Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
Last night I published an article about receiving a notice that my absentee ballot as a military voter would not be counted on election night because there was a question about my eligibility to vote in this election.
Now imagine that you are a military voter who has had to vote absentee since 1996 and during that time you changed your party affiliation to the party that is not the majority party in that state, though at one time it was. Now imagine that you had trouble even getting a ballot during the 2012 election cycle because the legislature changed the rules to require a voter to request a ballot for each election, something that was not publicized. Now imagine that you have been reading all kinds of reports of Republican operatives in Red States attempting to disqualify Democratic Party voters or those who might reasonably be suspected of voting Democrat.
Then imagine receiving this notice with your ballot and imagine your reaction.
My reaction was to go to Red Alert and Battle Stations. I wrote about it here as well as at the Daily Kos, and then I went into action calling the County Clerk office, the Federal Voter’s Assistance Program, and the West Virginia Secretary of State Office. The Federal Voter’s Assistance program employee who helped me just happened to be a West Virginia native from the county that my paternal grandmother is from contacted the West Virginia Secretary of State Voting Rights section and the matter was cleared up. Both the man at the Federal Voter’s Assistance Program and the lady from the Secretary of State office were very helpful.
The answer from the County Clerk’s Office was that I got the form by mistake and that a computer problem put them behind and in the rush to get the ballots out the provisional ballot form notice was mistakenly put in the packets. While I understand that I am not sure how much I believe it as it seems incomprehensible to me that that form would be put in every packet by hand without someone noticing and asking the simple question “should we be sending this form out?”
I hate to sound a bit paranoid but recent history shows that there are some public employees who will defy the law for their political and social beliefs, as in the case of Kim Davis in Kentucky. Either it this was a case of incredibly gross incompetence which is pretty rare, or it was it was an intentional act of an employee who is now covering their tracks.
I have to ask. What if an employee of the Clerk’s office decided to send them just to Democrats, or Republicans for that matter and then lie and say that everyone got one with no way of proving it as the forms are not serialized. The question should be asked and the situation investigated and if there is wrongdoing then it should be prosecuted. This is an absentee ballot nightmare scenario. While it won’t matter for the Presidential ballot as West Virginia is solidly behind Trump, it does matter in the state and local races.
Now my vote will be counted on election night, at least that is what I am told. So the next step is to make sure that everyone else who got one of these forms knows what happened and that their votes will count. I have contacted the Secretary of State’s Office and asked that they and the Cabell County Clerk Office issue a press release and also individually notify people that their vote will count. I can imagine that if I was in Iraq or Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, or on a ship at sea with little way to reach back and find out what is going on that I might just not vote. I can imagine that if I was a student living out of state or an elderly shut in I might just give up on this election. Not everyone is the asshole that I am when it comes to real or potential civil rights and voting rights issues. Many people are simply too nice to rock the boat or the vote.
And then ask the logical follow-up question: “If I didn’t contact Federal and State officials to advise them of this would the situation have been noticed or corrected?” That has to be asked, because accidental or not it would have led to de-facto voter suppression. The Secretary of State office agrees with me and even called me back and they are working on how to work with the county to make sure that people know that this was a mistake.
I do not care what party you are affiliate with, or for that matter who you vote for, but I do ask all of my readers regardless of party affiliation to hold their legislatures, county clerks, and state level secretary of state offices charged with ensuring that elections are free and fair to make sure that no one is disenfranchised. I also contacted the news office of one the local NBC affiliate in Huntington because I am not sure that this will get out to the people that need to know and that if there is a cover-up going on that it will surface without outside scrutiny. I am also going to contact other news outlets.
If a “mistake” like this happened to me it can happen to anybody. The price of maintaining our civil rights and voting rights is unrelenting vigilance.
Until tomorrow, stay alert, and keep democracy alive.