Voting is something we should all be proud of and do a lot more of. But there’s a special sense of victory when it’s this difficult to get yours counted.
Absentee voting is anything but easy in general, and then when you add in the obstacles of trying to vote from a country with such unreliable communications systems, it’s nearly impossible. I’m still proud to say that I voted twice in the last election, but I’m less than certain that either of those votes were counted.
I’ve voted by absentee ballot far more often than I’ve voted in person. In fact, I think I’ve only made it to the community building once in my almost ten years of voter eligibility. Some elections I’ve missed, but I’ve tried to make all the major ones. But as I went away to college as soon as I was of age, I was mainly voting by absentee ballot. Then I took the next step and became an expatriate.
The idea of voting from Madagascar was more than a little intimidating, but participating in elections is highly encouraged and I have to give some credit to our Embassy over here and to the Peace Corps mission that they do their best to keep you informed about how voting might possibly be done from over here. During the last presidential election I made a point of applying for an absentee ballot as soon as I possibly could, but it the whole process had to be done by mail. Anybody who’s sent me something knows how long that could take. The major difficulty is the turn-around time between the official ballot being approved after the state primaries and the time it takes to mail that ballot. So last election I wound up deciding to send in the generic national ballot with only your choice for president and I think you could write in candidate names for senator, representatives, etc. Yet, miraculously just after that was sent my official ballot arrived in the mail – so I took that and sent it right back. I know it had no chance of arriving in time (and I really don’t know of the generic ballot made it either), but supposedly if the generic ballot is received but the official ballot arrives later, it cancels the generic ballot. But then again, most states don’t count absentees at all unless the final count comes to within a few percentage points.
I was told that during the last election I could have faxed my ballot over and then mailed the hard copy to make sure it got counted, but at that point I didn’t have access to an international fax.
But this year I do – and additionally I found out that Wisconsin is moving up in the technological world – you have to fax in your request for an absentee ballot (so your signature shows), but then the election officials can E-MAIL you an PDF file of the official ballot form. You print that out, fill it in, then fax that back to your election official. The faxing is still a little annoying, but at least it can be done! And having the one step of the process done by e-mail easily knocks 2-3 weeks off the process. Amazing.
I tell you, there’s not a small feeling of pride to overcome all these obstacles and to think that maybe, just maybe, my vote is being counted and making a difference. Then again, I should be more cynical than that, but I can have one corner of naïve optimism, can’t I? Either way, I’ve done my part – will you?
November 7th. Go to folks.