Sunday, October 23, 2005

Voting By Mail

For this story, I am departing from the reporter’s viewpoint as observer.

I’m telling what happened after I decided to vote by mail in the new state initiative that requires no particular reason to do so.

A few days after I sent in my Civilian Absentee Ballot Application, I received the ballot itself.

It was in a big envelope with lots of contents, but I was horrified to see that the outer envelope was not glued shut. The glue on the flap was unmoistened, leaving the envelope open to anyone who cared to pry.

A quick call to the County Clerk’s office verified that all the contents were intact. They included the ballot itself, a yellow insert explaining the two public questions in depth and a return envelope with lots of reminders about how to return it to the County Clerk.

The ballot had a detachable flap with the warning, ”DO NOT DETACH,” which required the absentee voter to write in his or her name, address, and signature in the form of an oath that the ballot had been completed in secret and that anybody who brought the ballot to the county was duly authorized by the voter.

There was a big disclaimer on the ballot itself: “It is against the law for anyone except you the voter to mark or inspect this ballot.“

As if that weren’t enough, there was a bar code underneath the flap with the voter’s name, city and voting district.

The flap gets detached and the sealed ballot gets scanned on Election Day. And don’t forget, you can’t vote at the polls if you file an absentee ballot.

I started to fill out my selections, which you do by filling in the oval next to the arrow for your choices. I got to vote for three freeholders, two State Assembly members, one County Clerk, the mayor of Plainfield and in my case, a Councilman at-large for the 2nd & 3rd Wards.

Residents in the 4th Ward can vote for the only candidate running, Democrat Elliott Simmons, or for a write-in candidate.

I marked the ovals with a black pen, but then absentmindedly filled in an extra one without an arrow pointing to it.

Ooops! Too bad I didn’t use pencil.

I have no Wite-Out but am not sure it is even allowed. The rules say, “If you tear, soil, deface or incorrectly mark this ballot, return it to Joanne Rajoppi, Union County Clerk, and obtain another ballot.“

Yow! That means a trip to Elizabeth, doesn’t it?

I will ask on Monday.


--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: voting