The trials and tribulations of voting by mail

It’s a good thing Georges and I are dedicated voters because voting by mail when you’re on the road requires not just perseverance and prescience, but a good bit of luck.

Why is voting by mail so tricky? Because the county elections office refuses to do anything via email. It won’t even act on an emailed request for a ballot application unless it receives within four business days a mailed copy of the email request. (So what’s the point of the email, you might ask? We’ve not a clue.)

The insistence on using snail mail unnecessarily complicates things. You must provide physical addresses, both for receipt of the application and for the later receipt of the actual ballot. This is a challenge when you’re traveling.

Think about it: We don’t know precisely which day the elections office will actually receive our mailed-in request for an application and we’ve no idea how quickly it will act on said application request. So how can we project where we’ll be when the ballot application is ready for receipt?

And this is just to receive, fill out and mail in the application for a ballot. The process ostensibly must be repeated later to receive the actual ballot. (I say “ostensibly” because in one case we stumbled on a way to short-circuit the circuitous process. But in the other case, we did the Full Monty and barely managed to get the ballot mailed back in time.)

The whole exercise reeks of March Hare mischief.

Here’s a quick chronology of our experience:

Mid-September: Mom flew from Dallas to Seattle to join us as we visited friends on Lopez Island that we’d not seen for decades. She brought with her the few pieces of snail mail from home that merited attention. One was addressed to my husband from the Democratic Party urging him to apply for a ballot.

Late-September: G filled out the form requesting the application. But he scratched his head over what physical address to give for receipt of the application. We generally stay only 2-3 nights at any given location and hadn’t mapped our itinerary out yet much beyond tootling down the Washington and Oregon coasts for the rest of September. When would the elections office get around to mailing the application and how could we time our travels to be in the right place at the right time for receipt?

Coincidentally, I was scheduled to make a quick business trip to Dallas in mid-October. So G listed our home address as the receipt location for the ballot app and I’d plan to fetch the applications then and bring them back to the Casita for completion. We figured we’d worry later how/where to arrange for receipt of the actual ballot.

Meanwhile, nobody sent anything to me urging my application for a ballot. So I picked up the phone and called the Dallas County elections office to request a ballot application. After following a labyrinth of automated prompts, I left my name and home address in a voicemail requesting a ballot application. The recorded voice assured me that an application would be mailed the next business day to my home address.

(We could have downloaded the application from the county’s website, printed it, filled it out and mailed it to the elections office. But we are ambling down the Washington and Oregon coasts at this point, traveling without a printer. Heading into a city to find a Fed-Ex office or some such for the purpose of printing the application seemed a bigger hassle than timing the apps to be mailed to our home.)

We crossed our fingers and toes that both applications would be waiting for me when I arrived in Dallas.

Oct. 11: I arrived in Dallas for my in-and-out visit and found the ballot application I’d requested waiting for me. I promptly filled it out, but stumbled over the physical address issue for the actual ballot. If the elections office received the application on, say, Oct. 16 or 17, how quickly would they mail out the ballot? We’d likely be in several different California campgrounds between Oct. 20 and the end of the month. How could I arrange receipt of the ballot?

I mulled this a bit. Meanwhile, no sign of G’s ballot application.

Oct. 12: I made my business presentation in the morning and contacted friends in LA in the afternoon. We still aren’t sure precisely when we’ll be in your neck of the woods, I said, but certainly before the end of October. Would it be OK to list your address for our ballots?

Absolutely, they said. Super. I mailed my application for a ballot, listing the LA-area address for receipt, that afternoon.

Oct. 13: Still no word on G’s ballot application. What’s up with that?

We checked the mail at home on the last day before I fly back to G and the Casita in California and, sure enough, G’s application was in the box. Whew! Great timing. I tucked the form in my duffle to take to G.

Oct. 14: I flew back to G and the Casita and handed him the elections envelope. Hurry and complete it, I urged, so you can be sure to have enough time for the election office to receive it, mail you a ballot to the LA address and then receive your returned ballot….

G opened the envelope and discovered … drumroll! … that it wasn’t an application for a ballot; it was the actual ballot.

G had been a half-step behind me in the process, but now he’d catapulted several steps ahead of me. How did that happen?

Apparently, going through a political party cut the process in half. By filling out the party form last month, G had essentially completed the application for a ballot rather than simply requested an application for a ballot.

