Citizenship Note:
I’ll be Damned
6 November 2018

¶ We went to vote today. Kathleen came home from an early-morning doctor’s appointment and picked me up — a euphemism for making sure that I got up, got dressed, and went to vote. Here’s why it was an issue.

Six months or so ago, I received a letter from the Board of Elections. It all but accused me of trying to retain my voter’s registration despite having moved to Timbuktu. In fact, of course, I had moved, but only from one apartment to another in the same building, without, presumably, leaving my voting district, which I can never remember. 68 76? Is that it? Or 68 75. It makes no sense, and it never has, but I’ve lived here for nearly forty years. I responded to the Board’s letter in the appropriate manner, and hoped that that would be an end to it. 

Then I had to renew my driver’s license — which I decided not to do. That is, I transformed my driver’s license into an ID without driving priviliges. I haven’t driven in over fifteen years, and even then I felt unfit, what with my completely calcified backbone. In the process (a minor nightmare), I managed somehow to resubmit the old apartment number to the Board of Elections in an update. I begged the DMV people to do something about this, but they said that apartment numbers didn’t matter to them. So my official ID still lists me as living in the apartment that we left four years ago. 

I repeat: we have been living at the same street address for nearly forty years. 

How many hours of tossing and turning about just this single thing have I endured since May? Many many many. Should I call the Board of Elections to make sure that my status was in order? I didn’t have the energy for that kind of speculation. So I decided that I just wouldn’t vote. I would retire as a voter, just as I have retired from concert audiences and other former pleasures. I knew that my votes wouldn’t make a difference, except to the extent that I voted for the Working Party Family slate instead of for the Democrats, even though the candidates were all the same. I will do anything in my power, short of voting for Mitch McConnell and his Satanic ilk, to destroy the Democratic Party, which to my mind has outlived its usefulness and needs to die, like an obliging mama octopus, so that new life can grow in its place. Was this burning passion of mine sufficient to break through all my morning problems, of which getting out of bed is the least? No. But when I remarked to Kathleen that I was thinking of just not voting — or rather, of avoiding the humiliation of showing up to vote only to find that I couldn’t, because the Board of Elections had removed me from the rolls — I received dim but unmistakable seismic signals warning me that this course of inaction would be a mistake. I would feel ashamed in Kathleen’s eyes, and, over time, even more ashamed in my own.

So, by the time Kathleen came back from the doctor’s to pick me up, I was putting on my socks. Step two, after showering and donning fresh Jockeys. Pretty soon, I was dressed. I felt terrible, but I had taken an anti-diarrheal pill (essential for deviation from regular plumbing processes). We left the apartment.

Just outside the front door, Kathleen said, “You stay here while I hail a cab.” Talk about role reversal — but I was much too deeply relieved to protest. I forgot to mention that it was raining, somewhere between drizzling and pouring — annoying. The rain was annoying. Kathleen nabbed a taxi right away, and in minutes we were at the latest voting place, further up Second between 91st and 92nd. Where our votes for Hillary didn’t work.

We went to the table associated with our voting district. I went first, and, to my amazement, the volunteer found my entry and the place for me to sign before I’d even had a chance to scan the page in despair. There it was. My name, anyway. The signature wasn’t mine, was it? Kathleen didn’t think so. But my writing has deteriorated greatly in the past five years, and I was in pretty bad shape, apparently, last election round. Eventually, I made out the “K” of “Keefe” and even the initial “R” of “Robert.” In any case, I signed again and was handed my ballot. Wow! No problem!

Now the whammy came: Kathleen wasn’t in the book! 

I felt so hideously guilty that I wanted to vanish in a cloud of ash. All my pointless anxiety of the past six months had had the vile side effect of erasing Kathleen from the rolls. Notwithstanding my tedious agonizing, got to vote. Blameless Kathleen was disenfranchised. 

What neither of us knew — and why should we have known — was that there is a procedure for these situations, involving an affidavit that the unlisted voter seals with his or her ballot. The packet is is carried to headquarters and dealt with. I’ll bet that Kathleen’s vote will count, but of course she’ll have to contact the Board of Elections — the very thing that I wouldn’t wouldn’t and wouldn’t do — in order to fix her status for 2020. I know it’s all my fault.

But I voted, and it feels good. Maybe not so much the voting, but rather the loving my wife.  

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