Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Express Disenfranchisement

Everyone is voting back home. Colorado and Wisconsin both have some important elections today. My Facebook feed is choked with people exhorting everyone to vote. It’s a good idea. In general. Although, there’s something to be said for abstaining. In fact, Stan from South Park said it: “No, I think voting is great, but, if I have to choose between a douche and a turd, I just don't see the point.”

So if you’re stuck choosing between a douche and a turd, do what you want.

Of course, I actually tried voting today. From Sweden. But I have been disenfranchised! Kind of. I shouldn’t joke about that. Wisconsin has actually been actively trying to disenfranchise people recently.

I requested an absentee ballot on October 6 and had sent in all of the required documents by October 7. That was four weeks ago. I had to send a reminder on October 24, because nothing had happened. Turns out, my ballot had never been sent. I was told it would be sent on Friday, October 24. It was not. The postmark on the ballot I received said October 27. Another delay. Because of that, I just received my ballot yesterday on November 3. I have filled out my ballot, I have signed my envelope, I even found another American citizen to serve as my witness and sign the envelope that holds my ballot. And all for naught. Because I realized that there is no way for me to get this envelope from Stockholm, Sweden, to Madison, Wisconsin, by Friday.

Wisconsin state voting law requires the absentee ballot to be postmarked on or before election day. Check. It also requires the absentee ballot to be received on or before the Friday of election week. Today is Tuesday. Friday is Friday. That’s three days from now. Not check.

A first-class letter sent internationally from Sweden to the US is predicted to arrive in four to six business days for the low, low cost of 14 SEK. That math doesn’t add up for a Friday arrival. That’s what the postal employee in Stockholm told me. The one that knew his job so well that as I waited, he helped a woman weight, address, stamp, and mail her package while also explaining the rules and requirements of a PO box to the other woman in line.

After explaining the intricacies of international, first-class postage, he said I could send it express. But that he couldn’t help me with that. You had to have a computer, access to the internet, and a printer to do all that. While I appreciate the convenience of online transactions, not everyone has easy access to a printer. Or the internet, for that matter. But fine. I’ll pay ball Sweden.

What does express mean? That your envelope is predicted to arrive in three business days (plus the one that you’re sending it on). Which sounds like four to me. What will express cost you? Only 410 SEK. That’s it. Don’t forget the customs papers. You’ll need those, even for letters. And finally, posten.se suggests that you have the proper envelopes to send things express. You can order those online and they will be delivered right to your door at no extra cost! What service. You just have to wait three days. Which sounds like not express to me. Express shouldn’t involve planning. I need to ship things express because I failed to plan.

Let’s do a recap and some quick math here. If I want to send something express, I can expect it to arrive in three plus one days. However, it is suggested that I send things express in fancy express envelopes. So wait three days. Three days plus three plus one days equals six plus one days. Total cost, 410 SEK.

If I want to send something first-class, I can expect it to arrive in four to six business days. I can plop a stamp on and send away. Total cost, 14 SEK.

Six plus one days for express is greater than four to six days for first-class.

I bought a first-class stamp. I'm sticking my ballot in the mail anyway. Just because. Just because it doesn’t matter. Just because I wanted to try. When I requested the ballot so far in advance, I was hoping that everything would be ok. That I would be able to vote. That my vote would actually be counted. That I could be a part of an election of this importance, even though I am in Sweden for a year (ironically, some of my funding to be here for a year is coming from the US Federal government). Instead, I'm sitting here with a signed, sealed, and yet-to-be delivered ballot that means absolutely nothing.

There is nothing that can be done at this point, so instead I’m annoyed with the Madison City Clerk for taking 28 days to get me an absentee ballot and leaving me feeling disenfranchised. I’m annoyed at the Swedish postal service because their express service doesn’t seem very express. And I’m annoyed that I didn’t have anything better to write for today.

Welcome to Sweden. And the voting problems of the privileged.


  1. Kudos on your extreme efforts to vote, even when you're voting for douches. What I think it funny is how little attention the midterms get compared to the presidential election. When it's the president, there's buildup, there's buzz. For midterms, even when two of three bodies of government at stake, I didn't have a single conversation with people here about the election. And that didn't disappoint me.

  2. Well, I tried. I did not, however, try so hard that I was willing to pay 410 SEK. 14 SEK is more my style.

    1. Bam. I found out later that my vote arrived in time.