Monday, November 13, 2006

Absentee Voting

Last week, just like millions of other Americans, I voted. Now voting, no matter how exciting or maddening the elections or results may be, is kind of a mundane process. Mine differed some from the typical so I thought I'd share it.

Back in August I contacted the Town of Middleton (referred to as ToM from here on out) by email to request an application for an absentee ballot, being sure to leave plenty of time before elections. I downloaded and filled out the application, following the instructions very carefully, because I know one little slip could very well negated the entire application. I mailed the request in and began to wait. Next thing I know Mid-October is rolling around and I haven't heard a thing from ToM. I am allowed to mail the ballot itself in as long as it is postmarked on or before the date of the election, because the State of Wisconsin lumps Peace Corps together with Military (exactly what no one in Peace Corps wants) so I wasn't quite freaking out yet. I decided to send another email to inquire. I get an email back saying that I did something wrong on my request and that a letter of explanation and another absentee ballot request form had been mailed to me over a month ago. Now, why someone would go to the trouble to mail something to me that could've much more easily been emailed and downloaded, I am not sure, especially when it was mailed to a developing country with a postal system that is iffy at best. So I start racing to download another request and reading through the directions again to figure out what I did wrong. According to the instructions, I did nothing wrong. I write this back to ToM and they say that they have, against their better judgment, put a ballot in the mail for me, with two weeks to go till the election. The next day I went to the post and found the envelope in my boite postale from ToM. It had taken over a month to get to me, which is not uncommon here, usually stuff gets to Dakar in a timely manner but then takes quite a while to get from Dakar to the smaller cities and towns. However, after examining a little closer I found out exactly why it had taken so long, ToM had put a 39 cent stamp on a letter to go over seas. It really shouldn't have gotten here at all and was probably put on a barge to get here.

So I sat and waited for my ballot to show up, thinking it may very well take over a month like the first thing, especially if they put another 39 cent stamp on it. In true Senegal fashion, thought, the ballot showed up in my box on Tuesday. So I wormed my way into using the internet at the Post to check out the candidates. After I finished voting I filled out the envelope, which has my name and address where the recipient's info typically goes on an envelope and took it to the window to get it stamped. Every time I have to wait in line, almost anywhere, this is what happens; I get in line, where the apparent end is, as soon as the person at the front is done, at least two people race to see who can get their letter to the dude first, often someone will walk into the room and right up to the front of the line, cutting in front of everyone. This is something that, even though I still don't understand the process, I have learned to be patient about. After a very loud tantrum I threw in the bank I realized that it's better to just be patient.

Anyway, once I get to the front of the line, after a young guy and and older lady cut right in front of me, the dude tells me that the layout of the envelope is going to confuse the mail carriers in Senegal and it won't get where it needs to go. So I go buy another envelope, take the inner one to get stamped with the date just in case and get back in line, only to be cut in front of twice more while waiting for the stamp guy. Finally the process is finished as I seal the outer envelope and drop it into the box. Whole process that day took about 3 hours.

All that work and Wisconsin still managed to make sure that outright discrimination is a part of our State constitution. Really kind of maddening, but as they say here, 'patientez' - be patient, they'll come around.

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