I took advantage everything the great state of Florida has to offer today and cast my vote a full two weeks early for presidential elections. There was only one downside I could see - although I knew my picks for Senate and President, I had not a fucking clue how to cast my vote for the 20 or poorly written amendments that populated most of the four pages of the ballot. Luckily, a woman on line had a copy of an Orlando Sentinel column which explained the amendments in decent enough detail to comprehend the issues. It made me long for my New Jersey past of election day palm cards.
The process of early voting - new to me - was fairly simple. All public libraries in Orange County offer early voting and you don't have to appear any particular one. Your show up with photo ID (drivers license). The poll workers search your name in a computer database and once found, provide the proper ballots for your vote (there's a wide variety as they have to have all county ballots).
I showed up at 6:15 pm at the Winter Park Library and found a line of about 20 people ahead of me. It moved slow (but steady) as there were only two poll workers checking IDs. Surprisingly, it seemed that everybody on line was a Kerry supporter. That shocked me as Winter Park is a well-heeled community and I expected the Republican blue-bloods to be out in force. But in the 30 minutes I spent on line, it was clear that Kerry supporters ruled. When filling out my ballot, a white-haired guy in a golf shirt sat next to me. I pegged him for a Bush man, but in peeking at his ballot, I found him voting a straight Democratic line. Interesting. Florida's vote might turn out to be a bigger surprise that anyone imagines.
By 6:45 pm, nearly 250 votes had been cast in this station (Orange County uses optical scanners so one can read the number of ballots run through the machine). I'm pleased to say I saw no problems or arguments - everything seemed to be working smoothly. However, I wasn't encouraged by the middle-aged Indian fellow who wandered onto the line behind me.
You can vote here? Now? he asked. What do they do with the ballots?
I made the obvious wise-ass remark - Jeeze, I hope they don't throw 'em out! But he got me thinking. There are a lot of days between now and November 2nd. Florida voter weirdness is already running rampant. How do I know these ballots will be counted? Maybe the middle-aged Indian guy knew more than I about the electoral process?
On another note, we got this very amusing email from campus police.
Submitted by: Sgt. Troy Williamson, Police Spokesperson
Submitted for: UCF Police Department
Subject: Voter Registration Fraud
On September 29, 2004, a student was approached at the student union by a middle age couple who were soliciting a change for child molestation laws. The student was asked to complete some personal information. On October 13th, 2004, the student reported to the UCF Police Department that her political party affiliation had been changed without consent. It was believed that this couple had data to change her political party status. The student was concerned that she could not vote for intended party in the primary election. If this situation had occurred to you on the UCF campus, please contact the university police department to make a report. For more information about voter registration and voter fraud, please contact your county voter registration office.
There are a few problems here. First, there are no primary elections coming up in which to vote. Second, even if her party had been changed, how would that stop her from voting for whomever she wanted? I love the story, but there's a certain amount of paranoia on display that leads me to suspect this girl doesn't have all her flippers working.