Two weeks from today, Americans will decide who will lead this country and, this time, so much more than usual is at stake. No matter whom you support in this election, in the telling of this story, I hope to raise awareness of questionable practices that will influence the outcome of this election. Pay close attention.
Back in August, Tim and I delivered requests for mail-in ballots in person to our local city hall just outside of Boston. We never intended to trust the U.S. Mail with our vote; instead, we planned to walk our ballots right into the office at city hall and into the hands of a clerk. We followed the updates from the Registrar of Voters. Ballots were being sent in early October. We waited patiently for our ours to arrive. Very patiently.
On Monday, still empty handed and very noodgy, I called city hall to track down our ballots. Somehow, the clerk found no record of our request. While the woman was nice enough and very apologetic, her lovely demeanor did not negate the negligence of the city’s registrar of voters. I’ve lived in this medium-sized city for my entire life and, while I like living here, I’ve learned that things like this are not unusual. I have low standards, and even then, the city services and our civil servants seldom disappoint in falling short.
I joked that our dilemma amounted to voter suppression but I think it was just lousy bookkeeping. I had no idea, just a day later, a member of my family would be a victim of true voter registration tampering and supression, bringing home the reality of corruption in our electoral system.
The story now shifts from Boston to Austin. Our son lives in Texas and I have never hidden my dismay about the seventeen hundred miles between us. Austin, Texas is half a country and, culturally, a world away. While the state capital is the liberal stronghold of the state, its positioning in the center of the state makes the city a precarious island of sensibility. The rest of the place reminds this Northerner of the OK Corral. There’s something jarring about passing a sign outside of a restaurant warning diners “No Firearms Allowed.” It’s a great place to visit. I’ll leave that there.
I had heard stories about voter suppression in other parts of the country, especially in Texas. It was hard to imagine single ballot boxes per hundred mile wide counties, the challenging to legitimate voter registration, and limited, remote voting facilities. It all sounded awful, but being from the North, it was hard to believe these kind of practices happened in America. I forgot that Texas is ‘merica.
I always encourage my kids, now grown and fully independent, to vote. It’s my maternal duty as an American. My personal campaign targeting ‘#1 Son’ began in August. A mother’s reach spans any distance in a world of texting and Zoom calls. Beginning with a casual inquiry, I asked my son, lovingly and sarcastically referred to as ‘The Defector, if he had registered to vote yet. He said I sounded like his girlfriend and that he was on it. I waited a week or so before I asked again. At that point, he had “the form.” This sounded promising. I was encouraged.
By mid-September, my son had submitted his voter registration paperwork. And he waited. In the meantime, I bombarded him with gifs of things like “Turn Texas Blue” and links to daily articles from Heather Cox Richardson. He was already in the flock but I believe informed voting is a form of good citizenship. He humored me by reading the links, and dutifully chuckling and commenting where necessary.
As for his voter registration, he continued to wait. No online confirmation, no notification. When voter registration ended on October 5th, he was certain that he had made the cut, at least on the calendar.
The rest of the story gets ugly. Pay close attention.
Today, my son received a letter from his local Travis County voter registrar. Apparently, his social security number does not exist, or at least, they just couldn’t seem to connect him to that information. (Funny, the IRS never has that problem…) In the mailing was a form that he was instructed to fill out within ten days. Once received, his voter registration would be active in thirty days.
The frantic text from my personal Texan began with “Those bastards” and ended with “They’re gaslighting me. Stopping my vote.” But I immediately acknowledged that this was not a texting situation. After a spirited conversation, I announced that I was not letting this go. (I can be like that. My family cringes. But I seldom lose.)
I have been told by writer friends and others that Mami Knows Everything is a platform for my message. With over 3,500 readers in over 45 countries, I see their point. So here I am. Getting the word out.
Voter suppression is real. Just because it isn’t happening where you live doesn’t make it less real or less important. As for this case, this isn’t over.
In the meantime, those of you who are lucky enough to be registered to vote, don’t squander this precious right. You never know when someone will try to take it away. This is ‘merica, after all.