democracy hangs by a thread

I was a consultant for a board of elections for a major metropolitan area for a few years. What a colorful place, where they worked hard to ensure your vote was counted accurately.

The BOE ( Board Of Elections ) is a political organization from the get go. If the head is a republican, the second in command must be a democrat. It goes almost all they way down the channel that way, so neither one side of the other has an advantage. However, most of the staff are political appointees, and are next to impossible to fire without offending some councilman or ward leader so strange things can happen.

Here are some things that BOE workers had to deal with in order to keep the election honest ( which they tried their best to do ):


Forget about hanging chads or butterfly ballots being part of some plot to rig the election, each design is approved by both sides of the political parties. They both check and sign off on it. So if the ballot isn’t clear, most likely the political appointees on both sides failed to do their due diligence.

Vote Early, Vote Often

Before we installed the computerized system, a person could register in two places saying they had moved, and then vote in both. Catching them from the paperwork was very hard and time consuming, so it was often done. Some people would get an absentee ballot and vote at the poll on election day. Hard to think this was an innocent error.

Dead People

Let me assure you, dead people don’t vote, even on Halloween. But somehow ballots from them sometimes appeared. One thing the system we were installing did was to track signatures and detect fraud.

Nursing Homes

It was odd to discover that volunteers would go to nursing homes and register voters and then help them fill out their absentee ballots. Then amazing to discover that these ballots were almost all identical, even the people in a coma seemed to have strong political leanings.


The general opinion was be close in the traditional ballot, win the absentee ballot. I prefer absentee ballot now, as it gives me time to consider each candidate and issue before deciding, and ensures if a computer issue comes up, my vote will still be cast.


29 Comments on “democracy hangs by a thread”

  1. I am a Canadian, and like most are watching the American election carefully.

  2. one would think there is an election or something…

  3. thanks for sharing your elections department experiences. Interesting stuff from politically opposing parties and appointees how to track votes. Thanks.

  4. janet says:

    I’m for voter ID as voting is one of the highest responsibilities we have. You have to show ID for all sorts of daily things such as getting a driver’s license, getting food stamps, and so forth. Why not to vote?

  5. It won’t be long and your fingerprints or eye scans or something will be what allows one to vote!

  6. brudberg says:

    I have always been amazed that you have to register to vote. Here in Sweden you are getting a permission automatically to vote exactly once… But that requires of course that the government know exactly were you live. What you said about nursing homes has happened a few times.

    • billgncs says:

      I think because we are so mobile, and many of the elections are taxes that support localities that they need to ensure people are voting in the proper places.

  7. jiltaroo says:

    Never thought of those issues before. I’m sure some of those things happen in Aussie too. I think that the US is far more passionate about voting but I think perhaps you have better candidates to work with!!! I feel quite despondant about our lot 😦

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