I admit it, the whole idea of waiting in line with a bunch of people to vote just makes me cringe. There’s never anything fun about waiting in line. Ever. Even for voting. Fuck that. I hate lines, period. So why on earth would I want to wait in a line just to vote? It’s the 21st century! Why can’t we vote via our smart phones, a computer, or even a goddamn telephone by now for crying out loud? So obviously for me, the only real logical choice has ALWAYS been the absentee ballot.
I think EVERYONE should vote via an absentee ballot, whether they are absentee or not. It only makes complete and total sense. Why wait in lines, waste gas, create unnecessary traffic, have to deal with loudmouth buttheads who have nothing better to do than linger around a polling place? Only then to run the gauntlet of exit pollsters? Why spend unnecessary time dealing and bantering with fellow “voters”, when you can just conveniently fill out a ballot and drop it in the mail. Let’s face it, dealing with people you wouldn’t normally let in through your front door is vastly overrated. Let’s not forget that the postal service can sure use the business. That’s right, the absentee ballot. It’s a no-brainer.
So suffice to say, I prepared for my quadrennial exercise of participating in democracy (I don’t typically do “midterm” elections unless there is a specific governor, congressperson or senator that’s up and I’m willing to support or help get booted out.) early this year. Knowing that I was going to be spending the vast majority of the latter part of this year on the other side of the pond, I did what I rarely do, ever. I planned ahead. I requested my absentee ballot early, before I left Florida in April. I provided the address of where I knew I was going to based in Sweden, at Lena’s house. It was a simple matter of filling out a card and dropping it in the mail. Took me all of five minutes. I had only done it several times before, so to say I was “old hat” at the process, was to be modest.
Back in 2008, it was quite painless to vote. I was in Panama at the time, doing back to back sailing trips and projects aboard. I had just come up to the states for a quick stint in early October that year. Just prior to the election, to get some boat parts and take care of some business. I had already requested my absentee ballot a couple of months before via the county elections office website, and there it was waiting for me. I filled out the ballot, dropped it in the mail, done.
Of course I voted for Obama, since his opponent had apparently ditched all of his political moderations aside. Selling his soul to the now-completely-whacked-out far right fringes of the Republican party. To add insult to injury, he took on who can only be called a total and complete DINGBAT for a running mate. There was simply no other choice but Obama. Period.
Let’s scroll back a bit further to 2006. I had just changed my driver’s license from California back to Florida (where I originally got my license in my teens), when my California license was about to expire. It was just logistically easier, and considering I was in and out of Florida much more those days, it was just the right choice. At the time I got the license done, I had the opportunity to register to vote in Florida again. I just went ahead and took care of that too. I filled out the necessary card, signed it, did the oath thing, done. The clerk gave me another card to fill out and notify my old district in California of my new registration in Florida. He even offered to mail it after I signed it. Could not have been easier.
So obviously for 2008, I was all good to vote. My absentee ballot was waiting for me, and I mailed it in well before election day. Best of all, my candidate won. Everything was beautiful.
That was then, this is now.
By early last October, I started to get a bit suspicious as to why I hadn’t yet received my absentee ballot in Sweden. Surely, I should have had it by now. Maybe there was a mistake, maybe the ballot was mis-addressed. There were lots of possibilities. Of course, the logical thing to do was check the county elections website. Maybe I can order a new replacement ballot if necessary. I went into the site, and had it look up my voter registration status so I can proceed. Instead of my voter record coming up, I get a message that says…
“What the fuck is this?” I bitch to no one in particular. I’m not even in the registration rolls anymore. Great. Now what? Needless to say, I’m not happy. Nothing had changed about my status, my driver’s license, my mailing address on record, nothing. And yet, I’m off the rolls. Gone. A non-person.
Next action: Via skype, I call the Volusia County Elections Office. I’m on hold for what seems to be 30 minutes. Granted, I’m on a plan and not paying by the minute, but I’m frustrated nonetheless. I finally get an audibly Florida-born and bred woman on the line, who immediately asks me if I’m a registered voter. I answer yes, but I’m having a problem. My record doesn’t come up on the website. Maybe there is some mistake and she can check it for me? “tap.. tap.. tap… Well, sure, are you sure you’re registered in Volusia County?” I curtly answer that yes, I’ve been registered since 2006, and that I even voted via absentee ballot in 2008, so my registration HAS to be in there. “Did you move?” “No.” “Did you register to vote in another state or county?” “No, why would I do that?” “Were you convicted of a felony?” “No, not that I know of…”
Tap… tap… tap…
After about 5 minutes of these droning questions, many of which were frustratingly redundant, the woman tells me I will have to re-register.
