The registrar did not ask me whether I wanted paper, but when I saw her circle "E" I hastily told her "I want a paper ballot". She looked momentarily surprised, but recovered quickly, scribbled over the "E" and marked "P". They didn't offer a pen, but I had brought one so I didn't ask.
Then came the wait. They had four or five touchscreen machines, but only one booth (made from a cardboard box) for paper voters, already occupied. The ballot is long (in fact, there are two paper ballots, each 2-sided) so it takes quite a while to finish it. That was fine, because it gave me a chance to hear that they began asking the people registering behind me whether they wanted paper or electronic. They often had to explain the difference to voters who had no idea what the options were, which didn't sound easy; they were very patient about helping people understand the options and didn't try to brush anyone off. Roughly half of the people there chose paper.
Voting was straightforward except that the booth's ledge was very low (for wheelchair access; the voter ahead of me was in a wheelchair). I probably should have grabbed a chair.
While I was marking my paper ballot, I heard a woman who was having a lot of trouble getting the touchscreen machine to work. The pollworker worked with her for quite a while. I think they eventually straightened it out; it sounded like maybe she had to press really hard to get it to register her votes.
When I had finished, my ballot went straight into a box, no provisional envelopes or anything like that. Paper voters get a different sticker, not the new "I voted, touchscreen" sticker (so I don't get to draw a circle-slash with a Sharpie like I'd planned).
Reports I hear from other Santa Clara county voters: most have been asked "electronic or paper?" and I haven't heard any reports of provisional envelopes or other weirdness. Many who voted paper report people voting outside booths; in one case no booth was available, and paper voters sat at a folding table. There wasn't much privacy on the machines either, though: they don't have much of a wing to hide the screen from onlookers, so if you wanted to snoop on someone's votes, it's not difficult.
All in all, I was pleased with how easy it was to vote with paper, with the competence of the poll workers, and with how many people chose the paper option.
[ 12:44 Nov 02, 2004 More politics/election04 | permalink to this entry | ]