VOTING PROVISIONALLY: Via InstaPundit substitute Megan McArdle, electoral-vote.com has advice on what to do if you show up at the polls and your name is not on the list of registered voters. His advice is good (in short: make sure you're in the right precinct, then demand a provisional ballot).
If all the L.A. County pollworker training sessions are like the two I attended, voters here should have no trouble obtaining provisional ballots. In fact, we were instructed to give provisional ballots to argumentative people even if we think they should not be allowed to vote at our precinct (for instance, if they live in Ventura or Orange County), on the grounds that it is not our job to make decisions on who can and cannot vote.
Quoting from our official "What To Do If..." problems guide:
IF YOU DO NOT FIND THE VOTER'S NAME IN THE ROSTER ... AND THE VOTER CLAIMS THAT HE/SHE HAS NOT MOVED, DO THE FOLLOWING:
Look inside the Street Index to verify that the voter's address is within your precinct. This voter will vote provisionally.
If the address is not in your precinct, encourage the voter to go to the correct precinct. If the voter chooses, he/she may vote at any Los Angeles County precinct. However, only the votes for the candidates/issues in common with the voter's home precinct will count.
[Instructions on filling out the provisional ballot envelope.]
Included in my election materials is a map of the 10 or so precincts surrounding the one I'm working in. If the voter lives outside that area, they can call the county or check the county website, or use any of the national vote-finding methods, to find out what precinct they live in.
We were also informed in class that well over 60% of provisional votes were counted as valid in the last election.
ELECTION UPDATES: Yesterday in the mail I received the first of two supplemental election mailings, so things are proceeding according to plan. The envelope included a list of about 40 people in my precinct who registered to vote after the main roster was printed (far short of the "pages and pages of newly registered voters" I was warned about at training), a separate list of about 30 people who requested absentee ballots after the main roster was printed, and a list of about 10 people who voted at an early voting location.
Los Angeles County must have a great deal of faith in the U.S. Postal Service, because they claim that on Monday, November 1 (the day before the election) I will receive my second supplemental mailing, which will include more of all the same lists, plus a list of certified write-in candidates. If this information doesn't show up at my doorstep, the most dangerous possibility is that absentee and early voters on the list could vote twice. Anyone on the late registration list would be issued a provisional ballot, which should check out at the registrar's office. And the write-in candidates - well, if people really care, they should know their candidate's name, right? Plus, it should be possible for me to call the registrar's office and write up this list by hand.
I also have not yet received the name and phone number of my election coordinater, who should be my first point of contact if there is a problem at my polling place. But there aren't going to be any problems, right?
MISSING POLLWORKER: This morning I called all the people signed up to work the polls at my location. One of them has vanished without a trace - the person who answered the phone told me he'd been kicked out of the house, and had not left a new phone number.
Now, this doesn't mean he won't show up to work on election day. But I have no way of confirming that he'll be there. The county registrar's office will not assign me a replacement worker unless Mr. Missing calls in to say he won't be able to work after all, so I may be a hand short next Tuesday. But with 4 other clerks, I should still be okay.
I also have not yet received my certified list of late-registered voters, nor my list of people who voted early and absentee, though I am assured these will arrive in the mail before the election. Cross your fingers.
On the bright side, I have arranged access with our polling location for setup Monday night and Tuesday morning and expect no problems.
PAPER BALLOT OPTION: EFF claims that pollworkers in California are being instructed not to tell voters they can use a paper ballot instead of an electronic voting machine, and to give out paper ballots only if voters specifically ask for them. This is the first I've heard of it (thanks to In Limine for the link).
Los Angeles County, where I will be a pollworker, is not using the no-receipt electronic voting machines on election day, so naturally the procedures for the machines were not part of my pollworker training. However, those machines are used for early voting. I voted early on one of these machines, and I can confirm that nobody offered me the option of a paper ballot. I must say, I did feel a little nervous when I finished voting and had nothing to show for it but a cute little "I voted" sticker.
I also voted in 2000 on a no-receipt electronic voting machine, in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Interestingly, I didn't feel nervous at all with that setup. I think it was because the machine made a loud but pleasant beeping noise when I submitted my choices. It felt physical, even though it wasn't.
