Could it be that the young vote is being disenfranchised? Who knows, but today I was turned away from the poll. It's sort of my fault, but it's not. You see, when I got my Missouri driver's license last November, I just assumed I would be registered to vote. The assumption was my fault. The fact that my voter's registration card didn't come didn't come as a shock - as a matter of fact I didn't even notice it until this last week. But let's start at today...
On my way in to work, I decided to stop by the local polling station to vote. Since I didn't have a voter's registration card, I knew I might not be listed, so I wanted to make sure I gave everyone plenty of time to get find the info before the polls closed today. I went up to the appropriate line and handed my driver's license in. A quick scan of the registrar showed no Travis Swicegood - my Dad was there and he went to got his license at the same time as me. We actually went to get them at the same time so we could get our hunting licenses last fall, but that's a whole other story... back to today. I explained that I thought I had been registered to vote last fall when I got my license. With that, the election worker handed it off to the supervisor for that station.
He was an older man, very pleasant. He said that the driver's license voter registration had turned in to a bigger hassle than he had expected. When it first became law, he figured it would be a great way to get more people registered; instead it had just increased the bureaucracy. With all of the different agencies involved, what used to be a straight forward process had to go from one office to the other to the other to the other and if one person along the way forgot to send something along a registration would get lost and only a call to Jeff City could remedy the situation.
He called the Platte City Board of Elections to have them start the trace so I could vote. After a brief explanation of what was going on - that he had someone with a local driver's license that wasn't on their books - he handed me phone. I talked with Jennifer, who confirmed some information and took my phone number. She called back about an hour later.
She said Jeff City didn't have any record of me as a registered voter. When they pulled up my driver's license application, she said that "they had filled in "no" where it asks if you want to be registered to vote." I told her that I had not been asked which didn't seem to sit well with her... almost in the "here we go, again" vein. She went on to explain according to the federal election law passed in 1996 under Clinton, when I got my driver's license I was supposed to be asked "Are you registered to vote?" and "Do you want to be registered to vote?". According my driver's license application, I had answered no to both.
I asked just to clarify that was the federal law that I be asked those questions, and she confirmed it for me. She explained to me my options to make sure I could vote in the November election and told me to register at a library or court house so it would be witnessed, give it a few weeks, then call her back to make sure everything had gone through so this wouldn't happen again. Like I said, she was very helpful... but I still don't get to vote today.
I was never asked if I had been registered to vote or whether I wanted to be registered to vote. To say no to the first question is an outright lie on my part. At the time, I was registered to vote in Texas. To say no to the second... Well I think anyone who reads this blog knows I wouldn't not vote.
What really threw me for a loop was Jennifer's initial statement that they had filled in "no" on my application. It wasn't that I did it; it was that they did it. Meaning my application didn't have my handwriting on it in places. Personally, I think any non-administrative changes like that should have to be initialed to prove that you authorize the changes to the application.
I will be sending a link to this post to both the Constitutional Defense League and the Mayor's office. I want it to be known that people who should have been registered to vote were being turned away. It's not that big of a deal - if I'm the only one and there's no single vote victories. But if there are more people like me out there, then the entire result of this election should be called in to question.