Monday, November 5, 2012

Disenfranchised in Georgia

I am a 26-year-old citizen of the US, born and raised in the country, residing in the state of Georgia. And tomorrow, for the first time since I turned 18 years old, I will not be voting in the presidential election.

Not in protest of the only two options, not out of apathy, and not for lack of trying to vote. Tomorrow I will not be voting because I moved to the state of Georgia a few months ago but only mailed in a voter registration form three weeks ago. Unbeknownst to me, I had missed the deadline by four days.

At the time, I was still registered to vote in Utah and could have requested an absentee ballot. In fact, I began filling out an online request form for an absentee ballot. But when the form asked for my permanent address, I didn't know what to put. I have no permanent address in Utah - I live in Georgia now. If anything, I have a permanent address in New Hampshire, where I grew up. But I gave up my New Hampshire residency last year, when I finished school and chose to stay in Utah for a year as a resident rather than a student. I became a real, true resident of Utah, down to the voter registration and Utah Driver's License.

So yes, as of last week I could have requested an absentee ballot from Utah. There's a chance I could have even requested one from New Hampshire, but I couldn't justify in my mind that I was a resident of either state. Wouldn't the more mature, responsible thing be to register in Georgia?

And the gov't website where I downloaded the form and followed instructions about mailing it in did not indicate that anyone mailing in the form after the ninth would be unable to vote. I only learned that fact today when I called to ask why my records didn't show up and was told it was too late. They had my application - they had it right there in their office, in a box of other applications marked "too late."

But because the post mark said October 13 and not October 9, I would not be able to vote.

"So, I have no options at this point?" I asked. My voice cracked a little, I'll admit.

The lady on the phone sounded worn out when she answered - I imagine she's received a number of similar phone calls, and it's not as if she legislated the policy. "Not unless you're registered in another county."

I am, but the cost of a last-minute plane ticket to Provo, Utah would be a lot more excessive than a poll tax.

So, there you have it, folks. I won't be able to vote tomorrow. Could I have prevented this mess? Absolutely - simply calling their office three weeks ago would have made it clear that a Utah absentee ballot was my only option. Or I could have registered as soon as I arrived in GA (in between moving and starting a PhD program).

But if I, an educated woman with ready access to the internet, wound up in this position, how many other citizens are there who lack the resources to learn about those restrictions?


  1. This happened to me in 2008 when I changed my residency to NY from NH. It's very easy when you're trying to get settled in a new place and that often happens in the Fall.

  2. Avila, that's a good point - it makes me wonder how differently elections would go at a different time of the year, when people are more likely to be settled.

    And I suspect no incumbent would win if we all voted in January or February! Too many cranky, cold people.

    But more seriously, I think part of the problem here is that each state can have wildly different requirements. In NH you can show up on election day, without much evidence of anything, and vote by signing a paper. In Georgia, if it's 27 days before the election, and you haven't registered, there's nothing you can do.

  3. Similar thing happened to me...I'm DEVASTATED.

  4. I've been comforted to hear how many people are in the same boat (I know I'm not alone), but I'm also concerned by how many of my friends are in this position or have been in this position - how many voters across the country are in the position of having tried to register but weren't considered eligible for a particular state?