I Can’t Vote Today

NOTE: This is a guest post by Dan Morrison (@DanCitizen) and was originally posted at Cool is Killing Us.

Four weeks ago, I went to the DMV to get a Virginia license and register to vote. I brought my old Washington, DC license, a bill to prove Virginia residency, and my passport. I filled out a voter registration form and gave it and all my documentation to the woman behind the counter. She reviewed all my forms, did a lot of typing, handed me a few forms to sign and gave me a notification that I would receive a decision by the Stafford County Voter Registrar if I was eligible to vote.

Two weeks later, I received a letter from the Stafford County Voter Registration Office. I was excited to be registered in Virginia. I grew up in Chicago, IL and spent the last five years in Washington, DC. I had never voted in a swing state before. My vote was going to count and I was going to take a picture of my voter registration card and post it on Facebook!

Except that my application was rejected. The letter from the Registrar claimed that I had not proved my citizenship. That was confusing since I had given the woman at DMV my passport. The letter said that I could challenge the ruling in court. That seemed ridiculous so I decided to head down to the Voter Registration Office. I brought the letter and my passport.

The woman at the front desk would be defined as standoffish by most. It wasn’t just me. Two other people came in asking where they could vote early and she answered their questions with the warmth of a polar bear.

I explained my situation and she told me the registration had passed and I could fill out a form for the next election. I told her again I had brought my passport so I did not understand how I failed to prove citizenship. She then told me I probably did not check the “Yes” box on the “Are you a citizen of the U.S.?” question. I remarked that I found that hard to believe but if I saw proof, I would believe her.

She went to go pull my physical registration form from this enormous filing cabinet – I was impressed that all Stafford County registered voters had a physical card right there… then though, “What if there is a fire?” or “What if some were ‘accidentally’ misfiled?” I hoped that they had at least scanned each of them so there was also an electronic copy.

She could not find my card and my suspicion grow. She went back to the man sitting in the office and told me he would like to talk to me. His name was Greg S. Riddlemoser, the general registrar of Stafford County. He had a pilots helmet on the top of his bookshelf that said “Riddler.” I asked him where the large class ring he was wearing was from. He remarked that he had a special one made. One side was for the National Guard and the other for the Air Force.

I explained my story and he was sympathetic. He told me how the DMV screwed up a lot of voter registrations and even showed me a filing cabinet full voter registration forms he had received over the last three months. I remarked that it was a good thing so many people wanted to vote. He remarked that it created a lot of work.

The woman from the front desk came in with my form. Sure enough, the “yes” box was not checked and he explained that is why I was rejected. I asked to see the form. I saw that the box was not checked and that my signature was at the bottom. But I was confused since most of the form was a computer print out and only my phone number and signature were handwritten. I pointed this out to Mr. Riddlemoser and asked for the handwritten form I had given to the woman at the DMV. I wanted to see if I had checked that box and she made a data entry error. He said he would call DMV, get that form and call me back in two days.

I was sitting down for breakfast at Tryst in Washington, DC (best coffee house in the district) the next morning and Mr. Riddlemoser called me. He said, “Sorry, there is nothing I can do. You can still vote in DC.” I asked, “Did you get my original form from DMV, did I not check the box?” He replied, “I can only work off the forms I have.” I curtly thanked him and hung up, feeling like he was not going to do anything more.

I called my mom. Not only was she a huge political junky and I knew this story would fire her up, but she was also working with the Obama campaign on voter suppression. We talked about what had happened and she told me to take this to the judge, talk to the local Obama campaign office and that she would talk to the head lawyer fighting voter suppression at the Obama campaign. The one question I wanted answered was if I could be denied registration for not checking a “Yes” box on whether or not I was a U.S. citizen.

It turns out the answer is yes. You have to be a U.S. citizen to vote, I know that. However, you do not have to prove citizenship in the state of Virginia to vote. If you vote as a non-citizen, you incur the full wrath of the U.S. legal system. The two things that annoy me the most are 1) I handed my passport to the person behind the DMV desk when I was registering to vote. She then took my form and entered it into the computer. She either forgot to check the “yes” box or decided not to tell me I had not checked it when she was inputting the data. And 2) I brought my passport to the Registrar’s office and not once did he say that since I had proven my citizenship to them and that he could not prove how this issue arose that he would take care of it.

I will also mention that two comments were continually made throughout the conversation with the registrar. First is that I could still vote in DC since I was registered there. Second was that in all his time as Registrar, the judge “had never overturned one of these.” Both seem to be innocuous statements, but both are actually forms of suppression and border on illegal. It is irrelevant that I am registered in DC and that is not a remedy to my situation since my local representatives are in Fredericksburg, VA. And a public official making comments about how the judge will rule is a way to encourage me not to bring it to court. That is intimidation.

