It’s your ballot, genius
Letter to the Editor | Friday, October 16, 2020
Our presidential election has become a family squabble. The choices are both septuagenarians — the grievance-prone, exaggerating, flamboyant, crazy uncle who dyes his hair or the empathetic grandpa whose calm temperament while conveying wise stories from another era strain to inspire us. To join our family food fight, read these tips carefully to sidestep sloppy, stupid mistakes that will void your absentee mail-in ballot on Nov. 3.
With a plethora of subtle pitfalls across varying states, your vote can be easily disqualified. To successfully submit your ballot via mail, follow four rules of smart hacks and tricks: 1.) Apply now for an absentee mail-in ballot, 2.) Understand your state’s ballot instructions, 3.) Complete every requirement as directed and 4.) Mail your ballot immediately after receiving it. Like taking a SAT, be laser focused on your ballot instructions or you will lose the most precious right you own as an American citizen.
If you have not applied for your ballot, time is tight, so apply now and learn if you can apply without an excuse (away at school).
Rule 1: The National Association of Secretaries of State website can guide you through your state ballot application; I personally prefer Vote.org. Not inspired to vote? Vladimir Putin — who presides over an economy only the size of Texas — loves your attitude so he can brag about his national strength.
Rule 2: Understand how to mark the ballot ovals within the lines (no-brainer) and the instructions for stuffing your ballot into envelopes. President Trump has already lost seven military votes in my native state, Pennsylvania, but not due to fraud as some thought. A new untrained elections contract employee should have held them aside rather than trashed what he knew to be voided loose ballots (recovered and then held aside). These overseas soldiers did not fully understand and follow Pennsylvania’s two-envelope instructions. Instead, they submitted a loose, or so-called “naked” ballot, and they are solely responsible for losing their opportunity to vote.
They should have simply sealed their ballots within a smaller “secrecy” envelope preprinted “Official Election Ballot.” That smaller secrecy envelope — not the loose ballot alone — is then placed in the larger mailing envelope, which on the back contains places for a signature and other declaratory information. Without being “fully clothed” within the secrecy envelope, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in September that all “naked ballots” would not be counted.
Rule 2a: Has your state provided a postage-free envelope? Due to the pandemic, Pennsylvania for the first time provided a free return outer envelope. Review your enclosed instructions for “By mail – No postage necessary” or on the envelope itself find “No Postage Necessary If Mailed in the United States.” When in doubt, always place postage on the envelope, and as a safety backup, write your election board address in the upper left corner as your return address. Then your election board will always receive your envelope should the post office kick it back to the sender.
Rule 3: Understand the instructions to completely execute your voter’s declaration with your signature, the date you signed your outer envelope, your permanent voting address (NOT your absentee address), precinct (if required) and any witness signatures (required for all ballots in North Carolina and for now in South Carolina while pending a court ruling). Some states like Pennsylvania only require a witness signature if someone is ill or physically disabled and can only make a mark as their signature. Be alert to understand that on ballots like Pennsylvania’s, two areas are provided for signatures, but only the top half is used if you sign your own ballot.
Do not assume anything. Fill out every informational field EVEN if your election board applied a sticker with all of your information already accompanying a bar code sticker. Make sure your signature exactly matches your registration — middle initial or middle name. Most importantly, your signature must look like the one on your driver’s license or whenever you registered to vote. Now is not the time to mimic Andy Warhol.
In short, the major political parties have battled in dozens of lawsuits governing the electoral process including timelines to count ballots. One party advocates restricting such things as drop boxes, shorter early voting, eliminating no-excuse absentee applications along with limiting ballot receipt timelines and limiting ballot counting beyond election day. Avoid the tiniest of infractions that may void your ballot by knowing the nuisances of your state’s requirements.
Unofficial Rule 5: Either Uncle Crazy or Grand-Pops will win the presidency, so choose the one who most favors your agenda despite that candidate not being your dreamy first choice. One may be partially receptive to your ideals while the other may set back your causes for the next decade. Politics is a slow directional glide like captaining an ocean liner. Not choosing between these two major party candidates is the top cause of unwanted presidencies and voter’s remorse.
Quirky political strategist James Carville, the architect of Bill Clinton’s 1992 win, remained focused with his campaign message, “It’s the economy, stupid!” This year be a genius, mail your perfectly completed envelope immediately and make your ballot count for the winner.
class of 1973
Gary J. Caruso, Notre Dame ‘73 American Studies major, serves in the Department of Homeland Security and was a legislative and public affairs director at the U.S. House of Representatives and in President Clinton’s administration. Contact him on Twitter: @GaryJCaruso or e-mail: [email protected]
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.