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….