We did it!

Aside

(Specifically, Beth at Del. Jennifer McClellan’s office did it.)

Yesterday I called my delegate and spoke to her legislative aide. The aide took my concerns seriously and took up the cause right away. Within 24 hours, she called me back to report that she had spoken to several policy analysts and determined that, in fact, I am entitled to a provisional ballot on Election Day. I have her assurance that I will have no problems at the polls.

Hip hip hooray! I’m so excited I hardly even know what to say. But I do know I will be sending Beth a card as soon as I stop shaking with joy.

Apparently, there are new regulations concerning provisional ballots in Virginia, and SBE staff weren’t adequately trained on them. Because I spoke up, and because you all gave me the strength and courage to keep talking, SBE and other election staff will be taught the proper procedures for absentee ballots. We have saved at least one vote, and maybe hundreds.

So thank you, invisible friends (you know who you are), visible friends, and complete strangers. I hope you’ll all forgive me for going into retirement to enjoy my I VOTED sticker in peace.

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Update!

Just a quick note to say thank you thank you thank you everyone for the signal boosts, the advice, and the kind words.

Special thanks to Drew, my invisible friends on the internet, and the awesome people at 866-OUR-VOTE. My original post was retweeted by my local NPR affiliate, which will help it to reach other people in Richmond who may also have been affected.

Though I don’t expect much in the way of progress on a weekend, every step, every tweet, every email, every Facebook post, counts. Team #lethervote lives on, not just for me, but for every person who’s ever been disenfranchised at the polls.

With any luck, the next time I post it’ll be to say that we’ve won.

Voting Rights

I apologize for going way, way off-topic on a food and cooking blog, but there’s been something going on the for last few days that I need to address in a longer form than a tweet, so here we go.

My rights as a voter in the Commonwealth of Virginia are being violated, and I won’t stand for it.

Over the summer, knowing that I was scheduled to attend a conference out of town on Election Day, I registered to vote absentee. My ballot came postmarked September 21st. By that point I had lost my job and would no longer be at that conference. I prefer to vote in person, and so I decided to mail my ballot back untouched, per instructions on the ballot, in order to vote at my precinct.

Look at Paragraph 1. If you can’t read it, here it is verbatim. All capitalization and emphasis in the original.

BEFORE VOTING: 1. IF YOU DECIDE NOT TO VOTE BY ABSENTEE BALLOT, do NOT open Envelope A [BALLOT WITHIN]. Return it unopened in the pre-addressed envelope to be received by the Secretary of the Electoral Board on or before election day. You will not be eligible to vote at your precinct polling place unless your unused ballot has been returned by election day.

I did this, exactly, one day last week. Another piece of paper (which I have since lost, or perhaps mailed back with the ballot), advised me to call to make sure my ballot was received. On Wednesday I called the Virginia State Board of Elections to do this. They told me to call my local board. For me, this is the Office of the General Registrar for the City of Richmond. I called this office Thursday and was told by two different staffers that because I had mailed my ballot back, I could no longer vote in person. It did not matter that my ballot was blank, because they would not be able to look at it until Election Day. Both of these women told me that I had lost my opportunity to vote. I ended that phone call shaking with rage.

On the advice of a friend, I contacted the Richmond Times-Dispatch and a lawyer with Organizing for America yesterday. (Neither of these has panned out yet.) I called my Congressman, Rep. Bobby Scott, whose office deferred to the State Board of Elections. I called the SBE again. This time I was told that while I had mailed my ballot back correctly, the only way I could vote was with that ballot, so I needed to “work with” the General Registrar. No advice was given on how to work with them. I was specifically and repeatedly denied access to a provisional ballot. I called the General Registrar and spoke to a Ms. Russell. I read her the instructions from the absentee ballot and was told I “misunderstood” them. Ms. Russell told me I would be able to vote, but the only way I could do so was by going to her office and voting in person. When I pointed out that this violates my right not to be forced into missing work to vote, she did not have an answer for me. I am currently waiting for a call from a Ms. Alice Calhoun at the General Registrar to sort this out further.

