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Expatriate, absentee voter determined to cast ballot despite vote-by-mail mix-up

Expatriate, absentee voter determined to cast ballot despite vote-by-mail mix-up. (WWMT/Courtesy Courtney Dapala)

A West Michigan woman living abroad for more than 7 years has not missed an opportunity to exercise her civic duty in 16 years and thought voting in the 2018 midterm election as an absentee voter would be easy and convenient.

Courtney Dapala mailed out her absentee ballot from her home in England on October 12, but to her surprise she learned her absentee ballot never made it to the city clerk’s office in Marshall. Instead it was back in her mailbox on October 31.

“I didn’t realize it until I got home from work last night, I sent it out ages ago and it just got returned,” Dapala said. “I was tracking it and it had gotten to the U.S., but it just got sent back.”

Worried her vote would not be counted the 34-year-old reached out to Lauri Rowe, her mother in Marshall, for help.

Rowe said, “My daughter contacted me through WhatsApp last night and she had just got her ballot returned and she took a picture of it and sent it to me and said 'I don’t know why this was returned.' The address is correct so we were looking at that a bit so I was like, let me see what I can do here.”

Rowe said a week shy of the midterm election she quickly took to Twitter seeking help. In less than 12 hours she received more than 30 responses.

Marshall City Clerk Trisha Nelson responded via email and said she checked with the post office and it didn't look like her absentee ballot ever arrived in Marshall. Nelson urged Dapala to try again.

Dapala said, “I think I’m going to see if I can overnight it or something like that.”

Rowe said for as long as she can remember her family has taken part in the election process.

“We’ve been a politically active family since probably 70s, either with the environmental movement, the anti-nuclear movement, the women’s movement,” Dapala said. “Especially with this last election in 2016, it kind of amped up our awareness and activity.”

Rowe said her daughter was ready to go to great lengths to make sure her vote counts.

“She was even talking about flying over here so that she can vote in person next week and I was like 'let’s see if we can work this out a little differently,'” Rowe said.

Dapala said she plans to overnight her ballot to ensure it arrives before election day.

Spokesperson for Michigan’s Secretary of State urges voters who want to confirm their ballots have been received to head to mich.gov/vote.

Follow Nicky Zizaza on Facebook and Twitter.

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