Voting day chaos is not how it’s suppose to be

Kalie Strain, Reporter

I believe everyone is painfully aware that the midterm elections happened this past Tuesday. We have been bombarded with political ads from every corner and on every medium where we consume content. Like a lot of college students, I had to request an absentee ballot to vote in this election.

However, as it happened, poor luck, a failure on the U.S. Postal Service, or reckless neglect from my election officials, I never got my ballot.

On Monday morning I had lost hope and called my election office. I was told that my request letter for an absentee ballot had been postmarked on Oct. 23. My request was not received until Oct. 31. It took eight days from when my letter was picked up by the postal service until my election officials supposedly received it. For context, it only takes three days to walk from Parkville to my voting district in St. Charles, Mo. Take that for what you will.

I was told that I had lost my chance to vote unless I received my ballot that day and paid to overnight it to my election office. I am still unclear if this is the actually true or not. I have been told contradicting things by election officials and poll workers. Regardless, I never got it.

I was left with two choices. Accept my fate that even though I did exactly what I was supposed to do I would never get to vote in this election. Or make the three-and-a-half-hour drive back home mid-week. With a heart full of spite and frustration, I chose the latter.

My mom and I headed to the polls together, bringing along my younger sister because she wanted to know more about the voting process despite only being a high school freshman. I wish the frustration ended at my polling place.

I was told that I was not allowed to vote in person because I had requested an absentee ballot. The obvious problem being that I never got it. This is not an opinion piece to drag the lovely ladies working this polling station. They were doing what they were supposed to do. They called around to try to figure something out to help. The lines were completely backed up.

When I asked if I could at least vote with a provisional ballot, they did not seem sure if they could use them in that way, but they gave me one nonetheless.

This is when the poll workers truly shocked me. When they handed me the provisional ballot envelope, they told me that they had gone through so many of them that they had to call someone to bring them another packet.

The packets looked like they held about 100 provisional ballots.

This baffled me. I know there is no way that there have been that many disgruntled college students driving long distances to go vote in person after not receiving their absentee ballot.

According to the poll workers, the state of Missouri had purged the voting registration of people who had not voted for some set number of years. This posed a problem. People are angry about the state of politics, which means they are going show up to vote.

How many hundreds or thousands of people had to go through the provisional voting process this election? I can tell you for certain, it is an incredibly frustrating and disheartening thing to do. If you had faith that your vote mattered, you probably lost it going through this process.

For those unfamiliar with provisional voting, your ballot is never run through the machine that immediately counts your vote. It is sealed up in a bright orange envelope with your information on the front and then sent to election officials, well after everyone else’s ballots have been counted. Then they decide if you are a valid voter or not and if your vote counts or not.

The worst part of a provisional ballot is waiting. You will not know if your vote counted until 14 days after election night, well after the chaotic election dust has settled. After 14 days, you call an automated number and punch in a code you were given from your ballot envelope. Then a robot will tell you if you got to have a voice in our democratic process.

The question remains as to whether this was careless oversight by our officials, or outright strategic voter suppression. Either way, it is absolutely and unequivocally unacceptable. When people request absentee ballots, they should receive them.

More importantly, people should not be purged from the system for being inactive in a few election cycles. Your vote is your right regardless of how often or how little you choose to use it. All this purge did was cause frustration and discouragement, if not just flat out suppression. Now people we do not know, who get to hide behind closed doors, get to decide how valid my and hundreds of other Missourians’ votes are. The transparency of watching our vote get counted right in front of us is lost.

So, for this disgruntled college kid, and hundreds, maybe thousands, of other Missourians, we are going to watch the election night coverage and wonder if our voices were allowed to be heard.