“If your house has no street number or name, please draw a map of where your house is located. Please include roads and landmarks.”
Those are the sentences located within section No. 12 of Alabama Voter Registration Form, the form each citizen must fill out before they are allowed to vote.
When this was brought to my attention a few days ago, my immediate reaction was to want to mock this mercilessly.
What sort of Ted Kaczynski wannabe would be so far “off the grid” that they wouldn’t have an address, the “street number or name.”
Maybe they were like Chris Farley’s failed motivational speaker character Matt Foley, spending their days “living in a van down by the river.”
Who doesn’t have an address these days?
I came into the office Monday morning, ready to share this discovery with Observer Editor Fred Woods and share a good laugh with him about the silliness of such an option on a state-created form.
Instead, Woods looked it over and said “I don’t see anything wrong with this,” and proceeded to explain several ways in which an option for drawing such a map could prove helpful.
Some roads throughout the rural areas of the state aren’t paved or clearly marked, so a pictorial proof of residence could prove more effective.
There could, in fact, be some tar paper shack-dweller somewhere who prefers his non-addressed abode and simply uses a post office box for his mail.
And, yes, even my go-to absurd answer of our friend living in the van down by the river was deconstructed as a worthy, legitimate voter himself.
All of those possible scenarios illustrate examples of people who are, despite their interesting living situations, legitimate voters.
And, not only that, but the map would allow county elections officials to accurately place these residents in their proper polling place for voting day (municipal, county or otherwise).
The man living in the Ford Aerostar parked down by the river might be in Ward 4; his neighbor in the Winnebago could actually be in Ward 5. Since most voting districts nationwide look like something Jackson Pollack threw up on, this could easily be possible.
But, they do all reside within the state of Alabama and make some sort of living here.
They are guaranteed a right to vote as citizens of this state and this nation, and the map option on this form gives them the opportunity to register just the same as anyone else.
For so long, this state used extraordinary exclusionary measures to keep some of its citizens, namely the black ones, from registering to vote.
Now, with options like the “Map/Diagram” section, all Alabamians can register, regardless of their situations. All citizens have the right to participate in the political process, knowing their vote will matter and be counted,
What seemed like absurdity or just another bureaucratic form running amok became a real-life example of our promise to provide equal opportunities for all.
Huzzah for that.