My stomach hasn’t churned like this since I nervously handed over my completed SAT booklet six decades ago, sealing my fate for the next four years. Why? I’m about to lick the envelope containing my absentee ballot.

I never intended to vote by mail. Carefully filling in the little ovals on my paper ballot, slipping it out of the folder and into the machine, and slapping the I Voted sticker on my jacket as I walk out of Chagrin Falls Park Community Center has long been one of my great pleasures. It’s an experience I would never knowingly give up.

But then, months ago, I agreed to participate in a campaign to get the vote out by sending post cards to residents in key states telling them how easy it is to request a ballot and vote by mail. Because I felt uncomfortable urging others to do what I hadn’t done myself, I requested a mail-in ballot, fully intending still to show up in person on Election Day. Pandemic or no pandemic.

Somehow I missed the memo, if there was a memo, explaining that, having requested a ballot, I had to use it – that if I tried to vote in person, my ballot would be provisional and therefore not counted until who knows how long after Election Day. When I learned the truth, I was crushed. Never have I so wanted to walk into the community center and cast my vote.

But here I am, about to lick the envelope – pardon me – the envelopes, containing my sacred right as an American. This after a nerve-wracking hour or so of reading the instructions for the four-step process over and over again; examining the small print; almost missing the box advising me that when the outside envelope tells me “first class postage is required,” it actually means two forever stamps are required; filling out the required information on the identification envelope; making a copy of my driver’s license to verify my signature (fortunately, I have a copier at home since my signature has changed over the past 60 years,) and making the tough decision to hand-carry my ballot to the one secure drop box in the county, a half-hour drive from my house.

Oh, I almost forgot. While I was at it, I also cast my votes for the president and vice president of the United States as well as two important local issues and 17 government officials who will map my future for the next two to four years. How did we let voting become so confusing?

I think I did everything right, but my stomach won’t settle until I check in at and see for myself, that my ballot has been processed. Actually it won’t settle until I know all votes have been processed and a free election has been achieved.

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