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Voting can be tough in the sticks

Life in Our Mountain Town, Katie Shaffer

If you happen to live in certain neighborhoods of Truckee, trying to cast your vote on Election Day can be quite an undertaking.

My voting experiences in Truckee reinforce the notion that life here is different than elsewhere.

When I tell my parents what I have to go through in order to cast my vote, they marvel. They live in a well populated, suburban college town in North Carolina.

“You mean you don’t ever go to a polling place?” they inquire without full understanding.

I’ve only had the experience of walking into a polling place to cast my vote a few times despite the fact that I’ve lived in a number of different subdivisions.

More often, I have voted as an absentee ballot voter, living in what’s designated as a mailed ballot precinct. Apparently, if there are less than 250 registered voters in a precinct, the county does not want to set up a polling place. It doesn’t matter that you always drive past a polling place on your way out of the neighborhood. Why they can’t combine precincts, and give each of us that American experience of walking into a polling place to cast our vote, I don’t know.

We Mailed-Precinct-Absentee-Ballot voters also get gypped out of receiving those stickers that proclaim, “I voted today!”

When I lived over the county line in Placer County, yet still in Truckee, we were given a list of polling places where we could drop off our ballots if we had procrastinated and not mailed them in time.

These polling places are not located here in town.

The usual scene the morning of election day at my house involved my husband and me debating who would drive over to Kings Beach, or down to the Alpine Meadows Fire Department, to drop off our ballots. A few times one of us would forget to double-sign the back of the ballot where you indicate that your spouse can deliver your ballot to the polling place for you, so one of us would backtrack for the needed signature.

Determination and follow-through are important qualities for mailed ballot voters, especially if you postpone tending to details like I do.

Currently I live outside the town limits, although we’re back in Nevada County. Although our address sounds like it’s in Glenshire, we actually live in unincorporated Nevada County.

Last year, within a few days of the cut-off date, I re-registered to vote at our new address.

I received a postcard from the county registrar notifying me that I was officially registered. As Election Day neared, however, I began to realize that I had not received either a sample ballot instructing me about my polling place or an absentee ballot in the mail.

I foolishly thought, “Gee, maybe I get to go down to the Glenshire Clubhouse and vote like everybody else.”

On Election Day, I didn’t vote first thing in the morning. I waited until I was on my way home, around dinnertime. I walked into the Glenshire Clubhouse and gave my name to the woman seated at a table. Three poll workers poured over the lists trying to find my name on the rolls.

Since I seemed convinced that I was a registered voter, I was led to a phone on the wall and was connected to a county clerk. The woman on the line told me that she had me listed as an absentee voter in a mailed ballot precinct, and if I didn’t have my ballot, I could drive to Nevada City and vote. They would be open for another two hours.

I left disappointed, and went home to fix my family dinner. I had wanted to vote, but I wasn’t going to drive 65 miles each way. Kings Beach had been far enough.

Since that time I have wondered if my missing absentee ballot had to do with a conspiracy undertaken by a man who works for the post office.

Living in a small town, you tend to know these things sometimes.

Suddenly I recalled that the guy who occasionally delivers our mail accosted me once at my children’s bus stop, because I admitted to him that I had never seen the movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and I was clueless about the history of this apparently famous event. Maybe this person decided that my ill-informed historical knowledge would surely make me a poor voter.

Well, I’ll admit I’m getting carried away with paranoid ideas of a conspiracy undertaken by a lone rural delivery postal worker, but I do wonder sometimes about mail that I don’t receive. That subject however, is fodder for another column.

With the recall election slated for this coming Tuesday, I have my ballot sitting on the kitchen counter. I guess I’d better get it in the mail without delay, and vote, Truckee style.

Katie Shaffer is a Truckee resident and registered voter. Life in Our Mountain Town appears every other week in the Sierra Sun.


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