Lately, I GO through this every time I go to vote. This past election was no different. You give the poll official your identification. For me, that’s my driver’s license, which is still pre-Real ID and shows me with hair, so I try to get the most use out of it as possible.
Then they ask you to state your full name and address. After giving my name and street address, no one balks. But as soon as I say “Falmouth,” I get the head shake and the “You mean Fredericksburg” speech.
“No,” I retort, “I don’t live across the river, I live in Falmouth, here in Stafford County.”
I’ve never been denied the right to vote and the poll officials are very polite. Much more polite than I am when I’m being told I don’t know where I live.
Why do we insist on saying Fredericksburg versus where we really live?
Here’s the view from my side of the river: I’m voting in Stafford County with Stafford County reps on the ballot. There is no confusion to me. I haven’t accidentally found myself at a Fredericksburg polling location or mistakenly given a Fredericksburg ballot.
Yes, I understand the U.S. Postal Service’s reason for having Falmoutjh fall under the Fredericksburg area of responsibility for the purposes of a mailing address for unincorporated areas. I’m good to go with that sort of efficiency. It makes sense.
However, when I’m voting, don’t try to convince me that I live over there.
With the current news cycle of the 2020 elections, China tariffs, North Korean nukes, Syria, Russia, global warming, traffic, gun control, and name your soup-of-the day, I realize this is a bit trivial. But it’s always the little things that resonate the most, maybe because we think that if we could just solve this issue, everything else would sort itself out.
So how do I know I have lived in Falmouth for the past 20 years? Our brand-new post-office, back in 1999, use to have Falmouth on the side of the building. If you look closely today, you can still see where the letters used to be. I’m guessing someone from Fredericksburg took the letters, although I don’t know that for a fact and I don’t want to start any rumors about the folks across the river.
Our fire trucks all have Stafford County local area names printed on them, even some that say Falmouth. There are no Fredericksburg names on any of them. I have no doubt the Fredericksburg Fire Department firefighters are just as brave as our firefighters. I have seen them working incidents together, so I know they get along just fine—just with different names on their trucks.
When the water bill comes or the Stafford Treasurer graces my mailbox with their presence, they clearly say that the bill is from Stafford—no mention of Fredericksburg. Even the power company, gas company, cable company, and insurance company have the good manners to address their bills to my Falmouth address.
Heck, even the people who live in Fredericksburg don’t use that name, they say the ‘Burg, as if they are ashamed they don’t get to live in a cool place like Falmouth.
Don’t get me wrong, Fredericksburg is a nice place, and the folks over there are friendly enough. I support their downtown businesses, even the ones on the other side of the freeway they say are in a park that is not like any park I have ever seen.
I subscribe to their newspaper to see if my name shows up on the obituary page and listen to their radio stations for the civil defense warning in case the end of the world is imminent. I’d want to know about that.
I have supported their dog walks, their local charities, and have run through their streets during organized running events. I have enjoyed their New Year’s Eve celebrations downtown and have been moved during the luminaria at the national cemetery. (You probably need to see if you can fog a mirror if the luminaria doesn’t move you.) And I have learned how to order ice cream at Carl’s; that is a life survival skill that is very important if you are reading this and are new to the area. But I don’t live over there.
What do I want? First, recognize that I don’t live in Fredericksburg, so quit saying that.
Second, when you type my street name and number on Google maps, there’s only one location that pops up, and it’s the only street name and number combination on the planet.
I realize that may not apply to all Stafford County residents. However, since I’m standing in Stafford County while discussing this at the polls, it lends a certain amount of credibility to my claim that I’m a Stafford County resident.
Which leads us to number three: Let’s agree that stating Stafford County as my place of residence is sufficient enough for voting purposes. That way the poll official doesn’t have to correct me when I say “I live in Falmouth.”
Paul Harris is a retired U.S. Marine who really does live in Falmouth.