When I was a kid, on Election Day, my parents would sometimes take me inside the voting booth to see what went on. Back then, there were mechanical voting machines, with a lever for each candidate. Push the lever, see the little ‘X’ pop up, and when you were finished, swing over the big red lever, and all the little ‘X’s would disappear into the belly of the machine, and your vote would be recorded. It felt simple, sure, positive.
It isn’t really fair to call that a childhood memory, since the same machines remained in service until about five years ago. In 2009, a new system went into service, in which one would mark one’s votes on a paper ballot, and then feed it into a scanner. It was really clunky: if you wanted your ballot to really be secret, you would have to slip it into a folder after filling it out, and then deftly pass it into the scanner so that nobody could see your votes. The scanner would then cogitate for half a minute or so before accepting the ballot. Still, it seemed more modern than the old machines.
This year, we will elect a new Mayor, which means that there will be primary elections in September. If there is no clear winner for each party, there will be a runoff election shortly after.
These elections will be conducted on the old voting machines, because the election officials insist that it would not be possible to certify the results of the primary election, establish the need for a runoff, and then reconfigure the system should a runoff be necessary, in three weeks. (It’s normally two weeks, but that day would fall on the Jewish holiday Sukkos, so the runoff was pushed a week later.)
So we’re back to the future with our old voting machines.
Now, if there were only a candidate that I’d actually want to vote for….