Thursday, February 20, 2020

Hand-marked paper ballots, y'all

Dictators are not in the business of allowing elections that could remove them from their thrones.
~Gene Sharp

Hi folks! For a couple of years now, I have had a preoccupation with election security. I can't remember exactly when it started. I was already concerned in 2018 when Brian Kemp served as overseer of the same Georgia election he was running in. At the time, I was like, How is this allowed? Nobody stopped him, which has really been an ongoing theme of the past few years. Who will stop the people who want to cheat?

That's what I'm wondering, and that's why I asked some poet-friends if they wanted to write on the topic of election security, especially the necessity of hand-marked paper ballots. When I asked, I wasn't sure I would get any takers. I mean, who wants to write about that? I hadn't even written one yet myself! But poets care, and they are willing to take on a challenge, so here we are!

Ballots for Swedish national election
photo by Jens O. Z. Ehrs

One last thing -- I would encourage everyone to follow Jenny Cohn. Keep informed!

Election dreams of a clumsy dialer
by Tabatha Yeatts

I inadvertently dial my uncle's number
on speed dial again...his spot, at the
right place for an accidental push. I

miss a call from my husband-- the ring
volume unintentionally silent on my
phone. He thinks we can find a way to keep

me from pushing the wrong buttons.
Oh mom, my children would say, unsurprised.
They would recommend me for many things--

You should run a B&B, they say, you could
sell these cupcakes, these creams
-- but they
wouldn't suggest that I run an election. The

voting machines would malfunction and I
would only be able to supply snacks for the
repair people, could we find any. Lines would form

down the block while people missed work and
babysitters fumed as no one came to pick up
the kids. Foreign countries would change the tallies

and I would only be able to say, "Did you see
that? Just then? Well, it's gone now."

I'm sure I could make paper ballots, though. Nice-

looking ones, easy to read, and I definitely could
come up with all the pencils a quick-moving line
of voters could want. "So happy you could come,"

I would say, shaking each hand as they depart,
duty done, ballot ready to be counted, safe from
fingers that push the wrong buttons.


Muddied Tech Trail

Yes, I have my ballot.
And yesterday dropped it in.
I hope it will be counted.
I'm wishing for a win.
But with the news reported
of mysteries and hacks.
I'm also counting on the truth
that America has our backs.
The truth is that I'm troubled
as never before I've been
that people in our country
ensure that we ALL win!

© 2020 Linda Baie


You can check what is going on in your state with The Verifier map.



From the Italian ballotta
meaning "little ball."

Long, long ago a voter made
a choice by means of a little ball
placed in a container to be counted.
Imagine how quickly the tallying
of little balls would lead to chaos.
One or two or twenty balls
rolling to the floor, into corners.

Paper came to replace the spheres.
A simple marking of one's choice
on a piece of paper. Years go by...
'til mechanization...interference.
And so, we come back to paper--
easy to mark, easy to collect,
easy to count (and count again).

That's how democracy really rolls!

© 2020 Diane Mayr


Your Vote Only Counts If It’s Counted (A Nonet)

not digital,
not ephemeral.
In your hand. Palpable.
A vote that will be counted.
An actual piece of paper
holding officials responsible.

© 2020 Mary Lee Hahn



Paper trails tell
voting tales--
They note
the way we vote.
For Democracy--
What do we need?
Paper trails!

Did you know that all 50 states
have been graded on our
voting election security,
and we didn’t score so well overall…
My home prairie state of Illinois
came in with an uninspiring C.
Though the report indicates
we’re making changes.
Out of 50 states in our 2016 election
Illinois was hacked into and compromised.
Hmmm, wonder ‘bout the hanky panky go’n on…
I’ll let you figure out who compromised Illinois,
and who tried to compromise 23 other states too…

Paper trails tell
voting tales--
They note
the way we vote.
For Democracy--
What do we need?
Paper trails!

You might wanna throw up your arms
and pass on our upcoming primaries–
But not I, I still believe in
I still believe in our
inalienable right to vote
I still believe in truth–
It’s there somewhere
I hear about it everyday
I see people fighting for it

Paper trails tell
voting tales--
They note
the way we vote.
For Democracy--
What do we need?
Paper trails!

Find out where to vote–
Find out how to vote–
Get your name on the rolls.
If you wanna try a
Paper ballot, and make a
Paper trail–
Start early!
You may run into some snags --I have--
But I’m plugging along.

