Normal Country. Functional Democracy.


Man voting in Georgia is so different than in Illinois. When I lived in chicago, during early voting, I went to the local elementary school, waited in line about ten minutes, and they gave me a sheet of paper. I checked people off then I put it in the machine and left.

Not Georgia. We drove downtown because every other polling place had a line >90 minutes. We paid ten bucks to park. We went in the building, then emptied out pockets to go through a metal detector. We then saw a sign about where to park to get our parking validated. Inside.

We then waited in line ~80 minutes. We got to the end and we were given a form to fill out (?). We were told not to sign it until told. Then we were moved into a waiting room where we were given a ticket number, like when you are at the dmv.

We were told to get our IDs out and wait. We waited here for 15-20 minutes. When your number is called they took your form, did some stuff on the computer, then told you to sign the form. Then you get a little green card. You insert it into the machine.

Then you go through three or four prompts, including a very serious™ warning about perjury, a totally necessary warning given how huge a problem stolen identity is for the purposes of voting on behalf of someone else.

You then finally vote, and after an "are you sure" prompt you get a sheet. You then have to walk the sheet over to feed it into a machine. About half of these were working.

The bottleneck was clearly the weird application and waiting room thing. There are two dozen people at a time sitting to have their stuffed checked. Think of it as regular voting except when you got there they had to run a credit check for each person like you need financing.

It was easier finishing my PhD paperwork. Thankful for the kind people (nearly all black women) the shepherded the processes. But man if you are poor or disabled or whatever, good luck yo. That should have been easier. We finished tho.

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45 Responses:

  1. Simon Lucy says:

    Access to voting is part of the right to vote (obviously).

  2. ooh I like the screenshot of the post! I assume its autogenerated?

  3. Ron Gilbert says:

    In Seattle ballots are mailed to everyone and we drop them in a box at the library (or put them back in the mail). I can't imagine living somewhere without this.

    • jwz says:

      San Francisco doesn't do that by default, you have to sign up (once), but I have been voting by mail forever and am horrified at the idea of having to do it in person. You can also have them email you once your ballot has been processed.

      • the wildest part as a WA voter was when I moved during a voting window.

        I updated my DoL address, checked a box, and was told "you'll get a new ballot by voting day. It'll be a different color, but only you'll know it was a late delivery".

        I had already gotten my old ballot forwarded by USPS. I'd changed districts and even cities, but 4 days later a new ballot showed up for me and I was able to vote and see that my old ballot had been marked as no longer eligible for counting.

  4. Bill says:

    It's really when weird when Illinois is the high bar for voting.

    • granville says:

      It's not really true or accurate. Cook County shut down a massive number of polling stations this year and sent people to new ones even when their old one was still open. One hour waits were pretty common. It was actually said by a few pundits that if this was Georgia, we'd file lawsuits for voter suppression.As it is nobody can really figure out why it was so (predictably) chaotic, with people getting half ballots and the like. You'd think pro-incumbent machine politics, but even most aldermen are not running again (local elections in Chicago itself are off-off-year which is itself a neat voter suppression trick; we vote for mayor & city council in February 2023).

      Here's one report and keep in mind this was a 2 hour delay on the last day of early voting.

    • Elusis says:

      No, Washington State is the high bar for voting.  100% absentee ballot, everyone who's registered to vote gets one, they do signature verification with your voter record but you get notice to "cure" your ballot if there's any issue.  That's still far from perfect and I'm sure Our Host and others will be SHOCKED to know that

      In the 2020 general election, voters aged 18-21 had their ballots rejected at a rate 10 times higher than voters over 40, the lawsuit says, citing state data. In the same election, Latino, Black and Asian voters found their ballots rejected at about double the rate of white voters’ ballots. Active-duty military ballots were rejected at nearly double the rate of nonmilitary voters’ ballots.

      But boy is it way better than Illinois or Georgia.  Fun fact: our voter participation is relatively high.

      • Jim says:

        Do you mean high bar or low bar? I'm always confused as to whether we are doing hurdles or the limbo.

        • Karellen says:


          The confusion, I think, comes from whether you're looking at the bar as someone trying to vote, in which case it's a low bar; or whether you're looking at the bar as a standard for other voting precincts to attain/exceed, in which case it's a high bar.

      • Jason McHuff says:

        Oregon does this too, and also automatically registers everyone who gets an ID

  5. CharlieG says:

    Jeeze. Voting in Australia: Go to the local primary school. Eat a fundraising sausage while waiting in line for a few minutes. Get name crossed off electoral roll by officials employed by impartial electoral commission. Get ballot papers and pencil. Vote. Another sausage.

