Mailed My Vote, Now What?

Because of my vividly wild imagination, I had broad expectations for my first-time voting experience this year. I pictured myself sauntering into an elementary school cafeteria or a town hall auditorium, my jacket dotted with the pin of my chosen candidate, and my wallet stuffed with the numerous forms of required identification. I anticipated waiting in a twisting line, snaking down the long hallways and out the front door, and hearing the pleas of last minute campaign representatives loudly attempting to sway voters for a final oath of support. I supposed that I would proudly wander into the sacred booth, body hidden by a cheap curtain, and cast my vote for the first time. None of this, however, will ensue this November 6. Instead, my journey to the polls took place a couple of days ago, when I retrieved my 2012 presidential election absentee ballot from my mailbox. Surely, this bright orange envelope did not live up to the aspirations which I had developed out of 18 years of anticipation for my first ever presidential election. Like me, millions of voters across the United States will cast their choice for this presidential election via the convenience of an absentee ballot. In theory, the prospect of an absentee ballot sounds promising: college and preparatory school students can vote from the comfort of their dorm room futons, and people living temporarily in places other than their home state can still voice their opinions. Nevertheless, discovering a large orange envelope in your mailbox marked ‘Official Election Mail’ does not quite provide the ultimate voting experience. Voting in the convenience of my dorm room, I waited in no long, twisting lines, and I did not hear the chants of frantically rallying campaign employees and volunteers. I did not have to track down every acceptable form of identification in my name, and I did not hide behind the cheap curtains of the poll booth. I did not punch my votes on a mystery machine; rather, I used old-fashion pen and paper to cast my vote. Sure, I voted for the first time. Still, it feels as though I simply completed a survey about political opinions for some silly campaign organization fighting to tilt statistics in its favor. As it turns out, absentee voting may just be on the same level as the work done by some silly campaign organization. According to an October 6, 2012, “New York Times” article “Error and Fraud at Issue as Absentee Voting Rises,” “votes cast by mail are less likely to be counted, more likely to be compromised and more likely to be contested than those cast in a voting booth.” The article also reveals that election officials will reject nearly 2 percent of absentee ballots, a rate that is double that of standard in-person voting. After reading, my once fantastical image of my first time voting resembles something closer to that of the smoldering remains of World War III, and I am left to ponder whether or not my first presidential vote will even amount to anything. According to the article in the “The New York Times,” 800,000 absentee ballots were rejected by election officials during the course of the 2008 presidential election. Presumably, that number will be similar in this election. Will my first presidential vote be among the 800,000 rejected by election officials this year? I will never know, and I suppose that is why my first voting experience still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I have no idea if my opinion will be heard and certainly no idea what will happen come November 6. I guess I will just need to use my imagination to remember my first presidential election. In my head, my absentee ballot will be the vote that swings the entire nation one way or the other. Sure, it does not represent reality, but for me, it is the only way that I can know my first presidential vote meant anything. Maggie Brown is a two-year Senior from Wilmington, MA.