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Singles Must Show Up In Person! January 10, 2010

Posted by Onely in As If!, Everyday Happenings.
Tags: , , , ,

Here at Onely (and in the singles’ advocacy blogosphere in general) we’re always griping about how the U.S. government provides married people with over 1300 legal privileges that singles don’t get (kudos to Bella DePaulo who first mined the federal statues). Honestly, though, I can only specifically name a few of those 1300 benefits: the ability to draw a deceased partner’s social security; right to pay less capital gains tax (and other taxes); right to piggyback on a partner’s insurance; right to visit and make medical decisions for a partner in the hospital.  What are all the other 1,296 rights denied to singles? Copious readers, please let us know!

I’ll start the list with a Married Privilege I recently discovered by accident: 

Politicians have been bombarding my mailbox with lit’riture in preparation for Virginia’s upcoming Jan 12 special election to fill a state Senate seat. I received an absentee ballot application from Democrat Dave Marsden. Now, any candidate who sends lit’riture encouraging me to sit at home on my couch and vote instead of going out in the pre-8-a.m. cold to my old elementary school has my full support! However, upon closer examination of the ballot, I realized that I would have to meet at least one of eighteen specific criteria in order to be able to vote from my couch. Here they are (cliffhanger–I have put the most exciting criteria at the end of the list). In order to vote absentee, I would have to be:

Confined and awaiting trial.

A first responder.

Have a religious obligation.

Away on business.

Working/commuting between 6 am and 7 pm.

Disabled or sick.


(No month specified–but that’s a whole ‘nother issue).

Confined, convicted of a misdemeanor.

An electoral board member.

Residing outside U.S. or spouse/dependent residing with employee.

(So far so good, right? Wait for it. . . wait for it. . . )

Active duty military.

Spouse or dependent living with active duty military.

(Ok, this puzzles me. Can someone tell me why a spouse or dependent of an ADM person needs special voting privileges? Let’s assume they are not living outside the U.S. per the exemption detailed above. But it gets better. . .)


Spouse of Student

Whaaaaaa? Why on earth would the spouse of a student specifically not be able to get to the voting booth? Why would the spouse of a student deserve a special exemption denied to me, a non-spouse of a student? Anyone have any ideas?

Just when I was beginning to think that I, a non-business-travelling, non-military, non-student-spouse, would have to show up in person on January 12 at my old elementary school by o-dark-thirty breathing steam, I noticed absentee criteria 1D: “Personal business or vacation.” 

Hooray! I checked “1D” and wrote “On vacation in Michigan on 12 January.” Ok, strictly speaking, this was not true. But I had just returned from visiting my family in Michigan a week previously, so I figured that was close enough justification. (I noticed that a justification was not required for any of the spousal exceptions.)

Yay! I could be an upstanding, participatory citizen without ever leaving my living room! But as I signed my absentee ballot application, I read with stinking heart the following warning:

I declare under felony penalty that, to the best of my knowledge, the facts contained in this application are true and correct. . . Knowingly giving any untrue information in this document is a felony under Virginia law. The maximum penalty is a fine of $2500 and/or confinement for up to ten years.

I considered for a minute whether $2500 might be a small price to pay for a coveted extra hour of extra sleep, and whether I might enjoy the extended free time provided by a stint in the slammer (I’ve been wanting to finish my Great American Novel anyway). But in the end, I didn’t sign the application.

If you need me, you can find me skulking around the bars at George Mason U looking for students to spouse onto, in anticipation of next year’s absentee applications.


P.S. I am going to write to Marsden and tell him how this government-sanctioned heteronormativity almost cost him a vote! (And may, in fact, still cost him a vote, depending how much of a zombie I am on January 12.)


1. Rachel - January 11, 2010

Not sure where the 1300 number comes from but our very own Governmental Account Office counted and documented over a 1000 laws on the federal level that use marital status to dole out benefits. See http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04353r.pdf

Onely - January 11, 2010

Hey, fabulous Rachel, thanks so much!

2. Lauri - January 11, 2010

ok, I think it is reasonable to require that people must be absentee in order to vote via absentee ballad. But why the spouse of a student OR the spouse of ADM? This makes no sense. I don’t know how the military works, but I think that if you are student you don’t necessarily have to claim residence in that state or register to vote there, so that’s why you get an absentee ballot. But does that apply to the SPOUSE of a student? They’re not studying in that state, they should have declare residency there. Same with ADM. It’s the non-student, non-ADM spouse’s individual choice to live in that state (I know people in both case who did not move with their spouse when they started school or active duty). This is all very ridiculous.

This was a bad day for me to read this post though- dealing with insurance benefit issues at work and losing out to the marrieds. Not in a good single mood…

Onely - January 11, 2010

Ooohhh the residency issue. . . good call. I hadn’t thought about that.

Insurance benefit issues are the WORST. They make me cry every time. Or at least, I end up calling the electronic voice women all sorts of nasty names. Condolences.

3. singlutionary - January 11, 2010

well, the wife (and I suspect that this was once wife and has now been changed to spouse) of a student is too busy fixing his lunch. duh!

Christina, if only you could get married to a student you could avoid the fine AND vote from your sofa.

Or you could just get pregnant.

If only, if only, if only!

Onely - January 11, 2010

Or how would they (the government) know whether I was pregnant or not? Or maybe I was, and then lost the baby. I shouldn’t joke about things like that, but honestly, what are they going to do, subpoena my medical records?

Onely - January 13, 2010

christina, you should just marry ME and we would be the happiest couple ever — 1000 miles apart, students/spouses but voting absentee no matter what!! oh, but then there’s that same-sex problem…

=) Lisa

Onely - January 13, 2010

Dang! So close!

4. Lauri - January 12, 2010

The pregnancy issue is a funny (not funny haha) one. I thought of this last year when I was unemployed and applied for state health coverage. If I had been pregnant, I would have been able to claim I had a “dependent” and gotten the coverage, but as it were, I didn’t qualify. Interesting that if you irresponsible enough to get pregnant when you can’t afford health insurance you get the government benefits, but if you are simply a healthy single woman with no other options, tough luck.

Onely - January 12, 2010

RAAAAARRRRRR that is TERRIBLE! What state was this in?

5. Onely - January 13, 2010

UPDATE: On the morning of January 12th, I FORGOT TO GO VOTE. Yes! It’s true! After all my bellyaching, and after writing the event in my calendar, I completely forgot to go. Thank goodness Marsden won anyway. But of course I’m fully aware that had he NOT won, the Republicans would have taken over the government of Virginia, and it would have been ALL MY FAULT.

6. Fangirl - January 14, 2010

As a wannabe academic, I can understand “spouse of student.”
Let’s say my spouse and I are legal residents of Vermont, but I’m going to graduate school in Massachusetts. We live together, since spouses usually do. Then an election comes up in Vermont… should they really have to drive back to VT to vote?

I’m saying all of this as a happily single person who may or may not marry a friend of mine just so we can cash in on government benefits thereof. I don’t agree with the rationing of benefits based on marital status (especially as that status is denied to a number of people who actively desire it), but I do understand the logic at work behind this particular example.

Onely - January 14, 2010

Interesting! But wouldn’t the spouse get residency in the state along with the student, that being one of the 1,000 privileges accorded to spouses? I really have no idea. If you do get married to your friend, we’d be really interested to hear the story and your experiences with it. . .


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