  6. abhijith says:

    Feels so lucky to be born at a place where workers of all the parties would let us know when there is less crowd would hand water or juice while waiting in line and if you are old, will even arrange for travel to the voting booth.

  7. In Oregon we receive our ballot in the mail, along with a voter's guide describing the candidates and measures to vote on. We fill it out anytime and can return it at a drop box or by mailing it before voting day. Postage is free. Fraud is non-existent. It's a beautiful system.

  8. o.o says:

    I've voted in Atlanta proper since 2000 and I'd like to welcome pearl clutching Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.  Disabled voters get priority, what he's describing as a "credit check" is ID verification that doesn't take more than a couple of minutes, tops, and the ballot machines are not new.  Lines for this Senate runoff have been crazy everywhere during early voting, way more so than during the general a couple of weeks ago.  Isn't more voter participation what we want?

    • jwz says:

      I don't have to put on pants to vote. If you want to increase voter participation, that's how you do it.

      Fun fact: many people do not want to increase voter participation.

    • 2

      Couple of minutes!?!

      Wow.  Just by itself that's crazy pants.  If we took a "couple of minutes" per voter to check them in, no wonder the lines would stretch out the door.

      What can possibly take "a couple of minutes" to validate, in this year of our Lord 2022?

      (And putting a polling place inside a metal detector ought to be a nonstarter.  Seriously?!)

  9. Michael says:

    Looking from the outside in, this is just really weird to see. I didn’t had any high opinion about most of the American system since I lived there for a year in the ‘90s, but to see it degrade even further is just.... tragic?

    • volkris says:

      From my perspective, from the 90s on we saw this big push toward improving the voting process through better engineered equipment.

      It wasn't an unreasonable goal.

      The problem was (is) that the politicians and institutions charged with that responsibility were utterly unqualified and unequipped to actually do it. We handed authority to people who had no idea how to use that authority, even assuming good faith.

      And so we had round after round of voting machines that were just awful start to finish, with user interfaces that were just baffling, and cases where every cycle saw departments of elections throw out all of the last round's equipment only to buy brand new, hopefully better equipment, an admission that the previous round screwed up but This Time Will Be Different.

      It all came across to me as the third rate politicians and well-connected bureaucrats who had been put in charge having no idea what to buy, but going for whatever slick sales pitch came across their desk.

      To be clear, I don't discount actual, intentional screwing with the vote, but like I said, even assuming good faith, the people running these programs seemed completely incompetent and unable to actually make the transition to better systems that we as a voting population bought, literally and figuratively.

      It degraded in part because of botched execution of physical technology.

      • granville says:

        Relevant to this thread, there's a guy who created a music project with obsolete voting machines, some of which were still in use 2 years ago during the last Georgia runoff.

      • Paper and pencil and optical scan.

        Yes, it's not /quite/ that simple: you still have back-office summation from the precincts, and ballot marking devices for accessibility.  We also have a printed list of every registered voter to verify eligibility.  If you keep your precincts small and local, the nice folks working the polling places know a lot of the voters by sight for extra security.

        But seriously: you don't need a lot of crazy technology for this.

      • Doctor Memory says:

        I would say that the specific problem was that the goal was not "improve the voting process."  Doing that is something that would require, you know, studying how various countries around the world have conducted votes, and deciding what parts of the process we want to optimize.

        As far as I can tell, the actual goal was much more reactive: "make sure that the 2000 Florida recount never happens again."  (Maybe with a soupçon of "figure out a way to spend less money maintaining electromechanical voting machines.) And if your goal is literally "never again the dangling chad" then it's really easy to think "touchscreens will save us all" and well funny story about how that all worked out.

        (Having now spent several years volunteering as a poll worker in NY state, my personal opinion is that every step away from marking a large X in a single box is a step away from god's grace, that systems which separate the act of voting from the act of having your vote recorded are an abomination, and that anyone who wants to propose a whizbang-cool-wowzo new election system, be it RCV, IRV, Condorcet or whatever the fuck, should be required to explain that system to an entire roomful of 18 and 81 year old immigrants who speak English as their third language, because if you cannot do that what you have created is not an improvement, it is a barrier.)

        • volkris says:

          Well, the first concrete example that springs to my mind is HAVA, and you can see in the law that yes, replacement of punch card systems is specifically part of the act, but there was an awful lot more to the law than just them.

          In just the first title, of the $650,000,000 appropriated from the federal government, half was to go toward replacing punch card systems, but the other half was to go toward all sorts of other things, ranging from voter education through buying other voting systems that didn't replace punch cards.

