Her Vote Didn’t Count – Did Yours?

If you live in New York City, and used (or tried to use) a disabled voting machine in this past election, your vote might not have been counted. Call it a glitch or a fluke or just a horrible mistake, but that’s exactly what happened to Noreen, the Director of Publications at my publishing house.

Now Noreen is able-bodied, but she is a member of the New York City Government Relations Committee for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I know that’s a real mouthful, but they actually do some very concrete work to make the city more accessible. For example, one of their recent projects entailed going out and making note of all the non-existent or inadequate curb-cuts in the city. After they reported their findings to the proper authorities, the access-shortfalls were fixed. Like I said, they’re involved in some very concrete access projects.

But their latest project has to do with voting. More specifically, the assessment of the disabled voting machines used in the last election. They needed a volunteer to test them out, so Noreen volunteered to use one to cast her vote. At least she thought she was casting her vote.

Now Noreen isn’t naive by any stretch of the imagination, so it wasn’t like she thought this assignment would be a walk in the park. As she puts it, she was fully prepared to encounter some obstacles. So armed with an extra dose of patience, she toddled off to her polling place.

Suffice it to say, Noreen had a less than stellar voting experience. In short, everything went wrong. She tried to use the disabled voting machine, which she colorfully describes as “a machine from the stone age, with ridiculous technology”. After a frustrating hour of trying to enter her choices, the machine broke down. She then had to use a paper ballot to cast her vote. So much for technology.

OK, it was a frustrating experience at best, but Noreen took heart in the fact that hopefully by reporting the problems, the system would improve.

Then, the other shoe dropped. Just before Thanksgiving Noreen received a letter from the good folks at the elections department. It seems her vote was not counted. Why? Well, they have her down as voting twice – once by machine and once by paper ballot, and as they put it, “the votes negated one another”.

And if you live in New York City, and tried to use a disabled voting machine, you may have suffered a similar fate. I have to wonder how many disabled people went to the polls, and like Noreen, had their votes thrown out.

Hopefully the problem will be fixed. I know that the NMSS will notify the proper authorities; but if you live in NYC, you might just want to give the powers that be a little push.

Drop a note or an e-mail to you beloved mayor and let him know that you’d like your vote to count too! Tell your friends and family to do the same. Get the word out about this problem. Call the newspaper, put it on your blog and do whatever you can to pass the word. Because you know what they say about the squeaky wheel. If this problem is made public, then and only then, will it become a priority.

So come on folks, start squeaking!