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We had requested absentee ballots, so we only had to drop it off, but the line for people waiting to get an absentee ballot was ridiculous. We couldn't even see the end of it. People were in line for hours and hours and there were no portable toilets. It was just crazy.
My absentee ballot, after arriving from California to my Amsterdam address flawlessly for the last 5 years, suddenly arrived at my old California address. A couple weeks later, after it arrived here, I realized there wasn't an "official ballot." After calling "lavote" and sending them emails, in addition to doing the same with several campaigns, the DNC, the US consulate in Amsterdam, I finally got ahold of someone from the Federal Voting Assistance Program who stated that overseas ballots from California did not have "official ballots" this year and that I only needed to fill in the "sample ballot" and mail it in. It would have been nice if this information had been placed inside the mail with all other voting information. This surely would have saved me several hours, a bit of cash in long distance calls to "hotlines" that make you wait for half an hour before automatically disconnecting you, etc.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands -- voting in California
I signed up for an absentee ballot many weeks before the election and I never recieved it in the mail. I called the board of elections in New Orleans to see when it would arrive, they told me to be patient it was on its way. On Thursday Oct 30 I began to panic, I called saying I still had not recieved it, they said I would now have to vote via fax, they had no explanation why it did not arrive. After many phone calls back and forth and unsuccessful attempts with the fax, the ballot finally came through. Total cost to me - $40! I don't know why the system didn't work, I did everything right, planned way ahead, and made every effort to vote on time. I only wonder how many others who are out of town were not able to vote because they never received their ballot????
New Orleans, Louisiana
How long did it take me to vote? As long as it took me to read the literature-we vote by mail in Oregon and it is AWESOME!!! My kdis and I can sit around the table and discuss the issues. They watch me fill in the blanks. i drive by a mailbox and I am done. And then the robocalls end!
I was unfortunate enough to have to spend over an hour in line standing by a white couple that kept saying, "Just think Bradley, just think Bradley." Seriously? I'd rather not be hoping for quiet racism.
One thing that did happen that impressed me was when I was just to the door of the polling room. We have optical scanners in Jacksonville and when one voter went to put in her ballot the machine wouldn't take it because the previous ballot had jammed. The polling volunteer went to get another volunteer to witness him opening the machine with a key. He pulled out the jammed ballot and actually ran it back through in case it didn't read. I did ask about rescanning it, and he said that the ballots are bar coded and can so they can only be counted once. They printed our ballots after swiping our drivers licenses, or pulling up our voter registration info, so we would have the right info depending on our actual precinct. I was impressed that they are taking that kind of precautions so it made me feel good.
The woman ahead of me started ranting about Obama the socialist. I said he is not a socialist and tried to explain what socialism is. She assumed because I was not dressed up (I work from home) that I was a "welfare bum" and haughtily said "I work for a living." I just started laughing. I've probably worked longer in two different professions, than she has been alive.
Boca Raton, Florida
I waited seven long hours!!! Around the (5) hour mark you could tell some were begining to become discouraged, but others encouraged them to take a walk, sit down basically just "push" through.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Well, the town clerk smiled, said "Hi!" and called me by name--since I've voted in every election in our little Maine village of 2000 people for the past 35 years, they know me well. Then I put my ballot in the slot in the venerable wooden ballot box and went home.
I waited only 1 1/2 hours, but it took an additional 30 minutes once inside the County Election Board.
2,500 people voted in the 5 hours they were open Saturday morning.
After signing in, getting my ballot and sitting in a booth, I filled the little ovals by each item. I put my ballot in a privacy folder and went to the scanner. The scanner jammed and a clerk pulled it out. Jammed again. Pulled out again. He told me to reverse it. Success. But wait, ballot not accepted. He took my ballot and said my vote didn't count. I said wait, let me try again. I had to fold the bad ballot and put it in an envelope and the clerk had to record my precinct number on the new ballot. Voted again, scanned again. Success, this time for real.
I voted at Sun City Texas, a retirement community. I got lost trying to find my way to the polling place, so I drove through the neighborhood. These seniors are very politically active! There were McCain-Palin signs on about 4 out of every 5 houses, and Obama-Biden signs on 1 out of 5. In addition, there were signs for all the local races. I voted on a machine, so there was no confusion for me. The people working the polls knew what they were doing and seemed able to help the elderly people voting. Democratic candidates were outside campaigning. I voted for John McCain, the other candidates, and verified my votes. Then I voted on two propositions and pushed the button to cast my vote. Easy. Done in minutes. I only hope ACORN doesn't skew the results in Texas.
