Absentee Ballot? Nonexistent is More Like It

Alice Farley and her daughter, Eizabeth, knew they’d be out of town on Nov. 6th, Election Day. Alice, a landscape architect, would be en route to Virginia, to speak at a conference. Elizabeth had recently taken a job in New York City and wouldn’t be able to travel home to Chestnut Hill to cast her vote.

  So in early October, mother and daughter applied for absentee ballots – Alice applied online, Elizabeth by mail. They figured they’d receive their ballots in plenty of time to meet the absentee-vote filing deadline of Nov. 2nd at 5pm.

  Days ticked by, then weeks, but no ballots arrived. Alice called the city’s Board of Elections for help – many times, she says – but no one ever answered the phone. By last Monday, Oct. 29, she was in a full-blown panic . She contacted Ellen Mattleman Kaplan of the Committee of Seventy, who put her in touch with city commissioner Stephanie Singer.

  Last week, Singer advised Alice to come in person to City Hall to cast her absentee ballot, and advised that Alice’s daughter, Elizabeth, should e-mail commission staffer Carmelo Seminara for a replacement ballot "as soon as possible." 

How Elizabeth was supposed to obtain a new ballot, fill it out and get it back to City Hall in the space of five days is anyone's guess. 

  Alice’s ballot finally arrived yesterday, Nov. 5th - three days past the deadline for absentee votes "so it does me no good," she says. Furious, she rescheduled her early-morning flight today to Virginia and now plans to vote, in person, on her way to the airport for the later journey.

"I'm lucky that I can afford [the cost of rescheduling]," says Alice. "What about people who don't have the money?" 

At least Alice will get to vote. Not so her daughter Elizabeth, whose ballot never arrived. So she has been shut out of an act of democracy considered so sacred in this country that we willingly put our troops in harm's way, overseas, to guarantee that those in other nations may cast their own ballots. 

  "I am furious," says Alice. "This is outrageous. No one should have the power to obstruct the vote. But who do I blame? The Board of Elections? The post office? No one will take responsibility. Someone needs to be held accountable. I just don't know who."

Multiple calls to the commissioners for comment were met with busy signals - no surprise, given that it's Election day. But Singer wrote, in a follow-up to Kaplan about the problems Alice and Elizabeth were having, "We are hoping that the Governor will extend the absentee ballot deadlines."