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Yo Voté (Provisionalmente)

I recently voted in the Maryland primary election ... provisionally.

(c) Maryland Elections Board

I'd planned to vote by mail or dropbox but I misplaced the ballot and Primary Day was upon me. So I strolled over to our local elementary school planning to cast my ballot the old-fashioned way.


'Hmm,' an election official said. 'Looks like you ordered a mail-in ballot.'

You know that? I thought. I didn't say it though, just nodded. 'OK then,' said the guy, 'you're going to have to vote a provisional ballot.'

And the fun began.

It was a first for me and seems it was for them too. The election judge, a kindly fellow in a straw fedora, had to look up the rule. The main thing is not to vote twice. If you find that missing ballot, he said, throw it out.

I couldn't help cracking wise. 'I know all about vote fraud,' I said. 'I'm from Chicago.'

Another election official looked up and smiled. "Vote early and often,"  she said, quoting the old joke most every Chicagoan knows.

They sent me to another guy who produced a bunch of paperwork. Name, address, drivers license number, Social Security last 4, etc. Then he handed me a State of Maryland info sheet, from which I quote the applicable provision:

The precinct register shows that you already received a mail-in ballot ... or have already voted. If you have not already voted, your provisional ballot will be counted. Voting or trying to vote more than once is against the law and if you do this, you will be referred to law enforcement agencies for further investigation. (Emphasis added.)

At last he handed me a ballot. It was the standard primary ballot plus special folding instructions, a special envelope, a special place to drop it. I even got a special voting kiosk, for bad boys I guess.

The return place was not an ordinary ballot box but this cool sack with a slot in the top. When I slipped in my ballot, the slot snapped shut such that it could not be removed except by whoever counts provisional ballots.

(c) iStock

Which doesn't happen in Maryland until the second Wednesday following the primary. At that time, my provisional ballot will be inspected individually to see if I told the truth. If approved, it will be counted and added to the official tally regardless of who the apparent winners and losers are.

Big if? Probably not but I can't help feeling a tad paranoid. I said I was from Chicago, didn't I?

The school gym where all this took place normally is bustling on Election Day. But at 7:45 a.m. on this particular election morning, it was a desert. More election workers than voters. I'd forgotten to wear a mask but I didn't need one. I was yards from my nearest fellow voter.

I wasn't surprised. Word was this would be a low-turnout primary.

Which was all the more reason to vote. Assuming my vote is counted, it will carry more weight than if many people voted. Suppose lightning strikes and some race ends in a dead tie. I'll walk around boasting my late-counted vote decided that contest. Now that's power.

Final observation: If you ever vote provisionally, make sure to budget extra time. I was inside that gym more than a half-hour. At the end, when they pointed to the table with the Yo Voté stickers, I couldn't resist asking for one saying Yo Voté (Provisonalmente).

Frank S Joseph Author

P.S. Jeffrey Slavin, mayor of our little Washington DC suburb, was sitting outside when I emerged. Coming in, Jeffrey jokingly greeted me by shouting 'Famous author approaching!' So coming out, I asked if the Town could do something when To Do Justice is published (forthcoming from TouchPoint Press). A book presentation may emerge from that conversation.I'll try to video it just for You, Dear Reader.

P.P.S. Did you request your FREE copy of To Love Mercy yet (by sending me an email at frank@frankjoseph.com)? Wendy Tucker did and here's what she said:

It is 3:42am in West Hollywood, CA & I have spent the last 2+ hours completely captivated by To Love Mercy. Such a cliche to say/write, 'I couldn't put it down'; but cliches often are based on truth. Which is the case...I could not. And I also could not wait to thank you. What sheer pleasure I'm having.
It is a wonderful book, I can hear the voices of the people. Their choices of words, even the cadence. Mercy Hospital compared to [Michael] Reese. The bus transfers with the punched holes. Drexel and 47th. The Piccadilly Theatre—God, did that hit home! ... Thanks for providing great insomnia!

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