About one month ago, during lunch together at local restaurant, my husband Tony told me that our friend and local magistrate, Benny Waggoner had mentioned we could vote early at the county courthouse. So after a quick lunch we walked to our county auditor's office. Tony was eager as a new citizen (July '08) to be voting in his first national election. He had planned to make his choice on Election Day - but here we were, getting our ballots and making the decision almost a month early. And it was so easy, just a quick walk on our lunch hour, no lines, no waiting, and a paper ballot!! Given the choice, early voting worked well for us. But why not celebrate our national election day as a national holiday? Our right to vote is certainly something worthy of a national celebration and a day off from work would make it easier for everyone to vote comfortably.
In contrast to the horror stories I'm hearing from the Mainland, my early voting experience was very pleasant. I voted on Halloween, mid-day, there was a light rain falling in Lihue, Kauai at the County Annex building where the smell of fresh paint lingered in the polling station. 3-4 smiling, friendly middle-aged women, mostly of Asian descent, were there to help guide my wife and I through the process. After our early voter forms were filled out at long empty tables with many pens, we handed them to a woman who checked our ID, tapped on a computer, then passed us to another woman with a contraption that seemed to interface with the electronic voting machines. She gave me first the choice of paper ballot or electronic, and since I've heard so many scary things about the new electronic voting booths, I thought I'd experience the horror myself. "Electronic", I said. She then gave me a small slip of paper with some kind of PIN code and I choose my "lucky" voting machine and proceeded to vote electronically for the first time ever. A nice auntie walked up and showed me that it was not touch screen, and that a paper record was printed at the end. I scrolled and clicked and checked my ballot - though briefly in a state of confusion I tried to open the paper ballot box thinking I was supposed to give that to someone, but luckily the auntie saw this and ran over before I set off some kind of alarm and shut the whole place down. I clicked the final "Confirm" and my wife and I slipped quietly into the rain feeling powerful.
I love the ritual of showing up on election day to vote, and have never considered voting early or by absentee ballot. When my much-needed knee surgery was scheduled for October 24, the only thing I could think of is whether or not I would recuperate in time to vote. I got so stressed out I finally decided to remove all doubt and early-vote at the country registrar's office in advance. The procedure of getting the ballot was all very official, and very upbeat, with a great sense that I was very welcome, even though I was causing the clerks extra work. While I was voting, a homeless man, who said he had not voted in many years, came in to request his ballot. He was as excited about voting in this election as I was; it was a reminder of the essence of our democracy--that everyone gets a vote.
Santa Barbara, California
I went to vote by myself. My wife had voted at this same polling place on Thursday. She tried to vote at the main office for the Miami Dade elections department on Monday and Tuesday but the lines were far too long and she gave up and looked for a better place to vote. This was before Gov. Charlie Crist extended the polling hours. The polling places were only open until 3:00 pm the first week. I arrived at the West Dade Library around 8:30 AM. There was a short line outside of 15-20 people. Volunteers were handing out water and sample ballots. Once inside there was a larger area were there were chairs for some 100 people. We were given numbers and told to wait. While waiting we were told about the penalties for vote fraud ($5000 & 5 years in jail). People were in good spirits and the line seemed to move relatively quickly. They called a group of 10 more people every ten minutes or so. Once inside they checked my ID and printed my ballot. The ballot was quite long (2.5 double sided pages) and in three languages, English, Spanish and Creole. Filling out the ballot was like a multiple choice test, which I passed 'cause I selected Obama. Once completed the ballot was entered into a reader that digitized the info on the ballot. I got my "I Voted Today!" sticker and I drove to work.
My fiancee and I went to vote early in Durham, NC. She is black and I am white. There were people of all races at the polling place, both working and voting. It was a friendly, encouraging environment where i felt at ease (which is not always the case for an interracial couple in North Carolina). Every few minutes, the lady running the door would announce "We have a first time voter!" and we would all clap and cheer enthusiastically, every time she announced it. Early voting this year was a very patriotic experience that made me proud of my neighbors, my city and my country.
Durham, North Carolina
Our early voting experience in Athens County, Ohio was about as cerebral as could be. We walked into the County Board of Elections, filled out the appropriate forms (my boyfriend even corrected his name, which had been misspelled on his voter ID card) and got to voting right away. This was, of course, almost a month before Election Day -- in a county that votes reliably Democratic -- but the ease of the experience was a far cry from the horror stories from across the country. November 4th should be a little more hectic here, when the students in town plan to vote, but Athens is one county in Ohio that hasn't so far been racked by voting horror stories. The only sticking point may be the ballot itself, which is divided into two columns. A confused voter might have trouble finding the ticket they'd like to vote for. Altogether, I'd say that we were pretty lucky in our voting experience.
