Since I first registered to vote on my 18th birthday, I haven’t missed voting in a single election that I can remember. My feat has been nothing short of a pain in the ass, given that I have moved 14 times in the 19 years since. This week, I almost failed to vote for the first time: I had moved – again – in the gap between the board of elections deadline to change my address and the New York state primary election. I did try to update my voter registration online, but didn’t receive a confirmation. I was confused if I was eligible to vote where I now live, or at the last address where I had been registered. We don’t have same-day registration here in New York, so I steeled myself against the guilt and decided not to bother. But the guilt set in anyway: I saw on Facebook how many of my friends had voted; I felt the ghosts of my father, grandfather and great-grandfather prepare to raise up from the grave and beat my black behind for giving up so easily when they’d fought much harder challenges – like the Klan – to exercise their right to vote. So I went down to what should be my precinct (and will be, once the change of address takes effect). My name wasn’t on the rolls, but because I was already a registered voter, I was allowed to fill out a provisional ballot. It wasn’t an easy process to navigate, it took a lot of time, and my vote may not even be counted.
Most people like me don’t have hours to spend voting by provisional ballot, as I did on Tuesday. And by “people like me”, I mean those of us who are somewhat fringe and move often. According to Demos, “Almost 36.5 million US residents moved between 2011 and 2012,” and “low-income individuals were twice as likely to move as those above the poverty line.”
… “Mobility is the primary driver of problems with the voter lists,” David Becker, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ election initiatives, told me. “And there’s not any question that young people, and people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, are much more likely to be mobile.”