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The Weight of a Piece of Paper


INFLUENCER: Butter LA's Annick Mayer on 'Election Anxiety' and trying to have faith in a system that has shown little reason to believe it will be free from corruption

The Weight of a Piece of Paper

When we watched our ballots slip through our mail slot, there was an initial sense of giddiness. The dogs knew not to touch them, unlike the countless coupons and CB2 catalogues they love to shred every day at 11:30am. These were different. I carried the ballots into our kitchen with the rest of our important mail, and the initial delight was quickly replaced with something we have come to know as 'Election Anxiety' (a phenomenon that has been written about in the likes of the American Psychological Association). For the next five nights, my husband and I would stare at the ballots on our kitchen counter. One of us would say, “We really need to fill those out” and the other would reply, “Yeah…” as we both stared off into the abyss, spinning into a mental flurry of 'what ifs'. We agreed to fill them out over the weekend, when we had time to be fully present, ultimately an unspoken tactic to stall. Anxiety loves avoidance.

That Saturday we sat down at the kitchen counter with our voter guides and began navigating the minefield of confusingly worded props. We made sure our pens created meticulously filled in circles, leaving no iota without black (or blue!) ink. Then we got to the one. The thing causing us to swear at the TV and scream loudly into our echo chambers. We both nervously laughed at the absurdity of it all, and then found the circle we came to fill. I’m pretty sure I could have made a dent in our countertop with the distress I transferred through my pen. But just like that, it was over. I sealed my envelope and began to feel a slight sigh of relief, when my husband murmured “Shit!” His envelope wasn't sealing. Another joy of 2020…due to COVID you are directed not to lick your envelope, but to wet it with water. I looked over to see that his envelope was warping and refusing to seal.

We were now in a flurry of googling things like 'ballot envelope too wet' with no results. My husband suggested taping it and I’m pretty sure I screamed “Don’t touch it!” as if protecting a gaping wound. The fear of disqualification for voter fraud took over and our election anxiety spiralled deeper. We agreed to drop off my ballot first at an official drop-off box, while we waited for Monday to send in his. We drove nervously to make the drop and missed the entrance to the park where the official ballot dropbox was nestled. Arguing like a stressed out couple in the airport, we did another lap and found the entrance. I jumped out while the car idled and apprehensively slipped the envelope into the box. One down, one to go.

We decided to go to CVS and buy a glue stick. Taping the ballot would be too obvious, but glue stick, that would be discrete enough to avoid being arrested for voter fraud…or worse, his ballot not counting. We got home and opened the glue stick like it was some precious substance not to be tampered with. With a thin layer of glue spread over the wrinkled envelope, we put it to rest under a heavy pot, hoping it would smooth out the damage from the water. We checked on it that evening. Checked again on Sunday, and on Monday we called the official California voter hotline to see if they would even accept it. A lovely woman on the phone told us that the seal on the envelope didn't matter as long as we made it close. She assured us that as long as it was going in an official ballot dropbox…we were fine. Half questioning if she was planted by the other side to sabotage this one ballot and half feeling the relief of her help, we hung up the phone. We acknowledged the ridiculous lengths we had gone to for this envelope and drove the ballot to the park. We cautiously let it go, much like the first one, into the metal void. I would have kissed it goodbye if there weren't other people in the park. I would have told it to be a good ballot, and to call me if it got into any trouble. Alas, with people around and grasping at sanity, we got back in the car. 

We live in California. A state that automatically sent out mail in ballots to every registered voter. This fuss was nothing compared to the long lines experienced in states like Georgia, 'poll taxes' in Florida, or the 'cut cable' that led to Virginia’s voter registration site to shut down on the last day of registration. We are left trying to have faith in a system that has shown us little reason to believe it will be free from corruption. We are acutely aware of the slim margin for error, that even a technicality can invalidate your vote. We hope our ballots are making their way to an official election site, joining the other piles of paper that will determine the future of this country. Although they are out of the house for good, we can still feel their weight.

Annick Mayer is EP at Butter LA 
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Butter Los Angeles, Fri, 16 Oct 2020 12:19:50 GMT