- Law Cases
by Ms. Marple, ©2012
(Nov. 15, 2012) — This 2012 Presidential cycle I decided to do my own bit of “mystery shopping” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mystery_shopping as it pertains to how the United States elections process is conducted from the administrative side by signing up and being a Republican Election Judge in Cook County, Illinois. Since reaching the age of voting majority I have always exercised my right to vote (as a voting consumer, if you will) but never really understood or applied to work at the voting booth to really see what it is that I am consuming. Well, after doing both this cycle, I am here to report that the voting consumer is not getting a very good value for the money to say the least. Let me explain what I experienced and maybe my concerns will also be illuminated for you as they were for me.
The process is very simple here in Cook County in that you contact the Cook County Clerk’s office of David Orr ’s office and submit an application. My understanding is that they only credentials needed is that you are a registered voter for the party you are applying to represent. Upon submitting my application as required, and the lack of Republican representation in Cook County, my application was accepted and I was assigned a polling booth to work on the condition that I attend a 3 hour training class and pass a test prior to election day.
The class was basically an overview of the manual that was provided to each attendee. The manual consists of 63 pages (some blank) with the following headings: #1 General Information, #2 Before Election Day #3 Election Day 5am-6am #4 Election Day 6am-7pm #5 Closing the Polls. The class was broken down into teams of 10 for hands on training with the equipment. Afterwards, a pen and paper single page open book test was administered which needed to be completed within 20 minutes. Not to brag, but I was the first to complete it in 5 minutes to give you an indication of difficulty.
Since early voting was be required, I went to an early voting location near me on November 2rd and voted via the LCD touch screen. My ballot included the Federal offices as well as a local ballot for Cook County Judge renewals and other select offices. I slowly and carefully cast my ballot for each leaving none blank. The next touch screen asked me to review my selections before casting my ballot. To my dismay, 4 of my votes for the Judges registered the opposite of what I had very carefully selected. I was able to correct my ballot votes but had to do it 4 times before the machine registered accurately what I had intended. At this point I did my final review and cast my ballot.
Upon leaving the polling place I thought to myself, these machines are not good for folks that are not computer savvy or trust them for accuracy and race through the reviewing stage. They also need to add Illinois to the article below. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Elections/2012/1025/Exclusive-E-voting-puts-vote-accuracy-at-risk-in-four-key-states
When Tuesday arrives and I report for duty, of which I will be paid $200.00 (training 3 hours, set up the night before 1.5 hours and 15.25 hours on election day=total 19.75 hours –with 1-15 minute lunch on election day=$10.13/hour), talk of pushing the touch screen ballots was presented by the “experienced” Judges because , they justified, when we close the polling place the least amount of paper ballots used will make our job easier as we will not have as much of a task of counting and recording the used/unused paper ballots. Since this is my first time, I think well, ok but in the back of my mind I kept thinking about my personal experience with the touch screen errors on my own ballot that needed to be rectified 4 times. As the day progressed, my “Co –Judges” both Democratic and Republican, are pushing the touch screen ballots to every everyone even if the paper ballot had no wait just to make the poll closing easier. About mid-day, and after having a few folks experience “questions” about the touch screens I stopped advocating for the touch screen method.
At the close of the poll, we did have to count the paper ballots but they are packed is lots of 50 so if you did not open the lots the only real counting that needed to be done was for open lot ballots and add increments of 50. That is not so hard is it? Either way you have to count them? Does it really matter if you used 3 lots of 50=150 partial of say 15 remaining plus 3 lots unused 150? The number still needs to add up to 350 ballots. 165 unused 185 used. I think to myself, is this beyond easy math for most folks? In fact, during the counting process, both a Republican Judge and a democratic Judge need to perform the counts and match. If fact, during our count, we had three poll watchers observe our closing of the poll and doing this count.
We also had Cook County Clerk office “rovers” stop in to check on how we were running the poll as well as 2 attorneys from the Lisa Madigan’s office http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_Madigan of the Illinois States Attorney to check in on our numbers. Lisa is the daughter of Mike Madigan, Cook County, Democratic, Obama machine alumini. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Madigan.
As a “Mystery Shopper” this election, if I had to do an “official report” on my observations and experiences I would have to say the following…
#1 Touch Screens
The touch screen process is questionable at best based upon my own personal experience as both a voter and a Judge. Post election I am hearing other states had reports of “malfunctions” as well and no one really knows to what extent.
#2 Paper Ballots
Paper ballots with felt tip markers are the best of the two alternatives. If the voter makes a mistake, they just give the Judge the spoiled ballot to be accounted for later and it is never scanned into the reading devise. They are allowed to spoil as many as they would like accounting to the rules whereas the touch screen, once you hit enter there is no turning back. Paper ballots will ensure our democracy and is the method relied upon by many other democracies including Canada.
#3 Election Judge qualifications
To be an election Judge, you must meet the following criteria.
#1 a US Citizen (not sure how they checked that as I did not provide any documents.)
#2 A resident of Cook County
#3 A registered voter at your current address in Cook County
#4 Able to speak, read and write in English
#5 Of good standing and capable.
In fact, in Illinois you do not even have to be 18 years old as they have a new program that allows Junior and Seniors with a B grade average to be Judges.
In conclusion, it is of my opinion that the future US election process would gain much by borrowing from the private sector the concept of “Mystery Voter/Judge Shoppers” to get the real story of what is happening at the polling place. The private sector does this to both test the quality of the products as well as the expertise and service level of the employees helping you. It is like the message…this call may be recorded for quality and training purposes…maybe, just maybe you end up with a better product and service if the parties involved do not know who the “mystery shopper” is and as a result treats everyone as having the potential of being the “reporter”. Both parties spend so much money and time “reading the tea leaves” before an election that they do not concern themselves with post voting experience polling and feedback about the process both good and bad so that knowledge and improvements can be made to the process. The political candidates themselves do not care to spend on this type of research as their race is over but if the Republican and Democratic parties wish to remain viable into the future they show surely consider putting some expenditure into this phase to ensure repeat future “voting customers” for their respective parties.