I was one of the people who early voted yesterday and ran into problems. After Twitter conversations with Bruce VanWyngarden of the Flyer and a lawyer who specializes in election law, I figured it would be a good idea to tell my story here. Let me make it clear, I am not trying to bash the Election Commission – well, I will a little about one specific thing – but mostly, I am just here to tell the story of what happened yesterday and let my readers draw their own conclusions.
For those of you just here to read the Friday news, scroll past the picture of the troll below. I have some good stuff today.
I registered to vote online the first week of October, probably October 2 give or take a day. The registration deadline was October 9, four weeks before the November 6 general election. I understand why they cut off registration when they do – they need those four weeks to make sure everyone’s registrations are in order. With early voting starting on October 17, I wondered, will all the registrations be in place by then? When I went to vote yesterday (Thursday, October 18, the second day of early voting), I was aware I might have to fill out a provisional ballot, especially after I checked my mail and did not find a voter registration card. I decided to allow myself a little extra time. Good thing I did.
I got to Calvary Episcopal, the Downtown early voting location, about 10:20 AM (unlike most early voting sites, they are open weekdays 9-5). I went to the first table where the lady put my driver’s license on a scanner. After a minute told me, “It can’t find you in the system. When did you register?”
“I think it was the last week of September,” I replied. It took me until I got to the next poll worker to remember it was later than that.
“We’re going to have to look you up,” she said, directing me to a man sitting at a table in the back. “This is Paul Ryburn,” she said. “He’s not in the system and his registration needs to be looked up.”
“Ryburn?” he said. “R-Y?” He flipped through a very thick binder filled with sheets of people’s names and addresses. “No, you’re not in here either. I’m going to have to call in and check on your registration. When did you register?”
“Last week of September… actually, I think it was the first week of October,” I told him. He asked for my date of birth and I gave him that too. He picked up a phone with “CALVARY” taped to the back and called a number.
After a couple of minutes on hold, he said, “This is ____ at Calvary. I have a voter who says he registered online the first week of October, but he’s not in the system or in the voter list. First name Paul, last name R-Y-B as in boy,-U-R-N. Date of birth __-__-____.”
He waited for a minute, then said, “Okay, thanks,” and hung up. “You’re not in their system yet either,” he said. “Where did you register to vote? What it online through the DMV?”
“No, not through the DMV,” I replied. “It was just the standard Tennessee online registration form. It wasn’t through any particular candidate.”
“Okay, I think I know what happened,” the poll worker told me. “Online registration is a new thing and I am not claiming to be an expert in it. But I know a massive amount of people registered right before the deadline. All that information has to be re-entered by poll workers, and there was so much of it that they are probably overwhelmed and playing catch-up. So your registration probably hasn’t been processed into the system yet.”
I nodded my head but inside I was seething a little. Let me get this straight, voters input all the needed data at the time they register online, and then poll workers have to turn around and RE-ENTER that same information, even though it’s already there? Well, if that ain’t government at its finest. I understand certain things have to be verified, but why the need to re-enter data like my first name and address when the data I entered could just be re-used? Maybe it’s to prevent hackers from cross-script attacking the registration form and gaining access to the voter rolls, but there are much better ways to prevent that than re-entering everything.
The poll worker took me over to a table. “What we’re going to have to do is have you vote provisionally, on a paper ballot,” Most of the people there were voting on machines. “I’m going to go look up your precinct number and slice,” he told me. No idea what a slice is, and I didn’t ask. “While I’m getting you the correct ballot, you can be filling out this paperwork.” He handed me a manila-colored mail-in voter registration form and a green envelope. I started filling them out with a black pen he gave me. Oddly, the mail-in registration form did not ask for my driver’s license number, whereas the online registration had. The green envelope asked me to affirm that I was (name) living at (address) voting in the November election.
The poll worker came back with a paper ballot. “In a minute I’m going to step away so you have some privacy to vote,” he said. “But first I’m going to explain to you what will happen. About two weeks after November 6, you will receive a letter from the state, after they’ve had time to confirm your registration. It will say either, we found you and your vote counted, or we couldn’t find you and your vote didn’t count. From what you’ve told me here today, most likely the letter will say your vote counted.”
He backed away and I filled out the ballot. Like standardized tests in school, I had to completely fill in the bubble next to my desired candidate’s name. However, I could do it with a blue or black pen, rather than being restricted to Number 2 pencil. I voted in the governor’s, senator’s, representative, state senator’s, and state representative races, as well as the three amendments on the ballot. It was not a hard ballot to fill out.
By the way – I saw on Twitter that for some people, Republican Bill Lee’s name appeared at the top of the 20 gubernatorial candidates, and Democrat Karl Dean’s name appeared at the bottom. That was not the case on my ballot. The candidates were divided into two columns, Lee’s name at the top of the left and Dean’s at the top of the right.