Here’s the thing. The information I received in writing from the SBE is one hundred percent correct. The information I received by phone from both the SBE and the General Registrar is false and in violation of the Code of Virginia. Period. End of story.

The Code of Virginia states the following with regard to absentee ballots (emphasis mine):

 If for any reason a person, who has applied for and received a ballot, decides not to vote absentee, he shall return the ballot unopened, in the sealed envelope in which it was sent to him, to the electoral board, on or before the day of the election in which the ballot was intended to be used.

The electoral board shall note on the absentee voter applicant list, opposite the name of the person returning the ballot, the fact that the ballot was returned unused and the date of the return. The electoral board shall carefully preserve all ballots returned unused and deliver them, together with other returned ballots, to the officers of election on election day. A voter who has returned his unused ballot as provided herein shall be entitled to cast a provisional ballot pursuant to § 24.2-653.1 in person on election day at his proper polling place or at a central absentee voter precinct established by the governing body of the county or city where the person is registered to vote. However, a voter who returns his unused ballot to his proper polling place or central absentee voter precinct on election day shall be entitled to vote a regular ballot, and his unused ballot shall be preserved with other unused ballots.

Source: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+24.2-708

I am entitled to cast a provisional ballot at my usual and correct polling place on Tuesday, November 6. This is my one and only demand, and I will settle for nothing less. I call upon Representative Bobby Scott, US Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, Delegate Jennifer McClellan, and State Senator Don McEachin to support me in this endeavor, and for the State Board of Elections and the Richmond General Registrar to allow me my provisional ballot.

I will continue to reach out to local and national media to bring attention to this egregious error. I need to emphasize that I DO NOT want to do this. I like my own little dark quiet corner of the world and I want nothing more than to hang out with my friends, watch my nephews grow up, become a social worker, and nurture a lovely new relationship that’s just come into my life. But I will not let my voting rights be cast aside. I’m the daughter and great-granddaughter of immigrants. My family have always been fighters. And now, I am too.

Some of my friends have begun a Twitter campaign to get some national attention. Follow us at #lethervote. And Maddow, if you’re listening? Call me.

(PS: To get ahold of me, tweet me @bugpaste. Or email that handle at gmail dot com.)

Fit for a King

I really love soup. Like, a lot. This is good for two reasons: I’m broke and it’s cold out. I just started a new temp-to-hire job (yay!) and I am immensely grateful to be working AND doing work I enjoy, but I had to take a significant pay cut to do it. This means I am watching every penny carefully. To save money I’ve been experimenting with soups that are more or less whatever’s in the fridge, watered down and heated up. Tonight, whatever’s in the fridge consisted of winter squash, mushrooms, leftover rice, leeks, onions, and pumpkin pasta. Surprisingly, it worked out pretty well.

I don’t remember the name of the squash, but it’s small (maybe 1-3 pounds) and it looks a lot like a pumpkin, but bumpier. The flesh is very very orange but tends to be a little green near the skin. It’s sweet and takes well to seasoning. That soup and some sauteed tofu with kale made for a nice warm dinner that protected me from the unseasonable chilliness we’ve had the last couple days.

A vague recipe follows…

Winter Squash Soup

Roast 1 medium or two small winter squash in a 400-degree oven for about 45 minutes, or until soft. Before putting them in the oven stab the fruits a few times so they don’t explode. Let cool, cut in half, and scoop out the guts. The seeds are edible and delicious if you want to keep them.

Meanwhile, saute some onions and leeks in a stock pot. Add mushrooms (sliced, a cup or two per your preference) and turnips (peeled and sliced, about 4 small). Add a couple cups water, some leftover rice (optional), and the chunked-up squash guts. Bring to a boil, season, and let simmer for a while. (This was the part where I stopped to make the tofu and kale dish.) A minute or two before serving throw in some fresh pasta. If you’re using dried pasta give it 10 or so minutes. Serve!

This made significantly more soup than I was expecting so I will probably freeze a good portion of it. My favorite part about soup is that you don’t need to eat much to feel full. It’s cost-effective and awesome.