Our View: Fix voting problems before next election

At Issue: Election problems

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Election 2006

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The switch to electronic voting machines was supposed to make voting easier.

That didn't happen Tuesday in Routt County.

Simply put, there weren't enough voting centers, and there weren't enough of the new machines to handle demand. Throw in a long ballot with more than a dozen state amendments and referenda to decide, and voting becomes an unwelcome chore rather than a rewarding experience.

Residents waited in line for as long as four hours to cast ballots Tuesday. Many voters went beyond the 10-minute time limit because of the length of the ballot and their inexperience with the new voting machines. Also, there were reports that the new voting machines.

This was supposed to be progress. This was supposed to encourage participation and boost turnout. Instead, we fear it has discouraged voters.

By mid-day, dozens of voters who had been in line at the Steamboat Pilot & Today voting center had given up and left. Assuming other voting centers experienced the same thing, potentially hundreds of Routt County voters gave up on the chance to cast ballots.

Of course, Routt County wasn't the only place to experience problems. Longer waits and longer lines were reported in the Denver metro area. And with dozens of states making the switch to the new voting machines, computer glitches, broken machines and voter confusion were reported from Ohio to Washington state.

The bottom line? Routt County must learn from this experience and do better by its voters in the future.

The county had 35 machines spread across eight centers Tuesday. Each center had at least three, but not more than six, machines. At one point, three of the four machines at the Pilot & Today were broken.

The machines, when they were working, were easy to use and produced quick results. The problem wasn't the technology; the problem was there just wasn't enough of it.

On Monday, Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland said, "I have more voting machines (per registered voter) than I'm required to have by law."

Based on what we experienced Tuesday, what the law requires isn't nearly enough.

In 2004, Routt County had more than a dozen voting precincts with stands for up to eight people to vote at once using paper ballots. That's about double what was available Tuesday.

It cost about $250,000 to buy 35 voting machines. We recommend that the county double that amount before the 2008 presidential election. The county also should add at least two more voting centers. And the county should consider extending early voting hours to include Saturday voting.

We often use this space to encourage participation in the democratic process, and we were encouraged by the strong turnout for a non-presidential election. It's a triumph for our system of government. But we worry that many voters were so frustrated by Tuesday's long lines that they will be reluctant to return to the polls in the future.

Routt County commissioners should waste no time fixing this problem. Tuesday's election problems do not and should not have to be repeated.

Comments

sleepie 7 years, 5 months ago

I can't believe that you reported that some voters "waited in line as long as 2 hours". Especially since I was in line at the Pilot Building from 6:00 pm until 9:30 pm (or 3 and a half hours!). Once again, the Pilot has failed to get the facts right. Usually, I just blow it off as "you get what you pay for". But I find it unexcusable when the voters (and story) were in your building! All you would have had to do was go ask someone who just finished voted, "How long did you wait?" You would not have had to even leave your workplace. So much for investigative journalism. It really makes me question how much of what you report is true!

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drg 7 years, 5 months ago

You must have not spent much time in line yesterday. Had you spent time in line, you would have noticed that the voting public should be held accountable for the majority of the delay in voting, as they were in a word, "unprepared". Most of the people in the line I was in needed a sample ballot because they had no idea as to how they would vote. Some sat there in the booth and read the entire ballot. It took me three minutes to cast my ballot, I was prepared, and it was quick and extremely easy.

If you are going to place blame, go to the source, the voters. This was a long complicated ballot, and everyone knew going in that it would be difficult. The voting public must be held responsible for being unprepared for this election. The election officials did all they could to make this process easy, while working the polls, for 18 or more hours, not to mention the preparation time prior to the election. I did not hear anyone thank the Election Judges for being so patient, working so diligently, and trying to make this process easy. Don Grant

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JazzSlave 7 years, 5 months ago

While I have little sympathy for those who had to stand on line for extended periods, it is clear that whomever was responsible for organization screwed the pooch. With all the caterwauling about it, presumably corrective measures will be taken before the next election.

For my own part, I tried to vote early, but there was some snafu with my recent move from SBS to the county, and I was unable to get it resolved before the early vote deadline.

I showed up at the Pilot around 10:30 yesterday morning, and stood on line for about 10 minutes. It was clear that it was going to be at least a couple of hours. Chatting with other voters indicated that there were similarly long lines all over town, so I said to heck with it and drove to Hayden. I was in & out in about 15 minutes.

Was it annoying? Yes. Worth a tantrum? Nope.

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techdubb12 7 years, 5 months ago

Who do you suppose we should blame for, "At one point, three of the four machines at the Pilot & Today were broken." Surely not the unprepared voters.

This article, and the problem with yesterday's election, had nothing to do with voters being prepared or not. Two years ago, how long did you wait in line? Was it one to three hours? Probably not. Furthermore, do you think voters were more prepared last year? I'd be willing to argue that they were not.

