Audrey Calkins, a 33-year-old lawyer, had already voted in two elections in her county in the US state of Tennessee when she showed up to vote in the Republican presidential primary on March 1, 2016. That morning, she showed up at the polls bright and early, presented her ID and her voter registration card to the election official, who looked her up in the system. “They told me I wasn’t on the list,” Calkins said. “I said, ‘Check that you’re spelling my name right.'” The official turned his computer screen around so that Calkins could see he was spelling her name correctly, and indeed, she was not on the list. “They said I wasn’t a registered voter,” Calkins said. “I was blown away, because obviously I had just voted a couple of months before in both October and November.” Calkins was turned away from voting.
In New York City, Turner Cowles, a 28-year-old journalist, tried to vote during the 2016 presidential election via absentee ballot in his native Florida, where he was still registered. His ballot arrived a month before the election, he filled it out promptly and sent it right back within two days, he said. “I was thinking, ‘This election is terrifying, this election is too important for me to miss this vote,'” Cowles said.
But his ballot never made it. “I didn’t know until Election Day, when I checked online and it said ‘Ballot not received.'” Cowles called his county in Florida and was told there was nothing they could do, short of him flying down to Florida from New York to vote in person.
“I was just falling off my chair,” said Cowles, who said he has voted in every major election since he was eligible to. “That was the first and only time — at the time — that my vote didn’t count. Every other time [that I voted absentee] it had been received.” To this day, he doesn’t know exactly what happened.