Monday, November 10, 2008

Voting Issues

Ok, I haven't updated my blog in almost 2 weeks. There's still lots of things going on, I just get busy, or sometimes lazy. And when I get lazy, I let more time pass, and the more time passes the less I feel like updating the blog about something that happened. Anyhow, I had quite an adventure trying to vote in the election last week.

The following post is about that process for me, but be warned, its VERY long. Probably too long but I finally finished it (I actually began writing it last Tuesday, so some of the things, like my internet, that were not working properly are now fine) and I don't feel like making it concise, so if you want to read it, it's a lot, and if not, ya ain't gonna hurt ma feelins.

So two weeks ago I filled out this form and faxed it to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections that requests that they send me an absentee ballot via email.

However, I didn't hear or receive anything from them, but I had an alternative... or so I thought.

The elections office had mailed an absentee ballot to me in the beginning of October, but was received after I left for China. I figured I could have my brother fill out my choices and then have my father sign it, since he has my power of attorney.

So, I called my brother up Sunday night, the Sunday before the election. I asked him to read me each point on the ballot and I he selected for me.

Then I told my dad about this, and he told me to have Richie (my brother) bring it to my father's house before my brother left for work (they live very close about 2.5 km apart).

I'm not exactly sure about the sequence of events after that, but I know that at some point my father was at the elections office in Tampa, I suppose trying to submit my absentee ballot. They would not accept it, but they said they could send me an absentee ballot via e-mail, but they had to contact me and talk to me first to verify that is what I wanted to do. They called once but either Skype didn't forward it to my cell phone or I didn't hear my cell phone. They called me again and I heard my phone ring and I answered but the person on the other end couldn't hear me. Luckily they called me right back (since I can't make international calls from my cell phone, only from my computer). The woman asked me if I agreed to the absentee e-mail ballot, I did, and she said it would be sent that day.

Later that day I got an e-mail from that woman confirming our conversation and her contact phone number. However I did NOT receive the e-mail absentee ballot. I replied to her e-mail saying I had not received it, but this reply was sent at 2am Florida time, so I could only hope she'd see it first thing in the morning.

Anyways, Tuesday night (Tuesday morning in the states) I went out to dinner with Ellis, the new teacher at the school here and my new neighbor, and the other foreign teachers here in Huzhou, so Ellis could meet the gang. Afterwards she needed a few things and I needed milk so we stopped at the grocery store. I also picked up peanut butter and bread. When we got back she asked for some help setting up her internet. The school gave her a computer, like me, and it worked when she arrived, like mine did, but she was wanting to be able to use her Mac.

By the way, her internet works as it is supposed to. Meaning she doesn't have to install special software on her computer in order to access the internet, and her internet access doesn't cut out at midnight. These were problems that were supposed to have been fixed in my apartment as of this last Friday, but as of Tuesday, they had not been. Anyways, after setting up her internet and getting an actual wireless network up and running, the power in the building went out completely. Not a scheduled power off like they do for the students when the turn the students' power off at 12. The whole building lost power: the foreign teacher dorms, the lights in the hallway, everything.

At that point, I was about to go to bed, but I remembered I had to get the absentee ballot filled out before 7 PM Florida time. I guess because the internet is through a DSL line, it is not on the same power as the rest of the building, because I was still able to access the internet, using my laptop and its battery power. I tried to call the woman, Jacque, at the elections office, but the circuits were busy. I emailed her again. And then I called my dad to let him know my status. He said just to try to keep calling. So I did, and I got repeated circuits busy signals, but finally got through. I waited on the line, as calls were being answered in the order they were received. The receptionist answered and said "Hillsborough Country Supervisor of Elections." I asked to be transferred to Jacque's extension, and then the signal got cut off. So I tried calling back, again and again, and finally after many more "All Circuits are Busy" messages, I got through. I asked to be transferred, and finally, connected with Jacque. I told her I had not received the absentee ballot via email. She asked me to wait, she would check on why that was. After about 5 minutes she came back and told me it would be e-mailed within the next hour, and if I didn't receive it to call her back.

Now, this was at 11:30pm China time. The power had been out for about 80 minutes at this point. My computer battery only had about 20 more minutes of power (it's 3 years old so I only get 90-100 minutes of battery time), and even if the power DID come back on, my internet still turns off at midnight (even though it is supposed to have been fixed already).

Anyhow, at about 11:47pm, 2 minutes before my computer lost power, I did finally receive the e-mail with the absentee ballot. That my computer lost power wasn't so bad. As long as I could get to the internet somewhere, I could get it. And even if I had power and internet after midnight, all I would've been able to do is copy it to my USB flash drive. To print it, fill it out, and fax it I would've had to wait till morning anyway.

At that point, I was tired, and there was nothing else to do anyway, so I went to sleep. I set the alarm on my cell phone for 5:30 am. I woke up at 5:30 but still had no power. So, knowing that I had until 8 am (7 pm EST) to get the stuff taken care of, and knowing that nothing was open this early, I went back to sleep until 6:30. I woke up again at 6:30, still no power, but I could always just use a computer in the school. I would need to go into the school to print and fax anyhow.

