Leading up to Election Day on Nov. 6, students received plenty of encouragement to perform their civic duty, but that only took us so far.
The national voting campaigns, the celebrity endorsements and the handful of emails from Miami faculty worked. People lined up at the polls.
But we need more than cheerleaders on the sidelines while we fill in our ballots. We need a more efficient absentee voting system for those of us who vote outside of our home county or state, who don’t live close enough to a post office to vote comfortably and who belong to disenfranchised populations.
Let’s look at my schedule on the day before Election Day, Nov. 5, as a case study:
It was around 1 p.m., and I had time to kill before my 2:50 class. I could have rushed to grab my absentee ballot out of my mailbox and buy postage stamps from the Package Center, but I still hadn’t eaten lunch and I had some pressing homework due that day. For once in my life, I’m on the cusp of a semester with all As and I wasn’t about to sacrifice that for what I figured wouldn’t take too long, since I live so close to the Package Center.
My class got out at 4:10 p.m. and I sat down in King Library for a total of two minutes before I realized I had to race home to check my mailbox. When I did, I found not only my own absentee ballot, but also that of my roommate, Sydney, and my next-door-neighbor.
Sydney and I filled out our ballots. She finished before me and went to the Package Center at around 4:33 p.m., then sent the text, “Post office closed at 4.”
There’s a not-so-cute little asterisk on the Package Center sign that points to the small print, which says that the post office window is not open past 4 p.m., though it is manned by non-postal-worker staff until 5 p.m.
Never in my life have I needed to buy stamps. So as an intellectual, I responded to Sydney, “FUUUUUU.”
Sydney had to go to class, but I decided to make the trek to the post office on Brown Road, which is a 34-minute walk from my dorm. If I took my bike, I could make it in half that time.
I tucked my absentee ballot and Sydney’s into my sweater, since I didn’t have pockets big enough for voting-sized envelopes, and got on my bike. I didn’t even know if I could send Sydney’s ballot on her behalf, but I figured I might as well try.
I didn’t know exactly where this post office on Brown Road is, so I had to pull out my phone every few minutes to figure out which road I needed to take, while trying not to get hit by a car or kill any pedestrians myself.
Regardless, I made what would normally be a leisurely 15-minute bike trip in nine or ten minutes.
I got to the post office at 5:01 p.m., threw my bike on the ground, and opened the door. Then I pulled on the door of the actual post office room — wow, I made it just in time — and the door was locked. There were still people in the mailroom, but the door made a sad clunking noise.
The post office closed at 5 p.m.
It was too late, and I didn’t get to vote. Neither did many others in the Miami community.
It is 2018. It’s not like I’m expecting world peace, but in what is supposedly the most democratic country in the world known for its convenience, I expect to be able to vote without having to sweat for it.
No, absentee voting shouldn’t be as easy as ordering fast food, but maybe if the post office and the bureaucracy in charge of voting could learn a thing or two from the ordering process at McDonald’s, voting could become a tad more efficient and easier.
Voting should not just be made easy for this white Gen Z student, but also for people with disabilities, the elderly and poor minorities. All of these groups have been disenfranchised nationwide since 2008, when states began passing laws that suppress these votes.
Federal, state and local institutions (including Miami) have about 351 days until next year’s Election Day to clean up their act.
As for me, you can bet I’ll be registered to vote in Oxford, Ohio, instead of my parents’ house, since I’ll be living in an apartment when the next election rolls around. If we hold all else equal and assume that nothing will change next year, I will at least be able to avoid this same mess in 2019 and in 2020.