Tales from the Trail IV

Garen Yegparian

BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

As always, elections produce some great stories, some funny, some sad, and many frustrating. Burbank’s April 9 General Election was no exception. As you read these, please keep in mind that Burbank’s municipal elections are “all-mail” with all registered voters receiving a ballot at home.

Perhaps the most amusing story is one that is actually a sequel. I related the first part four years ago. Then, I had gone into an elderly couple’s home to help with their voting. I discovered that their filing system lay between the carpeting and a throw rug when the woman of the house picked up the corner of the rug to pull out the ballot. This time, I went in to the same home and discovered both the wall-to-wall carpeting and throw rug gone. As I wondered where the big white envelopes might be, she went to the kitchen, opened the dishwasher, and pulled out the ballots!

By far the saddest election story I’ve encountered started as I went in the elevator of a senior building. A woman, some kind of health care provider, judging by her attire, entered at the same moment. In the seconds we had to chat, I learned she was going to an apartment where the person’s death was imminent. I asked which one it was so to avoid knocking on that door to avoid any impropriety, but the elevator doors opened onto my floor, interrupting the conversation. A few hours later, on the top floor of the building, I knocked on a door. A younger woman, a caretaker, answered. She recognized me from previous elections. But, when I asked for the resident, I was told she had expired just two hours earlier, and that had I come in time, she would have been happy to vote. I couldn’t help but think… “That would have been a profound final act.”

High on the list of frustrations is the “lying voter.” The most blatant example of this happened to one of our Burbank ANCA activists. He knocked on a door, explained his purpose, and was told the household had voted. Meanwhile, he could see the two large envelopes that contain the ballot and booklet!

Of course there’s also the “evolving lye voter”. These people tell you they’ve voted. When challenged, they realize they haven’t, but can’t get themselves to confess. The story then changes. It might become “we never received the ballots” or “we’re about to send out the ballots” or “oh, sorry we threw out the ballots by accident” or “we don’t want to vote” or “we’re going to go out and vote” or… you get the idea.

But the most frustrating is the case of the entrusted ballot. Many seniors, whose children handle their paperwork due to language barriers, give their ballot packages to their sons or daughters. They don’t realize that their signature is required for the ballot to be valid. The kids, in turn, probably barely look at the ballot packages before throwing them out, or realize too late what they contain. Thus are many people deprived of the opportunity to vote.

Finally, there’s what I’ll name— the procrastination loss. Many voters do not realize that the ballot must be RECEIVED by the city clerk by Election Day. They think that a postmark on that date is sufficient. Others fail to allow enough time in the mails for the ballot to be delivered timely. This is just plain sad, especially when many of these voters do get calls and visits from ANCA activists, or even volunteers from the various candidates’ campaigns. Such a waste…

I hope these stories enable more people to participate in future elections. Please, do so.

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