The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

The entire United States had the opportunity to watch live action versions of Lewis Carroll’s famous duo take the stage in Cleveland, Ohio last night. While I could use the quotes from this train wreck for dozens of future columns, let’s focus on one issue that slid down to the bottom of the debate list yet needs some serious addressing.

Have you ever received Val-Pak coupons in the mail? You know, the envelope that you throw out without opening, the one full of ads for Gutter Helmet and at least a dozen of your local contractors offering discounts on windows and aluminum siding?

That’s the type of mail-in ballot being disputed – the ballots that received only murky, one-sided critiques, responses or explanations from both candidates. Tweedledee believes Tweedledum is trying to prevent people from voting; Tweedledum claims he just wants voting to be fair and that turning ballots into “Carrier-Route Sort” mail is dangerous and ripe for fraud.

Mail-in voting has been going on legitimately for decades; voters can simply contact the Board of Elections, verify the last four digits of their Social Security number (or driver’s license number) and BOOM! They get a ballot in the mail which they can fill out and mail back, in some cases postage paid. I’ve voted by absentee for nearly the last decade, and I’ve never thought my vote wasn’t counted or worried about someone else filling out my ballot.

But the mail-in voting this year has taken a far more insidious turn. Tweedledee wants ballots mailed out to people just like the Val-Pak coupons. And if you’ve ever lived in a challenging neighborhood like I have, or worked at a recycling center, you know those coupon envelopes make it to more dumpsters, sidewalks and empty fields than they do into people’s homes. Vacant houses have months of Val-Pak envelopes sticking out of the mailbox. Some houses get more than one. And Val-Pak just buys “mailing lists,” not unlike the mailing lists your local county has on file.

More than once, I’ve received government mail from my dead grandmother (she died in 2012, btw). Just imagine this happening with legitimate ballots during a presidential election.

If Val-Pak doesn’t make the point clear enough, do you remember when Mountain Dew was giving away mountain bikes when you collected hundreds of Mountain Dew bottle caps?

The big excitement at the recycling center where I worked briefly years ago was sorting the #1 (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic pop bottles and discovering that most people threw the caps away. The caps were intended for people to buy more Mountain Dew and save up enough caps from their purchases to get a free bike. Great advertising, right?

What happened in reality was that the manager of the recycling center saved all of the “discarded” caps and redeemed them – netting himself a dozen fancy mountain bikes, which he sold on eBay for around $80-100 each.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s what anyone wants with our federal election. Can you imagine angry citizens grabbing up the “mail in ballot” from the abandoned house next door to fill out, or a family of six receiving this sort of “bulk mail” for their underage kids? Stranger things have happened when it comes to a generic mailing list.

Absentee voting is mail-in voting. If you’re afraid of COVID, you’ve still got several weeks to get your mail in ballot. If you need to vote by Val-Pak, let’s be honest, you probably aren’t legally able to vote or shouldn’t be voting anyway.

Absentee ballots are mail in voting.

Ballots are not Val-Pak coupons.

Even Tweedledee and Tweedledum should be able to understand that.

  • Walt the Curmudgeon

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