Well, we voted. The experience was, to put it mildly, a complete clown show. Let’s break down what happened, shall we?
- The nice fellow at the registration table had no idea what an audio voting machine was or even if they had one. This in spite of the fact that it was clearly stated in multiple places that they did. Thankfully though, he said he’d figure it out. This lead to…
- A nice lady walking up to me and asking who the woman that Carin and I walked in with was. I said she was a stranger and we just happened to arrive at the same time. This is not what she wanted to hear. It’s never good when a poll worker looks at you and says “dammit!” She was quite clearly hoping that they weren’t going to have to sort out accessible voting for us and could just get her to mark everything instead. Note to future poll workers: Even if I did know her, that’s not happening. These machines exist for a reason, and that reason is my independence.
- This begat a confab between a few of them, which ended up with them getting somebody who I believe was from the voting machine place on the phone.
- At this point we all learned that they absolutely had a machine, but that it was neither hooked up nor was the main tabulator set up to handle it if it were. Why this wasn’t done at the start of voting I do not know, but it was going to be done now and that meant that they had to shut the entire system down and take 10 minutes to boot it all up again. Good times.
- While all this was going on, at least three of them had to figure out how to load the ballot into the printer. The machine came back online before this was accomplished. But in their defense, a guy from the machine company showed up and he wasn’t quite sure how to do it either.
- At long last, they finally got everything in place and the audio working. Good god, the audio. I’ve been using these audio voting systems since they first became a thing, and I have never heard a worse audio implementation in my life. If you tried to speed up the voice, it would stop and start every few seconds as though it was buffering, the processor wasn’t quick enough to handle anything or perhaps the machine had a short in it. But worst of all, the names of the candidates were not recorded by a person the way it’s usually done. They were spoken by a synthesized voice that I’m pretty sure came straight out of whatever predated the Speak And Spell. It sounded awful, and to top it all off they all had this hissing noise behind them that sounded like either FM radio static or an electric fan. Some of the names were extremely quiet and difficult to hear.
- Then there was the machine itself. It was your standard one with all the buttons on it, but it had clearly been through some things. You had to hammer on most of the arrows to get them to respond. If you pressed them normally, half the time it would just sit there doing nothing. Once I figured out how to deal with all of these things, it was mostly smooth sailing. For poor Carin though, not so much.
- The whole thing crashed on her when she was nearly done voting and lost all of her choices. This would be annoying on a good day, but this is a municipal election where you’re potentially having to vote for 11 people while scrolling…through…every…candidate…individually…on a machine…that is fighting…against you at every…turn. So needless to say, her having to do it all over again didn’t make anyone happy.
- All of this was made even worse by the realization that they only had one tabulator for the entire station. So while Carin and I were monopolizing it for what felt like a day and a frigging half, they couldn’t scan any other ballots. People could vote, but the workers were going to have to run all of those other people’s ballots through later on. Knowing that you’re the only accessible location in the entire ward, how do you overlook something that obvious? That’s just piss poor planning on every conceivable level.
- Speaking of piss poor, I don’t know who trains these people, but maybe next time he should try actually training them. God bless them, the workers were all lovely people. But they didn’t know anything. They knew nothing about accessible voting. There was mass confusion over who was allowed to talk to who when issues came up. One of them seemed completely befuddled by the concept of someone asking to vote in the parking lot. Even I knew you could do that, and I spent zero seconds in the four hour training session one of them told me they were given. If they weren’t learning about any of that stuff, what were they doing?
When it was all said and done, it took us nearly two hours to drive a kilometre, vote and come back home. And after all that, we left unsure of whether or not our votes were even going to count because the process was so ridiculous. These machines are supposed to be removing that doubt, not making it worse.
Again, every person we dealt with was extremely nice. But in a lot of ways it felt as though they were being thrown to the wolves. Just completely unprepared for anything that was at all abnormal.
Why is all of this still so hard? It’s been decades now. There’s no excuse anymore. At the polling station, all of the workers repeatedly thanked us both for our patience. I’m happy to be nice to people because that’s just what you do, but honestly, my patience with the lack of emphasis given to something so important is wearing pretty damn thin.