ELECTION MECHANICS: As I noted in my previous post, I'm going to be an inspector for the election. This morning, I picked up election supplies from the Pasadena-area distribution center. Election supplies consist of several cardboard fold-up voting booths, one metal fold-up wheelchair-accessible voting booth, self-contained voting devices (L.A. County uses a fill-in-the-dots optical scan system, which is replacing the punch-card voting from previous years), and a huge black box filled to the brim with paper. This box is so huge that a small person could fold herself in half and fit comfortably inside. Fortunately, the county workers who do all the election organizing had enough foresight to put these monsters on wheels.
After picking these things up, I spent a full hour going through the supplies in the box to make sure everything on the checklist was there. I am flabergasted by the amount of different things necessary to run an election. I've got everything from ballots to multi-lingual "Voters Bill of Rights" signs (in 6 languages!) to a cute little mini-roll of masking tape.
When I was in elementary school, we sometimes had lessons in following instructions. The teacher would hand out a piece of paper with a long list of complicated and sometimes self-referential instructions. It would have us drawing lines on graph paper to end up with a design, or performing simple arithmetic to get a final answer - something such that it would be quite obvious at the end whether we'd made a mistake somewhere along the line. Election work is a lot like that. We have several types of flow charts, instruction lists, a "What To Do If?" emergency/problem guide, and detailed instructions on what to put where and how to seal the containers after the polls close.
I can't help but be impressed by the amount of work and thought it must have taken to put something like this together. I know, they've had over 100 years to hone their technique just here in California, but really, it all seems impressively well organized.
Here's hoping that I have the same impression once the election is over.
ELECTION: I've been terribly remiss about updating lately, so here's what's been going on with me in regard to the election.
I moved to California just a few months ago, and am now registered to vote in Los Angeles County. This is good and bad. On the one hand, 4 years ago I lived in a swing state (Philadelphia) and knew that my vote was very important. This year, no matter what I do, Kerry is going to win the county and the state I live in. On the other hand, I'm actually glad the pressure is off me in this way, because I am still agonizing about whether or not to vote for Bush. I will not vote for Kerry because I fear his inconsistent positioning about the War on Terror. I do not want to vote for Bush for all the libertarian-conservative reasons you've been hearing: high deficit spending, new program after new program, support for the Federal Marriage Amendment (which turns my stomach every time I think about it), and all the rest.
What I really would love is a third-party candidate who is pro-war, so I could cast a protest vote. I wouldn't even care much if I disagreed with all his/her other positions, since they would have no chance of winning. But I want to send a message that says, "Not Bush, Not Kerry, but pro-war." Unfortunately, every third-party presidential candidate on the California ballot is anti-war. So, I will either vote for Bush or not vote for President at all.
The fun thing about a California election, though, is that you get to vote on all these actual policy proposals! Ballot initiatives are an unemployed policy wonk's dream. I spent hours poring through the voter information guide to make my choices.
Yet I still felt that because I don't have a clear preference on the presidential election, I wasn't fully participating in the democratic process. Plus, I'd been hearing all kinds of things about incompetent election workers. So I signed up to be an election worker myself. What's more, they assigned me to be not just a simple clerk, but an inspector. Clerks (4-6 per polling location) sit at the polling place and hand out ballots, collect ballots, check names off in the roster and street index, and so forth. Inspectors (1 per polling location) manage the clerks and deal with problems, collect election supplies from the county a week before the election, mark those who received absentee ballots on the roster of voters, set up the polling place before the election, clean up the polling place after the election, count the numbers of voted, voided, provisional, and unused ballots, and return the ballots and supplies to the county on election night.
Last week, I attended an hour-and-a-half training class (geared toward new election workers, whether clerk or inspector) that was at least not boring. However, the instructor got sidetracked on a number of less important issues, and I left without feeling that I had a firm grasp on the standard voting procedure. I'm planning to attend a second, optional, training class (geared toward inspectors only) this week.
On the positive side, the instructional papers they handed out are quite clear, thorough, and easy to follow. Many of them have flow charts, for instance if a person shows up at the polls to hand in a voted absentee ballot, you check whether the person is the voter or a designee for an ill or disabled voter, then you check whether the ballot is sealed in its envelope, whether it's signed, and it tells you what to do if the person did not bring the envelope back, etc. I've read through all this information twice, and will read it at least once more before the election.
Because I'm going to be at a polling place (but not my assigned place to vote) from 6:30 AM until after 8 PM on election day, I need to vote early. Early voting locations open today in California, and I'll go as soon as I figure out whether or not I'm voting for Bush. And so we're back to the beginning.