I won’t be voting in the 2020 United States general election. This wasn’t a decision I made but a decision that was made for me.
I never received my absentee voting ballot.
Three years ago, I moved to Los Angeles from Houston and never imagined that my voting rights would become a complicated mess as it is today. I’ve never had an issue prior to this election and I even voted in the primary election earlier this year. This time, I’m unable to vote in the most monumental election of our generation.
When my family was impacted by COVID-19 last March, I knew I would have to stay with my family in Houston for an extended period of time. Since last June, I’ve been living with my parents as work from home became an accepted policy for my workplace. I figured I would vote via absentee ballot and simply call it a day forfeiting the “I Voted” sticker for something more practical that coincides with my family values.
The night of Joe Biden’s presidential nomination, Michelle Obama walked on to the stage and galvanized mail-in voters to submit their absentee ballot requests on that August night. The very next day, I sent a letter off to the Los Angeles County Registrar requesting my absentee ballot for my Texas address. Having checked my voter registration status online, I saw that the county had accepted my mailing address and I assumed everything would be fine.
Ballots began to be mailed out at the start of October. For the first few weeks, I fervently checked the mail. I’d wake up excited to check the mail and in hopes of receiving my ballot. In the days leading up the end of October, I received my sample ballot, California proposition notices, COVID voting rules, and other materials pertaining to voting — but no ballot.
With October coming to an end, I decided to call the clerk’s office to figure out what had happened. I was put on hold with an estimated wait time of two hours. I hung up because of the work that needed my attention elsewhere.
I checked the mail every day since I was still hopeful but no ballot arrived. I called again a few days later with an estimated wait time of five minutes. A voice greeted me on the other end of the phone line. A friendly voice.
I asked the clerk what had happened with my ballot and she confirmed my ballot had been mailed to my address in L.A. Having confirmed my nightmare, I inquired about the next steps on how to potentially vote from out-of-state. She informed me that I would need to request an accessible ballot via online.
If you’re like myself, this is the first time you’ve heard of an accessible ballot. The Remote Accessible Vote-By-Mail ballot is designed for people with disabilities or who are simply unable to make it to the polls. Having fit into the latter category, I researched that I would simply need to print off a ballot from home and send off to the clerk’s office with my signature (the same one matching my driver’s license) on the outside of the ordinary envelope. This is the answer…or so I thought.
After going online through the California voter registration portal, I hadn’t previously checked the box asking for the accessible ballot. Easy, I thought, I would simply check the tiny box and receive my accessible ballot via email.
In order for me to check this box on the website, I needed to re-register to vote because I hadn’t checked when I initially signed-up. Why would I? I figured I would either vote in-person or receive my absentee ballot.
After re-registering with the same details (residential address, mailing address, political party affiliation), the only difference was a small checked box asking for my accessible ballot. I submitted and prayed to receive my accessible ballot within the next few minutes.
After checking my email the rest of day, the elections office confirmed I would be unable to process my request until after the election due to registering after the deadline.
Today is November 3rd, 2020 and I’m seeing many of my friends and family proudly post their “I Voted” stickers across social media. I encourage you to do the same for this election. Have you voted already? Time is running out for those who can.