Now everybody’s staring at me, confused. I can explain!
On Monday, we had our municipal election, and for the first time, because of a cool new talking voting machine, I could vote independently.
Voting has always made me a bit nervous because I’ve always needed some help from the staff at the polling station or, if I was lucky, whoever I could round up to come with me. You see, they thought they had an accessible voting solution that they called a braille ballot. Ya wanna know what it actually was? They would hand me a print ballot and a piece of braille paper with a bunch of round holes. Not so coincidentally, the holes coincided with the number of candidates available to vote for. Then they would have to line the ballot up with the piece of paper with holes and tell me, “If you mark inside the first hole, you’re voting for NDP. If you mark in the second hole, you’re voting conservative.” and on and on it went. Anybody see any problems with this? First, it’s easy for the ballot to go out of alignment when they’re not looking, and bang! I’ve spoiled my ballot.
Second, there’s room for them to either intentionally or unintentionally screw up the order of the holes. I’m not going to accuse them of trying to get me to vote for the wrong person right off the bat because, let’s face it, the number of people who need assistance voting is pretty small, so the chances of changing who wins by tricking them is pretty slim. But there is also the possibility that they would screw up because they have a lot of things to distract them from helping me vote. They always look so busy with books, keeping everything straight, all that good stuff. So they could accidentally tell me that the first hole was conservative when it was NDP or something.
Finally, there’s the prick factor. Some of these people don’t like doing any extra work, and make it very evident. I’ll never forget the 2003 provincial elections. I never felt so much like a third class citizen in my life. I walked in, and they immediately spoke to the girl who was with me. “Will she need help voting?” “Will you be helping her?” This didn’t stop when I spoke right to them. It was as if I was speaking a foreign language that noone understood. I felt like someone must feel when they have aphasia. They speak, sound comes out, but they are completely and utterly ignored and it seems to make no sense to anyone.
Then the staff had the nerve to try and tell me that these holes were braille because they had spoken to someone at the school for the blind and they said it was a workable solution. I don’t care if you spoke to the head of that school, that *isn’t* braille and you’re fooling yourself to think it is.
But at long last, I’ve seen a perfectly workable solution, and audible voting machine! What they do is get you a paper ballot that says audio ballot. Yea, a paper trail! That made me feel better, because the machine can’t just have a glitch and gobble up your vote, leaving no trace. Then they give you a set of headphones and a little wand-like thing with a button on the top. These are connected to the machine that will serve up the audio, and also serves as their ballot-scanner. . So yea! The machine serves another purpose, so might be kept around even if lots of people don’t use the audio function! Then the machine starts talking in the headset. It explains the whole process, and then gives you a practice session. When you want to vote, you press the little button on the top of the wand with your thumb, so I guess that’s why they call it a “thumb switch.” At this point, it beeps to tell you that the vote went through. Then, it confirms that that’s who you want to vote for, and if it is, you hit the button again, and on it goes. Then at the end, it goes over your choices and confirms everything. If something goes wrong, *flinch*, the whole process will start again.
The only goofy thing it does is it explains everything the first time, does the practice session, and then when it comes to voting, it explains! it! all! again! No wonder it takes about 15 minutes to vote this way! They could probably sheer a good five minutes off by explaining everything once. I mean, you get an explanation *and* a practice voting session! How much explanation do you need? But if that’s the way it has to be, I’ll take the extra five minutes to have total control over who I’m voting for.
But other than that, that was a completely awesome voting experience! And, even better, I have the contact info for the company who makes these things, so when it comes time for provincial elections, I can give the info to elections Ontario so we can have them again! No more dealing with pricks at the polls! Hopefully not!