Maryland State Delegate Courtney Watson is on a mission: to make sure residents know they need to request a ballot to vote by mail this November. While Governor Hogan mailed out ballots to everyone for the Primary, he’s decided you need to request them for the General election. A lot of folks don’t understand the change. Delegate Watson has been reaching out by phone to make sure voters know what to do.
She posted this account of one such phone call and I asked her if I could share it here. It reads like a blog post. A very good blogpost. It tells an important story.
A dedicated group of 22 volunteers and I are in the process of calling voters in my district. If they are not home, we leave a detailed message about how to order a mail-in ballot. Today, one called me back. Not using her real name, I'll call her "Someone's Grandmother". She called me upset that she couldn't figure out the web page to order the ballot. A spry 80 year old, she is determined to vote by mail and is worried that she and her friends wont be able to vote because they are afraid to vote in person during a pandemic. So I stayed on the line with Someone's Grandmother while she went through the more than 12 screens and little green "next" boxes and entered the information.
The first try was not successful. We were on the line for 14 minutes. She got all the way to step 9 before clicking on something that made her unsure of whether it was submitted or not. We figured out it was not and she had to start over. Someone's Grandmother is going to take a break and try again tonight.
She kept asking, "Why aren't they automatically sending us our ballots?" I explained it was the Governor's decision not to send ballots, but to send mailed ballot applications which would then need to be mailed back.... to then get your ballot mailed to you.
Someone's Grandmother didn't want to wait until she got the absentee ballot application in the mail in September, worried there would not be enough time. She is a planner, and she wanted to know her ballot was ordered now.
I have been told that the MD Board of Elections plans to make online ordering system easier, as soon as this week. That would be helpful, especially for our seniors. Someone's Grandmother is going to call me to let me know if she is successful tonight in ordering her ballot. In the meantime, do you have a Grandmother (father, anyone vulnerable) you can help?
Anyone who wants to avoid the polls due to COVID should order their ballot now by going to: http://bit.ly/MDballot You'll need your driver's license, last four digits of social, date of birth etc.
When I read this I immediately thought of my mother, who got a computer late in life but was never fully able to master it. She had developed a tremor which made it almost impossible to control a computer mouse. My mother was a highly intelligent person who had run our household, handled all the family finances, and routinely sent off thorough business letters typed on her old Royal upright manual typewriter.
But age had made almost everything more difficult. She sent me one email which read:
I will write more when I get smarter. Love, Mother
Right now people like my mother or, like Someone’s Grandmother, are more likely to be isolated and lonely due to coronavirus precautions. As the workings of the US Postal Service are degraded, older folks are left waiting for vital medications and checks they depend on. At stake in this election are things that matter deeply to them: healthcare, Social Security, and more.
Someone’s Grandmother just needs a little extra help. Do you know someone like that? Can you make sure they know how to exercise their right to vote?
The political party that thought it was fine to sacrifice Grandma and Grandpa to the coronavirus in order to get the economy back on its feet appears to be unconcerned about making sure the voting process supports them, either. Making in-person voting the default this November is a decision which puts the elderly and anyone in high-risk groups in danger.
Placing an obstacle in front of people which may impede their ability to vote is voter suppression.
Anything we can do to remove the obstacle, especially this November, supports democracy and empowers citizens to participate in decisions that are theirs by right. A shout-out to Delegate Watson and her volunteers.