Letters: ‘Even If We Follow All Instructions, We Are Not Heard’

Readers respond to Jemele Hill’s account of her difficulty voting in Florida.

Rejected mail-in ballots sit in a box as members of the canvassing board verify signatures on ballots at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, in Miami. (Lynne Sladky / AP)

I Still Don’t Know Whether My Vote Will Be Counted in Florida

When Jemele Hill went to vote, she discovered that her name had been removed from the rolls over something she’d tweeted. “In another election year, this incident would just be a funny story for me to repeat at parties,” she wrote, “but this was the most serious election of my lifetime.”

I am 21 years old, a university student, and a Florida resident. I voted in the 2016 presidential election, or at least I think I did. I sent in my absentee ballot ahead of the deadline, but I never checked to make sure it was counted. I never thought to.

For the 2018 midterm elections, I again sent in my absentee ballot ahead of schedule. This time I checked. It still hasn’t been counted. I put extra stamps on it and a return address so that I would at least know if something went wrong. I’ve called my county office a number of times, to no avail. I was proud to vote as a young person in that infamous 18–29 bracket, but this only made me lose even more faith in our government. This is our voice; we are encouraged to use it, and yet, even if we follow all instructions, we are not heard. After reading your article, I don’t think it’s outlandish to wonder whether someone saw that the ballot was addressed from Berkeley, California, and simply disposed of it. And that is the most disheartening feeling.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Kendall Fitzgerald
North Palm Beach, Fla.

A similar situation happened to me! I have lived at the same residence for 30 years, and was able to vote in the primary without issue. My daughter and I went to our polling place yesterday to vote together, and mysteriously I was no longer on the rolls. I provided my Florida driver’s license, my voter-registration card, and a copy of the sample ballot that had been mailed to my home, which listed my voter-ID number. When that ID number was queried, it pulled up someone in West Palm Beach. I was also given a provisional ballot and a number to call to confirm that my vote would be counted. When I returned home, I called the office of the Supervisor of Elections to voice my concern. I was told that the “other” county made the error, and now that it was aware, it could confirm that my vote would be counted. I expressed my lack of confidence in the process and suspicions regarding something like this happening on Election Day.

P. Bennett
Winter Springs, Fla.

Readers responded on Facebook:

Nic Niewart wrote: This is the sort of behaviour you associate with Kafka type evil governments, whether ultra right or ultra left. To discover it’s from the USA, is chilling.

Milla P Vue wrote: That happened to me in 2016. I was pretty vocal about the DNC and come voting day, my name wasn’t on the list even though I was registered. Had to fill out a paper ballot.

Sandra Jane Spear wrote: If ever there was an argument against tweeting, this is it!

Jemele Hill replies:

A quick update: Since my piece on my voting experience in Florida was posted, a number of people have reached out, and all had the same question: Did your vote in Florida actually count?

The answer is yes, per the Tampa Bay Times, which got to the bottom of this entire ordeal. My provisional ballot was accepted last Friday. Most astonishing is that out of the 420 provisional ballots received by the local elections office, only 86 were approved—and mine was one of them.

I wanted to bring to light just how easy it is to question someone’s vote and how dangerous that can be in swing states, where in some cases African American political candidates have had to overcome enormous hostile forces, including widespread voter suppression.

Voting has always meant more to me than the performance of civic duty. My ancestors have shed blood and suffered immense humiliation to help guarantee me the right to vote. Thankfully, their shoulders have been broad and strong enough to support me.