By K. Susie Adams #134068
In 1776, our forefathers declared our independence from England. In that Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
This principle, that most of us have lived with all our lives (and often take for granted), is profound. It’s both “a proclamation of faith in human equality and a firm rebuke of tyranny.” (This is our Constitution, pg. 11, by Khizr Khan, Knopf 2017.)
After the American Revolution, in 1787, 39 men from 12 states wrote the Constitution. The following year, it was ratified by representatives from the 13 then-existing states. It began with a Preamble and seven articles. The first 10 amendments make up the Bill of Rights, and they were added in 1791.
The Twenty-Seventh, and most recent amendment, was added in 1992. In short, this is a country ruled by laws and guided
The Fifteenth Amendment, added in 1870, stated that the right to vote cannot be denied due to race, color or because the voter was previously a slave. The Nineteenth Amendment, passed in 1920, granted women the right to vote.
During the Vietnam War, in 1971, when male citizens 18 years of age and older could be involuntarily drafted and sent to war, the Twenty-Sixth amendment was added, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.
At one time, poll taxes (a fee for voting) were allowed, and those who were unable to pay were not allowed to vote. Those poll taxes were abolished by the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, passed in 1964. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 abolished a literacy test that used to be allowed before a person could vote.
And, most profoundly, the people have the ultimate power, not the military, not the government, not the president. (Brief recap of highlights from the book, This is our Constitution, by Khizr Khan, Knopf 2017.)
Protect Your Right to Vote
This short summary of history emphasizes that voting is an important right of every American citizen. But, as a full-time RVer, how can you protect your right to vote?
Since our law practice, Loring & Associates, is in Livingston, Texas (Polk County), home of Escapees Inc., I will discuss this issue from the Polk County, Texas, point of view. The county clerk for Polk County, Schelana Hock, recently sent an e-mail to Escapees members with helpful information on absentee voting, and I’ve included excerpts of the e-mail below.
Absentee Voting Information
The application could be rejected for any of the following reasons:
• The application was received more than 60 days before the election “held in January or February of the year following the year the ABBM (i.e. Absentee Ballot) was received.”
• Your application was not properly delivered, or it was received after the deadline to apply for a ballot by mail.
• You indicate that you are voting due to an expected absence from the county and yet the address to which you have asked to send the application is in the county. Since this may have the biggest impact on Escapees members, contact the Escapees call center, at 888-757-2582, for an appropriate out-of-county address.
• If in jail, your ballot must be mailed to the jail address or a relative’s address.
• Your application was not signed.
• If you had a witness sign and they failed to indicate their relationship to you or failed to indicate that you were unable to make your mark in lieu of signature or failed to provide his/her printed name or residence address.
• Your application did not indicate the reason you are entitled to vote by mail.
• For a primary election, you must indicate your party of preference (unless you are 65 or older and have submitted an annual ABBM), you will receive ballots for all but the primary if you failed to put your party preference.
• Your residence address was not provided on your application.
• Your application was received after the deadline for receiving the application for a ballot by mail.
• According to the voter registrar’s records, you are not currently registered to vote.
• The election for which you are applying for a ballot could not determined.
• Your application was submitted via fax or e-mail, but you failed to send a hard copy original within four business days.
In Polk County, Texas, an e-mail address or cell phone number should be included with your application in case any of these problems exist. Also, unless you are 65 or older, you must file a separate application for each election: the primary, any runoff and the general election.
Speights v. Willis
In 2002, Escapees, Inc. was involved in a lawsuit in Polk County, Texas, with Speights v. Willis, No.09-02-192 CV (App. Ct. – Beaumont, October 24, 2002). The court determined in that lawsuit that members of Escapees RV Club who had created a domicile in Polk County, Texas, could vote in that county. This is one of the many reasons “establishing a domicile” is so important, especially for full-time RVers. If you are concerned about whether you have an established domicile, this case is helpful.
Rights at Risk
Your voting rights are currently at risk, so protect your right to vote by voting. The Supreme Court is now considering an Ohio law that purges the voting rolls of those who haven’t voted in a two-year period. Is it Constitutional to purge the rolls of those who fail to vote? The Supreme Court appears to be leaning toward saying yes. The decision is expected before June 2018.
Although this article may not be published until after the Texas primaries, I hope it will be a reminder that voting is a right and a privilege that should be exercised.
The law offices of Loring & Associates specializes in domicile-related questions and we are willing to offer assistance.
K. Susie Adams has been a lawyer for over 30 years, spending 15 of those years working as a trial lawyer. She also taught legal writing at the University of Houston Law School. From 2011–2016, she was executive director of Childrenz Haven, the Child Advocacy Center of Polk County, Texas. Susie and her husband, James Frost, reside in Livingston, Texas.