Voting is one of the few things here at UnBeige we don’t do together. Therefore, I’ll be speaking for myself while I participate in the Polling Place Photo Project.
Here in LA we don’t have many of the other obstacles that may prevent other people from voting properly. No inclement weather: yesterday’s high of 95 shattered a 108-year record, it was a balmy 74 when I went to vote at 7:30am. As far as I knew, we had none of the technical issues that were causing problems for some counties in Ohio and Indiana already. We do, however, have two lanes closed due to construction on one of the busiest roads in or out of Hollywood. So in typical Los Angeles fashion, you might drive the two blocks to the polling station to save time but end up spending 30 minutes in the car. I walked.
My polling place is Belmont Village. Before you start saying that every building in Los Angeles looks like a retirement home, it’s important to know that this is a retirement home. Not overall a bad place to vote except for a frightening banner strung up on the third story which pictures a white-haired woman playing an electric guitar and the line “You partied like a rock star. Now it’s Mom’s turn.”
Walking through the courtyard, I stepped into a very small room with four booths (one for wheelchairs), one audio booth and three volunteers behind a folding table. One handed out ballots and manned a large black box that checks ballots to make sure they’re marked properly, one crossed your name out with a red pencil once you’d been given a ballot, and the last person asked you to sign beside your name on the approved voters list.
I was a little nervous about being on the list. For the past two years, the city of Los Angeles has had a hard time understanding where I live. In August of 2004 I moved from one side of Hollywood to the other, and although I’d sent in my change of address form, when I went to the polling place for my new address, I was not on the list. They said they could let me vote anyway but it might not be counted. The next election, I went to my old polling place first, and–you guessed it–I was on the list. This year I’d filled out another change of address form, and although I’d mailed it in a full week before the deadline, I was not on the list. I was, however, in the blue “provisional” supplement. I signed, got my ballot and stepped over to a booth.
Knowing my California state law prohibits photography within 100 feet of a polling place, I voted first, then turned my camera’s flash off and snapped a money shot of the InkaVote Plus situated in a Pollstar booth.
I handed my ballot to the man at the InkaVote Precinct Ballot Reader, the big black box which would check for mistakes. Approved, I asked if I could take a photo of the room. The man answered, with much uncertainty, no, I couldn’t. (I suppose I’m technically a journalist and could have argued my case, but that often leads to someone asking for my “credentials,” and the best that I could come up with once was a magazine with an article in it by me.) Then the man who had checked me in then asked if I had signed next to my name. I said I had and he said, “Oh, good, because we had two people who didn’t sign next to their names this morning.” Oh, good.
I’m not sure exactly what the photographs from today’s experiment will show, or if photographs are indeed the best way to illustrate the voting experience. But today certainly made me more aware of what kind of machine I was voting on, how different it is in every city across the country, and, most troubling, the enormously vast margin of error. The only thing that’s standardized in the entire democratic process is the ‘I Voted’ sticker. Seems they have no trouble getting those printed and distributed to every polling place in America, so why not a decently designed voting process, too?
Upload your voting photos to the Polling Place Photo Project.