it’s been almost 24 hours since the polls closed here and probably closer to 24 hours since the media proclaimed clintonthe winner in california. i was planning on rushing home and giving a big blog post about my day at the polls, but i was cranky, tired, and frothing at the mouth about the whole electoral process. the fact that they were reporting clinton winning this state before i had a chance to deliver my ballots was just a great way to cap off the day. it made me wonder if i had just wasted the previous 14 hours and that none of my precinct’s votes mattered.
yesterday just showed to me how poor voter outreach has been in the state of california. my precinct wasn’t beset with all the problems of some other precincts in alameda county, but things definitely could have been smoother. the biggest issue i saw was a lack of knowledge in the electorate of rules for voting in a primary. california’s weird “modified closed primary” only added to the problems. lots of people were upset that they were registered with one party and therefore unable to vote in another party’s primary. many people registered as green wanted to vote democratic. i tried to explain to them, as nicely as possible, that in primaries you get the ballot of the party you registered (if registered partisan), but many seemed confused.
“i voted democratic in 2006, doesn’t that count?” i tried to explain that in general elections (like the 2006 midterm), you can vote for anybody regardless of your party affiliation. “but i voted for feinstein.” that’s great, you’re still registered green! actually, the saddest cases to me were the people who registered as american independents but probably wanted decline-to-state/non-partisan. we’d give them the a.i. ballot and they would ask if they could vote for the democrats. i tried to explain that in california there is the independent party, and that’s how they registered, but that seemed to confuse them more. in the end, for anybody who was dead set on voting in the primary but lacked proper party affiliation (or lack thereof), i gave them provisional ballots. at least that way their votes on the propositions and local measures will count.
i think a lot of the problems people had stemmed from a lack of knowledge about the system, which the state (or at least the county) should have taken some steps to correct. the secretary of state’s website made sense if you’re pretty familiar with election terminology, but the average voter isn’t, nor are they going to take the time to sift through pages to find their answer. that’s assuming they would take the time to look on the website. most likely they will search the internet and find misinformation in some random person’s blog, and then tell their friends, and the whole cycle continues. i know from working in libraries that just having information around doesn’t mean people will find or read it. i wish the state did a big more than just print the party affiliation abbreviation on the back of your sample ballot in the midst of a page full of text. perhaps if they made it easier for lazy people to double check their registration and possibly change it.
i have more to talk about, but i’ll do it tomorrow.