It Happened To Me…
Okay, let’s put this into perspective. This is Mississippi. I’m Democrat. Therefore, my vote, unless the state suddenly breaks it’s historically Republican streak, will be negated due to the mess that is the electoral college. Nonetheless in hopes of all hopes, I vote because I can and I literally can hear my ancestors turning in their graves if I dare not to. I’m a nurse and my schedule is kind of crazy sometimes so I knew on voting day next week (November 8th to be exact!) I wouldn’t be able to make it to the polls and this election I wanted to make my vote count. Partly because I believe only one candidate is actually prepared for the job, but mostly because I live in a red state. Not just any red state but the reddest state- Mississippi. Yes, the oftentimes ridiculed state with the sketchy history and conservative stronghold. Anyway, I wanted to vote because I believe this election more than any ever before is an opportunity for states like MS to finally prove they are not as predictable as they may seem. Considering the candidates we have to choose from it seems obvious to me who is the most informed, most prepared, and most ready for the job. Seriously, do I even have to mention HER name? So, I wanted to vote in this election because of the historical nature. No, not the possibility of having our first female president but the possibility of Mississippi finally flipping from red to blue. If there was ever an election that could make this happen I believe this could be it. That is until I walked into the County Clerk’s office.
“You a Trump man?”
“Best believe it!” This was the conversation I heard loudly behind me in line between an older man and woman. From the number of other people waiting, it was obvious I wasn’t the only one trying to get my vote out of the way, however looking around the room of elderly white people, I couldn’t help believing they shared the couple’s sentiment. I might be stereotyping, but political views aside they all got to vote- I was the only one who was turned away. Also, I am black.
“Your voter registration is invalid.”
“But I just checked online it said I could vote.”
“I’m sorry but here’s a form to change your address. You really should have changed your address when you moved.”
Mind you I’d moved three years ago, and had voted once since then. I was more shocked than mad to be honest. I’d never had a problem voting before-ever. Still the rules are the rules (or so I was made to believe).
I was given an address change form which I stared at blankly. I think because I stood their for a beat, stunned, one of the women sitting at a desk gave me a phone number to the Election Commission to get me to move along.
“You can try calling,” she shrugged.”They might put you back on the list.” Her attitude told me ‘don’t bother’ but she’d over estimated the dejected look on my face. As soon as I left that office, I dialed the number.
Immediately a tired voice came on the line, a female voice. Part harried, part irritated the voice sounded like answering the phone was the last thing she wanted to be doing. Unfazed I laid out what had just happened.
“I tried to vote and was turned away,” I said politely, but to the point. There was silence. “No, I didn’t receive any mailer telling me I was about to have my vote ripped from my hands.” Okay, maybe I didn’t say that last part like that but I got my point across.
There was a long pause then, “Wait a second.” I was placed on hold for what felt like a full minute then she was back.
“Just wanted to check and make sure I was right. Your voter registration has been set to inactive. You’re still registered. I had the same exact problem come up earlier and I just wanted to make sure I told them right,” she said again- “I did. You can vote on election day at your closest polling place you just have to tell them when you go in that you know you’re not on the books but you want to vote via affidavit.”
“Really?” I’d heard her just fine, but I couldn’t help myself.
“Yes, ma’am. In fact who was it that told you you couldn’t vote? What office did you go to? What did they look like? Describe them.”
Now normally I don’t like being a snitch, but this time I sang like a little bird answering each one of her questions. I described each person in detail and told the exact office I went to and what they said. This woman sounded like she meant business, and I wanted her to unleash some of the tension she obviously had built up manning the phones all day.
“Well, they were wrong and you can vote, you just have to make sure you tell the people at the polls you want an affidavit when you go on election day. And yes, despite what people are saying your vote will be counted.”
I couldn’t believe the relief I felt. It wasn’t until my vote was about to be taken away that I truly felt its importance. I’ve always voted. Sure, sometimes I missed out on some of the local elections but the presidential elections, judges, senate seats, I was always there. I didn’t even get mad because I was just so relieved that my voice would be heard this election. Still I wasn’t totally satisfied. I’d been misinformed and something told me that If it had happened to me it could happen to others.
“So, I’m glad I’ll get to vote but the whole reason for me going to the clerk’s office was I’m not going to be in town on election day. Can I still vote absentee?”
“Sure,” the woman said. “All you have to do is ask for an absentee ballot and an affidavit and then you’ll be able to vote.”
“What?” Lord bless the woman, but she repeated herself again. It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard, I was just so surprised that I’d been turned away so abruptly earlier. When I walked out of that clerk’s office I’d felt so defeated. Luckily not defeated enough to not call the number, but it made me wonder if others in my situation would have called the number. Or would they have just blamed themselves for something they were not made aware of and just went on about their business thinking they’d not be able to vote this election? So, of course you know what I did. I marched myself right back to that clerk’s office.
As soon as I walked in the woman who’d given me the phone number jumped up from behind her desk and brought me the paperwork herself. Obviously the woman I’d spoken to on the phone had made a call too. The other woman who hadn’t been much help earlier, of course, disappeared, but it didn’t even matter. When I dropped my sealed envelope with my ballot in the big red box, I felt like I’d really accomplished something. I’d done my part.
Sure, this is Mississippi and it typically trends against its own best interests, I still made my one voice known. Hopefully, with more people who are waking up to the fact that the way we’ve done things might not be the way we should continue doing things will do the same. Also, when they’re told no, hopefully they will keep asking questions too. This election is too important to let even one voice go unheard.
Oh, yeah and I got my sticker! 🙂
UPDATE– I received a new voter registration card with my correct address in the mail.