And sorry, but I am a white, upper middle class man. There is no more privileged class of people on the planet. If this happened to me, how many others has it happened to? Voter suppression hits minorities and low-income citizens the hardest. Conspiracy? I have no idea, but denying Americans the right to vote out of fear non-Americans will vote is not the American way.

So I need you to vote today, especially if you live in Virginia, and especially if you live in Fredericksburg, VA. I can’t vote but you can. I don’t care who you vote for. The more people that vote, the more we know that “We the People” are in charge of this country.


Related Stories:

Texas Threatens to Arrest UN Observers for Ensuring Voter Fairness

Think Voter ID is Bad? Meet the Poll-Watchers

Judge Refuses To Block Strict Voter ID Law in Pennsylvania



Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

The messed up voting system of the US will have to change. This is 2102 and noone is using horses to transport votes to a central counting place or to declare who's won. And why should you go to the DMV to get your voter registration? Wouldn't it be more natural if you went to the local tax office? Most everyone pay taxes but not everyone has a drivers license? Can someone explain?

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill5 years ago

I'm sorry this happened but he neglected to include a third explanation, that maybe she just didn't notice that he had not checked the box.

Kazue O.
Kazue O5 years ago


Nan K.
Nan K.5 years ago

What a great story to demonstrate why it is so important that a civil society with democratic principles must have an educated electorate in order to function. Only an educated person understands that it is his or her obligation to read and follow instructions when critical matters such at voting are at stake. It seems Mr. Morrison failed to do so. It was not the clerk's obligation to check off a box Mr. Morrison skipped, especially since it was Mr. Morrison's signature and not the clerk's that verified the accuracy of the registration card. Nor, I might add, does an educated citizen need to call his mommy to set things straight when he screws up. This is not a story of voter suppression. At best, it is a story about voter carelessness, at worst about poorly educated citizens who refuse to take responsibility for their own mistakes.

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N5 years ago


Because if it isn't there's a democracy fail, something common to many countries, but not, I think, so ingrained in the culture of most democracies as it is in the US that different racial groups actually form different voting blocs to be wooed.

That's something that will shock me forever...

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N5 years ago


Obama has been doing what he can, but the corporate representatives that now form the Republicans have stymied his best efforts, and have forced him to sign objectionable things as riders on essential bills under protest, in order to keep the country running, because they are so determined to act against the interests of the very people their job in public service demands they protect.

More progress might be made if Americans recognised that their country has NOT been run like a democracy, where everyone's entitled to equal rights, treatment and opportunity, because this has not been even an actual ideal in America, according to one of your two only political parties, and that it should be.

In Canada, we're being dragged down to that level by Harper, installed by corporate/Republican design - and we're fighting it.

But we know where we should be, even if we've never actually reached our ideals, and I believe that to be essential in regaining democracy.

We seriously need to look at reality, at things the way they are, in order to see how to fix them.

In probably most cases, everyone feels that their country is the best place for them to live.

But when you emotionally feel that your country is already 'the best' 'the most' 'the only', how hard are you going to try to make it so, not just for you, your family and friends but for all citizens?

Because if it isn't there's a democracy fail, something common to many countries, but not, I

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N5 years ago

I REALLY don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but it puzzles me, and probably other people around the world, to hear some Americans still describing themselves as 'the most democratic nation in the world' when the corporate/Ayn Rand ideology now being imposed on democracies around the world, with varying degrees of success, originated with American multinationals made powerful by literally getting away with murder (industries here have, too, but not, I think, to anywhere near the same extent, at least until relatively recently, by catastrophic foreign trade agreements and reduced official concern for regulation protecting workers, consumers, the public and the environment) and when virtually everyone's sympathy has been with Americans since Bush Jr.

You guys have whole States where people are deprived of basic, factual information because science - anything, really - that conflicts with the ideology implanted in the subjects living there is discouraged by their 'betters'.

I'm sorry, but when IMax has to avoid mentioning evolution in nature films because it'll be banned from the Southern US States, that's real banana republic stuff, unheard of in modern democracies.

Obama has been doing what he can, but the corporate representatives that now form the Republicans have stymied his best efforts, and have forced him to sign objectionable things as riders on essential bills under protest, in order to keep the country running, because they are so determined to act agai

Nils Lunde
PlsNoMessage s5 years ago


Kathy Crews
Kathy Crews5 years ago

Well my VA friend, at least we were able to pull it off here in VA and voted Obama back into office for another four years....YEAH!!! However, I am still glad to read (even though I am a day late) that you posted this here because this is becoming a progressively worse problem here in this Country. I hope that you continue to follow through/move forward with your complaint. I have worked close with Obama since before his Campaign began in 2008. I am now disabled and unable to help as much as I would like this campaign but I sure did receive calls yesterday over other voter concerns here in the Richmond, VA area so trust that you were not alone Dan Morrison! I am just now coming down off of my stress high and have literally just collapsed today. I'm getting too old for all of this political stress...

Marie W.
Marie W5 years ago

KGB style..