Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Privacy, polls and the primary system

Eric Zorn revives a column from 1998 today that strikes a chord with me. This morning when I walked into my polling place (Willow Creek Community Church), after finding me on the rolls, the first question the elderly woman who processed me asked was "Democrat or Republican?" Now, I understand--it's a primary election and I have to pick a party to get a ballot. But why should I have to tell her--and the rest of the room, including the people in front of me and behind me in line and the person who actually handed me the little swipe card that allowed me to vote on an electronic kiosk--which party's nominees I've come to select?

This was particularly troubling because I was voting at Willow Creek--not exactly the first place a gay Democrat thinks to go on his own--and because the next woman, the one who activated my swipe card and gave me the extra paper ballot on which I voted on our local school referendum, seemed to think it was her responsibility to actually read my votes.

"You can just fill out your paper ballot and hand it to me to put in the box," she said.

"Shouldn't I fold it?"

(shocked) "Well, if you don't want me to see it."

She actually acted like it was shocking that I wouldn't want someone else to see my votes. "That's kind of the idea of the whole secret ballot," I said under my breath. She then returned as I inserted my card into the machine to begin voting, looking over my shoulder and trying to explain a ballot that anyone who has used an ATM could understand. "I've got it," I said, before racing through the touch-screen ballot in less than a minute.

Am I crazy? Or should we be able to vote without shouting our party affiliation to the rafters or letting election judges see how we voted? After all, the same women will probably await me on November 7 for the general election; is it right that they now know my party and, unless she really didn't peek between the folds of my paper ballot as she turned away, how I voted on the school referendum?

I voted yes, by the way. What kind of Democrat votes against more money for schools?

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