Okay, of course the second part of that title is a joke. It should be assumed, but I need to say it explicitly or the right-wingers will use this blog as evidence of voter fraud from the Obama camp. So, here's the real title: "Vote Early, but only once."
About 30 states now have "early voting" in which certain poling places are opened up in the week(s) preceding the official election day. I love this. As much as I usually love to experience the excitement of the "real" election day, I love expanding democracy even more. And having at least a full week for citizens to cast their votes is having a tremendous effect on turn-out this year. Regardless of who wins (or which ballot propositions pass), this is a good thing for our democracy.
I went yesterday, to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, in San Jose, California. It was fairly well organized; could have been a little better, but could have been a lot worse. On arrival I was asked to take a number; number 74. They were calling number 24 at that time.
This was much better than standing in line, as we got to sit around the lobby of the building. Not the most comfortable seating, but better than standing. It took about 40 minutes for them to process the 50 people ahead of me and call 74.
Once my number was called, it still was not time to vote. That's just to talk to the counter clerk, who punches your name and address into the computer to verify your registration. They then order up your ballot. (Santa Clara County is fairly large, with several cities, and school districts, etc., so there are dozens of possible ballots based on your specific address).
It took about another 15 minutes, waiting back out in the lobby, till another clerk appeared with a box of absentee ballots and called out my name. We could either take the ballot home with us and vote by mail, or use one of the booths to mark our ballot there and return it immediately. I chose to vote there.
After marking the ballot, I put it in the slot, and peeked into the back room where it looked to be about 25 or 30 people sorting and processing the voted ballots. Remember the scene from the original movie version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where Veruca Salt's father is having all the peanut shellers opening up chocolate bars? Picture that with absentee ballots and you have an idea of the operation.
All-in-all, a very interesting experience, and a great satisfaction to have this done with, so I can ignore all the political ads for the next week. On the news they said that they expect 1/3 of the votes cast nationwide to be done through early voting, but yesterday, I think they said they'd already processed 30% of the expected vote locally.
The whole thing took just a little over an hour, altogether. Considering the crowds expected at polling places next Tuesday, if you can get your voting done early, I highly recommend it. Especially if you've moved or are a first time voter, or have any other reason to question whether or not you'll have any trouble at the polls.
For those keeping score, on the partisan offices I voted for two Democrats (including Barack Obama), one Republican (yes, really!), and one Green. NO on 4 & 8.