View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Early Voting 

Election Day is over for me. At least as a voter. I took advantage of Denver's early voting system, traipsing down to the local grocery, King Sooper, to vote this afternoon. If convenience gets any more complicated, I may never vote again.

I live in an area with a large number of ex-Soviet immigrants, and all evidence is that the system was designed to make them feel at home (the absence of a Russian-speaking election official notwithstanding). I asked the woman in front of me, a nice old Jewish immigrant whose house I walk the dog past every day, whether the Russians were getting a 2-for-1 special today. "Three-for-one," she said, just like in Russia. Just so long as they didn't let them count the votes, too.

First, you fill out a little blue form, show your ID, and the nice lady who's been doing this since the Gold Rush writes down your name and sends you to the second line. The fact that you get to the table first is no guarantee that you'll actually finish first. It's kind of a reality-TV show test, who can write their names out legibly the fastest.

The second line takes you to the Election Judges who, laptops at the ready, look up your name to make sure you're registered. That's great if they can read. The Nice Lady from 1859 re-wrote my name since she didn't think my handwriting was legible enough. The Nice Election Judge still thought it said, "SHARP." I've got my Social Security Number, my Driver's License Number, and my birthday on the form, and he stares at it like a side-dish he hadn't ordered, no doubt afraid he was going to have to give me a provisional ballot. I had him try again. Paydirt.

On to the third line. The one where you actually vote. You hand them the little slip with your precinct number on it (really, the ballot configuration) and into the little box you go.

When I arrived, there were lots of people in the third line, a fair number of people in the second line, and no waiting for Little Blue Slips. By the time I left, the Russians had backed up the second line, the Lady from Conestoga was struggling to keep up with the new arrivals, and as a result, there was nobody actually waiting to vote.

There are some very simple operations management principles at play here, mostly having to do with throughput and bottle-necks. By creating bottle-necks at the sign-in point, the geniuses who've let this system evolve (it can't have been designed), virtually guarantee that voting machines will shut down from boredom. There simply aren't enough people manning the check-in stations to keep things moving, and there's no use blaming it on the confused old woman from Minsk who doesn't understand "register." ("I can wote now? I wote? I go wote?")

I can only hope that they've got things a little more ironed out by November 2.

Blogarama - The Blog Directory
help Israel
axis of weevils
contact us
site sections