Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Letter: iPods Not Allowed in Voting Places? Nope.

Hi Steve,

There was a bit of a line this morning at Culpeper Gardens where I cast my vote this morning, so I pulled out my ipod to pass the time in line. One of the poll workers told me it was "against the law" to listen to an iPod at the polls as I could be "getting outside instructions from someone." I failed to see how this was possible with a self contained mp3 player and asked if he was joking. He was not. Nevertheless, I put it away, but I and several others in line questioned whether this was really true. I looked the list of things you can't do posted outside the polling place, and all it says is that you can't try to influence anyone else's vote. Nothing prohibiting electronic devices inside the polling place. It would be one thing if I were talking on my cell phone inside the polling place but I wasn't.

I'm tempted to call the Arlington Board of Elections and ask them if I have time today. Have you ever heard of this? It sounds preposterous to me.

Dan Falsenheld

Dan, I called for you, and spoke with Jack Nickerson at the county's Office of Voter Registration.

“You can’t have a cell phone or anyting once you’re inside the polling place," he said, adding that the election official probably did the right thing, shutting down all electronic devices since it is tough to tell which transmit information, and which are just players.

Listening while standing in line outside would probably be fine, Mr. Nickerson said, but once you're inside, the head phones have to come off. --ST

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Dear BHT:

Love the blog. Keep the posts coming. I was a poll worker at Culpepper Gardens last Tuesday but I was not the election officer that gave the instructions to turn off iPods. I took training the previous Saturday and they specifically stated that iPods are allowed (as long as they were used with headphones). All I can say is the election officers aren't perfect but they mean well. In fact - they are the people that make voting possible (on nominal pay I might add!).

The real issue you should highlight is that in my training I learned that Richmond has banned the purchase of electronic touchscreen voting systems like the ones used in Arlington. What this means is that there will be two types of voting machines this November - the electronic touch screen machine and an optical scanner with paper ballots. That change alone could lengthen the voting lines this November. The only hope is to get electronic poll books, which would obviate the need for only having two lines (A-K & L-Z). With electronic poll books you only need to key in the first couple of letters of the last name of the voter, select the right name, and the voter is then allowed to vote. Very fast. The Arlington County board has put electronic poll books in the upcoming budget but its not a done deal. If people are upset about long lines - letters to the County Board in support of these electronic poll books might shorten the lines (as long as people don't take too long in the poll booths!).


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