Monday, September 8, 2008

Voting Rights (and Wrongs)

Keith entered the hospital on February 18, 2008 the first day of early voting in the Texas Democratic primary. Since we believed that he'd only be in a few days, we didn't worry about him being able to vote, after all there'd be another couple of weeks to make sure that he got to cast his vote. Except that there wasn't. As you know, the three days turned into three months so he didn't get to vote at all. After Keith got his trache implanted on February 25th, we still didn't know how long he'd be in the hospital so we asked the hospital staff if there was a procedure for patients who were unexpectedly sidelined from the voting process. They said nobody had asked about it and that it wasn't part of their operational training. So, I went to the Travis County Registrar's website and learned that February 25th, the day Keith was having his trache implanted, was the last day for 'emergency' absentee registration. So, no vote for Keith in the primary.

As the national election approaches and it becomes clear that Keith may not be able to physically go to the polls himself, we went to the web once again in search of a way to ensure he gets to vote. I entered the search term "absentee ballot travis county texas" and was directed to On the form, there are only 3 acceptable reasons for an absentee vote:
  1. A member of the uniformed services or merchant marine on active duty, or an eligible spouse or dependent;
  2. A U.S. citizen residing outside the U.S. temporarily; or
  3. A U.S. citizen residing outside the U.S. indefinitely.

Keith is none of these unless you want to get philosophical and claim that he's 'outside the U.S. mainstream temporarily. (I picture the elections folks in the government stating "we are not amused" in unision, lol).

I then went to the Travis County website and after sorting through several pages discovered that he doesn't need an absentee ballot at all. He needs an "Application for Ballot by Mail" which must be submitted by mail (duh!) not earlier than the 60th day before the election and not later than the 7th day before the election. You have four categories on this one:

  1. 65 years of age or older
  2. Disability
  3. Confinement in jail (!)
  4. Expected absence from the county

So, happily, Keith will get to vote. However I wonder about all the folks unexpectedly residing outside their normal life who will not get to vote. Are hospitals aware of the procedure? Do they have copies of the application for patients to use? I don't know how many people even care about this issue, but to have even one vote cancelled simply because of access to the correct paperwork is reason enough to formalize a process guaranteeing the right to vote.

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