Saturday, November 1, 2008

24-hour Poll Dance

In my post on 9/8/08 I told you all why Keith ordered a mail-in ballot for this election. There is way too much at stake in this election and we didn't want to risk him losing the opportunity to vote as he did in the Texas primary in February. We figured that no matter his health condition, the mail-in ballot would have him covered and he wouldn't be disenfranchised.

The mail-in ballot arrived in the mail the 2nd week of October and early voting began on October 20th. Last week, we got our first taste of real Fall weather and Keith was feeling pretty healthy so he decided he'd rather vote in person. His attendants got him into the wheelchair, connected his ventilator so he could be mobile and we were off to the polls. We arrived about 2:30p and happily the line wasn't long so we zoomed straight to the front. I showed the poll worker Keith's ID which she quickly scanned in and then looked up at me with a big smile and said, "I'm sorry Mr. Hogan cannot vote today because he received a mail-in ballot." I agreed that he had indeed received the ballot and then pointed to Keith so that she could see he was actually there in person, in his wheelchair on the ventilator and ready to vote. At that point she told us that unless we 'surrendered' the mail-in ballot, Keith could not vote. If we had known this to be the case, we would have certainly brought the ballot with us to ensure that the considerable effort which had been put into getting Keith to the polls would have resulted in his being allowed to vote. However, there is no notice on the ballot or on the many pieces of instructional materials included in the package from the Texas Secretary of State. Thus, we did not have the ballot with us and Keith was effectively disenfranchised.

Later that night we completed the write-in ballot, signed it and sealed it in anticipation of me dropping it off at the polling place the next day. Patriotic duty dispatched, it was time to sleep. The next day I went to the polling place to turn in the envelope and was told that they could not accept any mail-in ballots. To his credit, the poll worker was very empathetic and promptly sought out a supervisor to see if there was any way they could accept the ballot. Unfortunately, there was no procedure in place for this situation so I had to fill out an affidavit describing the issues and then get over to the post office to be sure that Keith's ballot got to the Travis County Clerk's office in time to be counted. So, I got back in my car, went to the post office and dropped the ballot in the mailbox at 2:30, just about 24 hours after Keith started to vote.

We are fortunate that we can enact a Plan B, C or as many as we need to so that we can achieve our purpose. I have no doubt that there are a large number of folks who are either permanently or temporarily disabled. It takes extra effort to manage the daily interactions with the system and, apparently, the system saves a few more hurdles for really important occasions such as voting.

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