Election Observation Limited
Tuesday, September 9, 2008 I went to observe the local board canvass of my home voting district, District #1 of the Village of Germantown.
Standing about four feet from the scanner and about 30 feet from the table with poll books I took this picture with my camera at full zoom.
When I took the picture above, I was threatened with arrest by this rather nice police officer.
After asking why I would be arrested I discovered the county clerk has instituted a new observation rule in which the clerk states that every election worker has a six foot bubble around them and any member of the public who violates the bubble will be arrested. The village clerk informed me of this and showed me the email she had received from the county clerk. Based on legal authority of a printed email from the county clerk, the police officer informed me that he would arrest me if I persisted in violating the bubble rule. I protested that the bubble rule was bogus and was a misstatement of GAB rule 4.01. Unfortunately I did not think to have a copy of the rule on me, but knowing the bubble rule was bogus, I proceeded to take this picture.
At this point I was given the clear ultimatum by the village clerk: back away and abide by the bubble rule or be put under arrest. I spent about 10 to 20 seconds deciding if arrest was prudent. I had other things to observe that evening. Eventually discretion, prudence, or cowardice won and I moved off.
Later I saw this
Thinking that something worth observing might be happening I moved closer to observe. I was again threatened with arrest even though I had clearly stopped more than six feet away.
The rest of the evening was spent in the Washington County courthouse observing the tallying and aggregation of votes on the central GEMS server.
Here is a picture of an assistant clerk working on the GEMS server in the area set up for the public observation.
Yes, there is someone at the desk back there. Yes, this was what is considered to be open for public observation.
I have stated for years that only bad software is delayed by good testing. The same principle holds for elections:
Only poor procedures are hindered by vigilant observation.