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Dec 9, 2008

Definition of "Progress"

We went to vote tonight in the Likud primaries.

Let me describe what we call "progress" nowadays.

It used to be that voting used the very backwards system of walking into the polling station, showing your ID, getting an envelope, going behind a cardboard screen, selecting the appropriate piece of paper with your selected candidate's name on it, slipping it in the envelope, sealing the envelope, and dropping the envelope in a box.

Very backwards, yet I do not remember the process ever taking more than a few minutes.

That is besides the next stage of counting votes. They would then have to physically count paper ballots. They had to inspect envelopes to make sure they were not disqualified for any reason. etc.

We now live in 2008, and we have finally decided to get with the times. There is no reason to continue using the old backwards system of paper ballots, when computers do pretty much everything in our lives including making coffee. The time to move to a computerized election system has definitely arrived.

The Labor party tried it last week in their primaries, and the whole system crashed during the day. The primaries had to be redone manually a few days later.

The Likud tried it today, expecting better results. Well, it worked. Partially.

The systems did not crash. There were some technical glitches, but nothing that brought the system down. There was a problem with Bezeq in the morning where a tractor ripped a fiber optic line, bringing down communications for a couple of hours, but other than that, it was overall pretty smooth. From the computer aspect, that is.

The problem was that I waited two hours in line to vote. Remember the old fashioned method? The backwards one? Where it took upwards of 4 minutes? Ahhh, those were the days.....

The biggest problem I found was the lack of any organization. The actual voting was computerized, but nothing else was. You walk into the polling station and had no idea what to do. After a few minutes I saw a friend and he asked me if I had gone to get a number. There was no sign that you needed to, there was nobody at the door giving out numbers, no way for me to know I needed to get a number, other than a friend telling me. I made sure to tell people when I saw them walk in.

The numbers were little handwritten pieces of paper with a number on it. So anybody, technically, could have written themselves a number instead of using the much higher number received from the usher.

Then, you just sat around in this big room. Voting was on the other side of the room. It was just a noisy crowd of people talking to each other. Once in a while, one of the ushers would call out a number. Most people could not hear the number called, and had no idea that their spot had just been passed over.

We sat near the front so we could hear the numbers, and there was more space for our kids to spread out and run around a bit.

Eventually someone came in and got frustrated. He started taking over. he did not really do anything except make himself feel important. he got his number and then went over to the ushers and reorganized the room. He insisted it would be more efficient for the main section of the room to be blocked off from the people waiting. So he insisted on them moving tables to block off the area. Also the tables kind of forced the people to wait in a line. Once people got into this line, they all started screaming why it was not yet there turn. People were getting frustrated by the long wait. The line really did not matter, because everyone supposedly had a number. So there was no need for a line. But he waited on the other side of the table, so he must have felt important, as though he was one of the managers and not just a regular person.

My kids were not deterred by the tables and went right under them and continued to run around in the large open space. Eventually the "important" guy got upset that they were there. he started to tell us off for letting them run around over there. he said they are making noise and we should keep them on our side of the table. I told him off saying why should they stand here in the crowded space of a few inches when they can run around over there. They are not bothering anybody. he said they are making noise. I said "They are making noise?" I pointed to the crowd behind me and said "Listen to everybody screaming, and you are upset that these kids are making some noise! They are making the difference?"

After that he left us alone and my kids continued to run around.

Eventually the line started to move and we got to vote. For me it was quick, because I came with a list of numbers prepared for the candidates I was selecting. But if you did not come with a list prepared, and only knew the names of people you were going to vote for, I could see it taking a long time behind the voting booth.

You would then have to look at the poster, find the picture of the candidate you wanted to vote, find his number, and then select it on the computer (the computer screen only showed numbers for you to select, and only said the candidates name after you chose the number). It could potentially take a long time to match the names and numbers. You had to choose 15 candidates, after all.

The whole process, from the minute I walked in until the minute I left, took 2 hours and 15 minutes.

That is progress!


  1. The old system with papers and envelopes works very well when you vote for 1 or 2 people.

    However, when you need to pick 15 people it becomes a lot more complicated. You need to have a ballot and have people check off he names that they want. What happens if they are sloppy and you can't see which one they checked? What happens if by accident they check off 13 instead of 12? The computerized system prevents all of these problems.

  2. but when it takes 2 hours or more to wait in line to vote, it discourages people and causes them to go home without voting. At one point we almost gave up and left.

  3. It only took 3 mins to vote at 00:50 :-)

  4. I was thinking about those handwritten numbers, and on reflection, it actually showed the really smart side of the sadranim.

    Picture the situation: the Likud folks rock up in the morning with this amazing, state-of-the-art voting process that is going to be super-efficient and shouldn't cause any trouble. They drop it off with the sadranim and explain how things should work. 10am, and people start trickling in. The process takes longer than expected per voter. Then the internet goes down for 1.5 hours, The queue is building up. People are stressed, shouting at each ther, pushing in line, etc.

    So suddenly, one bright spark sees the only way forward: numbers. He and his buddy/ies start tearing up little slips of paper and writing numbers on them, then handing them out to the seething masses, relying on everyone to honor the system and not cheat with their wn numbers. People aren't entirely happy, but at least there's now some kind of order, which persists for the rest of the day.

    Yes, the wait was long, and that was beyond the control of the local sadranim. But at least they had the seichel to improvise and make the best out of a potentially really unpleasant situation.

  5. Shaul - is that really how it happened? I was not aware of that...

    It was not the fault of the sadranim anyway. It was the fault of those responsible for the polling station. They should have had a number machine near the door, with an digital screen placed somewhere in clear view counting the numbers so everyone would know when it was their turn.

    It is a shame that many could not vote because of the disorganization. Progress takes time. It is a good direction to go in.

    They thought the computers would speed things up, and they really should. But there are ways to improve that to make it easier for those who are scared of computers, and there were other things that need attention as well (like the organization)

  6. Rafi,
    I don't know that that's how it happened, but that is the most likely scenario that I painted in my mind. Those handwritten numbers were definitely not lechatchila - clearly an improvisation on the part of the sadranim.


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