Written by Jacy Meyer
Stand up and be counted! This November, the 4th to be precise, the United States will be holding an election for their next president. With the country´s future on the line for at least the next four years, Americans would do well to let their voice be heard and make their opinions known. Just because you aren´t currently in the US, or won´t be in November doesn´t mean you can´t vote. It´s a little tougher than walking to your local polling place on election day – but you can fill out your ballot at the pub, mulling it over with a nice pivo at the ready. NOT that we advocate drinking and voting
Because this is a non-partisan article, we spoke with representatives from the local chapters of both Democrats Abroad (www.democratsabroad.org) and Republicans Abroad (www.republicansabroad.org.) Libertarians, sorry. Creag Hayes is the Chair of Democrats Abroad CZ. Originally from Portland Oregon, he´s been living here since 1997. He´s says their organization has more than 100 committees located around the world and their primary objective is to help US citizens register to vote on an absentee basis. As the chair of DA here, Hayes´ main role is to organize and promote voter registration activities in Prague. He says beginning in early September they will be doing “intense” registration assistance.
Roger Johnson is Chairman of Republicans Abroad in the Czech Republic. He´s originally from California and has lived here for 14 years. He says Republicans Abroad “represents and works to protect the interests of overseas Americans on a wide range of issues.” And of course, they work on gathering support for Republican candidates by oversea Americans. He says their primary focus is to assist people in registering to vote as well as act as a source of information about the Republican candidates to Americans in the Czech Republic. RA will be having monthly informal meetings in Prague with information on the presidential campaign.
Why do Johnson and Hayes believe in staying involved in a political process that´s so removed from their everyday lives?
“Being able to vote while living overseas is a privilege which allows us to continue involvement as American citizens in the US political process,” believes Johnson.
“I see it as a basic responsibility,” explains Hayes. “Given our ability to possibly help solve some of the world´s problems and otherwise wreck damage far and wide, I wish to believe – maybe I’m being naive with this thought – but I wish to believe that the typical expat is a wiser voter than many of our state-side brethren.”
If you are already a registered voter in the US, you need to request an absentee ballot from your last voting jurisdiction residence. Easiest way to do this is to visit www.votefromabroad.org. The website will walk you through the process. Hayes says do this as soon as possible, because deadlines to request a ballot vary by state.
So you´ve never registered to vote – but have an itch to suddenly cast a ballot? That´s okay – www.votefromabroad.org can help you register as well. Both Johnson and Hayes say you can contact them as well at, respectively, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. They are both nice guys and probably wouldn´t even make you join their parties, but Hayes´ best advice is to go to Vote from Abroad.
You can also get information about voting from the US Embassy website, www.prague.usembassy.gov. They have instructions on eligibility, when to request absentee ballots or register, as well as when you can expect your ballot to arrive. They say under normal circumstances you can expect to receive your ballot 30-45 days before the election. They also have links to sites where you need to go to do any or all of the above, including the official government site responsible for overseas voting – the Federal Voting Assistance Program (www.fvap.gov.) Here you´ll find information including state-specific instructions for filling out your Federal Post Card Application (what´s needed to request an absentee ballot or register to vote,) links to state and local officials as well as non-partisan candidate information. Johnson says you should send in your FPCA at least 45 days before the election to allow your state enough time to process and mail your ballot. He adds if you are registering and requesting a ballot, it needs to be done much earlier. You can pick up an FPCA at the US embassy, and give it back to them for mailing.
If you registered in time, but don´t receive your ballot you can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot. Embassy sources recommend doing this if you haven´t received your ballot by October 15. If you have additional questions you can contact the local American Citizen Services office at ACSPrague@state.gov.
Final thoughts from our partisan sources?
“It’s well past time to close down the neocon’s effort to place the oil producing portion of the world under American domination,” says Democrat Hayes. “Let’s try and find a place for us within the global community; maybe help focus attention on solving problems – global warming, Middle East pacification, Africa – instead of creating even more chaos; maybe even attend to some of our own domestic problems – education, health care, infrastructure maintenance not to mention attempting to restore some degree of fiscal stability.”
And from Republican Johnson: “A fact important for all Americans in Prague: Senator John McCain is the only candidate whose wife owns a major beer distributorship.”