Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

I have seen the future of voting...

Fresh when it gets here from Julie Barrett
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

...and it almost works!

Our county is one of several the state of Texas is using for a pilot program.  The gist of the idea is that a county resident can vote anywhere in the county. Now give this a little thought. Normally you have to vote in your precinct to be sure you're voting for the right elections. Our city spans two US Congressional districts, and multiple Texas Congressional districts. The county encompasses several municipalities - which may or may not be holding elections for various posts. In the old school way of voting, you got a ballot for your precinct, punched the card, and left. This necessitated voting in your precinct. Paul works about a 20 minute drive from here, just over the county line. He could leave early, fight the traffic at the local elementary school, find a space several blocks away, or take off when it's convenient and vote at the fire station about five minutes from his office. Gosh, which do you think he'd rather do?

Well, the way precincts are laid out here, I have to walk or drive to the closest elementary school. That's not a big deal; I've done it plenty of times. But there's a middle school a block and a half from here, near places I could also stop to shop if I were so inclined. Why can't I vote there? During some elections our closest precinct polling place is closed and we have to go to the middle school almost two miles away. That wasn't a big deal when Chris was attending, but, why not vote closer to where I live?

That's what this pilot program is all about. My cunning plan was to take off after lunch, but I got hung up with some work and a phone call. I took off after dinner. In the dark. On the east side of town. Cue the scary music. I probably walked past houses populated by Hispanics, African-Americans, and - oh, the horror! - Irish and Methodists! The fact that I lived to tell the tale says something about how dangerous this neighborhood isn't.

I had planned to get a couple of pictures, but my compact camera was on the desk and my cell phone battery had died. Drat.

I got to the school and presented my drivers license. The lady ahead of me was talking about voter fraud. Since I came in late to the conversation I have no idea what point she was trying to make - if she was trying to make one at all. I was busy getting verified to vote. The lady at the computer needed an extra moment to get my precinct. Apparently they hadn't had a lot of voters from other precincts. I pointed out how cool it was that I got to vote because this place was so much closer than my regular polling place. That put a smile on her face. The process was working.

She called my precinct number out to the lady programming the cards for the voting machine. At that point the lady ahead of me turned and mentioned that the machine was throwing an error that the card had already voted. And, as she pointed out, here she had been talking about voter fraud! She took it all in good humor as they programmed her another card so she could vote.

I voted, handed over the card, and walked home. Missed out on a couple of good photo opportunities - a lovely full moon and a "YOUR SPEED IS" sign. Ah, well.

A few houses from mine I encountered a couple of high school students still wearing their backpacks. I'm not sure if they came from the senior high or if they'd been at a friend's house. It gave me pause to wonder: If the school district redraws the boundary lines so students in our neighborhood have to go to Murphy to high school, what will this mean? Walking is right out - especially when it gets dark this early, and even moreso when it's cold or rainy. Just wondering how it will affect kid in this neighborhood...

Oh, gosh. I forgot to mention something: As part of the pilot program the county has a new page that shows polling locations. This is so cool. You can find the location nearest you or sort the list by several columns. The show the status of the location and the wait time. Click on the name of the location and it brings up a map. This is how I like to see my tax dollars at work!


Filed under: Life            


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