I indicated to the poll worker that my ballot was complete. “Okay,” he said, “What I want you to do is fold your ballot up and put it in the green envelope. Then I want you to seal the green envelope, and don’t tear anything off. If you tear it off we have to do it over again. Once your envelope is sealed, we are going to put it in an old-fashioned paper ballot box. It is very important that you put it in the envelope and seal it, and you put it in the ballot box yourself. If I do those things for you, someone might claim that I tried to influence or change your vote.” I understood. He was doing things by the book. I sealed the envelope. I was the first one to use a paper ballot at that location that day, so the poll worker had to cut off a plastic zip-tie on the ballot box, revealing the slot into which I put the envelope.
“On Election Day, a Republican poll worker along with a Democrat poll worker will open this box,” I was told. “They will go through all the paper provisional ballots and verify registration.”
“Sounds good, thanks for all your help getting this done,” I told the poll worker. “Am I finished?”
“You’re done,” he said. I walked to the room’s doorway, where a lady handed me an “I voted” sticker in the shape of the state of Tennessee. I failed to notice the “Exit” sign and turned the wrong way, and ended up exploring the halls of Calvary Episcopal for a minute or two before a custodian told me how to get to the exit.
It was a good thing I went the wrong way and took an extra minute to get out, because as I exited outside into the cool morning air, I heard “Sir!” behind me. It was a lady who was one of the poll workers that day. “We need to get one more signature from you.” I went back inside. Because I had been taken to the back table to figure out my registration, I had bypassed the second table, where I needed to sign “the book.” No biggie, just had to print my name and then sign my name. Now I was officially done. I was out of there at 10:57, perfect because I would be walking through Court Square on my way home. The Thursday food truck rodeo was about to begin and I brought some nachos from Moe’s back to the apartment.
That’s what happened as best I can recollect it. The poll workers were extremely courteous and helpful and I believed they did the very best job they could. I’m also not here to bash the Election Commission, although others have on Twitter – I just want to share my experience and let my readers decide for themselves.
I also want to point out that I am a middle-aged, heterosexual white male who grew up in the Episcopal church. I am not a member of any minority. There has been some talk that those whose registrations did not make it into the system were disproportionately minorities. I can’t speak to that, but I am proof they weren’t all minorities. I checked “Race: White” and “Gender:M” on my online registration application.
That’s my story. The one piece of advice I have to my readers is, if you run into problems similar to mine, by all means ask to fill out a provisional ballot. Do so even if the poll workers tell you they do not think your vote will count. Give your voice every possible chance to be heard. This election is too important to give up because of a few difficulties.
I have a feeling this post will be shared and tweeted. For first-time readers, welcome to my little corner of the Internet. I live in Downtown Memphis, and I try to post every day sharing news and information in which Downtowners would be interested. If you want to check out what a normal post for me looks like, scroll past the troll (she’s kind of become this blog’s mascot) and check out the Friday news.
Residence Inn at Main and Monroe has spread some painted #901Rocks around Downtown. Be the first to find a rock, take a photo of it, and tag @ResidenceInnMem on Twitter, and receive a $25 gift card to the Starbucks on the ground floor of the hotel. (Really, I would imagine the gift card is good for any Starbucks location)
A Paranormal Evening with Alice Cooper comes to the Orpheum tonight. The legend of shock-rock brings horror themes to the stage this evening, just in time for Halloween season.
Good Gourd! is the theme at the Memphis Farmers Market this Saturday. Grab some ornamental gourds to pretty up your home just in time for autumn. Also, grab some edible gourds including pumpkins, winter squash, butternuts, and acorns. The Cossitt Library and Kids’ Corral, running at the Market from 9:30 to 1:00, will introduce your kids to the wonders of the library. Live local music all day long. The Market runs this Saturday and next under the pavilion at Front and G.E. Patterson, 8 AM to 1 PM.
The Memphis Flyer has a look at Wonder/Cowork/Create, the coworking space for artists and creative types on Monroe Avenue in The Edge.
Evan Farris and Kitty Dearing will perform at the Civil Pour, the bar inside the 409 S. Main food hall, next Thursday, October 25 from 7 to 9 PM.
Carrie Underwood brings The City Pretty Tour 360 to FedExForum on October 23. Maddie and Tae will open.
The 4th annual Memphis Smoke happens at The Tinder Box, 346 S. Main, tomorrow from 1 to 6 PM. Cigar lovers, this is a day for you. Live music from IHeartMemphis, BBQ from Vanelli’s Deli, swag, games, and full bar. Most importantly for smokers, though, 20 cigar vendors will be on hand and there will be huge cigar specials.
The Grizzlies have announced festivities for tonight’s home opener. Evvie McKinney will perform the national anthem. Before the game Triggarman, DJ Spanish Fly and Young Dolph will perform. Rev. John Wilkins, John Paul Keith and Project Pat will perform at halftime.
