(Fwd) Some things that observers and challengers may actually do

Bob Sheridan bobsheridan at earthlink.net
Tue Nov 2 15:36:24 PST 2004

In San Francisco's Telegraph Hill neighborhood, I visited the polling 
place, a garage in someone's home, and presented my driver's license 
with photo - the first time I've ever done that, but I'd been reading 
these posts and didn't want to be taken by surprise.  The folks behind 
the desk looked up my name on their precinct sheets, found it, and had 
me sign the register next to my printed name.  They were ready for me, 
in other words.  I voted.  I stood in line behind exactly two people.  
The ballot was about five very long sheets in which you connected the 
broken arrow representing your choice using a black felt-tip pen 
embossed "Ballot Pen."  Then you fed your voting sheets into a machine 
which kept the whole of all of them.  But first, upon being handed the 
sheets, the poll worker had torn off the perforated top half-inch and 
handed this proof of voting to you.  And finally, on the way out, you 
were handed a sticker to paste onto your chest that says "I've already 
voted."  Your merit badge as it were.

I also see that voters in NYC are waiting 3  hours to vote.  I'm so glad 
I moved to SF so many years ago.

My question is to wonder how much of the voting qualification rigmarole 
could be taken care of in advance, such that on voting day anybody 
concerned about being challenged would have been precleared and able to 
prove it.  That could include whole blocs of voters disinclined to be 
challenged.  And since we vote for weeks and months in advance using 
absentee ballots, why does voting for the rest have to be all on one 
day?  Is that part of the magic of elections?


Volokh, Eugene wrote:

>Here's some feedback from an anonymous but reliable source, which seems
>to be consistent in some measure with Doug Laycock's and Ed Harnett's
>[H]ere is how it works, at least in [my state], where we have always had
>challengers, and no particular racial issues involved.  First, your
>challenger can look at the machine (old-style lever machines), make sure
>the counters are at 000, etc.  You certainly DON'T blindly trust the
>election officials, who may be shills for the other party, or just
>Then, you have worked the precinct, with the voter list, so you have a
>good idea who couldn't be found when you worked it.  If you go to a
>house showing Bob and Mary Jones and Sam and Alice Smith, and the
>Joneses say the Smiths moved away 7 years ago, you may want to challenge
>them if they show up.  If people are registered from a vacant lot, you
>may want to challenge.  If Bill, Mary and spot Anderson are registered,
>and you know that there are only the two of them, and spot is their dog,
>you may want to challenge Spot Anderson , if a 60-year old guy  shows
>up.  Etc.  30 years ago, I would send a registered letter to every
>questionable voter, so I could prove that the PO didn't think he lived
>there, when it came back undeliverable.  Etc., etc. 
>Given that procedures national vary so widely that in some places you
>rarely have to wait at all, while elsewhere, people thank nothing of
>waiting 30-60 minutes, it seems unlikely that a few moments to resolve
>challenges (which can be done off-line) is excessive. 
>In most states, the MOST that a challenger can actually do, without the
>support of the election judges, is to require that a "challenged ballot"
>be cast, the exact analog of the "provisional ballots" required by HAVA.
>You let everyone have a provisional ballot, so no one is denied , if
>they are legit, and can be sorted out later.  You allow "challenged
>ballots" so that no one gets a free illegal vote, as it can be sorted
>out later.
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