Shell Shocked: How to Make Absentee Ballot Voting More Personal
I vote by absentee ballot because I’m not in Sanibel during voting time. There’s something very impersonal about putting x’s on a piece of paper and sending it off in the mail to record your vote. That’s why I decided to pretend that I’m actually in Sanibel when I vote so that I can recreate the high drama of voting day to some extent.
To begin the process I plan to recruit some nearby neighbors to agree to electioneer in front of my house. I invite them to carry placards in favor of the candidates of their choice. Since I’m up north during November I will have to feed these neighbors the names of the candidates running for local office, such as Lee County Commissioners.
It may seem like an imposition to recruit these neighbors simply because they get to vote in a traditional voting booth and I vote merely by sitting at my desk and filling out ballots to put in the mail. That’s not my idea of democracy. My idea of democracy is standing in a line to sign in, to wait your turn before you’re invited to enter the voting booth and exercising your right to vote by pressing buttons, pulling levers, maneuvering chards or whatever the current voting technology is in the booth of your choice.
So I draft some neighbors who have been known to humor me and have they put the names of local Sanibel and Lee County candidates on banners and placards. Naturally, I have to lay out the funds for the cardboard and crayons as well as tell them what to write on them. And since my absentee ballot must arrive before the actual election day my neighbors do find it a bit premature to parade in front of my house carrying banners with strange and unknown names on them.
I, in turn, pretend that I’m on my way to a voting booth and circumnavigate the electioneering neighbors and enter my home. There I arrange for my wife to sit at a sign-in table with a massive book of registered voters in front of her. That this book is actually the local telephone directory isn’t important. What’s important is maintaining the protocol of voting.
I approach her. “Which table, please, for those with last names starting with “S”? I inquire. She looks to her left and to her right and says,” Right here, sir. May I see your voter’s registration card, please?” I fish my card out of my wallet and hand it to her.
She studies it carefully, looks inside her voter’s registration book and asks me to sign the book. When I’ve done so she remarks, “You’re the last registered voter in your district to sign in. I hope you realize the polls close in a half hour.”
I told her I was detained because of the electioneering demonstrators outside the house. “They wanted to tell me what they thought the merits of the candidates they’re supporting are. I could barely get past them. Shouldn’t they have police outside to prevent this,” I asked.
“Too late now,” my wife said. “We’re ready for you to cast your vote. After that it’s pizza for everyone. When you enter the voting booth please draw the curtain behind you to protect your privacy.”
So I wander into the bathroom where my wife had set up the voting booth in the shower stall. Inside the shower stall was a small table with a dining room chair in front of it. On the table was my absentee ballot. I closed my eyes and visualized my entering a traditional voting booth in the Sanibel community center with ten people behind me waiting to vote.
I sat down in the chair and studied the ballot. I hoped my wife wouldn’t infringe on my privacy by asking me if I had finished voting yet because she needed to take a shower. I made my x’s on the ballot, folded it and placed it in the envelope. Instead of sealing the envelope, putting postage on it and taking it out to the mail box, I simply left it on the table in the shower and pulled the curtain open. My vote had now been registered and it was official. I left the ballot there for the election officials to examine my wife and beamed as I left the bathroom.
I thought about how wonderful it is to exercise your right to vote. And how gracious it was that election officials would allow me to vote in a voting booth in the shower in the bathroom of my northern home.