Why I Might NOT be Voting on Nov. 8thOct 25, 2011
Last month, I said my “I do” and walked down the aisle to my now husband. Returning from our honeymoon, I was quick to change my name and order my new Social Security card, after all my new last name is much easier to pronounce and spell than my maiden name. The deadline to register to vote (October 17th) was fast approaching, so my husband and I hustled over to the DMV on October 14th. Both of us were already registered to vote in the Commonwealth, we just needed to change my last name and change his address. Simple, no?
After a surprisingly short wait at the DMV, we, with the help of our capable DMV attendant, filled out our voter registration forms to properly reflect the two changes we needed. Besides knowing that this particular election cycle is of critical importance to the direction Virginia is headed, voting is my civil right and I wasn’t going to take the risk of not being able to exercise it. I wanted to be absolutely positive that our votes would be counted. I asked our attendant, “Just to be sure, so that we can vote in the upcoming November 8th election, is this all we need to fill out?” “Yes, ma’am” and then as reassurance she added, “and we mail the voter registration forms out daily.” Feeling confident that we had done our due diligence, my husband and I departed the DMV.
Fast forward to yesterday (a little over a week since our visit to the DMV), we received in the mail two voter-related documents. The first was a new voter registration card for me – the name change … omitted. The next document – a voter registration application addressed to my husband.
While the failure to change my last name is perhaps negligence on behalf of the State Board of Elections (SBE), sending my husband a voter registration application is dumbfounding – clearly the SBE received the address change we submitted at the DMV because the application was sent to him at his new address.
Trying to figure out exactly what I needed to do, I turned to the SBE website where I read this under the category of “name change”: “To remain a qualified registered voter, the law requires you to notify your local registration office of any change in your name or address … changes cannot be made during the 21 day period before any general or primary election.” Barring a satisfactory answer to my complaint filed with the SBE, it seems I might be out of luck since I’m now within the 21 day window. Although I will admit, voting under my maiden name has crossed my mind…
In regards to my husband, the rule that references moving within the Commonwealth states, “If you moved your residence from one precinct to another within the Commonwealth, you may vote in the precinct from which you have moved in the following November general election and any intervening election unless your registration has been transferred or cancelled.”
My reading of this policy makes it seem incumbent upon my husband to clarify whether or not the SBE has deemed his registration transferred, cancelled or untouched. If untouched, he’ll simply vote at his old precinct or if transferred, he’ll vote at his new precinct, but if his registration has been cancelled (which the mailed voter registration application seems to imply), then our Commonwealth may be seeing two politically active members of society sit on the sidelines for an election in which we have immense interest. That being the case, you can trust that my name (both maiden and new) will not be foreign to the ears of those answering the phones at the SBE.
Hopefully my husband and I are the only cases of potential voter suppression within the Commonwealth, but if not, voter turnout in this election cycle may be low for more reasons than just disinterest.