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Their trouble is your trouble

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Most likely, you haven't heard of Megan Fossinger or Ben Shepherd. Actually, they don't even know each other.

But Fossinger and Shepherd share distinct feelings. They're exasperated. They're angry. They've lost trust in government, particularly the El Paso County clerk and recorder's office. And they want you to know about it, so you don't have to go through what they have.

For weeks now, various entities including the Independent have urged voters to take nothing for granted in the 2008 election. The message: Everyone should check to make sure he or she is correctly registered and eligible to vote, especially those who are first-time registrants or have made recent address changes.

Human nature being what it is, many people assume their status is OK, even if they haven't received a card confirming their registration with a precinct number.

This is where Fossinger and the Shepherd come in. They're classic examples she's 24, he's 73 of why there are rising concerns across Colorado about the chances for huge election-related problems and, possibly, scandals.

Fossinger grew up in Colorado Springs, went to Cheyenne Mountain High School, then left for the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. A proud Democrat, she first voted in the 2004 election. In early August, after returning here, she went to Centennial Hall to change her registration.

"They gave me a form, I filled it out and handed it to them, and they said I'd get my card in the mail," Fossinger says. "But it never came."

Hearing about the Oct. 6 deadline, Fossinger returned this week to the clerk's office, where she was told there was no record of her being registered.

"They looked it up on the computer and couldn't find anything," Fossinger says. "I have no idea what happened. It was a shock to me because I went in personally the first time, and I put faith in the system. Maybe someone put it through the shredder because it said I was a Democrat."

She filled out the same form again, made sure it was accepted, and demanded (which anyone can do) an immediate printout confirming her registration. She asked to speak to Bob Balink, the clerk and recorder, but was told he wasn't available.

Fossinger wonders how many others might not be allowed to vote Nov. 4.

Then there's Shepherd, who has been registered to vote here, along with his wife Lidia, since 1977. They were going to be away last November, so they submitted forms in October 2007 requesting mail-in ballots. Nothing happened, and they didn't get to vote. He sent a follow-up e-mail last December, and a reply 10 days later said the matter had been referred to someone. Shepherd tried again in January, and a similar reply came.

At last, on Feb. 4, Balink sent Shepherd an e-mail saying, "Had our office received this prior to this morning I assure you a response would have been sent immediately."

Huh?

Balink went on, adding that Shepherd couldn't take part in the Feb. 5 caucuses because he hadn't registered soon enough. Even though he had been voting regularly for 31 years and did nothing to change his registration. Also, Balink never addressed Shepherd's request for a mail-in ballot.

Now it's October 2008, and Shepherd hasn't heard anything. He'll go to the polls to vote in this election, but won't bother calling to confirm he's still registered "because they'll just put me on hold." He could check online and probably will (justvotecolorado.org). Again, nobody should assume anything.

Sure, it's a mammoth job handling voter registration. Sure, mistakes can happen. But when we hear of cases such as this, coming to us unsolicited, we have to wonder how crazy it will be Nov. 4.

We shouldn't have to worry about this. We shouldn't have to wonder if our clerk and recorder's office might be overwhelmed or inept.

We shouldn't have to assume the worst. But we do. Regardless of your voting history, it's possible you might not be on the list of eligible voters now. That's why you should make sure, in case you have to re-register by the Oct. 6 deadline.

That's also why, the more we hear about Bob Balink's office, the more questions and concerns we have.

routon@csindy.com

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