12 October 2007

How Much Is Voting Worth?

I think many people would agree that the right to vote is pretty valuable. If we're talking in terms of societies, maybe it's priceless. Certainly plenty of human lives have been lost over it. If we're talking in terms of individuals, well, I'm sure almost anyone could be bought, depending on the price and who's doing the buying. (Would you take ten million dollars if the only condition was that you could never vote in a government election again?)

But in this case, we're not talking about the right to vote. We're talking about how &%*@ long it takes for mail to get to Russia and how expensive DHL is.

Sadly, Congressman Paul Gillmor, my district's representative, passed away last month, leaving a vacancy in the House. We're having a special election in December to fill the spot, and I would like to vote in it. That requires three steps:

1) Getting my signed absentee ballot request to the Board of Elections.
2) The Board of Elections getting an absentee ballot back to me.
3) Getting the filled-out ballot back to the Board of Elections.

Simple, yes, but assuming we do it all on the up-and-up and don't have my mom forge any signatures or vote for me (probably a good idea, since my voting materials inform me that electoral fraud is a fifth-degree felony), that's a lot of mailing back and forth. My options appear to be air mail, which can take about a month, and DHL, which takes three days but costs more than 1900 rubles (about 80 bucks). The lady at the post office told me today that I can also use the Russian Postal Service's "very expensive" Express Mail, but I was previously told that that was only for mailing stuff within Russia, and when I asked her if I could really use it to send something to the U.S., she didn't answer me. I'll have to investigate that further.

Anyway, I have plenty of time before the ballots are even available, so I sent the ballot request by regular air mail, which cost 95 cents. Even I'm not too cheap for that. The plan for step two is to have the ballot sent to my house and DHL'ed to me by my parents. It has to be back at the Board of Elections 10 days after the election, and the absentee ballots are released 15 days before the election, so if it gets here in four days (11 days before the election), I have 22 days to get it in. Still not enough time for air mail to be safe, but plenty of time for DHL.

And now that I think about it, my parents have Power of Attorney for me while I'm gone, so maybe they actually could legally vote for me. AND I just remembered that for federal elections, you can just do a write-in ballot at the embassy, which would probably require going to Moscow but would at least mean spending a lot of money on a train ticket to a city that's fun to visit instead of just spending a lot of money, period. I'll have to look into that.

In any case, I'd like to know – would you shell out $160.95 to vote?


Celine said...

Hmm, difficult! Your first question is easier: no, I would not take 10 million dollars and never vote again, if only because the money would have to come from some shady source I wouldn't want to do bussiness with and 10 million would, I think, make me unhappy rather than happy...
But to spend 160 bucks to vote.... I don't know. Combining it with a visit to Moscow sounds a lot more attractive! I hope everything works out....

Anonymous said...

No way I'M voting for you. This will definitely be figured out on the up-and-up.


Katie D said...

$160 is a lot just to vote. Assuming the price of a train ticket to Moscow is comparable, I'd take the embassy option. As highly as I value voting and the democratic process, I find it easier to justify money spent on the combination of voting and travel.

Lisa said...

There are ways you can have someone else vote for you if you can't write. Perhaps your parents could do that for you in your absence? The "helper" has to sign in a special place on the ballot. At least in MA.


denise said...

the armenian genocide resolution has convinced me that it's not really worth voting for the house, so i wouldn't go out of my way. i'd just use the regular mail, and if it didn't come in time or get back in time, oh well. but i'm just a grumpy cynic, and i'd probably take the money.