I arrived in late morning, surprised to find the parking lot in front of the registrar's office busy. There were volunteers to show me where to go, to take my name and data, and show me where to get in line. They had 8 or 10 machines available, so the line moved fairly quickly. The instructions were easy to follow and completely clear. The pollworkers were friendly and helpful, and looked surprised when I thanked them for being there on a Saturday. The machine took my votes without problem, and printed a tape for my review before I could confirm the vote. I confirmed, and I was done! It took less than half-an-hour. The people in line, on both sides of the "aisle" as it were, were pleasant and upbeat about voting early, and there seemed to be no tension between differing points of view. In a county with a large rural population, I was kind of surprised that there were fewer tensions between line-members. I'm rather progressive, had a "Straight Against 8" bumper sticker on my car, and got no negative commentary.
James A. Davis
I had an absentee ballot, and was filling it in on 10/27 with a marker pen. The pen was a little low on ink, so I went over each line 4 or 5 times to make sure it was dark. When I turned the ballot over, I realized the ink had bled through to the other side, and the voting columns on the opposite side were directly in line with those on the first side. My ballot was ruined! It was too late to mail it back for a replacement. After thinking of when would be the best time to go downtown to the county recorder's office to exchange it, I decided the next morning would be the best time. The next morning, I arrived at the recorder's office shortly after 8:00 AM, and there was a short line of 5 to 10 people for early voting, but nobody in a separate line for (spoiled) absentee ballots, and plenty of open voting booths. I was able to exchange my ballot within a few minutes. I recast my ballot on the spot and turned it in there. Overall, it took about 20 minutes. With the drive, I was about an hour late for work, but was able to make up the time. Overall, the experience was much less troublesome than I had feared the night before.
We currently live and work in France. We requested our absentee ballots in August. After paperwork delays, our ballots arrived Saturday, November 1st. We were surprised to learn that all mail-in ballots must be received by the state of CA on the voting day: November 4th. Early postmarks did not count, so our only choice was to fax in the votes. In addition, we had to sign forms where we had to relinquish our rights to have a private/secret vote. My Husband and I filled out our ballots and he spent all day Monday (November 3rd), figuring out how to fax the forms to California. Ironically, the first attempts to fax failed. But, magically at 8am PST (5pm France time), the faxes worked. Could it possibly be that the machines were turned OFF over the weekend? As it is, we have no idea whether or not our votes made it, and were counted. Again it becomes obvious that there is a need to modernize and standardize voting rules and regulations when voting at the national levels.
San Diego, California
I voted in my dining room as my 5 and 9 year old children watched me color in the oval boxes. I was going to use pencil when my son said, "Dad used a pen." So I switched to a black ball point pen. Voting in your own home may lose some of the excitement of going out on election day but it's comfortable, there are no lines, it's easy to take your time, and no work conflicts. Also no questionable voting machines switching your vote. The ballot was easy to read but there are two envelopes to lick- the secrecy one and the signed one. They both taste yucky.
I went by myself to the library on my campus at Broward Community College. Wanted to vote early to avoid lines and my needs were met. They provided chairs for a very good amount of people waiting.. approximately 40 to 50 chairs were there. They were handing out free water. People were dressed in Obama shirts and no one got turned away. I went around 4pm so I did not miss any classes or work from my part time job. Everyone, including the volunteers, made everything go smoothly and fast. However, driving by the library today, the line is about twice as long last week, I can only imagine what it will be like tomorrow!
I was on my way home from college for the weekend and I stopped in at the Randolph County courthouse to vote. There were no lines or problems. I showed my driver's license to the poll worker, got my card for the machine and went in to vote. I was the only one in the room at the time. I voted on a touch screen electronic machine, which I am still wary of but there were no problems. I made sure to double check all my votes and compare them with the printed receipt. They check out so I submitted my ballot, gave my card to the poll worker and was on my way.