          I believe in my precincts we never had punch card voting systems, but there were new voting machines every cycle. I might misremember that, though, since it was so long ago.

          And, of course, changing the voting machine every cycle carries its own issues of familiarizing voters with brand new interfaces every time.

  10. John Styles says:

    Just to check, you do all realise this is not normal in "developed" countries? I mean, I have in 40 years voting never seen a queue out the door. I guess 50% of the time there hasn't been a queue.

    • AntaBaka says:

      Germany here. I think I had three people in front of me once when I bothered to show up in person. I usually vote by mail though.

      Which is convenient and easy. You get a notification by mail about the upcoming election and included in that notification is a pre-paid return envelope and a sheet to request by-mail voting. Shortly afterwards you receive your voting stuff, complete it and send it back again (pre-paid envelope again). Done.

      But of course voter registration is done differently outside the US and that's a cornerstone on how to do efficient elections, I guess. If you are a citizen, above voting age and have a registered address, that's where the stuff is sent to.

      • AntaBaka says:

        Forgot to add: No voting machines. You check a box (or several) on a piece of paper. Votes are tallied by hand. Voting districts are small enough to have numbers counted latest during the night.

        Also, no gerrymandering. While the districts aren't perfect squares (roads and city boundaries rarely are aligned in a grid here), they are quite coherent (Example for Frankfurt:

        Voting is always done on a sunday. That way schools can be used as voting stations. Since there are many schools available in each voting district, several are used. Berlin has 431 such voting places in schools for example. Basically, if you want to vote in person, you just have to walk (or drive) to the nearest school and have your election notication and your ID ready.

        Oh yeah, having a personal ID card really speeds a lot of things up, but I understand that the US does not do that.

        • ratkins says:

          Also note that Berlin screwed up its recent election so badly (people couldn’t get to polling places because there was a marathon happening on voting day, among other things) the court has called a mulligan and the whole thing has to be re-done next year.

          • This is really not very dissimilar to how voting is done in the northeast US, Massachusetts in my example.  We don't have election days on the weekend (alas) but we still use schools; the kids just don't get to use their gym that day.  We have vote by mail now, we use optical scan to tally the votes by precinct in the precinct on election day.  We do have gerrymandering, though.

      • Big says:

        Australia checking in.

        We queue up longer for our democracy sausage than we do to vote.

        • dzm says:

          Democracy Sausage (well, food and water in general) are now illegal to hand out to people in a queue to vote in some states. Or at least in Georgia and to a lesser extent in New York and Montana. [obligatory Snopes link]

          It's a shame Democracy Sausage isn't a civic tradition that has caught on in less mad states. I think it's a great tradition and helps civic participation seem like something fun and to be looked forward to rather than a chore that needs to be persevered through (plus also your RCV and compulsory participation and voting days happening on weekends).

    • volkris says:

      FWIW, living a few places in the US, mostly in southern states, I've never seen such a queue either.

      A lot of it may come down to how local officials conduct the process, and I always encourage people to figure out who screwed up and hold them accountable, however they can.

    • phuzz says:

      Here in the UK I've had short queues (5-10 mins) before, but only when I've turned up either just before, or just after work. As far as I know you can only vote in your designated polling place, but there's rarely a big queue (and it makes the news if there's any where with a queue longer than an hour).
      No ID required here though, you just walk up, tell them your name and address, and you get handed a ballot card. Somehow we don't seem to have much of a problem with voter fraud, although that's not stopped the Tories from pushing for mandatory voter ID, with some 'interesting' choices of what ID would be allowed.

      • tfb says:

        From next year voter ID will be mandatory in the UK.  The fascists, oh, I'm sorry, the tories, who are not at all like fascists (apart from the whole being-fascists thing), will lie that this is because of fraud: there were 33 reported cases of 'personation' in the UK in the 2019 general election of which one led to a conviction.  Yes: one.  In trials of voter ID in 2018/2019 more than 1000 people were turned away for lacking ID and did not return.  Overwhelmingly the people who lack ID will be young and/or poor and/or not white, helped by the requirements for ID being explicitly biased towards the kinds of ID old white people have. How convenient for the tories: the average age of a tory party member is 84 (I made this up: it's really 72).

        The US may be more fucked than the UK, but the UK is still fucked.

        • phuzz says:

          And in case anyone thinks "requirements for ID being explicitly biased towards [old people]" is hyperbole, they are allowing an OAP railcard (for over-60's), but not allowing a young person's railcard, even though there is no difference between them except the text saying "60+ London" vs "18+".
          The good news is, even with measures like this, they're unlikely to win the next election (I really fucking hope so anyway). The bad news is that they can wait as long as January 2025 before calling one.

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