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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Voting underway in Pinellas



John O'Neill of Tarpon Springs checks out a sample ballot on a wall at First Baptist Church in Tarpon Springs while waiting for Precinct 705 to open for voting. O'Neill was one of two voters waiting for the polls to open there. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]

Florida switched to optical-scan ballots for this election, and it seems that the staffers in the voting precincts are taking the switch very seriously. Times editor Jim Verhulst went to vote this morning and describes what the new system is like:

I felt like a particularly slow school child at my precinct this primary morning. It was the first day of optical scan (think "paper trail"!) voting, wherein voters fill in ovals to indicate their preferences. And because we are all Florida voters with our record of wreckage, officials left nothing to chance. After signing in, voters headed to a table to practice filling in the bubble, just like those days of the SAT and other standardized tests. Yes, practice. Voters signed a card with a really, really big oval on it. The task was to fill it in -- "bubble it" is the term of art -- to the satisfaction of the official and, with our signature, to document that we had actually practiced. This was to ensure that the machine could read our efforts.

The oval was so big it took a while. I honestly think my tongue poked out the corner of my mouth with the effort. Should I outline the oval in a big black border and then fill in the middle? Should I work from one side to the other? From the middle out? I chose to work from left to right. After this practice (my effort was pronounced "good"), I was given a huge sheet that was my voting card, it was slipped into a big red sheaf for privacy, and then I was sent to a booth to fill in the ovals -- much smaller ones -- for real to indicate my preferences. After I was done, I fed the completed sheet into a big machine that recorded the votes and raised the tally of total voters by one. Then I returned the borrowed pen (they were very clear about the importance of giving it back), collected my sticker and went on my way.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:33am]


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