When we arrived at the voting site (my husband, my son, my daughter and myself), the line was long but appeared to be moving fast, so when we were moved into City Hall we were excited only to learn that we were going to be seated in the Council auditorium, and that we would wait there for the next several hours (3). After moving though this process, were moved to lineup in the hallway on the way to the Registrars office and the voting machines, this process took another 2 hours. After 5 hours our vote was finally cast. What was exciting for us was that our son who turned 18 recently was able to vote for the first time in a very historic election. My daughter who is 12 came along also and was allowed to move with us through the process. She even took a picture of the sample ballot with Barack Obama's name it. The 5 hour wait did not do anything to dampen our spirits or those of others. The wait did not feel like 5 hours, nor was anyone upset about it. The Registrar came to speak to us while we were seated to explain the process. In my opinion one of the reasons for the long wait time was due to the fact that perhaps early voting numbers had been underestimated in Baton Rouge, LA due to the population decrease in New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina, and that no consideration was given on this historic election and the people who would return to New Orleans from other States to vote. The people waiting were mainly black with a handfull of white voters. It was exciting to see everyone so positive and so determined to have their place in history. My son was excited, but did not realize the wait he would have, but he wanted his part of history also. He told us how at the University he attends, that the get of the vote message was being broadcasted loud and clear. He was congratulated by many people on him being young in the process and being responsible to have his voice heard. I think that it is an experience that he will remember forever.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Props to Montgomery County Ohio! There was a constant flood of people in the county building when my husband and I voted on Saturday but those poll workers kept everybody moving. When we got there, we got a number. This meant we didn't have to actually stand in a line. Hooray!! My husband and I sat outside, walked to a coffee shop, and mulled around downtown, coming back every so often to see what number group they were calling at the time. It worked out great!! Once our number was called, we moved to a lower level of seats to wait for our group to be called...about a 20 min wait there. Once our group was called, we went down another level to get our absentee forms and then filled those out while waiting for a processor to open up. Once you got to the processor who pulled your correct ballot for you, you were off to the voting booth. We had paper ballots where we filled in a bubble using a regular ball point pen. Cant imagine an easier, less confusing ballot. We put the ballot in the absentee envelope and into the ballot box and collected our "I voted" stickers! Again, props to all Montgomery County poll workers...efficient, helpful, and friendly. Cant ask for much more than that!!
Absentee voting is the new color of the season. I took my time reading the information for the local initiatives on my ballot (which in San Francisco was a book about 150 pages long; including the pros and cons of renaming a sewage treatment plant after George W. Bush) and voted sitting on my couch. The next day, I dropped it in the mail slot as I left my building. Everyone should do it like this if they can. 8-10 hour lines? I did it in my pajamas. While watching The Office. With my little Pug, Jebus, snoozing at my feet. I even got up for some snacks and to refill my coffee twice. I'm pretty sure those services aren't offered at my local polling location. Viva Change!
San Francisco, California
Voting in the 2008 elections was one of the highlights of my life. I am visually impaired. I lost my vision 9 years ago. This is the first election since I lost my sight that I was able to cast my vote for myself. In the past, election officials had to go into the voting booth with me, read the ballot, and I trusted that they made the selection that I voiced. The fact that I had to wait for two hours meant little. I would have waited as long as it took to cast my vote. People in line were kind and considerate, not just with me, but with each other. There was a spirit of joy in the process. I was thrilled to use a voting machine that talked. I used earphones and a touch screen. It was simple and thrilling. Please understand I CAST MY OWN VOTE. Election officials were wonderful and very helpful. At the age of 60, this is the most important election I have ever voted in. I simply could not have had a better experience.
On a Sunday afternoon in Wisconsin with the Packers playing means 90% of the population is going to be infront of a TV watching the game. So i figured great time to early vote right? Wrong, apprently the 10% who aren't Packer fans went to vote too. The line at it's longest took a solid 2 hours to get through. But it was worth it, people were friendly & excited to vote. The office of the clerk was extremely efficent and nice (espeically considering they were working on at Sunday). Most of the people were shocked by the length of the line but were determined to vote anyways. The only people who left after some time in line were elderly & some with young childern. The people who seemed most turned off by the line were the younger male (18-21ish) voters. They were more interested in watching football. Luckily there is no football on Tuesday and the majority of them did make sure they were registered before heading back out.
I actually went curbside, due to a big, heavy cast on my foot. My husband took my drivers licence and stood in line for me. He said it was steady in there. The woman came out and brought a paper ballot and a black pen. She reminded me about straight ticket voting (don't forget, you still need to vote for President and judicial.) I then had the very surreal task of voting for my candidate of choice (Obama) while sitting in my Scion xB, listening to the Boss...just needed a drink, burger and fries to make the whole thing complete! I would have much rather gone inside, but this was an interesting way of going about things!
Manteo, North Carolina
Read stories filed by HuffPost readers the morning of Nov. 4.
Thank you, HuffPost readers, for sending your voting stories. If you haven't already, you can file them here.