So, I made my self a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast (no cereal, didn't want to open the fridge with the power off), and headed off to our office. I arrived at 7:15am (6:15pm EST, 5745 minutes till the polls would close in Florida). Once there, no one was there and no computer was on. I went to the office next door, which was also an English teachers' office. There was one guy there, and I asked him if I could "shang wang" (上网, use the internet). He said sure and he let me, but he then said "ke shi you yi dian man" 可是有一点慢 (but it is a bit slow). A bit slow was an understatement. After plugging in my USB flash drive to download the PDF file, it took THREE minutes for the thing to recognize it. About that time another teacher showed up in that room: Mr. Xia. (Xia is pronounced kind of like "sha") I've met him several times before and he's a really nice guy and his English is fair. He offered to let me use his laptop as it was a bit faster. So thanks to Mr. Xia (who would prove instrumental in this process) I was able to access my e-mail and download the PDF for the absentee ballot to my USB flash drive. It was now 7:30 am (6:30 pm EST). The next step was to print it. There is not a printer in either of the offices for the English department, and the room they [the English teachers] use to print was not yet open.

At that point, with just under 30 minutes to go before the deadline, I considered giving up; this was going to be nearly impossible to get done in time, and there wasn't much I could do about it. But I couldn't. It was my fault I didn't take care of this stuff sooner, and so I had to try down to the last minute.

With the help of Mr. Xia (Xia, 夏, means summer by the way), we went to other teachers' offices nearby where someone, anyone was in, asking if they had a printer (da3 yin4 ji1). Finally we found one, they booted up the computer and let me print the 6 pages I needed (the document was 7 pages, who needs instructions in Spanish?).

It was now 7:40am. I had 20 minutes in which I had to fill it out and fax it. Since I didn't know of any closer or better place to fax it, I went to the same office I went to last time to fax the absentee ballot form 2 weeks ago, Tian Jia's office. The last time I had sent an international fax, we used the fax machine FROM Tian Jia's office, but they cannot make international calls from that room. So, we had to bring the fax machine into the office of a man across the hall (I can't remember his name. How terrible! Let's call him Mr. H) in order to send it, so we'd probably have to do that again. Tian Jia works in the administrative building which is on campus, but not super close to where I was at that point. So, I sprinted down the hall, ran down the stairs, unlocked my bike and high-tailed it to the admin building. I then ran to Tian Jia's office, arriving at 7:45. I knew she wasn't there yet, but hoped maybe someone was. No such luck.

I then tried to see if I could find ANYone whom I could ask "Nar keyi fa guo ji chuan zhen?" (Where can I send an international fax?) The first person I saw walking up the stairs was Mr. H! Luck was finally turning. After asking him if I could send a fax, he said we could, but Tian Jia was not in yet. In Chinese (Mr. H was EXTREMELY helpful but unfortunately speaks very little English) I told him I knew, but that I had to send this fax Before 8 am. When we got to his office it was 7:46, but unfortunately, no one had yet arrived at the office across the hall, the one with the fax machine.

Luckily, one of Tian Jia's co-workers, a girl named Yuan yuan, arrived 2 minutes later, and then Tian Jia about 30 seconds after that. So, we moved the fax machine over to Mr. H's office and began setting it up. I scanned the instructions page for the phone number, but before we started that, I wanted to make sure we would be dialing correctly, so I called my dad from the fax phone. He picked up, I said, "It works, gotta go!" Then we began faxing the actual absentee ballot at 7:55 am (6:55 pm EST). However, I tried to put all the pages in at once, let the fax feed them through as multiple pages (5 in total, no need to fax the instructions page), but Yuan Yuan and Tian Jia said I had to feed them one at a time. Unfortunately, this meant it had to dial each page as a separate fax, which, figuring dialing, connecting, scanning, and disconnecting, ended up taking about a minute per page. Finally, on the last 2 pages it was 7:59 and I just went ahead and put both pages in the fax, hoping it would feed both pages through as one fax, and figuring if the pages were received after 8, it wouldn't matter anyway. The 2 pages DID feed through as a 2 page fax, and the time on the fax machine said 8:01.

Next I wanted to call the elections office to see if they had received my ballot. Unfortunately I didn't have the number for the elections office handy, so tried calling my father, my brother, my mother, and my sister to see if they could check it on my e-mail. But none of them answered, so I called the only other number that I could remember off the top of my head: Joe Molinaro. He was still at work, but he did answer and was able to check for me.

So next I called the elections office to see if they received my ballot. The receptionist who answered tried to transfer me over to the woman who could check, but she was not in, but the receptionist offered to send me an e-mail later to confirm that they had received it.

A couple hours later I received the e-mail, and they got it! After all that, my vote finally counted!


  1. well now. what u went through to vote is a remarkable show of your patriotism. We should NEVER get complacent about that!
    (Still don't have a picture of that bike!) LOL


  2. You were part of history buddy. Can I have the movie rights to this dramatic story? We'll call it "confessions of a buonicontti drama queen".