November 4th, 2008
06:28 PM ET

Life as a provisional voter

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/04/art.gavoting.jpg]
Paul Varian
CNN Senior Executive Producer

I've just found out what a provisional voter is - me.

When I went to vote at City Hall in Avondale Estates, Ga. (pop. 2,600), I was greeted by the same friendly faces I see election after election - the volunteers, mostly retirees, who make sure everything goes like clockwork. And it always does.

There were no long lines - quick in, quick out. But when my turn came, I was told I had already voted on Sept. 25 at one of Dekalb County's two or three early voting centers.

In fact, that was not the case. But that's what the records showed. My precinct guy called the county and they had it in black and white - somebody using my name apparently had cast a ballot in person under the early voting procedures in place in many parts of the country. Or my vote was somehow recorded by mistake.

I was given permission to fill out a provisional ballot which I don't think will be counted until two days after the official vote has been tabulated - and then only if it's been determined that I "meet Georgia Voter Registration eligibility requirements for this election." That's according to the "Dear Voter" card they gave me at the place I went to vote.

A place where everybody really does know my name, even those whose names I can never remember. That's because my wife serves as an elected official in Avondale Estates - city commissioner. Doesn't matter.

My biggest concern is how somebody was able to vote in person using my name, if that's what happened. Georgia just went through a major legislative hullabaloo to mandate picture IDs for in-person voting. I showed my driver's license. What did the phony Paul Varian show?

I mentioned my concern the county election person whose number I was given to call and she warned me not to jump to any conclusions. Just because somebody used my name to vote before I could doesn't mean my identity's been stolen. I hope she's right.

This is the second straight presidential election where I've been effectively disenfranchised.

Four years ago, I was given an out-of-town Election Day assignment on relatively short notice. It was already too late to vote by traditional absentee ballot and trying to cast my ballot via early voting proved fruitless on the first election in which that had been tried in Georgia. Both days I tried the wait was 3-4 hours minimum.

Filed under: 2008 Election • Paul Varian
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Donna

    Looks like we are going to have to start finger printing when registering to vote. When voting, the prints will be compared with the person voting. Something needed to be done with all this fraud.

    November 4, 2008 at 11:54 pm |
  2. Jackie

    Just to throw something even more rediculous into the mix. I'm from VT, this is the 2nd presidential election I've voted in and have voted in 1 other state/local election in the last 4 years and not once have I ever shown any sort of ID or handed anyone any sort of card. Just walk in, give them my name, they check it off their list and they hand me a ballot. The end. Crazy, right?

    November 4, 2008 at 11:50 pm |
  3. josh

    I filled out a voter registration card after moving about a month ago. I received a card in the the mail with my new address. I showed up to vote and there was no record that I existed. I was told to vote provisional. I had not idea at the time that my vote might not count. After checking my voter registration card later I see they misspelled my last name.

    November 4, 2008 at 11:16 pm |
  4. Crystal

    I also thought it was strange that no photo ID was required for early voting. It would be so easy to take a friend's voter registration card if you knew they were going to vote against your party... god knows, mine had just been sitting on my coffee table since I got it in the mail... seems like requiring some form of photo ID would be a prudent and fairly painless step...

    November 4, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  5. Bob

    Sounds like ACORN has struck your area already......

    November 4, 2008 at 9:15 pm |
  6. lydia

    probably a stupidity mistake. Hey, be glad they gave u a pb.

    November 4, 2008 at 8:31 pm |
  7. Brady in Phoenix

    If we are ever going to have fairer elections, I think it is important that some kind of photo ID is required at the polls for all states. Such laws like the one enacted in Arizona are not discriminatory and provide numerous other options for ID needed in the event you do not have your Driver's License.

    November 4, 2008 at 8:05 pm |
  8. Margaret Hunt

    In this small town( 5200 people) no ID was asked for. I had my drivers license and registration card out to show. The worker was so pleased but required none of the elderly gentleman in front of me. I would have loved to hang around to see how the ID "thing" went on as the day progressed...

    November 4, 2008 at 7:57 pm |
  9. Johanna

    Until we all go to mail in ballots or require photo ID I doubt I will ever trust any election!! It makes me physically ill when I hear these stories! Like idenity theft doesn't happen financially...of course it will happen on election day!!

    November 4, 2008 at 7:46 pm |
  10. Johanna

    Until all states go to mail in ballots or photo ID I will doubt all elections. Whether you are a Dem or a Rep you should want fair elections!! At 38 I can't believe how disappointed I am at the lack of strength our own elections!!

    November 4, 2008 at 7:44 pm |
  11. Matt-Houston Texas

    This violates almost everything I had trusted in our election process. During the election, one person gets one vote. At the end of the election, all Americans will support the elected President. We must trust our fellow Americans as a whole and live united regardless of higher taxes-lower taxes or our approach to Iraq. The successful non-violent transfer of power starting with President Washington makes us the greatest country–truly our country's greatest moment. Let the candidates make their case, let those of us eligible to vote do so and embrace our process. Allow our voices to be equal.

    November 4, 2008 at 7:28 pm |
  12. Ernest

    I was shocked that today all I had to do was verbally give my name and address. I could have been anybody. The fact that the above discussed instance was in the south is particularly frightening, given a lot of the hullabaloo regarding possible voting fraud in 2000 in Florida. Why can't we get this right?

