American Citizens Living Abroad: How to Cast Your Vote in Three Easy Steps!
“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.” – Pericles
I no longer live in South Korea, but I have many friends that still do. I was curious about their thoughts on the election, whether or not they would vote and how they would accomplish that task. Based on my research into the topic, I would encourage U.S. citizens to allow plenty of time and start researching the process now. Still, even procrastinators have it easier thanks to the Internet. Probably the first most important thing to right NOW is to make sure that you’re registered to vote; taking care of this important first step will make everything else extremely easy.
Differing Views on Voting
When asked about the importance of voting, one friend (a U.S. citizen from L.A. living and teaching abroad) had this to say about the election: “If it’s Bernie and a Republican, I will vote. But I don’t think my vote would matter for Hillary.” Another ex-pat teacher friend from Oregon (also my home state) had this to say about the election: “Yes, I plan on voting. I consider it a priority because it’s too easy not to. Such a big decision for such low effort, so I might as well.”
The friends that I interviewed cited the Internet as their main go-to source for information on the candidates, political humor and serious commentary. Jeff, an American teacher living in Busan, said some of the top sources were: Huffington Post, The New York Post, and political comedy/commentator sources such as the ever popular Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher; others find news outlets via social media like Facebook to find video clips that run across the board from very conservative to very liberal. Of course, following campaigns, debates and interviews is also popular. Syd, an American citizen living in Seoul said: “I can usually get a sense of where the candidates stand from what they say in their campaigns, debates and interviews. I also like to learn about the candidates from all sources—left, right and center. But this election it’s pretty obvious where all the candidates stand.”
Advice from Overseas Voters
All of the overseas teachers I talked to had been in Korea for at least three years; all suggested informing yourself as early as possible and finding out about the absentee ballot system before it’s too late. Most said that they hadn’t discussed the elections or politics too much with their Korean friends and co-workers. As the election gets closer, many are thinking it might come up more. Sarah, a teacher friend who lives in Buncheon is a Democrat; she suggested joining a political group of other ex-pats overseas such as http://www.democratsabroad.org/. They have updates, events and a Facebook page and a community to discuss events. I’m sure a version of this type of group for each political party. They have also developed a website called https://www.votefromabroad.org/vote/home.htm that makes the process very user friendly.
How to Vote as an American Citizen Overseas: Step By Step
1. Step 1: Make sure that you are actually registered to vote. Make sure you understand the vote registration requirements for your particular state in which you are registered to vote. If you are unsure, you can find out by going to: http://www.canivote.org/. You can also Google the website for the “United States Election Assistance Commission” to find instructions on how to start that process.
2. Step 2: Visit FVAP (Federal Voting Assistance Program): https://www.fvap.gov/ (absentee voting overview) and do it all online! Most friends I talked to listed this resource as the place to go for overseas voters. Through this, there are links to FAQ, other resources, and you can request for your ballot to be sent to your location.
3. Step 3: Send Your Vote Out! Don’t forget to mail it! It’s that simple.
Tips and Resources
No matter what, allow PLENTY of time to request, receive and return your ballot and stay up to date on your particular state’s deadlines.
If you have questions, the Federal Voting Assistance Program has a toll free international hotline: 1.800.438.VOTE. They are open 7:30a.m. – 4p.m. ET.
So what are you waiting for? Get to your computer, enjoy that amazing Korean Internet connection speed and start the fast and easy process of casting your vote from abroad!
(Editor's Note - As An American citizen living in Canada - one more tip I would like to add from personal experience: If you want to vote in the primaries from abroad - make sure you are registered with the relevant party. For example - if you want to vote in the democratic primary elections - you must be registered as a democrat.)
Photo Credit: Kheel Center via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kheelcenter/
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