• Fall in SoCal = checking the weather report daily to decide between shorts or a heavy jacket.
  • I keep seeing pill spam with sensational election-related subjects. Oddly they can spell Obama correctly, but consistently write “McCane”
  • It’s time to upgrade your wireless network security to WPA2.

A few years back, some sort of registration snafu* left my name off the rolls at my polling place and I had to cast a provisional ballot. I remember being extremely unhappy that night when everyone declared the winner and I knew for a fact that my vote had not been counted. Sure, it would be eventually, but it felt like my vote didn’t matter.

Yesterday, I read that as many as 3 million mail-in and provisional ballots might remain to be counted in California. This morning, that estimate’s been revised to 1.6 million [edit: the official count is coming in at at least 2.3 million; see below]. There are a number of races, including Proposition 11, that are too close to call with that many votes still in play. It’s at least 3 times the current margin of victory for Prop 8 or margin of defeat for Prop 4. If those voters lean heavily one way or the other, it could flip the results once the final score is tallied. (It’s not likely, but it’s certainly possible.)

One thing that hasn’t been clear from the various articles I’ve read is which ballots are left, and when are they counted. Fortunately, the CA Secretary of State has a page that explains exactly that.

  • Mail-in ballots that arrive before election day are verified against the voter rolls ahead of time, then counted along with the in-person votes once the polls close.
  • Mail-in ballots that arrive on election day, or are dropped off at a polling place, are set aside until the rest are done, and are verified and counted along with provisional ballots.

This is all handled at the county level, which is why the state office doesn’t have solid numbers yet (there’s a PDF report they’ll be updating as data comes in, but all the numbers are still blank [Edit: as of Thursday evening, numbers for about 2/3 of counties are in, and they total about 2.3 million]), and they have 28 days to finish the task. I’m sure that’s a holdover from the days when it would really take that long to count everything. I imagine it won’t take nearly that long to sign off on the results.

So the lesson is this: If you want your vote counted in the first wave of votes that everyone sees, you must either:

  • Send in your mail-in ballot early enough that it arrives before election day.
  • Vote in person.

*I never did find out what caused it, but my best guess is that after I moved, my registration got lost in the mail and I was left on the rolls at my old precinct.

First, I’m very happy that Barack Obama won the Presidential election. This was the first time since 1996 that I’ve actually liked a candidate for the office. While I did vote for Al Gore and John Kerry, their main qualifications in my mind were that they weren’t George W. Bush, whose policies and leadership style bothered me as soon as he stepped into the ring in the 2000 primaries. It was very nice to have someone I could vote for this year, and not just someone to vote against — and even nicer to see him win.

Second, John McCain gave an astonishingly gracious concession speech. Where was this guy during the campaign? Or during the last two years? This was more like the McCain I voted for in the 2000 primary.

Believe it or not, I think it’s a good thing that the Democrats didn’t pick up that filibuster-proof 60th Senate seat. One of the worst problems with the current administration is the way that a single party just rammed their policies through over all opposition during the time that both houses of Congress and the Presidency were controlled by the same party — and it cost them in the 2006 mid-term elections and in this election. With luck, Obama’s victory speech [edit: linked to the wrong article*.] will set the tone for a somewhat more cooperative government. At the very least, it was a nice change from the sort of “We won, now f— off” attitude that I remember from Bush, Cheney, and Republican supporters in 2004. (Personally I think 53% to 46% in the popular vote is still relatively close, but 4 years ago we were told that 51% to 49% was a “mandate” to do whatever the hell they wanted with the office.)

I’m disappointed to see that California voted to ban same-sex marriage. Gee, too bad about the 18,000 marriages you just invalidated in the name of “protecting” marriage. On the plus side, the margin for Proposition 8 was a lot smaller (52% to 48%) than the last time the state voted on the issue (Proposition 22 in 2001, which won 61% to 38%), and younger voters polled as overwhelmingly rejecting it. This implies that CA society is, over time, coming to the conclusion that maybe it isn’t such a threat after all.

Also worth noting: Prop 4, the parental-notification requirement for abortion, is trailing 52% to 48%, the same spread as Prop 8. Since I’m sure proponents will try again in a few years, these numbers should forestall any grousing about how the people have already made their will clear when someone floats the idea of amending the state constitution to remove a discriminatory clause a few years from now.

*When I first posted this, I accidentally linked to the article on the transition team instead of the speech transcript. The URLs were very similar: 11/04/obama.transcript vs. 11/05/obama.transition.

Katie and I got up early so we could hit the polls first thing in the morning and not have to worry about whether we’d be stuck in an insanely long line at the end of the day, like we were in 2004 and 2006. The first thing we noticed was the sound of rain falling outside. Since we were expecting a huge turnout, I’d planned on walking, fearing we might have to park far enough away that we might as well have walked. Fortunately by the time we left, it had died down to little more than a drizzle.

We got to the polling place, an elementary school, about 7:05, just after it opened, found the right line (they had two precincts voting at the same location), and there were only about 15-20 people ahead of us. We got into a conversation with other people around us about the merits of early voting (one guy joked that he’d already voted for the 2012 election), exit polls, and the electoral college.

The poll workers were a surprise. Usually in this area it tends to be older people who volunteer to run the polls, but it seemed like 2/3 of them were in their late teens/early twenties. Katie figured it had to do with the economic slowdown: we know who’s out of work.

They’ve mostly worked out the kinks in the electronic voting system, though they’re now offering a choice of electronic or paper ballot when you sign in. You go through several stations, signing the roll of voters, confirming your address, and finally getting either a paper ballot or an access key for the electronic ballot.

I still don’t like the user interface on these voting machines — it’s a paddle wheel interface, where you rotate a dial to move the selection on the LCD screen forward or back, with buttons to check things off — but it does at least include a printed record. There’s a roll of paper in the machine with a window, and after you’ve confirmed the summary of your selections (with a big red button that says “Cast Ballot”), it prints them out, asks you to confirm the printout, then scrolls it out of view so the next person can’t see what you chose.

Anyway, the whole process took only 35 minutes from finding the line to picking up the “I Voted” sticker. Kids were just starting to line up for class. We went home, dropped off the umbrella (which we never actually needed), picked up our stuff and drove off to work only 15 minutes behind normal schedule.

(Cross-posted from LiveJournal, originally linked in the list below.)

  • It’s like raaaaaain/on Election Day.
  • #votereport #good Only 30 minute wait, no problems with machine around 7am in Orange County, CA. No idea what it’s like now, though.
  • Voting freebies: Might hit Ben & Jerry’s, but don’t see much point in a plain coffee at Starbucks. Maybe if they offered a mocha.
  • Ah, this would explain the 4-hour delay on my “I Voted!” tweet.
  • Wow… 38% of registered voters in Los Angeles County had cast ballots by noon.
  • Deep pink clouds at sunset. Camera turns them orange.

Update: It’s been a while, so I don’t remember for sure if this is the right photo, but the date’s correct and it fits the description.

Sunset clouds

If I understand this correctly, it’s apparently okay to compare an entire class of women to pit bulls wearing lipstick, but using a worn-out cliché to compare a candidate’s policies to a pig wearing lipstick is sexist.

So is being called a dog better than being called a pig? Or is it just more offensive to dismiss policies than to make jokes about people?

This is going to be a long two months.