s website isn’t clear)?

At the Palm Beach County Democratic Party headquarters? Yes, apparently, though it took 24 hours, at this crucial period, to confirm that information. But voters can only turn in filled-out absentee ballots at the party’s office.

The only reliable information for people who want to take advantage of the confusing category called “in person absentee voting” seems to be: Go to the main Supervisor of Elections office in West Palm Beach.

If I can confirm that “in person absentee voting” can also be done at satellite SOE offices, I’ll post that info. [Late update: 2 of 3 Satellite SOE offices in Palm Beach County confirm that they are allowing “in-person absentee voting” at their sites. Great news! As soon as we can confirm the 3rd, I’ll post.]

Those of us who have been calling Democrats who requested an absentee ballots but whose ballots haven’t yet been returned are hearing frequent stories about a) voters who never received their absentee ballots in the first place and b) voters who got a misprinted or erroneous ballot, sent it back, and have yet to get a replacement. They can still go and vote on 11/6, but they will probably have to vote provisionally, which means their ballots are likely not even to be counted until after election day. As one elderly woman put it when I talked to her on the phone, “I’d really like to know if this problem with absentee ballots is affecting both parties equally or only Democrat voters!” Yep, inquiring minds….

There’s also increasing frustration and even outright anger among people who have been canvassed (door-to-door precinct walking) and called multiple times. They are truly really sick of it. It’s hard to tell how much this is an inevitable consequence of living in such a highly contested state and how much is a lack of coordination among the Dem party and the Obama campaign. In any case, the question arises: Are get-out-the-vote efforts, at least in some cases, becoming counter-productive?

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Posted on 5 November 2012, in Florida Sucks OK!. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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