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When Bad Things Happen to Good Voters - A Tale of Two Students

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Joan Brunwasser       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   2 comments

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When Bad Things Happen to Good Voters – a Tale of Two Students

Early voting is well under way and turnout is heavy. The Chicago Tribune predicts that almost 800,000 of my fellow Illinoisans will have voted by 7:00  tonight when early voting ends. VotersUnite! Executive Director John Gideon puts out Daily Voting News year-round. In recent days, there is so much going on, he has ramped it up to twice-daily news bulletins.  Let’s look at how voting is going for two young voters.

Sarah from New Orleans

Sarah Woodward is “an undergraduate from New Orleans, studying at Stanford University. This is my first presidential election.”

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Here is her story.

I thought you'd be interested in this bit of news...

Yesterday [Tuesday] I received my absentee ballot from Louisiana and guess what was missing? The presidential ballot.  Outraged, I went down to dinner and began speaking to other students and I would say about 5 out of 10 people I talked to said they'd had an issue with absentee ballots as well.  Some hadn't received their ballots yet and others also had materials missing, though I was the only one who was missing the presidential ballot.  It seems that this is a system-wide deficiency and though I'd always heard that our voting system was flawed, I'd never experienced it first-hand.  This morning I called the Registrar of Voters in New Orleans and their solution is that I have to find a fax machine so that they can send me my ballot, then I have to fax my ballot back to them waiving my right to secrecy ... But what choice do I have?  I can vote, or I can not vote.  I then called my mom, a lawyer, and she has already called the local newspaper, the Obama campaign, and the Registrar of Voters to let them know that she is planning to file a class action suit on voting rights against the state of Louisiana with me as a principal plaintiff.  

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Anyway, I thought you'd like that, given our country's practice of invading other countries in the name of democracy.

Last night, I received this:
The update is that after my mom spent the day on the phone with the Registrar of Voters and the Secretary of State's office, we have received assurances from many people who are (very very very) sorry that this happened (and probably very very very afraid of my mom). The Registrar is sending me a ballot overnight with a prepaid express envelope included.  But who knows how many others this has happened to who do not have mothers who are lawyers!  Please post this.  I want to get the word out. 
Sarah will keep us apprised, but she looks to be in pretty good shape, with her lawyer mother and the threat of a class action suit to back her up.

Ariella in Boston

My daughter, Ariella, is in Boston for graduate school. Quite a while ago, she applied for an absentee ballot. It finally arrived on Saturday, missing its security sleeve.  She was fuming! We had no idea if her ballot was still kosher. I gave Ariella the Election Protection hotline [1-866-OUR-VOTE] as well as the phone number of the Cook County Clerk’s office.  She promptly called and left messages.  So did I.  If she had been at the polls, she would have been out of luck. Few of us have the “luxury” to wait for hours until someone can return our call. So, it’s not hard to predict total chaos next Tuesday.

The volunteer from Election Protection [EP] I finally connected with looked up Illinois Election Code (Section 19-6). Ariella needed to certify the outside of the official return envelope, fold the ballot as instructed, and pop it in the mail. The County Clerk’s office told Ariella to use a plain white envelope in lieu of the missing sleeve and to send everything back in the proper return envelope. EP advised that Ariella’s ballot must be post-marked by November 3, which actually means the ballot would arrive several days after the election. I recommended a quick trip to the post office and extra postage to ensure that the ballot arrives in Chicago by today [Thursday], or Friday, at the latest.  We have heard too many stories about absentee ballots that don’t ever get counted. Tonight she emailed me: “I mailed my absentee ballot on Tuesday in the pouring rain. It reminded me of No Umbrella*. It should get there today or tomorrow.”

Both Ariella and Sarah’s voting problems –and their solutions – transpired outside the polling place. But as voters flock to the polls in record numbers, what should they do if they run into problems?

Potential Problems at the Polls

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Election Defense Alliance and Illinois Ballot Integrity Project recommend voting on Election Day, in your precinct, and requesting a paper ballot if at all possible, in order to make your vote more secure. OpEdNews, Snopes, Voters Unite, and various other sources strongly recommend avoiding Straight-Ticket Voting, because of the likelihood that part or all of your ballot will be lost. The presidential race is particularly at risk. Daily Voting News is full of reports of this happening; millions of voters in 15 states are at risk.

Emily Levy of Velvet Revolution, Ellen Theisen of VotersUnite! and the folks at put together great suggestions on what to do if you run into trouble with a machine that flips your vote or otherwise malfunctions.  

Follow These Steps

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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