During this 2020 presidential election, the republican party has been waging an active campaign of voter suppression and the democratic party has been fighting back with information, education, and constant reminders to “Make A Plan to Vote.” Millions of Americans have already voted. I voted a couple of weeks ago. I had a plan, but mistakes were made. There’s a happy ending but for those interested, here’s my story.
I’ve been taking advantage of early voting since … Hmm. I can’t remember. It was just such a great idea I jumped on it and now it feels like it’s always been that way. Texas and Oregon were early adopters but the 2000 Bush/Gore hanging chad debacle was the catalyst that got most US states on board. For more details, check out this Time magazine article. Voting used to be a day. Now it’s a season.
This year, with the plague, I decided to take advantage of the new-to-most-of-us mail option. In North Carolina everyone was given the option to apply for an absentee ballot. The form came in the mail, but I had already downloaded request forms for myself and my mother.
I’d been following the news about what Trump’s new postmaster general Louis DeJoy was doing to slow down the US postal system. The delivery options: mail it (and hope it gets there in time) or drop it off in person. Well, let’s think about that. Bringing the envelopes somewhere in person is just one more errand for me, with my arthritis, bad foot, and canes in plague land. I’m already out once a week to get groceries and another time or two to get things for mom. Since my mother is part of my voting story, now is the time to mention that she has Alzheimer’s. It’s still considered “mild” and she has been ok living alone with lots of help from me and a senior care companion.
So, walking into a building to hand-deliver a ballot was a no. And what about the ballot boxes? There haven’t been any reports of tampering in NC, but some ballot boxes in California were set on fire, and some were fake boxes put out by people intending to ditch the ballots. I wanted to be able to drive past the sturdy blue metal box that sits right outside the post office in my little town. That covers the practical side of things.
Because voting is the most patriotic thing most of us do, there is also an emotional component to it. At least for me. I was devastated when agent orange took office. The past four years have been one national heartbreak after another. This year in particular has taken away most of my faith in humanity and I’m trying to hold onto what’s left. While DeJoy might be a brown-nosed minion, I have to believe that most of the 7.3 million employees of the US postal service are decent people who take pride in themselves and the work they do to serve the public.
OK, let’s get back to the story. In North Carolina, absentee ballots must be witnessed by someone who also signs the back of the envelope. I was the witness for mom. As she carefully and completely filled out each circle, she told me stories about her mother volunteering at local elections. (Yes, I’ve heard the stories before, but it’s sweet. I digress.) I dropped it off in the blue box on the way home. A couple of days later, I was back at her house with my own ballot. My first mistake (cue ominous music) was forgetting about it until the end of the day. It had been a good visit, but we were both tired.
I filled it out and then watched her fill out the witness section. Mistake number two, I didn’t check her work. It was 9:30. I put it in my bag, left and dropped it in the blue box in front of the post office. A few days later, I got an email with an attachment telling me there was a problem with my ballot. I freaked out! The email came from an address with a .gov extension, but those can be spoofed. The attachment could have been malware.
I finally decided to open it all up. The attachment was a form I had to print, sign, return as an affidavit that I am who I say I am. They had my name, town and zip but the street address was wrong. In for a penny, in for a pound. I dialed the phone number on the letter. She picked up right away. Me: May I speak to __. Her: This is she.
It turned out that there was a problem with the witness signature, the one made by my 81year old mother with the brain that is slowly dying, the one that I didn’t check before I mailed. The woman I spoke with couldn’t have been nicer. I was one of 9 people she was contacting. We all had an issue with the witness signature. When I told her that my address was wrong on the letter she went into her system and found me right away. That was mistake number 3. She had copied in the wrong line, an honest mistake anyone can make and something I do regularly. She apologized immediately. Within five minutes, I had a new email with a corrected letter.
It then took me three days to get ink for my printer, but when I put the affidavit in the mail, I included a hand-written thank you note. In a few days, I got the confirmation through the ballot tracking system online that my ballot was received and good to go.
Some of my faith has been restored.
I wish you safe and easy voting.