Monday, November 3, 2008


And also, watch this hilarity and customize it and send it to your friends. If you already got it from me, you're someone special (or maybe one of the 5 remaining people who still reads this blog).

For further entertainment, here is the story of my experience voting absentee from India.

In Chennai there's this wonderful group called Democrats Abroad that organizes events to help people register to vote, keep up to date about American politics, etc etc. They offer personalized advice on how to fill out your ballot and make sure you sign in all the right places and all that. (For the record they run nonpartisan events, but you run into very few people living in developing countries who are not Democrats.)

You'd think with a great organization like this, voting would be easy, right? Right.

So I registered to vote with Dems Abroad way in advance. And typically, my absentee ballot did not arrive. And did not arrive. And did not arrive. Fortunately, as it turns out, some dude in the 1970s came up with a great solution to this absentee ballot mailing problem and got Congress to institute the "Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot". The FWAB, as we absentee junkies like to call it, allows people who have registered to vote but haven't received their ballot to download a generic one off the web, fill it out, and send it in. So I did that. Yay, job done right?

But, there are all these weird county rules and it's very unclear whether
you're allowed to vote for local issues on the FWAB. Apparently there's actually a danger that if your county doesn't allow you to vote on local issues and you write in your votes for them anyway, your federal vote could be discounted. Since California is such a swing state, I didn't want to risk that, so I only voted federal. However this precluded me from having my say on things where my vote might actually make a difference, like Prop 8. Not so good.

By some stroke of miracle, a week or so later my absentee ballot showed up. I was positively floored. But it arrived on a Friday afternoon, and about 30 minutes later I received an email from my trusty Democrats Abroad group informing me that the next Monday was the last day to turn in absentee ballots to the Consulate to get them sent home. Unfortunately that Monday was Diwali, arguably the largest Indian holiday of the year, and our hardworking friends at the Consulate get both American and Indian holidays off. Plus, the Consulate website told me that citizen services were only open 9-12:30, so I was too late to submit my ballot that Friday. Sweet.

Fortunately, a call to the Consulate informed me that I could in fact submit the ballot on Tuesday and get it sent in time. So like the good informed voter I am, I called up my mom Tuesday morning and had her tell me what to vote for on all the local issues. (Kidding. Mostly. In CA you can vote for everything from animal rights to your high school superintendent, so there were a few things mom had to advise me on.) I then went to put my ballot in the envelope, seal sign and submit. You'd think the story would end there...

Gotta love India. My ballot envelope had glued itself together without the ballot inside, because the adhesive melted in the heat. I had to force it open to get the ballot in, which obviously made it look like it had been tampered with.

Another call to the Consulate. Apparently the way to get around this is to tape the envelope shut and sign over it, put it inside another envelope, and include a little note explaining that the ballot has not been tampered with. I didn't feel ridiculous at all typing up a professional business letter to my county registrar, explaining how the adhesive had melted my ballot shut in the south Indian heat.

As the icing on the cake, I finally went to the Consulate to submit my ballot. You can't take it inside the building because they don't allow sealed envelopes, and of course the people who work security at the entrance to the Consulate aren't experts in US voting procedures. You're supposed to personally put it in one of those fancy ballot boxes without anyone touching it or influencing you, right? Nope - they took it from me, shoved it through the metal detector, and dumped it in some generic box. I'm just hoping it was the US mail box, not the trash bin.

However, the point is I voted. So now everyone else better vote too.

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