Editor’s Note: It is now too late to mail in your ballot, as the USPS cannot guarantee its arrival in time for the 3rd. Instead, you should go in person or deliver to a drop-off box in the US.
For the past few months, I have been fighting voter suppression to exercise my right to vote. Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania county voting office swore that I was registered for the federal 2020 election and that my ballot would be mailed to me on the 19th of September. To no one’s surprise, that was bollocks.
To be Registered, or not to be Registered
Earlier this year in May, I sent in my voter registration form to the Westmoreland County Voter Registration Office, signed and tracked. In July, after a battle to check the status of my registration, I received email confirmation that I had been registered, and that they would mail my ballot to me on the 19th of September. I thought (more the fool me) that this election year, I’d won.
Arriving Weeks Late
A wary paranoia had me check my registration status post email confirmation using the Pennsylvania Department of State website. I had already received email confirmation that I was registered in July, so I was surprised to receive the following error again and again:
We are unable to match your information with our records. You may edit your information and try your search again or you may contact your county voter registration office to confirm your voter registration status.PA Department of State
Time passed, lockdown ticked on. I gave the Westmoreland County voters office the benefit of the doubt and waited until the 3rd of October (two weeks post-September 19th mailing date) before taking matters into my own hands.
I followed my own intuition and used the FVAP.gov site to create and download the PDFs for my ballot, voter’s declaration form, and specific custom envelopes. As we learned in Act 1 of this farce, in Pennsylvania the ‘Register to Vote’ and ‘Apply for Ballot’ forms are one and the same. FVAP also uses the ‘Register to Vote’ as the ‘Declaration Form’, essentially meaning that the same form is used for three different purposes.
I completed the forms, signed on the dotted line and crossed my fingers. My voting package was sent tracked and signed on the 6th of October, and was confirmed to have arrived on the 14th.
Surprisingly, the voting office got back to me on the 15th October with a flurry of emails. In short, I was now registered to vote, and had a whole new set of ballots to print out, fill in and send off.
The WESTMORELAND County Voter Registration Office received your voter registration application on 10/14/2020. Your application was approved and you will be receiving a new voter ID card containing your polling place information.
If you have any questions regarding your application, please contact the WESTMORELAND County Voter Registration Office at (xxx) xxxxxxx.
Of course, this left me with a whole host of questions:
- Why am I being told that I am now registered, when I was already registered in July, as confirmed by Westmoreland County Voter Registration Office? Was I not registered properly in May/July?
- If I’ve just been registered, what’s going to happen to the provisional ballot I mailed in on the 6th?
- Why did the people who are being paid to register American citizens not doing their job properly?
- Have the months of effort I have put in resulted in nothing?
What I find most confusing of all is that not once have I been offered a Voter ID Card. Not in 35 years. And despite saying I should be receiving a new one, it has yet to appear.
A Kick in the Teeth
In a stunning—yet entirely predictable—twist of fate, the original ballot was never even sent. Westmoreland County made the announcement 20 days past the date they needed to send out absentee ballots that none had even been printed. IF I had been properly registered to vote, my ballot should have been posted to me here in the UK 4 days before they received my provisional ballot in Westmoreland County. As of 2nd November, I still have not received a paper ballot. So I now believe, despite being told officially otherwise, that I was not registered after all.
I filled out a new ballot using the specific form I was sent on the 15th, and mailed it signed & tracked on the 19th. It sat in New York for a week before arriving at Westmoreland County on the 27th. What made this ballot special was that it included a specific bar-code and ID number on the envelope itself. I hoped this meant I could track my Election Ballot Status throughout its journey to be counted. Damned if the Election Ballot Status uses the same form as the Check Registration Status! It gives the same error message as well – so no way of knowing if my vote was even logged into the system.
I am an American citizen living abroad in England. Voting packages are sent via the USPS, 2nd class, which can take 2 to 3 weeks to cross the Atlantic ocean. This does not take in the deliberate slow down of the USPS by Trump and his cronies.
Printing and sending ballots on the 10th of October would mean Americans in the UK would not receive them until the 31st of October, and returned ballots would not arrive for processing (let alone counting) until the 10th (as the 7th/8th are a weekend).
Failing the People
As if things could not get any worse, on the 29th of October Gina Cerilli, the Commissioner for Westmoreland County, announced on her Facebook page that some 3,000 ballots have not yet been posted and the only advice for those who have not received theirs yet, is to vote in person. Yes, that’s right, I’ll have to charter a £2,000 return flight, to America, to exercise my civic right completely destroying the point of providing absentee ballots in the first place.
And next door in Pittsburgh, 30th October – 5 days before the election…
Thousands call Pennsylvania county about requested ballots that never arrived. Postal officials say they are unaware of any issues, but the director, Aaron Sheasley, said the county has received in excess of 10,000 phone calls seeking information about ballots that were requested but not received, and that some callers have called multiple times. “Somewhere between the post office and the Pittsburgh sorting facility something happened,” Sheasley told CNN. “We don’t know what.”He added, “We haven’t given out any numbers because we simply don’t know.”CNN
Do I feel confident my vote will be counted? No.
Do I feel that the vote by mail system is corrupt? Yes.