No matter who you are and what your nationality, there’s no question: your Facebook and Twitter feeds have been full of news about the impending American elections to be held in November. Regardless of what side you’re on, you’ve seen stuff from both ends of the pendulum’s swing. This year – perhaps more than ever – Americans’ voices matter when it comes to choosing the next Commander in Chief.
I’ll be honest about this: when I arrived in Korea 3 years ago, I didn’t know I was going to stay this long. I was open to it, sure, but didn’t know it was actually going to happen. I voted in the States before I arrived in Korea in Feb. 2013 and figured that would be it for me for 4 years. Clearly, as I see it now, I was wrong.
I decided a few months ago when I chose to stay one more year (really, this time; this is the last Korean year) that I just wouldn’t bother voting in this election. Even in December, I didn’t like any of the candidates running on either side all that much and anyway, I was going to be in Korea so what did it matter? I wasn’t terribly concerned about figuring out all that absentee stuff. I’ve since changed my mind.
If you’re an American living abroad, I can’t urge you enough to register to vote absentee this year. You might be thinking, “But Krissi, it’s only April. I have plenty of time to worry about this crap.” Well, Reader, I’m here to tell you that you don’t. The longer you wait, the less likely you’ll be to actually do it. Don’t wait; read on and get shit done.
Where Do You Stand?
It’s a scary time in America. The economy seems to be in a bit of an upswing (finally) and everyone has finally made their peace with Obamacare (for the most part). Last year, love finally won and marriage equality is now a real thing and legally recognized everywhere in our great country. We’ve come a long way, people.
But despite the strides we’ve made, we’ve still got a long way to go.
You owe it to yourself to know what the candidates are saying. What are they spewing from their primary speech podiums? Where do they stand on “the issues”? What, exactly, are “the issues” this time around?
Here’s some things to consider:
- Women’s Rights and Abortion
- Gun Laws
- International Relations
- The Economy
It’s important to understand where you are on the spectrum so you can make an informed decision. To get a clear understanding of your “ideal candidate,” take this lengthy quiz by iStandWith.com. I would advise clicking “other stances” on every question, which will give you more specific options to choose from as opposed to the straight “yes” or “no” answers. Some of the candidates that appear in the “results” are no longer in the running, but your matches will still show you how closely you agree with the other major candidates still in the race.
As we get closer to the election, you can also check out Vote Smart, a nonpartisan (translation: non-Republican, non-Democrat) fact hub that will help you get informed about what’s on your state’s ballot. Their website is host to a wealth of information.
No matter who you choose, I urge you to be informed.
Taking Care of Business
There are several websites that can help you determine if you’re actually registered to vote, how you can apply for absentee ballots from your state, or how you can go about starting from the beginning and actually registering to vote with your home state. By far, the most helpful sites I’ve come across are Rock the Vote and HeadCount. Both these places have all these things ready at your fingertips.
Keep in mind as you’re checking into all these things and going through the steps involved that there are deadlines for when you can register and when you can send in your ballots or paperwork. Don’t miss out because you forgot to check the dates!
Registering to Vote
Not registered to vote in your home state? You can do it online, believe it or not. It’s not a super-quick, process, but it can be done! Check out these places:
Verifying Voter Registration Eligibility
If you’ve already registered to vote at some point, it’s best to check and make sure there are no issues with your registration. HeadCount will send you to your state’s Secretary of State website (I would advise using a plugin or VPN to access your SoS site, as some of them won’t let you see anything from out of the country… (::cough::MISSOURI::cough::)) to verify your voter registration, whereas Rock the Vote will ask for all your personal information upfront.
Registering to Vote Absentee-Style
According to the US Embassy website, to vote from abroad, all “U.S. citizens living outside the United States must be registered to vote and must request an absentee ballot. In order to register to vote and/or to request an absentee ballot, an eligible U.S. citizen must accurately complete a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)* and submit it to the voting officials in your ‘legal state of residence’ in the United States.”
That sounds kind of intense, and it sort of is. The form linked above is a legit PDF you have to fill out (electronically, which is kind of nice), print, sign, and mail in to the appropriate office. The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website is the home of this form and is also full of a ton of information about what you need to do to finish your absentee registration in your state, along with the deadlines throughout the process.
Once your state receives your paperwork and verifies that you are indeed eligible to vote, they’ll send out your absentee ballot at the appropriate time, generally 30-45 days before an election is set to take place. (Since we’re early at this stage, you won’t receive anything for a while.)
*NOTE: You can (and should) list your safest mailing address in your current location to receive your absentee ballot. For example, if you’re a teacher, I would advise having your “overseas mailing address” be the address at your school. There’s a better chance your stuff won’t end up in the wrong mailbox this way, in my experience.
In the event that your state requires that documents be faxed rather than physically mailed in (I checked and yes, it’s a total possibility), you can use an online service to make that happen. I’ve already done the work for you: I suggest you use FaxBetter. FaxBetter will allow you to receive faxes for free to an electronic fax number; if you need to send back your information via fax, you’ll have to pay $9.95 USD for a monthly subscription.
To send a one-time free fax, check out MyFax.
The Rest is in Your Hands
Feel empowered? I sure as hell hope so. Now’s the time to care and do something about it. You might not be returning to the Americas for a while, but remember: whoever makes it into our highest office will be there for a while. There’s more at stake than we often consider when we’re living abroad.
To get the basics of this whole process with some government agency links, hop over to the US Department of State website.