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Two days ago, I got my absentee ballot in the mail.
I’m 18 years old. This is my first time voting in a national election. I registered to vote on my birthday and registered to receive an absentee ballot as soon as they became available in New York. I have checked the mail at exactly 5:30 p.m. every single day, waiting for it to arrive.
When it finally came, I was thrilled. I made a whole Instagram post about it with a link to register to vote. I was proud.
Then, last night, I received a notification from The New York Times. The headline read “Nearly 100,000 Defective Absentee Ballots Sent to N.Y.C. Voters.”
My heart sank.
I ran up to my room, grabbed the precious envelope and checked the name listed on it. Sure enough, it wasn’t mine. I’d gotten someone else’s ballot, which meant that my ballot, my vote, this piece of paper I’d worked so hard to make sure I’d obtained in time, was in someone else’s hands.
I felt deeply discouraged, not about my vote necessarily, but the thousands of other voters affected.
I would simply apply for a new ballot, or even take the risk of voting in person, but I knew thousands of people would not. Thousands wouldn’t even notice the ballot was defective and use it anyways, only for their vote to be discounted. Or they would notice and forget to make sure they received a correct one. Or, this blatant mishandling of sensitive, personal information would discourage people from voting at all.
During last night’s presidential debate – which reminded me distinctly of when my sister and I get into arguments, yelling over each other, throwing in personal digs and making up facts while our mom plays the role of the annoyed moderator – Trump went on his usual “voter fraud” ramble.
At various points, he called this year’s election “illegitimate,” claiming people had received multiple ballots and would use this magical extra vote against him.
His insistence that the only way he could lose the election is due to voter fraud is beyond ridiculous is dangerous.
What is real though is voter suppression.
The closing of voting locations in low income neighborhoods populated mostly by people of color is real.
The attempts to derail the postal system by which many are voting is real.
The purposeful inaccessibility to in-person voting by those who can’t afford to take off of work, or physically cannot go, while making the application for mail in ballots confusing, and now defective, is real.
All of these things work in Trump’s favor.
The ability to cast my vote should not be too much to ask for. It shouldn’t be something I hope gets to happen. It’s my fundamental civil right, and everyday the government is finding new ways to threaten it.
I’m going to do everything I can to ensure my vote counts, and that has to be enough.