We have received your ballot. Unfortunately you are not listed as an overseas voter. Please follow the instructions below as soon as possible.
I received these disheartening words last week by email, from the Boulder County Clerk’s office. They gave me several steps to follow, but warned that I should allow several days for processing of the ballot and my registration. This eleventh-hour confusion began literally 24 hours until the deadline for changes to the voting record in the lead up to this 2012 Election. It was too close for the changes to be registered in time.
Today, I checked my ballot’s status and found that it was not counted.
Listening to election coverage a world away in South Korea on NPR.org, I’m incredibly disappointed.
This election began almost as soon as Obama was elected. I cast my first vote ever for him in the 2008 Election and voted in the mid-term elections that transformed the US Congress into a gridlocked partisan inefficiency machine. I’ve monitored the issues closely and I consider participation in the democratic process fundamental. I am vocal on Twitter about my views, and even though I fall to the far left on the US political spectrum I still want to participate in the electoral process. I had faith in the voting process going into this election.
But my vote was not counted.
In March 2012 I walked across the street to the Post Office in Yeongtong and sent my Federal Post Card Application for an overseas ballot. I’d moved to Korea three weeks earlier, and I knew that voting this November would be a defining part of my year.
As a woman of 25, I feel the heavy weight of politics more than most. I had to move abroad to find employment after college graduation. I was denied insurance coverage for a pre-existing condition. I use hormonal birth control and I believe it should be covered. I plan on taking out federal student loans to fund graduate school. I believe rape is rape, period. I am pro-choice. I am anti-Citizens United.
I believe Wall Street must be better regulated to prevent further economic crisis. I believe those who make the most income must pay higher taxes. I believe marriage must be equal for all citizens regardless of who they love. I believe immigration must open up to the best and brightest who want to come to the United States, and that it should be easier for my English boyfriend to live in the same country as me.
I believe drones are illegal and immoral. I believe climate change is real. I believe that the NDAA and increased power to detain citizens forever without trial is unconscionable. I believe that the two-party system in the United States is strangling our representative democracy. I believe the War on Terror and the War on Drugs have failed. I believe separation of church and state should be total. Crucially for Colorado, I believe marijuana should be legalized, regulated, and taxed.
Why this litany of causes and issues? Someone, somewhere needs to hear my voice.
I woke up early this morning, too excited about the election results to sleep in. I’m following it on NPR, Twitter, Google, Telemundo, Le Monde, and Al Jazeera. I’ve done my research. I’m a model voter, if I do say so myself.
But my vote was not counted.
As soon as I realized my registration had failed, I filled out an emergency ballot downloaded from govotecolorado.com. I sent it via express air mail at a cost of $15 out of pocket. I feel that I did everything in my power to vote and have my voice heard, and yet for all my preparation and my desire to participate in the democratic process, I was blocked from it.
I can take commiserative comfort in the fact that I am not alone. Thousands of ballots in Colorado have been rejected for various reasons. Voter suppression tactics and outright fraud by groups like True the Vote and faulty machines have probably influenced the election. Super PACS and the massive influx of money from corporations in this election have tried to buy the election. (If you haven’t watched Big Sky, Big Money…watch it right now. Right. Now.) Faced with such problems, I’m tempted to say that my vote would not have made a difference even if it was counted.
And here’s the kicker:
I voted for neither Obama nor Romney.
That’s right. My vote, in the swing state of Colorado, was for neither major party candidate. I found myself incapable of voting for Romney and equally incapable of voting for Obama. I could not reconcile myself with voting for the lesser of two evils, as so many have convinced themselves is necessary in our two party system. To some, my vote for president would never have “counted” anyway. To vote for a third party candidate is tantamount to throwing away one’s ballot, especially in a year with such a close election.
But that’s not true. My vote still mattered, and there is more than just the presidential election at stake. My entire ballot was disqualified, and with it my voice on all the issues at stake.
The democratic process is inherently flawed. It’s inherently messy. Votes get lost. People get discouraged. It’s tempting to believe that the democratic process is so broken that there is no point in even trying to participate. It feels so anticlimactic, after four years of campaigns and research and preparation.
My vote was not counted, but this will not stop me. I will continue to speak out on my issues. I will continue to write letters to senators. I will continue to support Planned Parenthood. I will continue to vocally oppose drones. I will find grassroots means to make certain that whatever issues for which I attempted to vote are not lost in the process like my ballot. I still believe that voting is my civic duty, a moral obligation, and that my voice matters. I will protest in the streets if necessary.
My vote was not counted, but this election has helped crystallize my views on the process in a way I could not have hoped for. I learned that I believe in the democratic process and in participatory elections, even in the face of an uncounted ballot.
My vote was not counted, but I will still remember this election for the rest of my days. I’m not a number included in the maps of swing states. I’m not a statistic for pundits to quote.
I’m a voice. I will continue to be heard. I voted. Whether or not it officially counted, it mattered.
EDIT: This post was made on 7th November 2012. My ballot eventually arrived, more than THREE MONTHS AFTER the election in January 2013. To say I was disappointed with the services of the Boulder County Clerk’s office is an understatement; I laughed so loudly and bitterly that my Korean coworkers thought I’d finally snapped.