Early Voting Can Be Fun! And Crowded! And Confusing! Also, Troubling!

People are high on anxiety about this election already. And it’s not the election. It’s the deselection. That’s what’s got everybody crazy.

I got a call this morning from a gentlemen who'd just early-voted at Harry Stone Montessori. He said his voting machine tried to con him into voting for a judge in the wrong party.

Like this: He voted a straight ticket for one party. Then he wanted to deselect two judges he didn’t want to vote for. And he didn’t want to vote for the other party’s candidates. He didn't want anyone in those races.

But when he deselected the first one, the machine showed him with a check mark for the other party’s candidate in that race. He complained to the election judge, who, he says, told him the machine did that automatically. The voter told the election judge he didn’t believe it should. She came over and watched the voter deselect the second judge. That one stayed blank.

He deselected the first one again, and it stayed blank. The election judge shut down the machine.

I talked to Bruce Sherbet, Bruce Sherbet, Dallas County Elections Administrator, who said the machines are not supposed to flip a vote over to the opposing candidate when you deselect. “We have never seen a machine do that,” he says.

He said if you deselect, that slot should stay deselected. He suggested the only way the machine could have selected the opposing candidate would have been for the voter to touch the screen in the wrong place.

This whole thing about straight-ticket voting and deselection has been the subject of great confusion, paranoia and legitimate concern fueled by a campaign of e-mails, some of which were clearly deliberately confusing and aimed at voter suppression. At last week's Bill Clinton rally at Thomas Jefferson, voters were told that if they voted straight ticket, then went back to change individual votes, their votes would be tossed out entirely. Which may be true elsewhere, but not in Dallas County. And maybe you saw this story this morning -- the one headlined, "Texas may face polling place mishaps."

Here is the sign Sherbet has put up at all of his voting places in an effort to get the right story out.

Sherbet says yesterday was a first-day record-breaker for early voting – 34,000 votes versus the old record of 22,000. Today’s tally is taming down. It was 16,000 at noon, so it will probably surpass the old second day record of about 22,000, but not by as big a margin as yesterday.

Keep your eyes open and your fingers nimble, folks. It’s all about the touch. (I think the problem for people who vote at Montessori schools is making them use a computer. They should be allowed to use beads.) --Jim Schutze

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