Voting From Abroad
My fingers tremble, my breath rasps. I flex my thigh muscles and prepare to leap . . . do the long jump . . . go far . . . over the ocean to reconnect with my people, my roots, my dirt.
But first, there’s this little thing called bureaucracy:
Voting from abroad is supposed to be easier this year.
First comes registering to vote. The on-line post card registration.
While my heart is still throbbing with the duties of citizenship, the privilege of democracy in action, the energy of the heaving masses, I print the forms out and fill them in, and scan (my husband helps me), and send them back as an attachment to an email.
Whoops, we did it five days too early! The energy of the masses is gone. I hold a grudge for five months and refuse to re-register.
Finally, I give in because the citizenship bird on my shoulder is pecking at my soul, and because the presidential candidates have slung mud, plates, pig manure, foul tempers, and the entire nation at each other and the world, and my back is now laden with this mountain of foulness. We print and fill out the forms again, scan and send back.
Now, we are registered!
We wait four months for the emails with the links to our ballots.
Only one of two ballots arrives. I download the ballot that did arrive: nineteen pages long!
The directions seem longer than before. They are in English and Spanish (as before), there is an address verification form and an id verification form (both new), a declarations page, a two page ballot with one page intentionally left blank, and here is our favorite part, the page that must be turned into an envelope in a cut and tape session and has provoked late evening marital disagreements and nation name-calling.
Oh, joy, here I read that the second envelope required–the interior secrecy envelope–is optional this year!
Second joy: they will allow us to send our vote back in a normal envelope; we don’t have to cut and tape! But if we do not send our ballot in the cut and tape envelope, we will have to wrap our ballot in the signed declarations page. Hmm, so many things to remember.
First, I send an email asking where the second ballot is, and asking if we have to send back the-page-intentionally-left-blank, and asking how to fill in the address verification form. Then I sit back and take a deep breath.
Now, I am again feeling that stars-and-stripes, anticipatory political duty excitement. Just as soon as I receive the second ballot, I’ll read all the fine print, fill in the forms, color in the ballot dot which is my vote, and insert the correct forms in the correct envelopes.
Then I’ll walk down to the post office hoping that I filled out the paperwork correctly and that my vote will count.