Quick! Vote! A Short Guide to Voting from Abroad

Voting from abroad

(image taken from blacktokyo.com)

1986 is a monumentally important year in American history. Not because the Giants won The Superbowl for the first time or because The Mets won The World Series for the last time, though those are both significant and arguably historic near-unique events. Actually, 1986 is politically significant for granting the last group of unenfranchised Americans the right to cast their vote and have their voice heard “across the high seas of this democracy.”

In 1870, blacks were given the right to vote through the fifteenth amendment, prohibiting denial of voting rights based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” In 1920, Women won their political voices with the nineteenth amendment stating: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” And in 1986, President Ronald Wilson Reagan helped to enfranchise the last political margin of American citizenry by signing into law the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, enabling those of us who are living abroad but still deeply and passionately connected to our homeland to cast our vote and help decide our next commander-in-chief.

Absentee voting has a funny sound to it, as though us expats are controlling America by proxy like some strange Castle Rackrent scenario, which is charming, romantic, and less officious than the reality of the whole process of voting from abroad. Though I was eight at the time that it was enacted and probably cared more about Dwight Gooden and Phil Simms than any dreamy notions of crossing the Atlantic, now more than ever, I hold dear my right to cast my voice into the national discourse and use what power I can to shape history. Now that my home state of Pennsylvania was one of the last to end the retrograde, Jim Crow era voter ID laws controversy (Texas actually beat us. I mean, no offence Texas, but where was The City of Brotherly Love there? Where was Warhol’s working class Pittsburgh, huh?) we can get down to the business of doing just that.

Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or none of the above, you know from recent history that every vote counts and that it can come down to several hundred or indeed, a count from overseas votes. For many states, there is still plenty of time for you to cast yours. Here’s how.

1. Go to the very useful and informative website Votefromabroad.org.

Homescreen for Votefromabroad.org

2. Follow their very easy step-by-step process to request a ballot.

Requesting a ballot through Votefromabroad

3. Print out your ballot request form at the end.

Download your forms

Ballot Request Printout

All Set to Vote!

4. Mail your ballot request into your local municipality and wait for your ballot, which you also have to send in for it to count. You can’t just enjoy the fun of counting all the presidential candidates we never hear about (N.B. this post will be updated. It really is a lot of fun) without standing up to be counted.

sending an absentee vote off

Democracy in Action! (image taken from about.com)

5. And that’s it. Democracy in action. The long arm of liberty reaching across the Atlantic or the Pacific or from parts unknown to cast a lot in that great and wonderful collection of voices we call America. It’s our right and responsibility. Vote.

For information on various states’ deadlines as far as ballot request and reception are concerned click here. For other information and resources, go to the Democrats Abroad website here. In the spirit of equal time, Republicans please click here.

Happy Voting!


6 responses

  1. Snoring Dog Studio | Reply

    Thank you for an informative post! I forgot about all the votes being cast by people abroad. Do you declare a state of residence on this form or what? How does that work?

    1. You do and in fact there are votes for everyone. The concept of citizenship when it comes to the US make farcical immigration and citizenship debates. I have a friend who sounds as English as Winston Churchill (I grabbed for the first thing that came to my head, Mark. You’ll have to forgive me. Would you have rather I said the Queen?) but was born in Pittsburgh and has exercised his right to vote for the first time this year. We’re quite lucky really. Not every country gives political voices to their citizens living abroad.

      1. Snoring Dog Studio

        What an odd feeling to be living in another country yet participating in something so vividly part of being a citizen somewhere else.

    2. Bizarrely, in my experience, Americans seem to stay connected more from abroad and I don’t mean any disrespect to other travelers of other nationalities, but we tend to follow what’s going on at home more than what’s going on in our host country and the Irish, English, French, Spanish and myriad other nationalities that I’ve met in America that have lived there for a sustained amount of time seem ipsis Americanus Americaniores.

  2. I’m glad to say that Husband and I filled out and mailed our requests for ballots two weeks ago, and have received them. So tonight we cast our votes and then send them back. Democracy is a beautiful thing, and I never, ever take for granted my right to vote. It is a privilege and responsibility I gladly embrace.

    1. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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