    November 4, 2008 at 7:27 pm |
  13. Kyra Ryan

    I voted early in Florida on Saturday. I have misplaced my voters id card, but since im abouta block away from the county offices i knew that was my polling place. They REQUIRE and id atlest early vote. Big ol sign right before you enter the voteing area.. The clerk checked my id and i also had to sign and Early Voteing Slip. She placed a print out of my name on the sheet.. and i belive they keep it for records.. Why there is a mix up anywere eles in insane.. i would make since that the voteing system would be the most foil proof of all our systems.. more so than the Pentagon database

    November 4, 2008 at 7:24 pm |
  14. carol

    I couldn't agree more – I would be more than happy to show my ID. I too have never been asked for one, with or without my sample ballot. I do believe our voting system needs a serious overhaul.

    November 4, 2008 at 7:23 pm |
  15. Matt

    Wouldn't it be nice to have a national voting week? So many of these issues would be cleaned up. Votes could be counted and recounted. Nothing would be announced until the end of the week, and then the public wouldn't have the agonizing wait of election returns.

    We do two things as Americans. We vote and pay taxes. Sometimes, we go to war. Voting fraud is maybe the most insidious charge.

    November 4, 2008 at 7:13 pm |
  16. Illinois Robin

    I was surprised that where I voted in Illinois today also did not require picture ID, although I stood there with it in hand waiting for someone to check it. And I can't say that these were people who knew me either! Made me wonder.......

    November 4, 2008 at 7:11 pm |
  17. Joel, Stockton

    photo ID should be mandatory in any US election.

    November 4, 2008 at 7:09 pm |
  18. Taaqiya

    People have to sign their signature to vote. Unless your a hell of a forger then there's no way the poll attendants cant tell it's not your signature. They have to be completely a dunce to allow someone to vote if it's not really them.

    November 4, 2008 at 7:07 pm |
  19. Wendy Pozin

    What happened to waiting until everyone votes across the country before revealing the results (predictions) from the east coast? Please try to remember 2000!!

    November 4, 2008 at 7:05 pm |
  20. Charles

    Giving projections at this time can affect people still voting in the west coast.......

    November 4, 2008 at 7:04 pm |
  21. Aleka, Oregon

    Oregon has gone to a mail ballot system. We have no polling places, no long lines to wait in, no surprises on election day like Paul Varian describes. I've noticed that lots of families make sitting down and voting a family affair. They discuss the issues, and we have a lot of initiatives on our ballots, and make it a real civic engagement opportunity. There is a paper trail andno voting machine surprises or malfunctions. Every state should consider vote by mail.

    November 4, 2008 at 7:03 pm |
  22. Kathy Marchetta

    I tried to show my drivers license but was told an ID wasn't needed. I pointed to my name on the list and was handed a ballot. I could have pointed to any name on the list.

    November 4, 2008 at 7:01 pm |
  23. Ryan, Portland, OR

    I'm simply not allowed to vote in this election. My wife and I just moved to Oregon where you are encouraged to register to vote at the DMV when registering vehicles and getting your drivers license. So, in August, well before the voter registration deadline in Mid October, my wife and I, both standing at the counter together, were asked by a DMV official if we would like to register to vote. We both said yes, signed a printed form, and thought all would be fine when election day rolled around. In Oregon all voting is done by mail. The state sends you a ballot, you fill it out, and return it in the mail. The time comes when everyone is receiving their ballots which, by the way is after the registration deadline, my wife receives her ballot and mine never comes. After several days of phone calls, a rude DMV official, and several semi-helpful elections offices, I'm told that my registration is nowhere to be found. The DMV can't, or won't, find it and the elections office can't find any record of it either. So my wife has voted, having registered at the exact same moment as me, and I get to sit on the sidelines and not vote because someone mishandled my paperwork.

    November 4, 2008 at 7:00 pm |
  24. Kristin

    Right now, there's nothing to stop anyone from stealing your identity to forge a vote. This country needs to get savvy with this and other measures for protecting our identities as well as our rights. After all, this country is still the biggest super power, blah, blah, blah. Or is it?

    November 4, 2008 at 6:59 pm |
  25. Dan

    I agree. I was sent a voter registration card by Fairfax County, VA. When I went in to vote today I just showed them that card, which had my name and address on it...that's it. I handed it to them and they asked me to state my name and address...something that wouldn't have been difficult to do by anyone who had found/stolen the card. I even had my license out to show them who I was, but they said they didn't need it because of the card. I could easily make up a card and an get an identity from someone's trash can. What a joke.

    November 4, 2008 at 6:54 pm |
  26. Ryan

    Requiring photo ID makes sense in the abstract, but a substantial portion of eligible voters don't drive and don't have ID. I'm fine with requiring ID as long as any state that does so also provides non-drivers with a means to get a free state ID card.

    A citizen should not have to pay to vote, so forcing someone to pay to get an ID card that is required for voting must be avoided.

    November 4, 2008 at 6:54 pm |
  27. Annie Kate

    I'm sure this was upsetting. I hope your identity hasn't been hijacked. Picture id should be required but then I guess the crooks will find a way to get official looking photo id. I hope your provisional vote gets counted.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    November 4, 2008 at 6:49 pm |
  28. Melissa, Los Angeles

    I find it disturbing that picture ID is not required to vote. It's unfair that you – and who knows how many others – have experienced the same problem. I have never had to show picture ID as long as I had my sample ballot with me. What's to stop someone from having stolen my sample ballot and send it in for an absentee ballot?

    November 4, 2008 at 6:36 pm |
  29. PA redneck

    This is one of the reasons why a photo ID and a voter registration card should be mandatory when voting. Over 100 years of corruption in elections you would think this would already be law.....

    November 4, 2008 at 6:33 pm |