Joe LaMuraglia isn’t the type of person to give up easily.
And when he gets an idea in his head? Well, good luck stopping him from seeing it through.
“If I believe something’s right, I just have to keep pushing forward to make it happen,” he said.
It was that determination that compelled LaMuraglia to drive more than 2,000 miles from Massachusetts to Savannah, Ga., and back again, to ensure his vote was cast in the 2020 presidential election. More than 30 hours in the car, by himself, to be counted.
LaMuraglia, 52, has been living with his partner, Steve, in West Roxbury since the coronavirus pandemic began. In September, he requested an absentee ballot from Georgia, where he’s registered to vote and has a home.
But weeks went by and the ballot never arrived. So he called up the elections office in Georgia and asked what was going on.
“They looked it up, they were able to track it, and they had the street address and they had the zip code right," he said by phone Monday at a rest stop in West Virginia, on his way back to Boston. "But they had the state wrong — they sent it to Virginia.”
LaMuraglia was admittedly a bit skeptical about the explanation, given reports about recent problems that have plagued the Postal Service ahead of the election.
Slightly vexed, LaMuraglia asked if election officials could just send him another ballot. But in the same moment he made a vow. “If I don’t get my ballot, I’ve got to go down there.”
When LaMuraglia’s ballot still hadn’t shown up last week, he made his move. True to his word, he packed up “Sophia" — his 2007 Volvo V70 wagon named after the feisty character from “The Golden Girls” — and hit the road.
“I look at voting as an obligation,” he said. “It’s my job as a citizen."
That afternoon, LaMuraglia drove from West Roxbury to Connecticut, where he made an overnight stop to visit his sister. The next morning, he woke up, fed her dog, and set off on the second — and much longer — leg of his journey.
So what do you do on a 15-hour drive by yourself during a pandemic and one of the most contentious election seasons in modern history?
Throw on some podcasts, listen to “yacht rock” on SiriusXM radio, drink a lot of coffee, and make phone calls to close acquaintances who can gab for an hour, LaMuraglia said.
“There’s nothing easy about 15 hours,” he said. “I know a lot of kids who wouldn’t be able to handle the seat time that I put in."
LaMuraglia arrived in Savannah late Wednesday. The next morning, he went straight to the polls, where he stood in line for 52 minutes before casting his vote for Democrat Joe Biden.
With his ballot in and the pressure off, he headed north.
Luckily, the entire trip was mostly uneventful, save for a few times when his Volvo’s “check engine” light came on. A self-described car enthusiast (he used to work for GM), LaMuraglia had a diagnostics tool handy and was able to figure out the issue and reset it.
He decided not to fly because of the pandemic. Driving also gave him more flexibility to set his own schedule, which he took advantage of on his way back.
Like many others across the country, he has been unable to see family members for months. During his trip, LaMuraglia visited two of his brothers in North Carolina, and made a stop to see his 93-year-old mother, who lives in a nursing home there.
LaMuraglia isn’t the only person to have made a long journey to cast a ballot in this year’s election.
In a tweet that went viral Sunday, Columbia Journalism School professor Bill Grueskin said one of his daughters drove four hours from Massachusetts to New York to vote after she, too, had an issue with her absentee ballot.
“So, she’ll vote in person,” he wrote.
Last month, two college students drove 20 hours from Washington, D.C. to Texas to make sure their voices were heard this election. According to The Hill, the students never received the mail-in ballots they had requested in August.
For LaMuraglia, the mileage didn’t matter, and he’s grateful he had the time and means to make the trip, even if it was a bit of a haul.
“That was a lot of freakin' effort, but I could not sit this one out," he said. “It was just too damn important.”