Adrienne Williams is an OffTheBus grassroots correspondent. Each week she contributes a campaign journal documenting her life out on the trail.
I interviewed a man this weekend named Syed Abbas -- who told me a story about his problems at the polls here in Chicago. It turns out his whole family - (brother, father and Syed) are not able to vote this election cycle -- because they all have the same first and last name, and the family moved two years ago from Bensenville, IL to Hanover Park, IL. (A small neighborhood on the North-West suburbs in a city)
Is this a case of ethnic bias? I sat down to talk with Syed to find out his thoughts on the matter.
OffTheBus: What ethnic background are you and your family?
Syed Abbas: We are of a Pakistani ethnic background.
OTB: You moved correct? Tell me how you changed your address regarding voting?
SA: I moved back in 2006. About three months ago is when I found out about needing to re-register after moving to a new location, therefore I was able to find a PDF form for change of address on Obama's website which I downloaded based on my current location. I had correctly filled out the form with all required information and mailed it out to the designated address. My brother and father also filled out the form and mailed it out around the same time. To this day we have not received our voter's registration card. One thing to note is that the first and last name for both my brother, father and my self is the same, except the middle initial. So I'm Syed A. Abbas, my brother is Syed R. Abbas and my father is Syed H. Abbas. Now we filled out the change of address form with our distinct info -- Which included the full first, middle and last name, with our individual unique social security number, date of birth etc. Now my brother and I are twins. Could it be that all of us sharing the same first and last name have anything to do with our forms possibly not getting processed for any flags raised? We don't know.
OTB: Very strange, your whole family wasn't registered?
SA: Yes, I think so too.
OTB: Did you try to vote early? What happened? Did your family try?
SA: Given the opportunity for the first time to be able to vote early in the state of Illinois, I wanted to vote early however to this day I have not received my voters registration card and my record does not show up in the database of the cook county election department website www.voterinfonet.com. As I follow the link on that site to try to check if I'm registered or not, after I input my information and hit submit, it returns a page with no record found. I tried to verify via phone as well but I just don't show up to be registered. I had my self, my father and brother try to verify their registration, but none of us are showing to be registered.
OTB: What did the polling place state about you not being able complete early voting?
SA: I was not able to get hold of an official on the phone to give me any direction regarding an early voting, however per my research online, it's apparent that without being registered, I would not be able to vote. However I did find that I and my family should be able to cast a provisional ballot which is for those people whose registration record cannot be found, or the eligibility to vote is in question. A provisional ballot includes all offices that are on the regular ballot, but is counted only -- if the Clerk's office can verify our registration; which is a process that can take up to two weeks after the election. If my vote is counted then, it is included in the official count which gets released to the public.
OTB: Are you going to try to make sure others you know will be voting?
SA: Even if I could not vote, I've been already involved in active political discussion with families and friends on a regular basis and making sure that everyone I know, understands how important it is to practice this right -- as literally many aspects of our life depends on who the next president of United States will be. The policies of the next president has a huge impact on what kind of health care options we'll have, what kind of tax relief we'll get, the impact on economy, educations, etc. etc., all which has a direct affect on our daily lives so that is why its extremely important that each and everyone eligible to vote takes this right seriously and practices it as every single vote counts.
OTB: Who do you support for President? Why?
SA: I support Barack Obama for president, because I find him to be the most capable, knowledgeable, and critically informed candidate -- who understand the major issues facing our country today, and he knows and is prepared to correctly tackle these issues. Obama's stance on Foreign Policy for instance is far more reasonable then that of McCain's. I completely agree with Obama who would want to have a dialogue with the not so popular leaders in the world like the President of Iran. Where McCain proposes tough sanctions against Iran, and not have any talks which are not going to accomplish any goals, but only make things worst. Obama is willing to diplomatically talk with the President of Iran and many other unpopular world leaders, and this gesture can have a very positive and productive outcome for our country and the world. This will also have a positive impact on our world reputation which has completely been toppled in the last eight years, with us waging wars and turning into bullies is the view of the world and thus creating more enemies -- planning attacks against us then friends.
I also agree with Obama's stance on universal health coverage making it mandatory for children to be covered, every one deserves to get medical coverage. I also like Obama's plan to fix the issue where it really hurts the economy, which is helping the middle class people. I like Obama's plan to provide relief to the middle class families which are the cream of the economy, and what truly stimulates the economy. Therefore, I agree every bit, that the wealthiest and the corporate should be taxed higher and the poor working class who barely live on their wages paycheck to paycheck get the tax breaks and relief's they deserve.
OTB: Anything you want to get off your chest, since your family can't vote?
SA: I would encourage everyone to recognize and realize the value of your right to vote for a president of the United States. Realize who gets chosen, can change the course of the country -- affecting its entire citizen and even the world through its policies. Therefore know who your candidates are, know what they stand for, know their stance on the important issues and make the best judgment when choosing the right candidate for the country and get the word out there and make the difference by casting your vote.
OTB: Thank you for taking the time to talk with Huffington Post - OffTheBus.
SA: Thank you for sharing my story.