Does the absentee voting process reflect our democracy?

Posted on Nov 7 2016 - 8:01am by Julia Grant

Last Tuesday, Skip Rutherford, the dean of the Clinton School of Public Service, was making his rounds across campus, speaking to various groups. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to hear him speak in my Chancellor’s Leadership class.

He spoke of his fight to bring voting to college campuses, abolishing students’ needs for absentee ballots. He admitted his fury with many officials’ opposition to the proposal, claiming the initiative failed at the University of Arkansas due to resistance from superiors.

But as he was speaking, I was not necessarily enraged, red hot with a burning desire for the restoration of justice. Frankly, my mind drifted to what I was going to wear to my Halloween swap that night.

That is, of course, until I tried to vote myself.

Even before I filled out my ballot, the process was already arduous. First, I had to register to vote in my home county by printing a physical application and mailing it to the clerk’s office.

Then, I had to phone the same clerk’s office multiple times to request an absentee ballot.

Eventually, the coveted package arrived. I tore into it eagerly, ready to exercise my democratic right. A slew of papers fell onto the floor. I picked up the instructions sheet and read over it, puzzled.

Finally, any flames of passion long extinguished, I filled out the ballot and realized I needed a notary to “validate” my vote—as if some public servant with a stamp was required to offer legitimacy to a literal filled-in circle. Necessary.

Thus, the hunt for a notary began. I went to the office at the Lott Institute; no luck. I asked my EDHE professor, who sent me to financial aid. Financial aid sent me to the registrar’s office. I felt dizzy.

I stood in the cozily furnished office and tapped my foot, waiting for the woman to get off the phone. The clock ticked, offering condescension to the time-consuming nature of my quest.

Finally, it was revealed that this woman could attest that I knew how to use a pen. I handed her my ID and watched as she crinkled her brow in confusion over where she should sign.

Several revolutions of the minute hand later, the envelopes (plural!) were returned to me. Alas, my participation in the republic had reached its peak.

Why is it so utterly draining and complex to perform the most fundamental action in civil society? I realized that Rutherford had been quite right. Refusing to allow precincts on college campuses all but strips the vote away from students—students, might I add, who are contributing vast positive externalities to the country by getting an education.

It is maddening and insulting. It implies that we are somehow lesser citizens and that we have not earned our most basic right.

Julia Grant is a freshman public policy leadership and journalism major from Gulfport.

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