I’m gonna hand mark my paper ballot,
They will note the way I vote.
Start your own
Paper Trail!

© 2020 Michelle Kogan


Cheriee Weichel was inspired by today's poems to add one of her own, after The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams:

so much depends

you and me

paper and pen

counted by real


One more poem: Thinking of String by Ian McMillan


John Oliver talks about voting machines
Why paper ballots are the best safeguard against election hacking
Verified Voting Recommends Hand-Marked Paper Ballots

Addendum: I felt bad just talking about hand-marked paper ballots because that's not the only thing. To assuage my conscience:
1. Hand-Marked Paper Ballots (exception 4 voters w/ disabilities)
2. Remove The Modems
3. Remove Remote Access
4. Ban Internet Voting
5. Manual Audits
6. Paper Voter Lists (in case e-pollbooks fail)
7. Protect Your Voter Registration (triple check; save screenshot or other proof)


Library Matters has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Cheriee!


Michelle Kogan said...

Great post Tabatha, but then your speaking to a believer in Paper Ballot Voting–and mine is on it's way, fingers crossed. Love the diversity of forms in your prompt. The Ian Mc Millan poem is wonderful, have you posted it here before, I know I've come across it, thanks!

Linda B said...

I guess each one of us is on the same "paper page", Tabatha. Thanks for tallying all of us. I guess we all have read the report cards from the states. Everyone's rallying cries are great but make me sad, too. Still, I will always vote, hopeful!

Diane Mayr said...

Such variety! But when it comes right down to it, all the poems beg for truth and justice. Funny how it’s the same things the founders strove for 200+ years ago.

jama said...

Great challenge, enjoyed all the poems, and Yes, I'm for paper ballots (and term limits)! Getting ready to send mine in this weekend . . . :)

Kay said...

Hip Hip Hooray for poets who care! And for paper ballots. It will be interesting to see how voting is done in our new community (we haven't had an election we were eligible to vote in yet). I liked the voting system at our last community. We had paper to mark with a sharpie (connecting lines or filling in bubbles). Then the paper ballot was scanned into a machine that totaled them.

Ruth said...

Amazing collection, Tabatha!

Janice Scully said...

I was inspired to read these and know there are people out there as concerned as I am about our votes. Thank you for collecting these.

Linda Mitchell said...

Alas, I didn't end up writing to this challenge. But, wow! Poets came they usually do with some sharp truth, humor and at least a reminder of tragedy. I'm so glad you held this challenge. Please hold it again. Yeah, that's right...dial us all up again!

KatApel - said...

Oooh. What an interesting conundrum - and response, Tabatha. Loved reading the varied poems. The paper vote is looking good!

mbhmaine said...

Thanks for organizing this poetic response and then sharing it here. I love how personal your poem is, yet how it contains a potent warning about the vulnerability in our system.

Cheriee Weichel said...

These are such powerful poems Tabatha. Last election we here in Canada had paper ballots, but they were counted by a machine. The ballots are held onto in case of a dispute. Then they are hand counted. After your last presidential election, I remember reading an article about what happened when there was an attempt to count the votes manually, and how the republicans had a team of lawyers in place to stop it. I agree that just counting the paper votes is best, but I guess we also have to ensure that everyone has equal access to polling stations.

Karen Eastlund said...

I also vote Yay for paper. America deserves an honest election. Thanks for this selection of poems... (note the internal rhyme!?) Thanks for this post.

Cheriee Weichel said...

I was so inspired by all the poems today Tabitha, that I came up with this little ditty, based on The Red Wheelbarrow William Carlos Williams.

so much depends

you and me

paper and pen

counted by real

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

I was skeptical about this topic and a little afraid that a lot of dark poems might result (at least if *I* were to write one), but what a pleasant surprise! I enjoyed them all, though yours was the one I related to most.

Karen Edmisten said...

I haven't written mine yet, but I love this collection and love the mix of the personal/political in your poem, Tabatha.
For me I can pinpoint precisely when my preoccupation with election security began -- 2016.

Mary Lee said...

Thanks for challenging and inspiring us, Tabatha!

Tara M Smith said...

Paper ballots, voters who care to learn about the issues and SHOW UP to vote, and poetry...all elements of a more perfect world.