“But I’m in Europe, I can’t re-register from here.”
“Well contact the US embassy, I’m sure they can help you…thank you for calling. click.”
That’s right, she fucking hung up on me.
So here I am, pissed, wondering how in the hell could my voter registration just come off the rolls so magically. I decide to call back, and ask for a supervisor. I luckily got the same woman I had just previously talked to, with her annoying Florida-backwoods drawl. She tells me that there is nothing a supervisor can do, and I would just have to register again. I tell her I want to talk to someone anyway. She puts me on hold, which lasts two full rounds of the excruciating-ly bad Bread song playing on endless loop for the hold muzak, before someone picks up. It’s a guy’s voice this time.
I asked for his name, he tells me he’s the “supervisor on duty”. I tell him I need to know his name, and he eventually acquiesces with “Bill” but no additional information. Our tax dollars at work? Lovely.
I go on to explain to “Bill” that I need to know how or why my registration could have just come off the rolls like it apparently did. Nothing about my status, my address, etc… had changed. So please, explain to me how it could have happened.
“Did you by any chance vote with an absentee ballot last election?”
“Yes, but what could that possibly have to do with it?”
“Well, there was a problem with several registration records that voted by absentee ballot. Their records just got wiped out for some reason. We’re still trying to figure out why” Never mind that they’ve had FOUR YEARS to do so.
I’m flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe my fucking ears. The worst part of this conversation was the brazenly bureaucratic aloofness that this assclown was displaying, as he mundanely explained “what happened”.
Obviously, I didn’t like his response, and said to him that was unacceptable. I went on to say that it’s probably not a good thing that some untold number of voters’ rights were being trampled on due to some arbitrary “glitch”. And there are probably going to be some severe legal ramifications at some juncture.
I asked him how they intended to remedy the situation, knowing that most of the absentee voters are not in the area now, and can’t register easily. What about all the military personnel who depend on absentee ballots? Is this fair? Should it even be allowed to happen? And why should they have to re-register??
“I don’t know what to tell ya, we’re sorry for the inconvenience. You should contact your embassy or consulate. Sorry, I have to take this other call. Good bye… click.”
They say this fully knowing that there is not a DAMN THING that an embassy or consulate can do regarding local voter registrations. They can arrange to get your absentee ballot, if you ask them early enough for help, but that’s really about it. It’s clear that there are forces at work to keep absentee voters (who overwhelmingly voted for Obama in Florida last election, interesting little factoid) from exercising their rights to vote this time around. This was no fucking accident, no matter what “Bill” says. What’s worse, is that this very thing has been happening to untold numbers of absentee voters all over the US and abroad! It’s also odd that it seems to be happening more in the hotly-contested states than anywhere else. It’s hardly a fucking coincidence.
This is what this all tells me. It tells me that there are forces that are willing to do whatever it takes to nudge or manipulate an election in their favor. The debacle that happened in 2000 was just the beginning. These guys have developed all kinds of new strategies and tactics in order to keep the minority and opposition votes at bay. It’s clear by the surge of “anti-voter-fraud” laws, among other attempts at voter suppression. This bullshit undermines any semblance of democracy that America has left. And trust me, we’re not that far off from being a banana republic. Take it from me.
It’s bad enough that the ignorance and stupidity of the average US voter has been tapped into and are now at the disposal of the plutocrat elites and their theocrat lapdogs. But the fact that this very thing happened to me hits home in a big way. It’s clear to me that democracy in the US is truly at stake. And if the fuckers who engineered this shit end up “winning” because of it, then we can just consider the last remnants of democracy dead and buried.
Here is the most ironic part of this whole fucking mess.
Just on a whim, I decided to check my registration status in California. And guess what? I’m STILL ON THE FUCKING ROLLS in my old voting district in Santa Monica! By an address that I have not lived at for over TEN YEARS. I can technically still vote in California. But Obama doesn’t need my vote in California. He’s got that state locked. He DOES need it in Florida. And let’s face it, that is why this shit happened to me. Ironic indeed.
Make no mistake about one thing. No matter who you vote for, if this shit doesn’t piss you off, then you are part of the problem. This is NOT America.