My Voting Irregularities

I received something in the mail about a week ago. It said it was from the town clerk’s office, and that it was their attempt to verify my address. If I didn’t mail it back in time, it said, I would not be able to vote today. There was no return postage on it, so I would have to provide the stamp, which annoyed me, but also made me briefly question its validity. I then decided the missing postage was just some super-cheap, tax-starved government situation.  I was leaving town for the AWP, though, and was rushing, and I left it on my counter in my kitchen, where it greeted me when I returned. I walked into the kitchen and slapped my head. The deadline, I remembered, had passed.

I went through yesterday depressed, feeling a little shut in by my sense that I couldn’t vote. That I’d screwed that up. I experienced a moment of thinking, well, at least I…and then I thought, very firmly, No. That’s wrong, actually. I need to try harder to vote. So I put the document in my messenger bag and went to my department meeting, having decided I’d just present it at the polls, if anyone made an issue of it. After the meeting, I had a drink with my friend and colleague in creative writing here, Daniel Hall, and he mentioned he’d gotten the same letter and had likewise chastised himself for now being unable to vote. We both thought it was just too strange, so we approached an Obama volunteer and asked him about whether he’d heard this about “census confirmation”, and he said, with real concern, I don’t think they can deny you your vote. So Daniel and I decided to go to the polls together and at least demand provisional ballots.

I walked in, and poll workers greeted us, directed us to the booths, we each voted and left. No challenges. However, it left me feeling uneasy about my neighborhood–mostly college professors, many of them absentminded–and wondering how many of them stayed home, thinking they’d missed their paperwork filing deadline.

It feels like I prevented someone from keeping me from my vote. It could be completely innocuous, but it in all ways, it felt like those voter suppression tactics that until now, I’ve only read about in the papers.

If you’ve heard of something like this, please note it in the comments. And in the meantime, if I find anything out, I’ll update.


  1. If you still have the postcard, I hope you’ll take it up with your local board of elections, or whatever the official body in your area might be called. It smells awfully fishy to me.

  2. I have to agree. Something sounds rotten about the whole thing. I would talk to someone and see if there is some sort of shell game being played. My understanding is that once you are registered in a district, you remain registered until you move and register in a new district.

  3. alex-

    it’s a republican voter suppression scam, a letter sent to registered democrats that purports to be from either the census bureau or from the local municipality (the lack of return postage is a real tip-off), with the intent of keeping busy people from following up and/or deciding not to vote because they failed to follow up. good thing you voted…talking points memo focused on the scheme a few weeks ago when complaints surfaced, but i couldn’t track the story down to provide a link to a more detailed explanation.


  4. This sounded very suspect to me, and I was about to urge you to expose the perpetrators, but a Google search turns up several Massachusetts towns that have recently sent out similar notices, so it might *not* be voter intimidation:

    Click to access CENSUS2008.pdf

    Or rather, it might not be *illegal* voter intimidation. Nonetheless, it sounds to me like a poorly designed law. I read through the above web pages a few times, and I can’t tell whether, say, the fact that you just voted makes you once again an “active” voter, or whether you do indeed have to return that card to be sure that you stay on the rolls. It looks, too, as if the method of enforcement varies from town to town, even though there’s a state law at the back of it. Seems to me it’s still worth asking the town clerk to make sure that future letters don’t have the (hopefully unintended) effect of discouraging voters.

  5. Caleb, I believe you’re right. Poorly designed law, that may be a guise of voter intimidation made legal.

    More shortly, after I check with the town clerk tomorrow.

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