Friday, June 18, 2010

Crittenden County, Once Again, Obstructs My Civic Goals

Even though I probably will never live there again, I still maintain legal residency in Arkansas.  I vote there, my driver's license and car tags are all there, I pay taxes there, and my home leave address is even there (because I can't afford a hotel in Hawaii for five weeks every few years).  I don't mind paying into the state coffers; Lord knows the state can use the money, and feeding the Arkansas state school system is not a bad way to use it.

Nerd moment: my mother took me to vote with her in every election that I can remember as a child, and she let me pull the levers in our Johnson-Administration-era voting machines.  Ever since then, getting to vote with everyone else on Election Day, seeing the excitement, talking to the campaigners who are outside that magic hundred-foot line from the front door...  I love it.  What can I say.  But I have only gotten to vote "regularly" in an election once since I turned 18: it's all been absentee balloting or early voting.  In 2004, I had to vote early, because I was an election judge outside my district; in 2008 I was overseas.  2006 was the only time I actually voted when and where I was supposed to vote.  (It was the day after I passed the FS Oral Exam, actually!  I drove home from Chicago early so I could make it to the polls in time.)

I've gotten used to the fact that my vote never counts for anything in Arkansas.  If it's a district-wide election, the Democrat wins with a crushing margin; if it's statewide, the Republican almost always wins.  This year, however, something interesting happened - our senior Senator, Blanche Lincoln, faced a primary challenger who somehow managed to make it a real race.  When I went home to say goodbye to family a few weeks before I left for Turkey, I got to vote in early voting at the county courthouse for a race that mattered - no absentee ballots!  Sweet!  (This was also my first time voting on a touch-screen machine.  VERY weird.)

However, as luck would have it, the one time my vote contributed to a very narrow election margin, it went to a primary run-off in early June.  This left me with an interesting conundrum: I was in Arkansas for the regular vote (ish), but I needed an absentee ballot for the runoff.  Hmm.  So my mother, in her saintly willingness to help, offered to talk to the county clerk's office and to turn in the necessary paperwork for me.  Now, last time was hard enough for our precious elected officials to handle (see previous struggle here).  I knew the odds were slim that I would get my ballot in time despite requesting it in mid-May, but it was much, much worse than I thought it would be.  It appears that my absentee ballot was mailed AFTER the primary run-off, which the incumbent won by a significant enough margin that the challenger conceded that night.  Oh, and I didn't get it until today - ten days after the run-off, and the deadline by which absentee ballots must be received in Arkansas.

Thanks, Crittenden County, for a heaping dose of failure, again.  Overseas, I help register Americans who live abroad to vote.  Wish I could do the same thing in the county and state where I choose to domicile.  And here's for you, Bill Halter...  the vote that wouldn't have pushed you over the edge but that I wish counted towards your total anyway.


  1. Bubbled in with blue ink, of course!

  2. I've been fortunate enough to live in "swing states" the past couple of presidential election years - Ohio in 2004 and Virginia in 2008. One of the benefits of keeping a Virginia residency when we move is the belief that our votes will continue to matter, at least statewide.

  3. This is a great post, if for no other reason than hearing how your mom let you pull the levers (or rather, more significantly, that she took you voting each time).

    Do you think the proverb "Never attribute to malice that which could be attributed to incompetence" applies here? Sorry to hear about your misfortunes.. you can have one of my votes some time :)

  4. Oh yeah, I'm sure it's not malicious intent, just a whole lot of fail. I tend to expect that in Arkansas, though, especially when it comes to our local officials.

  5. Thanks for the "atta-mom". Keep voting even if Critt. Co. tries to screw it up. You never know when that one vote will make a difference.