Counting issues were later reported due to people clipping through the wrong parts of the ballot.
Photo by Jack Yang
With voter turnout expected to be extremely high for the 2020 Democratic primaries, the Democratic National Committee has made a renewed effort to “get out the vote” to every demographic. For this year’s primaries, the DNC has specifically targeted gamer voters in the form of “speedruns.” Typically, speedruns refer to video games, where players will try to complete a game as fast as possible. For their iteration, the DNC has challenged voters to enter their polling place on election day and fill out their ballot as quickly as possible. This real-life speedrun has no prize other than bragging rights, but according to DNC spokesperson Mary Tibbit: “that hasn’t stopped hundreds of voters from filling out sample ballots to practice for what’s expected to be the ‘speediest’ primary season thus far.”
In a statement on Friday, the DNC described the rules for the speedrun, which is currently listed on Speedrun.com, a leaderboard for speedrunning attempts. To complete the speedrun, voters are instructed to enter their polling place and obtain their ballot. After they’ve been designated a voting booth by the polling place volunteers, the timer starts. Once voters have finished filling out their ballot, they need to run back to the volunteers and turn in their ballot. The timer is stopped once the ballot is collected. This rule was set to ensure equity among speedrunners, as smaller polling stations were deemed to be too much of an advantage to rural voters. Currently, the only category being run is “Primary Ballot Any-Percent,” with hopes that increased turnout due to the speedrunning will lead to a “General Election Any-Percent” Speedrun.
Controversy has already arisen in the few days since the competition had been announced. Some gamers have complained that polling stations with electronic voting machines provide an unfair advantage over polling stations that only have paper ballots. They argue that pressing buttons is much faster than filling out bubbles, which, according to speedrunning veterans, “shave precious seconds off an already incredibly precise run.” Beyond this, many are complaining that the current category of “Any-Percent” implies that any amount of the ballot could be filled out or left blank before being submitted, potentially allowing dozens of seconds or even minutes to be saved. This has resulted in calls for the DNC to replace “Any-Percent” with “100 Percent,” where voters would have to fill out 100 percent of their ballot before submitting it. The DNC has dismissed these concerns, stating that the democratic right to undermine democracy “must be upheld.”
Despite the complaints, voter turnout suggests the DNC’s gamble has paid off. Turnout in New Hampshire’s Democratic Primary was record-breaking, with more than 300,000 ballots cast. With hundreds of thousands of ballots waiting to be cast across the nation, some Democratic hopefuls are telling youth voters that they “gotta go fast.” As of now, the world record is held by Robin Lee, a 22-year-old gamer from South Carolina who reportedly used an advanced sliding technique to stop exactly at the booth before filling out his choice for president and returning his ballot with a “jump, throw, and excellent catch” by the polling volunteer. This took Lee 23.7 seconds, but Lee is determined to get it lower next election season. “I’m just disappointed I can only vote once,” Lee reflected. “Obviously politics aren’t a game, and these decisions could have real-life consequences for months, years, or even generations to come. But if I have to commit voter fraud to shave a couple of seconds off of my time, then I’ll do what I have to.”