Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Sickness, Newton Election Commission and the joys of voting

Still a bit sick. Feeling mostly OK as long as I am up and drink tea all the time. The problem with this is that it is very hard to sleep while being up and having a cup of tea. Last night managed to sleep from midnight to 1am, from 8am to 9 am and from 10am to 11am. Luckily I have eaten so much various pseudoephedrine-containing medications that am not particularly sleepy.

Voted last Sunday (for Sirpa Asko-Seljavaara). It sure does feel exotic to vote in person as opposed to filling an absentee ballot.

I am really glad that here we don't have to put up with all the voter registration nonsense like we have in the USA. Athough I have a feeling that it wouldn't be so bad there either if I were registered someplace other than Newton. Newton Election Commission is, well, weird.

I keep registering. They keep throwing me off voter rolls, which pretty much means that I have to reregister just before every election.

For those who do not know how it works: I am registered as a voter in Newton, even though I do not live there. This is normal; this is what I am supposed to do; this is what all the Americans who live abroad are supposed to do - vote in their last place of residence in the US by absentee ballot.

On the other hand, people who do not actually live there are not supposed to claim living there on the census forms, because the census is supposed to count only the people who really are there.

Here is the problem: the city of Newton uses the census data to purge the electoral rolls from people who do not live there. I visited them in person, told them to put me back on the voter list, and pointed out the problem. They immediately came up with the solution: why don't I just lie on the census form? (Of course they used the verb "say" and squirmed when I explained to them why lying on the census form is a bad idea and is in fact punishable by $500 fine under the federal law.) Anyway, they put me back on the list (which they will surely purge again by the next election).

I requested an absentee ballot and told them that I would be staying for 2 more weeks at my Newton address and would like to receive it there, but if they cannot send it so soon, I would like to receive it on my Finnish address. They said that they would be getting the ballots by the end of the week and my ballot will surely make it on time to my Newton address, but if I don't get it by the end of next week I should call them. With that I left the premises and they hopefully felt better.

On Friday of the next week the ballot still did not come. I called them and asked to send another one to Finland, since I'd be leaving this weekend. The nice young man who answered the phone said that they cannot do that, since they have already sent me one, but that I am welcome to pick up another ballot in person at their office Friday or next week. I told him that I cannot do that (do not have a car and am not gonna be there the next week). Next the young man suggested that I should get somebody to send it to me. I could do that, of course, but I believe that a citizen's interaction with officials should generally be able to proceed without the help of family and friends, so I told him that I am trying to get him to send me the ballot. He said that he cannot help me, and after a few strong but printable words from me buggered off to find somebody who can.

He found a woman who was a lot more accomodating, took my address and promised to send me a ballot. I was lucky and did in fact get the first ballot they sent on Saturday, and used it. Of course I won't use the one they sent - or did not send - to Finland, but since they do not know it, I am still wondering where the hell is it. It's been 12 days. It does not normally take that long for a letter to reach Finland from the USA. If it does not come on time I will consider some retaliatory measures, such as complaining to some federal agency that deals with such issues. In fact probably should do it anyway.

I know I am paranoid, but when 3 ballot requests out of 4 fail maybe somebody really is out to prevent me from voting (though do not understand why since I generally vote in fairly conventional ways).

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