Voting system needs work for future
I love new technology and the advances it brings. However, sometimes I think you need to take a step back and re-evaluate.
Case in point? Yuma County's new voting system.
I love the touchscreen setup — it was very cool to walk into the polling site, tap through a few pages and be done with it.
But there was a huge problem at hand: a lack of polling sites and malfunctioning equipment, which kept people standing in long lines throughout Election Day.
I was flooded with calls Tuesday from people stuck in long lines. Several said it took them more than four hours to vote. Others simply gave up — they had jobs and families to tend to, and waiting in a line that wrapped around the building wasn't a viable option for them.
I drove out to the Yuma County Public Works Department to vote. (As a side note, those workers out there were fast, efficient and considerate. Public Works employees set up fans in the hallway to cool people down as the space started to fill up, which was greatly appreciated by the voters.)
But while in line, I was astounded by the stories I heard. One man said he stood in line for over two hours at the Foothills Library, only to learn that the printer had overheated. Another man repeated a similar story from Wellton. One person said he had been in line for several hours on Avenue A, only to learn that the printer overheated, and they were down to just a few machines for the massive line at hand. All had heard that Public Works was the place to be — a 40-minute wait time was worth the drive out there.
In the defense of Yuma County officials, voter turnout isn't always so great here. The primary saw only about a 20 percent turnout in August, which was one of the test drives for the new system with fewer polling places.
A 53 percent turnout on Tuesday clearly overwhelmed both the system and processes in place for the day.
I give Yuma County credit for trying out new technology, and trying out fewer voting centers, but change and technology should move us forward, not backward.
I was glad to read that County Administrator Robert Pickels is already planning to meet with consultants to see what can be done to improve the process, and he acknowledged that “there were a lot of issues” on election night.
Hopefully, the next time we vote, we see another strong turnout — but this time with a system in place to handle it.
Roxanne Molenar is the assignments editor for the Yuma Sun. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6862.