Given the perceived stakes of the 2008 presidential election, I had set out in February already to make sure we had everything in order to vote absentee.
I went to the website for the board of election commissioners of our former county and read through all information available for absentee voting for residents abroad. As you can imagine, reading voting regulations and procedures is just slightly less demanding than a casual perusal of the tax code. Wanting to be absolutely sure that I had read and understood everything correctly, I sent an email to the voting office with a list of itemized questions I wished clarified. The exchange went something like this:
Sent 28 January 2008
Dear Election Commission,
My name is Chris and I wish to vote absentee. Having read the absentee guide online, I have the following outstanding questions:
I appreciate your help in this matter.
Received 28 January 2008
Have you looked at our website? Everything you need to know is there.
I thought that the complete omission of common letter-writing standards such as a salutation and signature was a nice touch. Granted we are using email, but I am expecting a marginal level of professionalism when dealing with the board of election commissioners. This is supposed to a be a government agency with which I am corresponding. I am not texting dick and fart jokes to my old college fraternity brother, Chet, here.
Sent 29 January 2008
Dear Election Commission,
Thank you very much for your quick response! To be clear . This being said, I do have a couple of outstanding questions that require some clarification:
I thank you again for your continued assistance in this important matter.
Received 29 January 2008
If you are only interested in the November 4th election you can mail or fax that form 76. Please put on the form that you are only interested in the General Elections and that means we will only mail you ballots for the general elections. As long as you are overseas you do not have to get your ballot notarize. Please put the reason why you are voting absentee and it should have a proper reason for you on the form 76. When we send you a ballot it comes with instructions, ballot, and an affidavit envelope.
That was the actual text of the email. I was going to be sure to fill out that form 76 as opposed to that other form 76. It was also a relief that I did not have to have my ballot notorize. It is such a nuisance when you have to have things like your ballot notorize, your tires rotate, your teeth clean, or your colon flush. Again, the contents of the website were once again regurgitated in this email. What’s more, none of the questions were answered.
Sent 30 January 2008
Good day Election Commission,
Once again I thank you for a quick response to my email. I now know for certain that if I wish to vote in the 4 November general federal election I can mail or fax in form 76 and I do not have to have my ballot notarized. The web site has made this clear as well as your swift email responses.
However after reading the website and your emails, I have four outstanding questions I would ask you to please clarify:
I thank you for your continued assistance.
I have no idea how I was able to keep a not only civil but polite tone. Then the following turd of an email came.
Received 31 January 2008
On form 76 the reasons for voting overseas are <answer to a question I did not ask>. If you are any of these you do not have to have your ballot notorize. If you are a resident of the state living abroad you do not need to have your ballot notorize. <More information from the website I did not ask about>.
FUCK YOU. All I wanted was answers to four questions which I itemized four fucking times. I have to hand it to them though. I received a response within a day each time. They are lighting fucking fast at blowing people off and making sure they do not help the people they are employed to serve.
I mean Jesus Christ. I am a middle-class, white, young, professional, male. I can not be any LESS disenfranchised. I am left feeling very sorry for any of our nation’s ethic minorities who are trying to sort this shit out for themselves, many of whom might not speak English as their native language. Or any black person living south of the Mason-Dixon line.
It is quite easy to seem overly paranoid about the voting system these days. I am personally very uncomfortable with electronic voting, but not for the reason your average mother’s-basement-dwelling conspiracy theorist might think. In order to execute any kind of electoral manipulation, such electronic systems would have to actually function. Not only is the technology at a non-functional state as is evidenced in a Florida primary (yes, THAT Florida: the humid, yokel, swamp, gator-bait, hanging chad, geriatric paradise, can’t-fucking-count-or-hold-an-election, clusterfuck Florida), but the processes that are in place are also broken.
In the end however, I finally found a phone number and spoke to someone at the election commission. We received our ballots and have voted. Ever since we have both been feeling very excited about having cast our ballots. I just hope that things run a bit more smoothly in 2012.