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.
2. Follow their very easy step-by-step process to request a ballot.
3. Print out your ballot request form at the end.
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.
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.