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How I (almost) lost the right to vote (again)
November 7, 2012 - Ilsa Matthes
I can’t say that I was surprised when my name wasn’t in the voter book on Tuesday. After being registered under three different names, threatened with charges of voter fraud, told I couldn’t vote, told I could only vote in the next election, and told there were multiple versions of “me,” I was ready for anything.
(If you missed the beginning of this story, you can read all about my struggle here.)
I received a voter registration card and a voter identification card in the mail before the election and both had my real name on them. While this would be par for the course for any other registered voter, given my track record with registration errors I was ecstatic. Physical proof that I was a registered voter was now in my hands.
Unfortunately, physical proof that I was a registered voter was not in the hands of my township clerk.
I had both cards in my hand when I approached the check-in table at my township hall. I stated my name, handed them both cards and my driver’s license, and waited while they flipped through the pages of names.
The election worker seemed confused. Most of the people who have been involved in my attempt to vote have been confused.
“Am I in the book?” I finally asked, mostly for the benefit of the woman who was staring at the pages where my name should have been.
“You’re not in the book,” she said simply.
She told me to sign the back of a form — which was actually an affidavit that I didn’t have an ID, and completely unrelated to my problem, but at least put my signature on something — before another election worker came to her aid.
The second worker told me that they would keep that form for me and that I needed to go to the main office and speak with the clerk.
The clerk’s office was empty except for one woman on a computer, who was not, in fact, the clerk. That woman told me the clerk would be back soon and went back to typing.
When the clerk did enter the room she came in with another voter who was also having problems. She looked at my papers, noticed the stamp on one of may cards and said, “They’re probably looking in the wrong place. This was just sent out recently.”
I commented that the election worker had found a relative of mine — trying to prove that the workers had been in the right place alphabetically. The clerk didn’t respond to my comment, filled out a card for me, and sent it with me back to the voting check-in table.
When I got to the check-in table a flustered election worker tried to have me re-fill out the form I had filled out the first time I was at the table. I pointed to the form — which was still sitting on the table — and told them it was mine. I wasn’t about to have two forms claiming I’d voted floating around.
Finally, I received a ballot. It was finally in my hands, the piece of paper I had worked so hard to hold. The simple form that I had registered and re-registered five times to receive.
I filled it out. This was the easiest part of my entire voting experience.
Almost as soon as I had entered the township building the voting machine had failed, so my paper ballot was placed into a locked portion on the side of the machine, where it could be counted later.
I commented to the election worker who was handing out stickers that I hoped the machine problem was not a result of my luck overflowing. She laughed, gave me a sticker that said, “My vote counted!” and told me to show it off.
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