Ballots that will count for nothing

Today is a presidential election, a day so ingrained as important in my mind that I get excited just thinking about it.

You’d think a girl who gets so into a presidential race – any presidential race – would have gotten her act together sooner and made sure she was registered to vote.

But she didn’t.

She tried. She tried to register to vote in Colorado online weeks ago, but because she didn’t have a Colorado ID she couldn’t. She and the rock star figured they might have to vote by absentee ballot this year, since they are both registered in Nebraska.

So last week, she requested an absentee ballot from the Douglas County Election Commission. She e-mailed. She was told she had to fill out the official request form. She did. She e-mailed it back. She was told they need an actual signature, not an electronic one. So the rock star went to a copy place and got the forms printed. He brought them home for her to sign. She did and he did and the next day, she took them back to the copy place to have them faxed to Omaha.

That was Tuesday.

Yesterday, the absentee ballots arrived.

They were late, but the girl who gets so excited about the right to vote and presidential elections, the girl who proudly took her 3-year-old son and her in-her-belly daughter with her four years ago to the polls — like her own mother did way back then — because she wanted him (them) to feel this excitement, too, figured she’d go back to the copy place today and fax in the ballots. Election Day. No problem.

Turns out you can’t fax them. The absentee ballots that just arrived yesterday afternoon have to be back to the Douglas County Election Commission by 8 p.m. Today. Tonight. Election Day. In Omaha. Today.

Not postmarked today. Not faxed today. The actual ballots have to be there today.

F.

The girl and the rock star considered driving to Nebraska. Pulling the kids out of school and jumping in the car and putting pedal to metal to make it home in time to vote.

But whether they’d actually make it was iffy. Whether it was a responsible choice was iffy-er.

So here they are. In Western Colorado with absentee ballots that will count for nothing, with votes granted to every U.S. citizen that they can’t cast.

The girl called the Obama campaign. She told them she wanted to vote for the president. Every vote counts after all, right? Isn’t that the message people on both sides of the aisle ingrain into our psyches? Isn’t that the lesson we all learned in fourth grade when Michael Dukakis ran against George Bush? Vote. Don’t throw it away. Make your voice count. Make your opinion be heard. It’s a privilege, use it. All that stuff.

The Obama campaign told her there’s nothing she can do. Nothing. Register to vote tomorrow, they said. (She actually did register to vote last Tuesday when she spent four hours at the DMV getting a Colorado driver’s license. But it was too late. Colorado’s deadline to register to vote is 29 days before election day, Oct. 9. That is the day she and the rock star closed on their house. They could not have gotten Colorado IDs before then, you see, because living with friends is technically “being homeless.” No utility bills or lease agreements to prove a permanent address means no ID.)

I understand there are rules to follow. In just about every aspect of life, every part of society, there are rules and regulations and ways to go about doing things. We all learn this as kids, right? Don’t follow the rules? Go to time out. Get suspended from school. Have privileges revoked.

I guess those childhood lessons all hold true in the real, grown-up world, too.

Don’t have a real home? Don’t register to vote in time because you can’t until you have a real home? Well, you, tax-paying, rule-abiding U.S. citizen, don’t get to vote this year.

Sorry! Better luck next time! Thanks for playing!

Yes, I’m bitter about this. I’m sick to my stomach about this. I realize we should have requested the absentee ballots sooner. I wish we had.

But we didn’t, and now it’s now and it is what it is and … all those things. But the fact I just turned 33 years old and will not be voting in a close race for the president of the United States for the first time in my life makes me feel all sorts of things I don’t want to feel: angry, depressed, apathetic, frustrated, hopeless, helpless.

This morning, after learning the election commission back home wouldn’t accept our absentee ballots via fax, I threw my ballot away.

I took the kids to school. Then I came home and called the Mesa County Democratic Party. I left a message: Please help me vote today. The rock star stopped in at an Obama campaign office on our little main street. He asked them: Please help us vote today.

No luck.

I posted on Facebook. I considered suggestions (head to the airport, see if anyone’s going to Omaha; head to a truck stop, see if anyone’s headed east; pay the price and FedEx the ballots). I gave up. I started writing. I tried to accomplish other tasks.

No luck.

A little bit ago, I got my ballot out of the trash.

I can’t throw hope away.

It may be fruitless. It may be silly. But I’m filling out the ballot. I’m voting for president of the United States.

It may not count, but my ballot’s getting to Omaha. On time or not.

I can’t not try.

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