At first, I didn't really think too much about it, but it did seem a little weird. I was having coffee at a local Starbucks when I was approached by a nice-looking, 30-something male with an Obama sticker on his shirt. He held a clipboard in his hand, and politely asked "Have you registered to vote?" "Well, no I haven't!" I replied. Since moving to North Carolina two years ago, it was the last item on my long checklist of things to do when you move. "Well, I can take care of that for you!" he enthusiastically suggested. So, I filled out the brief form on the clipboard with my full name, address, phone number, drivers' license number, and party affiliation. He thanked me, and I asked him if I needed to do anything else. "Oh, no." he replied. "We will get everything taken care of for you, you don't have to worry about it." Whew, glad that was taken care of. And wow, it was really easy. Too easy, it turns out.
As I left the coffee shop that day in July, I still had a nagging feeling about the whole thing. I didn't give it any further thought until late August. With the election around the corner, I started thinking, "Man, I really should have received my voter registration card in the mail by now. I wonder what's taking so long?" To satisfy my curiosity, I logged on to the NC Board of Elections website and searched for my registration. Nothing turned up. Zilch. Nada. Big fat zero. So I called their number. The clerk took my pertinent information and looked it up in her computer. "I'm sorry, Mam, but we have no record of your registration." Really? Hmmmm....what the hell happened here? Still naive and giving them the benefit of the doubt, I thought that maybe it was one that fell through the cracks, so I proceeded to register with the lady on the phone. I got my card in the mail about a week later.
A couple of weeks later, the news was breaking about Nathan Sproul and his 'consulting' firm Strategic Allied Consulting who had been hired by the GOP to fraudulently register voters. There was an article in the Charlotte Observer on October 1st reporting that the NC GOP had severed ties with Strategic Allied Consulting. NC BOE Director Gary Bartlett stated: “Right now, we’re looking to see if there’s been any impropriety. No one yet has brought to my attention that there is something wrong here, but I asked my investigator to see if we have a problem. And if we do, we will deal with it.”
Well, Mr. Bartlett, I can bring it to your attention. And I did. I called his office and spoke to his receptionist, relating my story. She listened carefully, and promised she would relay the story. I also emailed the journalist who wrote the article, Elisabeth Arriero, and told her my story. Bartlett called me back, we discussed the story, he sympathized with my frustration, but didn't really offer any comfort that there was a solution. Ms. Arriero replied two weeks later that should she have any further stories about this topic, she'd be sure to contact me. Read that as: "I've done my job of reporting the story, and I really don't give a crap about yours".
I'm very lucky. I consider myself somewhat intelligent, educated, and current with the news. I knew something didn't 'smell' right when I didn't get my card, and I followed up. I had the means and resources to do so. But what if I weren't so savvy? What if I were a senior or college student or single mother without the time/resources/knowledge to think for a moment that someone would be dishonest and criminal about my right to vote? It is an earned right, earned by those who have fought and died for it, and as a woman, it is doubly precious and important, especially in this election. We cannot do enough to exercise, protect and defend this fundamental role we play in the future of our country.