The Silly Goose Hallows’ Eve Ball has been announced for the night of October 31. They normally do their Halloween party the Saturday before, but a lot of people had scheduling conflicts, so they’re doing it the night of this year. Note that Bardog, three blocks away, also does their party the night of, so it would be easy to do both.
Oh, a note about the Bardog party: You don’t have to be present at 11:59 PM on Halloween to win the raffle for the hearse parked outside, but if you have raffle tickets, make sure your phone’s ringer is on and you’re awake (or at least not so dead asleep that you don’t hear the phone ring).
Back to Silly Goose for a minute… the night after Halloween, November 1, they will have Paint & Get Lit with David Yancy III. Ticket purchase price includes paint, canvas, and instruction. For those who want to eat while they paint, Wok’n in Memphis will have a three-course Chinese dinner available for order.
117 Prime is hiring hostesses. Stop by in person to apply.
If you’re a fan of the blues, you’ll want to attend the Downtown Neighborhood Association meeting on Tuesday, October 23. Instead of one featured speaker they’ll have a Blues Panel. Barbara Newman, president and CEO of the Blues Foundation, will be the moderator. Panel will include Barbara Blue, Reba Russell, John Nemeth, Gracie Curran, and Matt Isbell. Also at the meeting, nominations will be presented for the 2019 DNA board and voting will occur. There will be light snacks and a cash bar. 6 PM social, 6:30 program. Free for members, $10 for guests – but they love guests, and if your guest joins at the meeting, your drink is on DNA. The location is “TBA” as of yet but when I get word of the actual meeting place, I will post it here.
If you get a chance to go buy a Mega Millions lottery ticket this afternoon, you might want to… officials say the jackpot has hit $1 billion for tonight’s drawing.
Here’s an interesting site to read as the World Series approaches: The Physics of Baseball
Very excited to hear that the NBA G-League is offering a professional path to elite high school players/18-year-old players. As an alternative to one-and-done in college, elite players will be offered a one-year, $125,000 contract to play for a G-League team (regular G-League team members not affiliated with an NBA team earn $35,000 a year). After that year is up, they are not eligible for the contract to be renewed and they go straight into the NBA draft. Think about some of the advantages:
- Players who see college as a waste of a year of their lives will have someplace else to show off their skills while developing as players. Also, players who have mad skills on the court but who are not academically ready for college won’t have to do things to get college eligible (think Derrick Rose here).
- Let’s be perfectly honest… $125,000 is about what elite players get paid to attend certain colleges as one-and-dones. Now they have a way to still make that money – not even close to what they’ll make in the NBA, but enough to be life-changing for an 18-year-old from a poor neighborhood. At least it’s enough to help parents with bills and purchase a decent vehicle. And, they get that $125K legit, rather than through a shady network of apparel reps, AAU coaches, agents, and college assistant coaches.
- Free from the NCAA’s stupid amateurism rules, players will be free to hire agents, as well as profit from their names and likenesses. Actually this is the way elite players could get paid far in excess of $125K total for their 18-19 year old year.
- They’d get coaching not only to develop them as players, but life coaching that will benefit them when they make it to the NBA. Advice like
- Hire a personal chef (probably can’t do this on $125K, but keep it in mind for when you make NBA money) who will plan a diet that will give you maximum power and energy on the court
- Develop a regular sleep schedule and keep to it, especially during the NBA season
- Don’t let an entourage form around you, people who want to live in the glow of your stardom and spend all your money
- Find a professional wealth manager who is experienced managing the portfolios of clients with 7- and 8-figure net worth, and don’t think that you or your entourage (which you shouldn’t have anyway) knows better than he or she does
- Remember that everything you say or do in a public forum – whether on the microphone or social media – is a reflection on your team
What will this do to elite college recruiting? Remains to be seen, but I predict some will prefer the professional route and others will prefer the traditional college route. Grizz rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. said he would still go the college route had he been offered the choice.
I don’t think this will hurt Memphis Tigers recruiting much. The Tigers have an NBA All-Star as a head coach, and an assistant coach with two NBA championship rings. Prospective players are likely to think, “These guys are going to know more about getting me to the NBA than the people in the G-League possibly could.” Players who take the fast money over an education from Penny and Mike Miller are probably ones we wouldn’t want playing for the Tigers anyway.
Y’know, it would be interesting to poll some of the most well-known players from the Pastner years, and ask them, if the option had been available, would they have gone the professional route? Players like Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford, Shaq Goodwin, Tarik Black, Will Barton, Antonio Barton.
I wonder what John Calipari thinks about all this? If the professional path had existed in the last decade, Cal might’ve missed out on a Boogie Cousins, or a John Wall, or an Anthony Davis, or a Karl-Anthony Towns… or if you go back a little farther, a Derrick Rose or a Tyreke Evans.
All right, I’ve blabbered on long enough in this super long post. Going to hit Publish now and I plan to be back tomorrow with more news.