"In 2004, Routt County had more than a dozen voting precincts with stands for up to eight people to vote at once using paper ballots. That's about double what was available Tuesday." Might this have something to do with the long waits?

As far as "thank[ing] the Election Judges for ... trying to make this process easy.", consider this: What problems did paper ballot voting have that electronic voting have fixed? Furthermore, does this set of corrected problems out-weight the new problems e-voting has introduced?

It needs to be clear that this is not a slam towards our election officials. They did an excellent job with what they had. Moreover, there is no doubt the choice to use electronic voting machines came from a higher power. However, continuous defense, and use, of a technology that has not been adequately tested is not going to help them in the realm of public opinion.

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vic 7 years, 5 months ago

Everything went smooth in Craig. Only ONE polling place, it was mobbed, but the line ran continuously and quickly. I would say less than a 10 minute wait total. Everything was very organized. Also a huge help to be prepared to vote so as not to tie up the booths.

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Scott Stanford 7 years, 5 months ago

Sleepie:

You are correct. We had people wait in line up to four hours at our building. The problem? The editorial was written earlier in the day, when the longest waits were two hours. Obviously, we had a lot going on last night, and the editorial faced an earlier deadline. Had we written it at say, 10 p.m., it likely would have been even harsher in tone since problems only worsened, particularly at our building, as the night went on.

Don is right - the election officials on site were great.

Anyway, I have updated the editorial to reflect the timing you mentioned. I must say, I was impressed with the way voters hung in there last night under rather arduous circumstances.

Scott Stanford Editor, Steamboat Pilot & Today (970) 871-4221 sstanford@steamboatpilot.com

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DCH 7 years, 5 months ago

AS FAR AS THE VOTING GOES....I AM 45 YEARS OLD AND HAVE BEEN VOTING SINCE I WAS 18 AND NEVER WAITED LONGER THAN 10 MINUTES, NO MATTER WHAT STATE I RESIDED IN. I TRIED 4 TIMES TO VOTE YESTERDAY. 3 TIMES AT THE PILOT, AND 1 AT THE COURTHOUSE. I GAVE UP EACH TIME. I WAS ONE OF THE PEOPLE AT THE END OF THE LINE AT THE PILOT LAST NIGHT. I GAVE UP AT 7:30. I QUESTION HOW ACCURATE THIS ELECTION REALLY IS. MORE PEOPLE GAVE UP THAN VOTED THAT I HAVE SPOKEN WITH. ONE OF THE BALLOT ISSUES WAS ABOUT DELETING ANTIQUATED CONSTITUTIONAL LANGUAGE, MAYBE WE SHOULD ADD AN AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION TO ADRESS VOTING TIME WAIT LIMITS???????

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Hmmm 7 years, 5 months ago

It's disheartening to hear that people actually gave up on their right to vote and left because of long waits. Democrat, Republican, or otherwise, everyone should be able to vote if they have registered and shown up at the polls. Yes, there was early voting but it doesn't change how long people had to wait. The election is over, the outcome is final, but I wonder if it would have been different if everybody got their chance to vote. It sounds like a lot of people simply gave up and those are votes that could have helped some candidates or increased the lead for another.

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dave reynolds 7 years, 5 months ago

you had two weeks to vote early along with absentee ballots..people were not pre pared so whats new it took me five minutes to vote because I LISTENED TO OR READ ALL THE ADS ABOUT BEING PREPARED BY MOST OF US HERE IN sTEAMBOAT ARE ENTITLED AND ADVISE LIKE THAT DOESN'T APPLY TO US..I also voted early..stop complaining the fault lies within fellow voters and possibly yourselves

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DCH 7 years, 5 months ago

NO WHERE DID I ASK FOR SYMPATHY. NOR DO I NEED A LECTURE ON OTHER COUNTRIES PLIGHTS. I LIVE IN THE USA AND STATED THAT I HAVE NEVER HAD TO WAIT THIS LONG TO VOTE. I DO WORK, AND TRIED TO VOTE INBETWEEN APPOINTMENTS. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN IRRESPONSIBLE TO BLOW OFF MY APPOINTMENTS!!! NOR DID YOU HERE ME COMPLAIN ABOUT THE OUTCOME OF THE ELECTIONS. IF I DIDN'T CAST A VOTE, I HAVE NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN ABOUT WHO WAS ELECTED. I JUST QUESTIONED THAT IF THE VOTING PROCESS WENT MORE EFFICIENTLY,WOULD THE OUTCOME BE THE SAME. QUIT READING INBETWEEN MY LINES. I WAS STRAIGHT UP.

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Getitright 7 years, 5 months ago

Doesn't anybody see that the reason it took so long to vote was because of the clutter of amendments and referendoms on the ballot? Let the lawmakers we elect do their job and cut out the clutter on the ballot. All most every one failed anyway! Funny, there were no lines when I voted early?

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