Today was my first experience voting in my new neighborhood. I’d voted in the Heights for the past 17 years or so, but I didn’t expect today to be any different except for the location change. That wasn’t the case.
I walked up to the table to register, showing my Texas driver license as I always do. I don’t typically carry my voter registration card because it isn’t the right size to keep in my wallet, and a Texas DL is an acceptable form of voter identification (as are much less unique items such as a utility bill or bank statement, things that can easily be lifted from someone’s mailbox).
After I’d signed my name in the voter log, the man checking me in asked if I had my voter registration card on me. I said that I didn’t, and he turned to get “the form.” I then noticed the man at the table next to him was looking at the folded up sheet in my hand (it was my list for the voting booth). I jerked my paper back, and the second man asked if that was my voter registration card. I said it wasn’t and asked what the problem was, stating that I always just use my Texas DL to vote. The second man said, “You can still vote,” to which I replied, “Oh, I know I can.” The second man put a check mark next to my name in the voter log while the man who’d checked me in wrote my name at the top of a form. I asked what this was about, and the second man said, “It’s something new. We’re always trying to improve the system.” Uh huh.
I voted and then came to work, having a good 20 or 30 minutes to stew about this in the car. On the one hand, I was able to vote, so it wasn’t like they kept me from doing what I came there to do. On the other hand, why did they put a mark next to my name in the voter log and write my name on a form? Especially when, being the anal-retentive person I am, I’d checked the Harris County website yesterday to be sure that a Texas DL was okay on its own. If they were keeping track of who had their voter registration card on their person for curiosity’s sake, they could have put a hash mark on a piece of paper. There is no reason they needed to know specific names. And I’m sure that a number of people won’t have their cards on them today, so that list would get pretty long and cause unnecessary delays.
I took a quick poll at work to see if anyone else had been asked for their voter registration card – 50% offered it up before being asked and 50% only presented their Texas DL. No one in my poll had been asked for their card after offering up their driver license. So what gives? Is this simply a case of two volunteers not understanding the process? If so, I shudder to think what other mistakes they are making today.
After my poll, I contacted County Clerk Beverly Kaufman’s office to let them know about this. They asked for a description of the two men – old white guys – and said they’d make sure to let them know that they weren’t following procedure.
I call shenanigans.
UPDATE (4:15PM) – I just received a call back from Beverly Kaufman’s office. The woman I spoke with this morning said that they contacted the polling place to find out what was going on. Seems there are some voters who have a little “ID Required” next to their name. The poll workers were instructed that if those people came in, their names should be placed on a list. She said the poll workers mistakenly thought that people who came in with only an ID (and not a voter card) should be put on a list. That’s basically the polar opposite of what was supposed to happen and pretty counter-intuitive to the entire voting process. You have to wonder how long this went on before they figured it out – I would imagine that backed the line up quite a bit.
It sounds to me like the volunteers didn’t understand the basic voting process, whether from lack of training or their own limitations. Remember that when I questioned them, one man told me they were “trying something new,” which obviously wasn’t the case. Accidents happen and mistakes are made, but this is a pretty odd thing to be confused by. And you want to limit confusion at polling places, or much bigger issues start to arise (see: Florida, 2000).
It also brings up another issue – who among us has an “ID Required” next to their name, and why? I “jokingly” asked if I have an “ID required” next to my name, and she said I do not. But I wonder if I might get an asterisk or something after today…