This is What Happened to Me When I Tried to Vote Provisionally

It was the morning of November 6th – voting day. I woke up early, got the kids ready for school, and headed to the train for my daily commute to downtown Boston. Just as I was getting off the train to walk to work, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. I check my text, and my friend sent me four words – did you vote yet?  Shamefully, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to vote, and responded, “I’m a horrible human, I forgot to register in time.” The response I received stung – I’m disappointed in you. I responded, “I am disappointed in myself.”

Then suddenly, a lightbulb went off. What if I could still vote the day-of the election? Is there a way? A quick google search told me I could vote provisionally! So I had my plan. After work, I would run home, grab my proof of residency, and head over to my local precinct.

When I arrived at the polling location, there were two tables with large red letters on them. One said A and one said B. I first went up to table A and asked if that was the right precinct. He said no. I went to table B and he also said no. Well, the google told me I was at the right place, so I insisted one of them must cover my street.

After some initial cajoling, the guy at table A said he’d help me. Next, I told him that I was not yet registered and that I would need to vote provisionally. He stopped dead. He looked dumbfounded. “You’re not registered?” He asked, with heightened annoyance. “No, I just moved to the area, and I forgot to register in time, I should be able to vote provisionally, here is my proof of residence.”

His next statement stopped me dead in my tracks. It wasn’t as much as question as a statement of fact. “Why would you want to vote provisionally, they don’t even count those unless there is a tie.”

I started to fume. My response was, “so you’re telling me I shouldn’t vote?” at which point, he didn’t soften, but backed off. He continued, “this process is very complicated and will take a lot of time.” I told him that I had all the time in the world and was not leaving until I could vote.

What followed was a series of uncertainty. He took me to a back table, handed me a ballot, filled out a short form with my contact information on it, and then told me to go and vote. When I was done, he asked me to seal my ballot and hand it back to him. I was so flustered, after I completed the ballot, I walked out.

What concerns me is the fact that he took no records at all. He did not account for my ballot in any way, and I did not receive a receipt or any other proof that he would even put my ballot in the proper place.

In all honesty, I doubt my ballot was counted that day. It is beyond frustrating, but I am glad I had this experience because I will never, ever take voting for granted again.

Once I left, I immediately called the state elections office to report him. The man on the phone took my concerns seriously and said he would follow up immediately. I probably should have stayed at the polling location to watch where my ballot went. I wish I would have known to ask for a receipt.

Although I am very upset about my experience, it’s not actually me that I’m worried about. I’m strong, I’m a fighter, I don’t let people walk all over me, and I stand up for myself when I feel I am wronged. What concerns me is all of the people who wouldn’t fight back, who would feel intimidated to talk back to a person in power, who would not have the strength to argue like I did, or even know that it’s their right to argue back.

I am beyond disappointed with the Needham Massachusetts polling experience I had, but I did learn a few things. I will never, ever take voting for granted, and for the next election, I am going to step up. Also, I am going help people register.  I’m going to use my social media to promote the importance of voting, and I’m going to get involved in my local politics so this doesn’t happen to other people, especially those who wouldn’t fight back.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *