Disenfranchised…then REenfranchised!

December 6, 2011

(Soundtrack for reading: Texas, I’m Trying, But You’re Killing Me Here, set to the tune of LCD Soundsystem’s New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down.)

This year I became a Texan.

I’ve been living here since 2004, but was a full-time student until 2010, so during that time I elected to remain a “resident” of my home state (Texas gives students the option), since that meant I was voted for the last presidential election in a blue state, plus the damn county here wanted to charge me $300 for the privilege of issuing me a new Texas title on the vehicle I already own. Grrr. So I dragged my feet on adopting Texas as my new home for a long time.

This year I figured I should finally get around to it. I grudgingly forked over that $300, then waited for 3 hours at the DPS to apply for my new driver’s license. Handily, applying for a Texas driver’s license and for voter’s registration can be done all in one go. On the DL form, there is a question that asks “Would you like to register to vote?” I checked “yes”, and received my new license in about 3 weeks, as promised. I did not however, receive my voter’s registration card in the estimated 8 weeks…but I forgot all about it until the week of our local midterm elections 4 months later.

It speaks for itself, really.

Noting that I had not received the same volume of junk campaign flyers as the mister did, I remembered that I had never received my voter’s registration card either. So I called the county clerk’s office, spent about 30 minutes wading through a labyrinthine voice menu (I HATE those! What’s wrong with touch tone entry???), and finally reached a human being who confirmed that the county had no record of me as a voter. I read off the receipt I had from my driver’s license, indicating that I had indeed applied. That did not clear anything up at all. I asked if I needed to submit a new registration, but was told not to, that this could trigger an inquiry into “voter fraud” if my original registration of which only I seem to have a record were to resurface. I was told I should turn up to my local precinct, vote on a provisional ballot, and that this would result in someone more capable turning up my presumed-pending registration.

So that’s what I did. (It was kind of exciting – I’d never voted in person before. Shortly after turning 18, I moved to California, which does NOT allow full-time students from out of state to be residents, and so I’d always voted absentee.) The folks at my precinct were very helpful, and studiously walked me through the provisional ballot system so that nothing was amiss, and they assured me that if my registration were somewhere in the system, casting this ballot was sure to turn it up.

Two weeks ago I received a disappointing piece of mail in which I was informed that my provisional ballot was rejected because there was no record of my voter’s registration anywhere. I felt chastised, and a little hopeless about trying to navigate this whole mess again in order to become an enfranchised voter without triggering any kind of mess.

Then, miraculously, a week ago I FINALLY received a voter’s registration card in the mail, after no further action on my part. It states that it is valid from 3 December 2011, to 31 December 2011. So, not early enough for my ballot in the last election to be counted and just in time to expire before the new year. *LOLsob*

To sum up:

Stated method for becoming a registered voter: 1) check the box on your DL application, 2) receive registration in mail

Actual method: 1) check box on DL application, 2) call country clerk when nothing happens, 3) DO NOT re-register in order to avoid any accusation of voter fraud, 4) vote via provisional ballot, 5) have provisional ballot rejected because you are not a registered voter according to everyone, 6) FINALLY receive a voter’s registration card valid for a 29 day period during which no elections are held, and which does not retroactively include the provisional ballot that you have already cast, 7) later, rinse, repeat upon expiry of current 29-day-long enfranchisement?

It’s almost like they don’t want me to vote.

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