Friday, January 12, 2007

Somebody at Honducor should be fired, or at least reimburse my postage

A theme articulated by activists in recent American elections is that “Every vote will be counted, and every vote will count.” And who could disagree with that? Well, maybe our good friends at Honducor, the Honduran post office.

I dutifully registered for Harris County to send me an absentee ballot back over the summer. Because this was before I knew my site placement, I had them send it to the main Peace Corps office in Tegucigalpa. So a few days before Halloween a friend of mine traveling out to the Wild Wild West picked it up there and brought it and my other mail to me. The official Peace Corps line was that we were supposed to take our absentee ballots to the Peace Corps office or the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, from where they would deal with them. That would be great except that Teguc is a full twelve hours away on three separate buses and I would mean at least one overnight. I imagined that the U.S. Consulate in San Pedro Sula would also be able to deal with this, but it was still a six hour round trip, and since they keep somewhat irregular hours (only open on some days of the week, and I’m not sure what those are).

So with the assurance of several other PCVs who assured me that though sometimes slow, the Honduran mail system was reliable, I pasted on 70 Lempiras’ (about $3.75) with of postage and entrusted the ballot to the guy in the Honducor office in Santa Rosa de Copán. Here’s a picture of my ballot ready to go before I went to the post office.

So fast forward two months later, after my Election Night party and ecstasy, Thanksgiving, Christmas and everything else. Another buddy of mine traveling up from Teguc grabs my mail at the Peace Corps office. Along with my bank statements and a letter or two, I find none other than my absentee ballot, pristine as the day I handed it across the counter on October 30.


Yes, that’s right. Our friends at Honducor apparently misread my return address as the destination address of this letter, and forwarded it back to the Peace Corps office, where it probably sat from mid-November until late December. This is so not OK. If they had even been a little faster, I would have gotten it when I came to Teguc in early November and, while frustrated, I could still have taken it over to the embassy in time to meet the deadline (Harris County says that if a voter is out of the country, it has to be postmarked by 5 p.m. on Election Day and received within five days, so even taking it there late that afternoon would have been OK).

I’ve tried to think about this, but can’t quite figure it out. Why would Harris County put on Lps 70 of Honduran postage to get something to me here in Honduras? That’s way more than is needed to send a letter that size domestically. Well, I can’t fault them too much; there’s no way they could have known what this was. Well, actually it does say “Absentee Ballot” but it’s in English, so that’s not fair. Oh wait. All elections materials in Harris County are bilingual in English and Spanish and sometimes Vietnamese, so I think a little discerning inquiry, had it been present, could have sorted through whatever questions they might have had as to destination.

So at the very least, they owe me my Lps 70 for postage back. I think that’s pretty open and shut since it didn’t reach its destination. Didn’t even come close.

And for being disenfranchised, how much is that worth? More than $3.75, I say. It’s hard for me to express how angry this makes me.

So I need your advice. Do I hang on to this forever as a testament to ineptness in Honducor? Or should I try to take it to Houston when I go in March and present it by hand? I realize they have probably closed the tallies, and whoever was elected has already taken office, but it would make me feel very good about myself. And if you’re wondering, no, I have never missed an election yet, and I do consider myself to have voted this past year.

Next time I’m going to make the trip in person. Good grief.

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