So I voted today!! I can say first hand that I understand how they screwed it up in the past. It's a bit confusing, at least the whole absentee thing.
I was already registered to vote in my state, so it was easy for me to request an absentee ballot for the primary. But I found out the hard way in college that at least in Illinois, if you have never voted before, you can't vote for your first time as an absentee. That's how it was in 2000, anyway. So I didn't vote that year.
Anyway I did vote in 04 and as I said, was then able to easily request the absentee ballot this past winter. You have to put what it is that makes you an absentee - are you in the military, are you a citizen temporarily residing abroad (me) , are you a citizen in jail currently awaiting bond and cannot go to your polling place (hmmm, not me), etc. Then I put my political affiliation, even though I don't have one - but I guess in some states if you don't put that, you don't get to vote in the primary. Anyway, then a few weeks later, I got my ballot for the primary. They send you like a MAJOR envelope that's super official looking. That little parcel is definitely on official U.S. business. And inside is a ballot and a secret envelope, and another envelope for you to put the little secret one in, in order to mail it. Then you have to practically sign your name in blood saying that you voted in secret. Finally if you happen to live near the embassy, you can take it to them and they mail it for free. Unfortunately for me, I do not. So essentially I had to pay to vote in the primary.
Now a few weeks ago I got the biggie ballot. I was kind of confused though because it was a federal write in ballot. Not the scan tran one. The instructions said that my county's ballot was not ready yet, but when it was ready, they would send it to me. And to mail it in as soon as I got it. But if it was too late to mail it in, that they wouldn't count it, so I should mail this one in, and if I mailed both in, they would know which one to count. Got that? Of course this was in September, so I ignored it. Lo and behold, I got my REAL scantron ballot on Friday from my county. I went back and checked the write in again, and I guess they throw it out if you send the real one in by the deadline. The deadline according to my county is that it must be postmarked the day before the election in order to be counted. So since I have a lot of time, I figured to ditch the mail in and just go with the real one. I don't think they need any additional confusion over there in the church basement where they're counting the votes all night.
Word to election officials - you should probably write what color pen to use to mark the ballot ON THE BALLOT. I was lucky and guessed black after looking everywhere for the instructions on how to mark it. Then on the back of the instruction sheet, there was a short sentence about what color ink to use. Of course the entire instruction sheet is in caps, underlined, etc about all the things you need to do and not do, so it didn't exactly stand out. Again - on the ballot. This should be as fool proof as possible.
So I voted and put it in the secret envelope. Then I had to sign again saying it was secret and yes, I was temporarily residing outside the country, not awaiting bail. This morning I excitedly waved my official looking ballot around my office (it was ok, because I had already safely sealed it at home so NO ONE could influence my vote). Then I took it to be mailed and to send it "recommande," which is like registered mail, cost me 12 CHF!
Anyway, I'm proud to say I did my civic duty. It has a nice feeling to it. Kind of like when I give directions to a lost random person or workout first thing in the morning. Except I don't get a cool "I voted!" sticker like I normally do from my polling place.
And remember if you don't vote, you don't get to complain. So get out there and vote!!! We can all do it, doggone it, yes we can!!
Here is a picture of the super secret envelope to put the ballot in - actually it's the one from the primary. See how official looking it is?? Hope I don't have to mark my next ballot from jail for posting this...