I would be genuinely surprised if anyone reading this is not aware of the presidential election coming up in November! Whether it is the campaign signs propped up in our neighbor’s yard or the constant discussions of the candidates on the evening news, it is obvious that our entire country is preparing for that special day on November 6th; a day when every citizen will be able to exercise their right to vote for who they think will best lead our country over the next four years. I, for one, am super excited to finally be able to have the opportunity to vote come November, as during the last presidential election I was a few months too young and so had to sit back and watch the rest of my friends head out to the polls during my senior year. Many of you will also FINALLY be able to vote, but if you will be studying abroad during the fall of 2012, you will be having the time of your life in another country and won’t be present here to cast your vote! But don’t worry…our government has a really awesome program called absentee voting that will allow you to vote outside the good old US of A! Let me give you a quick rundown of the absentee voting system and how it can help with this dilemma.
Absentee voting is designed to help someone unable to attend an official polling station on Election Day to still be able to vote, and is seen as a great way to increase voter turnout and participation. Specifically for American citizens and active military personnel who are overseas (that means YOU in a few months’ time) the U.S. government enacted the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) which provides a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot for all registered voters. So, STEP 1 of voting abroad: register to vote here in the U.S. before you go! Your voting residence is usually either your parent’s address or your college address (depending on your own personal preferences), so make sure you understand the requirements and processes to register in the state you choose. The Federal Voting Assistance Program has a great resource online that gives you state-specific registration information here, as well as all the required forms to request an absentee ballot. Once you have submitted all the necessary documents, your state’s officials will approve your request and will send you absentee ballots for each federal election that calendar year. STEP 2: VOTE! Make sure that while you are abroad you fill out your absentee ballot AND send it back in time to meet your state’s deadlines.
As you can see, executing your civic duty of voting while you are abroad is whole lot easier than you might have thought! And, if for some reason you don’t get this all done before you leave for abroad, you can still do all of these steps overseas (it just takes a bit longer). If you find yourself in that situation, contact your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your country to get all of your questions answered and to get your ballot. There are also tons of resources at your disposal to learn more about the candidates and what their positions are: Project Smart Vote, Democrats Abroad, and Republicans Abroad are just a few websites that will get you informed of everything politics-related if you ever feel out-of-the-loop.
It seems like you really have no excuses NOT to vote while you are studying abroad! Just DU it and feel accomplished that YOUR voice will heard back here in the states even if you are an ocean away.
Samson Eberhart, OIE Peer Advisor