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A Rude Awakening at the Florida Polling Booth©
My First Florida Voting Experience©
I consider myself a loyal American citizen. I pay my taxes, support the troops, tear up at the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, and vote every Election Day. In my opinion, this is what loyal Americans do. Aside from paying taxes, being proud to be an American, voting, and supporting the troops doesn't cost a penny. And it does not require an inordinate amount of time. And it shouldn't. It’s just something that a proud citizen does. Of all the activities in which loyal citizens participate, voting is my favorite.
Voting on Election Day is still an exciting experience for me. There is a ritual in going to the polls, greeting the same volunteers that have worked at the polls every year, maintaining the confidentiality of my vote, and getting my “I voted” sticker when I’m finished. It gives me a good feeling to know that I have participated in the process. To me, deciding whether or not to vote isn't a difficult decision. If we want to maintain our republic form of government, voting is necessary. Election Day should be a day to anticipate. It’s the day when you can let your voice be heard. And it costs nothing but a few minutes to cast that ballot and become a part of our country’s future. Voting is something that I have probably taken for granted, having done it now for 43 years. But after today, I will anticipate it as an exercise in frustration rather than excitement.
I recently moved to Southwest Florida. Florida—heaven’s waiting room, where millions of retirees locate, to escape frigid winters, seeking lower property taxes, more reasonable housing prices and a slower pace of life than the East Coast or the Midwest. Florida—the land of sunshine, the location of the Fountain of Youth, the home of Cape Canaveral and the launching station for the space program. Ah yes, the space program. In 1969 the space capsule that put Neil Armstrong on the moon was launched from Florida. It’s amazing that the technology was available to put a man on the moon in 1969, but the voting system in Florida in 2012 is still by paper and pen.
I went to vote today because I never miss voting in a Presidential election, or any other if I can help it. My daughter-in-law and I debated whether or not to participate in early voting, but we heard last week that people were waiting in line for at least 3 hours to vote early. We decided that we’d go to the polls about 9:30 a.m., after the kids started school for the day, after working people had already voted and were on their way to their jobs, and before the noon lunch hour voters began arriving.
What I did not realize is that there is no electronic voting in Cape Coral—everything is done by hand. And then, after waiting in line for 2 hours just to enter the polling place, there was only one (1) machine into which to feed the bubble ballots—one page at a time. In other words, every person who voted in Precinct 106 had to feed his/her 4-page ballot into the same machine: one person, one page at a time. Hence, there was a 2 hour wait in line outside before even entering the building, and another hour after obtaining the ballot to reach the one machine in order to enter the votes. (That evening I learned that some voters waited for 5 hours in Cape Coral. Many were still voting at 10 p.m.)1
I was dumbfounded at the process. It’s no wonder people get discouraged and don’t vote. Elderly and disabled voters who were waiting in line brought their own chairs so they could sit while the line slowly crawled along. I understand that there is absentee voting, but some of us still enjoy actually going to the polls and taking part in the ritual. Where are the electronic machines? Why is Florida so far behind in implementing a more efficient system? Is the mentality of Florida’s State Government officials so backward that it does not realize there is a more effective and most likely, more reliable method for the electors to cast their ballots? Not to mention all the wasted paper and mistakes involved in a hand-written balloting system. With the present system in place, there is NO way that the votes were counted twelve years ago in the 2000 presidential election by 7:48 p.m. when the press called Florida’s majority vote. It was impossible. Has anyone even considered that paper ballots might have been just another of the plethora of problems faced in that election? Maybe this is where the Florida legislature should start when revamping their election process.2
For the next election, I am voting by absentee ballot. At least I won’t have to stand out in the rain for two hours to exercise a privilege granted to me by the U.S. Constitution. And I suggest that NASA take a look at overhauling the Florida election process. There has to be a better way.
1I later learned that some voters in Fort Myers/Lee County (my county), and Miami/Dade County were still waiting to vote after midnight. I give them the highest kudos. The election had already been called by that time. They could have just folded up shop and gone home. What does that tell you about the value those citizens' place on their right to vote?
2Florida did not have final election results until mid-day Saturday, November 10th. It's a good thing the country was not waiting for its results to call a winner. In this age of technology and electronics, why is this happening? Perhaps there really is more to the allegations of election fraud in Florida than meets the eye, and it should be investigated--ideally by the Federal Government. Either way, Florida needs to move into the twenty-first century with its election practices. At the rate the state has been moving up to this point, it should have begun right after the 2000 election!
©2012, 2013 by Kathy Striggow
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