I voted early this past Sunday afternoon at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Headquarters. This was my first time voting in person (I voted absentee last time around).
The board opened the early voting flood gates at 1pm – Euclid Avenue was lined with local candidates, advocates, opponents, media and voters. I arrived shortly after as the outdoor crowd subsided and transformed into the line that I waited on to vote.
It took about 45 minutes. During that time, I thought a lot about the process. It’s an incredible operation and the board has it down to a science. There was a real order to the chaos; all the lines diverged and guided people to different areas of the building and election volunteers and workers were there at every turn with a smile on their face to facilitate it.
In the half hour wait to the voting room, I stood in line with a lovely couple and their 10-year-old granddaughter whom they had brought along to experience the voting process.
We talked about everything from how Cleveland had changed over the past 50 years, to how excited they were that I chose to move here from college in NY, to the Cavs and Indians, to their skepticism of the aging voting machines. When we talked about voting, they took turns explaining to their granddaughter the different aspects of the election – from tabulation to why she couldn’t vote despite so patiently waiting in line with us. At the end of the line, I asked the granddaughter what she thought of all of this and she replied eloquently:
“it takes too long!”
After handing in my forms and validating my registration status, another 9 minutes had passed, 44 minutes in. And it’s fair to note the prominence of long lines generally in this election; this is not simply my individual experience within the confines of Cleveland, Ohio. My family back in NYC waited just shy of an hour and voters across the the country – from North Carolina, to Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and other battleground states – waited in hour-long lines.
I took my unmarked ballot and unsealed envelope to the first available voting booth I could find.
Capturing Voter Intent
As I filled in my ballot, two neighboring voters asked me about how to properly fill theirs out. With one of them, at her request and sacrificing her voter privacy, we actually went through her entire ballot together to ensure she had marked it as she intended. While the instructions are posted at every station detailing not only the proper way to mark a ballot but also information about under-voting and over-voting, I can empathize with how confusing it can be.
I was only 7 years old when hanging chads hit the Florida Supreme Court, but I now better understand why the issue of voter intent arose as such a prominent issue. It’s easy see how paper ballots may not capture with complete accuracy the intent of voters – albeit working with a sample size of only three people (including myself).
I walked out, proud to have voted, grateful to all of the volunteers and workers who made it possible, and most importantly, excited that I hopefully won’t ever again have to wait on that line to do so. I keep thinking how awesome it was that the granddaughter was able to experience this process at the age she did – in 8 years when she votes through her phone in the 2024 election, from the comfort and privacy of her home, with assured voter intent, she’ll appreciate the option of having a modern, mobile and secure method of voting that much more.