Somehow, I thought this could only happen to “other” people, people outside my family and friends, people who’s circumstances I don’t know well enough to get me as outraged as I am today. My son is 22, has previously voted without problem in our home town here in Wisconsin, in Duluth where he went to school and was planning to do so again in Milwaukee where he lives today. He hadn’t voted there before, so he went to register. What he was told seems to me to be totally out of line. I feel the need to let everybody I know what has happened.
For reasons I still need to understand, he was told he would only be able to place a provisional ballot, meaning the vote won’t count until an election official reviews the registration. Here is where it gets really interesting. It turns out that most provisional votes are thrown out.
This is quoted from a Rolling Stone article here:
“Under the Help America Vote Act, some states now reject first-time registrants whose data does not correspond to information in other government databases. Spurred by HAVA, almost every state must now attempt to make some kind of match — and four states, including the swing states of Iowa and Florida, require what is known as a “perfect match.” Under this rigid framework, new registrants can lose the right to vote if the information on their voter-registration forms — Social Security number, street address and precisely spelled name, right down to a hyphen — fails to exactly match data listed in other government records.”
Any programmer that has ever worked with demographic data from a variety of sources know that the chances of exact matches across a number of sources should be considered extremely rare. People, move, their names get misspelled by people doing data entry, handwriting is imperfect on paper forms, people use formal and informal versions of their names, and on and on and on.
My son is at that stage in his life where he moves around a lot. Because of this, he will sometimes use our home address on forms where the situation requires a more permanent location. Nevertheless, he has lived withing a few miles of his current address for more than a year. It would seem likely he would fall out of favor with the HAVA criterion. His situation is so common, I would think it would be a problem with a large portion of young voters.
My son is real. He has a drivers license and an up to date US passport. He is employed. He now lives in a predominantly poor and black district of Milwaukee. So why is he limited to a provisional ballot?
The plain and simple truth is this: my son is a legitimate voter. I am mad.