Florida Poll Worker Challenges My Right to Vote

Tuesday, November 04, 2008 at 09:31 AM

When I voted at 7:10 a.m. this morning in St. Johns County, Florida, my right to vote was challenged because a poll worker decided my signature did not match my driver's license signature. I was given an "Affadavit of Elector When Signature is Different" form to sign and was going to be given a provisional ballot, but I objected to that decision, telling the worker that I've been voting at the same precinct with the same address for a decade and they were "abrogating my right to vote." (When negotiating a government bureaucracy, the most obscure verb wins.)

Affadavit of Elector when Signature is Different form, state of FloridaIn Florida, provisional ballots aren't counted unless they are approved by a canvassing board. My wife has observed the work of these boards as a newspaper reporter, and it's an arbitrary and capricious process. I decided at that point I wasn't going to leave the polling place until I was able to cast a legitimate ballot or I was ordered to leave. I don't want to look back on this election, years later, as the one in which I might or might not have voted for Barack Obama.

I always bring my sons to vote, so my fourth grader was at my side, telling the worker that my signature was acceptable. My mother was visiting from Texas, and she also walked up and affirmed who I was, which demonstrates how thorough I am at providing proper forms of ID.

A supervisor at the precinct discussed the decision to make me vote provisionally with a poll observer, who I'm guessing is an attorney because he wore glasses on a chain perched on the end of his nose, like someone who might be called upon to inspect a hanging chad. He told her, "The issue here isn't whether the signature matches; it's whether he is the person he says he is." He then told me not to move, because he was going to go outside and make a call.

He didn't have to go outside. The decision was made that I could fill out a form that reflected my updated signature, and I was given a regular ballot.

Though my signature has grown progressively worse over time -- millions of mouse clicks have been hell on my mad cursive skills -- it's clear to me that poll workers in this county are being told to apply strong scrutiny to signatures. This seems excessive to me when the state requires a driver's license to vote, and I had my license and voter's registration card with me. Eight years ago a worker also challenged my signature, but another worker told him he was wrong. Individual votes in Florida were a pretty big deal that time around.

When I was leaving the building, a poll worker who was not a witness to the challenge told me unexpectedly that I should "put this on your blog." Apparently, he overheard my wife talking about the situation and mentioning that I'm one of those people.

As a general rule, I resist the temptation in commercial or governmental conflicts to play the blogger card, because I don't want to be the douchebag who doesn't get the banana peppers he ordered on his pizza, so he threatens Domino's with the dire consequences of a strongly worded blog entry on a site with Google page rank 6.

But this was so going on my blog.