Steven Heller | Essays

A Brief Plea for EZ VOTE

Madison Square Garden is around the corner from my apartment, which has good and bad sides. It is very convenient if I want to see a Knicks game but there is much too much foot traffic especially on Billy Joel’s monthly concert nights (and before the pandemic it was getting worse). This past Saturday, the first day of early voting, there were more people than I had ever seen snaking around the Penn Station and Garden buildings, spilling east onto 33rd and 34th streets crossing west on eighth and to ninth avenues. And I couldn’t be happier.

There were thousands of voters waiting patiently on line to cast their ballots for the next President and Vice President of the United States. Thousands of them at relatively safe distances, wearing masks, each with his or her own particular amusements, looking at their phones, of course. I did not realize there were that many residents in my formerly industrial, commercial, and hotel-zoned neighborhood.

The average age must have been upper twenties to lower thirties, along with a healthy number of older folks like me, and a few on canes and walkers. Some people were alone and others in groups of two, three, or more. It was as if Woodstock had come the New York City, except without the mud, rock bands, and nudity — so maybe it wasn’t like Woodstock at all, except that despite hours of standing up with no place to sit and no Porta Potty or Call-A-Head facilities, everyone seemed glad to be on that line with one goal in mind: Have their vote be counted, despite threats of voter-interference, in what we can hope will be a free and fair election.

As I watched the electorate crawling towards the final destination, I wondered why some ambitious design-engineer-programmer has not yet invented the EZ-Pass reader or Global Entry kiosk equivalent for voters: EZ Vote. You must be out there. It should also be relatively simple to create (and probably small enough to fit in a wallet or wear as a button) just walk through a scanner that takes a photograph and confirms the holder’s identity. The poll workers can still provide paper ballot, direct voters to the correct machine, and take back the folder when the process is completed. No fuss, no muss, and no three-or-more-hour lines.

This first-time ability to vote early in person in New York is such success during a pandemic, imagine the possibilities in comparatively normal times. With even more imagination and a viable security system the voting process could even be done through an app. Although everyone on the lines took the wait in stride, a more efficient method would be well worth the money spent and the wait-time saved. Despite the proclivity for cyber crime, with luck voter suppression might even become a thing of the past.

Jobs | July 12