Going the distance to cast a vote

Sally Altman and Richard H. Weiss

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

With a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan, Sally Altman spent nearly 40 years championing public health issues and access to quality health care for all. So it should come as no surprise that on today’s ballot, Altman would vote yes on Missouri Amendment 2, the Medicaid expansion initiative.

But slow mail delivery on the part of the U.S. Postal Service almost upended her plan. When she realized her absentee ballot might not get to St. Louis on time to be counted, she told her husband, Richard H. Weiss, that she would drive home from where the couple was vacationing in northern Minnesota if she had to. In other words, she was willing to make the 880-mile drive to St. Louis from Bemidji, Minn. — and back again — in order to vote yes on Amendment 2.

“I have spent my entire career in health care and this is a critical issue to me,” said Altman, who is president of the board of Crown Center and a member of Central Reform Congregation. “I felt very strongly I had to vote.”

As Altman and Weiss explain it, they planned to cast absentee ballots in the August election because they knew they would be away. They took the necessary steps to do so and left themselves plenty of time, leaving nothing to chance.

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Then, in mid-July, Altman learned that she had failed to check the box indicating whether she was a Democrat or Republican, and therefore couldn’t be sent a ballot. But she was informed that she could fill out another form and the right ballot would be sent to her. So she did just that.

The problem was it took nearly two weeks for that ballot to arrive in her mailbox in Minnesota. When it finally did come on Aug. 1, Altman worried that there wouldn’t be enough time for the St. Louis Election Board to receive her ballot by Aug. 4.

“So she called the election board and someone picked up,” said Weiss, who explained that Altman was then instructed to overnight the ballot on Monday so the election board could receive it by noon on Tuesday.

So on Monday, Weiss took his wife’s ballot to the nearest FedEx, which wasn’t all that close to Bemidji, and had it sent. It cost $43.21.

“I thought about just telling her I sent it and keeping the money,” said Weiss. “But knowing Sally she would want to see the receipt.”

To which, Altman chirped back: “You’ve got that right.”