Yes, I know, it all rather makes your head spin.

Oct. 29: G filled out his ballot and mailed it to the Dallas County elections office from a post office in Simi Valley, California in the morning. We arrived at our friends’ lovely home in La Cañada Flintridge that afternoon, where my ballot was waiting for me.

Oct. 30: I filled out my ballot and mailed it to the Dallas County elections office from a post office in Yorba Linda. We trust that both ballots will be received well in advance of the Election Day deadline.

Oct. 31: We both sigh in relief at having completed what turned out to be a seven-week-plus Vote by Mail process.

We resume fretting about the outcome on Nov. 6….

17 thoughts on “The trials and tribulations of voting by mail

  1. What would make this process easier for travelers? Electronic voting? (But then there’s a risk of hacking,)

    Maybe in the end, it would have been easier to have just flown back to Dallas for election day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi MJ. Great to hear from you! Elections offices should accept a request for a ballot application by email, for starters. They can still snail mail the actual ballot if absolutely necessary for security purposes, tho I’m unconvinced that’s necessary, but not even acepting a request for a ballot application or the actual application by email is ridiculous. We actually considered flying home to Dallas! I’m glad we didn’t have to! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We understand the frustration of voting while traveling. We too, would not miss our right to vote. We are on the permanent voter list in AZ to receive a mail-in ballot. However, AZ will not forward the ballot. Sadly thus far our solution has been to end our trips in time to return to vote. It is ridiculous. Glad your timing worked out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good strategy but a real shame you have to employ it.

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  3. Glad it worked out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Mary. Of course, you get no notification or confirmation that your ballot has been received. So you wind up just going on faith that it has been and that it will be counted….

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  4. Hi K & G,

    What an unnecessary hassle! It does smell a bit of tricks and skullduggery. Glad George and you persisted though, this election is too important to pass up.

    One of the good things about living in the Northwest (Oregon and Washington) is that all voting is by mail. Every ballot is mailed to your home about two weeks prior to the election. There are no polling places. You can either mail it in (no stamp required) or deposit it in a convenient drop box. It sure makes the whole process easy. Carolyn, Lynn and I all voted last week.

    We hope we’re surfing a Blue Wave next week,

    Carolyn & Bob

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, what a great voting system. Makes so much sense! Not sure yet where we’ll be Tuesday evening but we’ll be sure it’s somewhere with internet service.

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  5. You think that’s bad. You should try voting when you have been on a ship in the Pacific since late September, uncertain of any port dependent on weather. Texas is the worst according to my informal survey of fellow passengers. Meanwhile, I have spent an hour this morning with very slow and expensive Internet service trying to enroll in health care coverage for next year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. My sympathies. And yes, I dread the health-care experience.

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  6. That is ridiculous. My town clerk in Wisconsin let me email my request and then mailed me the actual ballot with a pre-paid envelope to return the completed ballot. I dropped the ballot off at the Bryce Canyon Visitor’s Center mail drop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your elections office seems more 21st Century than ours! (Though I should add that our ballot ultimately did come with a much appreciated self-addressed, postage-paid envelope.)

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  7. Keven and Georges, we have a similar story! We left our Grapevine home on September 1st, for a three month East Coast road trip in our Casita. We had requested our ballot applications in August, and received them right before we left home. We mailed them in, but nobody in any local, or state office could tell us when the actual ballots would be mailed. We figured it would be sometime during our month in Maine. Sure enough, our house sitter told us they had arrived, overnighted them to our next RV park (where we hoped they would be held in a secure place), and at a pretty steep price I might add. We filled them out and took them to the post office in the remote and tiny town of Lubec, Maine. It definitely should not be that hard, but there was no way we weren’t going to exercise our right to vote!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. What a story! So glad you persevered. It’s a ridiculous process. (By the way, we loved Lubec, especially the live music in the brewery on the Main Street there. Hope you did too! Sadly, though, the next day was horrific. Did you read about our experience crossing the border into Canada on July 1? )

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      1. We sure did! One reason we didn’t take our Casita into Canada. We left it in Lubec and drove, ferried to Halifax and back.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Nicole Stockdale November 2, 2018 — 1:41 pm

    Unreal! Kudos for persevering. Should definitely NOT be this tough!

    Liked by 1 person

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