I voted for the first time in Maryland today and boy, is it different than voting in Illinois. In the midwest we're restrained and low-key about electioneering. It's party time in Maryland though--and according to the nice gentleman who chatted with my sister and me while we were in line at the polling place--it can be raucous during a Presidential election. The first big difference was the huge crowd of people just hanging around outside the high school where I voted. As I passed through they pressed lots of election materials on me. I noted all materials were for democrat candidates. Oops. I didn't have the heart to tell them they were wasting their materials on me since I was shortly to vote in the Republican primary. Several very nice people let me take pictures of their t-shirts. The O'Malley/Brown t-shirt picture didn't come out straight which is a shame because the colors and graphics on it were great. (I'm the worst photographer ever, I begin to think.) But the Kwiese Mfume shirt looks super.
The usual array of signs ringed the parking lot. They're not really placed well--I found them hard to read since they all were situated in a different direction. Once inside the high school cafeteria--after we tried several doors to get in (they could put some better signage up on that front) we got in line to check in. Apparently the judges were accessing voter registration records electronically this year and this was a new experience for the judges. Previously they have used the big books that they had to thumb through. Now think about this--what is the average age of election judges based on your past experience? A month past ancient, right? They don't handle new technology very well, so the wait to check in was a few minutes. At the table I had to tell my party affliation. This is because it is a primary vote. Giving this information has never bothered me before since we actually have Republicans in Illinois. Apparently, Republicans are a much rarer breed in Baltimore County. I felt self-conscious and a bit embarrassed. I controlled the urge to tell the ladies that I had voted for Clinton--twice. I'm sorry about that now, no point in using it to win acceptance from strangers. One of the ladies verifying my registration suggested that I volunteer to be a judge since they don't have enough Republican volunteers. Hmm. I associate the job with an old person, so maybe I should volunteer just to bring down the median age. I have the day off since school is dismissed for elections in MD, another new thing for me. It's something to think about.
Meanwhile, I got my receipt and little card thingy to slide into the voting machine--touch screen voter machines here--how exciting. Previously I've only used the infamous punch card system. So after leaving the table with my little card I made my way to a machine. Apparently, this was wrong of me. I gather there was another line I was supposed to get into. Hey--nobody told me! There was an empty machine. I voted. I don't need assistance figuring out how to slide the card in and I can read so the directions were not a problem for me. Unfortunately, some other voters were a teeny bit irritated that I jumped the line. I reiterate--why did we need to be personally escorted to a machine? In Illinois you just went to an empty slot and voted. Is it the touch screen technology? Seems to me you should only have to wait for someone to escort you to a machine if you don't know what you are doing. It would definitely speed up the process, imo.
To pick up more story once more, I'm voting away like the happy little participant in democracy that I am, when Judy comes up to me and asks me how I got on that voting machine. I tell her it was empty and I took it. She chastises me and alerts me to the fact that I have jumped the line. This is distracting and upsetting. I am trying to vote here. Leave me alone! Frankly, she got me a little discombobulated by implying I had committed a grave error. I can hardly remember now how I voted. Usually I check over my ballot to make sure everything is just so but I rushed through that process and now I regret it. After I finished, I confessed my line jumping sin to the judge and she expressed surprise that I was able to successfully vote on the machine that I used because they thought it was broken. Okay--why no sign saying DO NOT USE? It's a moot point I guess since I was able to successfully register my vote, but still--signage is very helpful. So, I got my "I voted" sticker and got the heck out of Dodge.
Sheesh. I needed breakfast at McDonald's to recover from that. Food is a good reward for life's stressful experiences.