This election cycle, I received three official ballots. Two showed up in California: one at my in-law’s address in Orange County, and a second in Riverside County, where I currently reside. In Nevada, my parents received my third official ballot at their address under my maiden name.
According to a friend, I even received a sample ballot at my old apartment address in San Bernardino County. No official ballot ever came to that address.
For context, I registered to vote in the 2018 midterms in San Bernardino County. In early 2020, I moved and registered for the Orange County primaries. When I moved to Riverside County just few months ago, I registered again but in Riverside County. I believed the registration system would automatically update my voter information since I had to include my SSN and date of birth in each registration form.
However, I have not lived in Nevada for many years. I do not understand why I received a Nevada ballot in my maiden name, especially after I changed my name years ago through Nevada’s courts and through the Nevada DMV.
Upon close examination of the Orange County and Riverside County ballots, I found no common identifying features indicating I am the same person. The bar codes and the numbers next to the bar code lines were different.
I mailed in my Riverside ballot and destroyed the Orange County ballot. Before I could examine it more thoroughly, my parents shredded the Nevada ballot. My friend threw away my sample ballot in San Bernardino as soon as she found it in the mail.
The entire experience left me aghast and with many questions about the quality of the safeguards in our voting system. What if my ballots had ended up in the wrong hands? What happened to the official San Bernardino ballot? If an imposter fraudulently voted in my name, and the system caught it, would my real vote also be discarded? What if the system did not catch two votes? What if there are others, in situations like my own, who live in swing states?
Seeking answers, I called the Riverside County Registrar of Voters and explained my situation. The lady on the phone courtly said that if someone sent in two ballots “it goes under investigation”. She could not explain exactly how two disparate ballots would come in question, only that “they check the signature”. I asked her if her database shows that I received other ballots. She indicated that her database did not reflect that fact.
Calling the Orange County Registrar of Voters yielded better information. Sami, the woman I spoke with, confirmed that my Orange County ballot had been voided on September 18, 2020, when I requested a ballot in Riverside County. Because my Orange County ballot had already been printed before that time, their office did not go through the entire pallet of ballots in their office to be mailed. They simply opted to void my Orange County ballot’s barcode in their database so that it would not be counted if it were to be sent in.
But when I mentioned I received a Nevada ballot, Sami seemed dismayed. She said that should not have happened, especially since I changed my name through Nevada’s DMV and through the Nevada courts.
When I called the Nevada Registrar of Voters, they took note of the situation, but I was told not to worry about it, that my situation was just a fluke.
I spoke of my situation to some of my friends, and a childhood friend mentioned that she too received a second Nevada ballot in her maiden name. She grew up down the street from me. Was that “just a fluke” as well? How many individuals received multiple ballots in different states and/or in different names?
Some may say that situations like mine are rare, and so rare that it could not possibly turn the outcome of an election. But this year, Nevada has proved to be a true battleground with razor thin margins between the presidential candidates.
Truly, in elections like this year’s, every vote counts. For the integrity of our democracy and the safety of domestic tranquility, we absolutely must ensure that every vote counts…once.
McKenzie Richards is a Pacific Research Institute development associate.