Thursday, December 11, 2008

In which a white man gets disenfranchised

In the summer of 2007, I moved from the only state where I had ever been a legal resident to a different state to attend medical school. I registered to vote in my new state well before the primary elections earlier this year. I'm looking right now at my voter registration card from the county Board of Elections, marked with a date of 12/03/07. It doesn't mention a party affiliation, and now that I think about it, I can't remember whether the registration process required declaring one. In the state where I grew up, I registered as a Republican so I could vote in the primaries, but the state where I now reside is one of these God-awful open primary states, so such consideration is irrelevant. If I was asked for a party affiliation, I'm sure I chose Republican, but I just can't remember. So I don't know whether the county thinks that I consider myself a Republican or not.

At the time of the primary, I carried the same voting card to my polling place, requested a Republican ballot (the only person present, according to my eavesdropping, to do so), and cast my vote for Mitt Romney. Of course, they never ask for the card, since it's not a valid ID and the voter's name is supposed to be in the book. I took it anyway, just in case. Voting went off without a hitch. They looked up my name in the book, checked my driver's license, handed me the ballot, and I filled it out and dropped it in the box. No problems.

So I didn't think there would be any problems the day of the general election in November, either. I confidently strode up to the volunteer sitting behind the table and gave her my name. She flipped through the book... no dice. The other volunteer manning the other book (there was an A-L book and an M-Z book or something like that) checked his book too; I wasn't there either. I suggested some possible misspellings of my last name and they checked for those too. Nothing. I showed them the card, but it's not much: there's no voter ID number, just my name, polling place, and a list of the relevant districts in which I reside. They said that if my name wasn't in the book, they couldn't give me a ballot.

They got on the phone with someone downtown, and the answer that came back was that I should cast a provisional ballot. I'd fill out the ballot, but it wouldn't be counted until my registration was verified at the county office. I figured this wouldn't be a problem; since I was registered and had voted in the primary, the absence of my name in the book that day could only have been a minor clerical error, and I was sure they'd find that I was registered and promptly count the ballot.

Then, last week, I received a letter from the county Board of Elections. It stated that they had been unable to verify my registration, and suggested calling them if I believed I was registered. Otherwise, a new voter registration form was handily enclosed for my convenience.

Since I know I'm registered, I called on Wednesday. The person I spoke to checked the records and told me that the problem was that I had never signed my voter registration. Ah, I see, a simple mistake on my part... except that I'm holding a voter registration card in my hand, and I voted in the primary election, where I was on the books. Well, she said, the earliest activity our records show for you is this registration which is is June of this year.

In June of this year I was having my first ever experience in lab research by day, hanging out with friends by night. I was having no communication, direct or indirect, with the county Board of Elections. I voted, in person, in the primary election in the spring. My name was in the book then. In November, I returned to the same polling place, without having moved, changed my name, been convicted of a felony, been declared legally insane, or done anything else which one might suspect would result in a change in my voting registration. I was not on the book.

The woman on the phone said she could check the book from the primary. I said yes, I'd like her to do that. She said she'd call me back, hopefully later the same day. I haven't been called back.

I've never thought of myself as a potential conspiracy theorist, nor someone who complains about being victimized. As I said, I don't even know whether the county knows I consider myself a Republican. But I do live in the bluest county [sigh... I keep wanting to settle among like-minded people, but universities keep pulling me back in] in a swing state, and this was a very important election to the presumably mostly Democratic election officials. Is it too much to think that they purged Republicans from the voter rolls? Oh, right, only Republicans do that; the left only cares about fairness and justice for everyone. Except when said fairness doesn't produce the required results.

The specific result in this case is immaterial; Obama solidly carried the state and I voted for Chuck Baldwin anyway. But, if we're now entering an age where the left is going to use widespread corruption and underhanded trickery to prevent conservatives from voting, that in my mind proves how irreconcilably divided those in our society who want to destroy traditional America are from those of us who want to preserve it, so that only something as radical as revolution or civil war can settle our disputes.