Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Joys of Overseas Voting

Pssst....I'll let you in on a little secret. It turns out that there's a big U.S. Presidential Election on Tuesday. Wait a minute. You already knew about it? Please excuse my confusion. See, it turns out that Obama and Romney haven't been courting the American expats in Malaysia. Actually, it's been quite nice. No signs on people's lawns, no robocalls, no headlines blasting from the newsstand and no endless coverage on TV. (Well, perhaps there's been TV coverage in Malaysia. I wouldn't know. Our TV has been stuck on the Nickelodeon channel. At first, I thought the kids were teasing me, but it turns out that it's genuinely stuck there.)

Other places like Germany have groups such as the Republicans Abroad that campaign there, but Penang has no such thing. There are a few stories buried deep in The Star newspaper here or a passing comment on the radio. With the USA being a world power, other nations are paying attention, but it's not the primary topic of discussion. (I kind of feel sorry for the expats from Liechtenstein. There's absolutely no coverage at all about what's going on in their home country.)

For the most part, I actually have to go out and seek information. None of it is pushed on me -- unless you count numerous Facebook posts attempting to swing opinion with status updates and Shares. Facebook is actually how I first heard that Romney picked Paul Ryan as a running partner and that, according to The New York Times, Ryan may or may not have run in The Frankenthon Monster Marathon in Cedar Park, Texas.

Even though I haven't lived in America for over a year, you can bet that I am still exercising my right to vote. Hey, I'm from Texas where being stuck on The International Space Station isn't an excuse to skip filling out your ballot. Three years ago, my little Austin neighborhood went all the way to the Supreme Court to challenge parts of the Voting Rights Act. Voting is important.

Why do I care? Mainly because I still pay taxes. No taxation without representation for me! Plus, I plan on returning to my Texas home one day and know that this week's results, from the President down to the local school board, will determine what alternate universe I land in. There's also that whole foreign policy bit. When you live overseas like I do, you pay close attention to which countries are on the rampage against Americans.

My vote is my chance to cancel out the choices of someone who is diametrically opposed to my mindset. If I don't vote, I just cancel out myself.

Americans overseas could determine who is the next President.

Imagine that the race is neck-and-neck. The polls on American soil close at the end of Election Day, those votes are tallied, and it's still a tie. What then? If you are voting from overseas, you have until Election Day to place your ballot in the mail. That ballot can take as long as 5 days after Election Day to reach the election office and still be counted. 5 days!!  (Those are the Texas rules. You should check with your own state whose deadline is probably different.) Those last minute, expat ballots must be counted before the results are certified. They are the ones who make a difference in a close race.

If it's still Election Day, there's still time for expats to register and vote.

Voting from overseas is simple, especially when you compare it to the time I had to drive to 4 different polling places in Austin, Texas to cast my vote because all the races weren't on the same ballot. The Federal Voting Assistance Program and Overseas Vote Foundation websites are set up to provide voting help for both the military and private U.S. citizens living overseas. In fact, if you haven't registered, it may not be too late. Just go to one of the above websites to register and request a ballot. Then, fill out the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot.  This write-in ballot also works for those who have already registered but haven't received their ballot. Depending on your state, you can return it by mail, email, fax or private courier service. For most states, you must re-register every year. If, by some miracle, you are actually at your American address on election day, you can still vote at the polls and cancel the ballot that was mailed to you.

Please do not expect to walk into your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate to vote there. I don't know how many people do this, but the one in Kuala Lumpur specifically sent out an email to tell Americans that it is not a polling place.

Hubby and I registered ages ago and received our ballots via email. We must have registered on different sites because my ballot included local elections down to school board and City of Austin propositions whereas his was just for the federal ones. I think he used one of the websites mentioned above, and I perhaps contacted my local elections office.

When the polls close on Tuesday night, it will be Wednesday morning here in Penang. I'll take the kids to school, and then, it's off to an Election Watch Party. In broad daylight, we'll sit there watching which states light up red and which ones go blue halfway around the world. We may live in Malaysia, but we're still Americans.


  1. I'm on home leave at the moment. I was planning on just throwing away my absentee ballot and going to the polls on Tuesday but in Ohio if you request an absentee ballot and then go to vote in person you have to cast a provisional ballot, which may or may not be counted. So on Monday I'll be walking into the county board of elections with my absentee ballot and making sure it gets to the right place. I was too cheap to pay 80 some ringgit to send it registered mail from Malaysia and too scared to send it via regular post.

    1. I hope you have a good home visit, and I'm so glad that you're taking time both vote and figure out the best way to make sure your vote counts.

  2. I got mine in, in the nick of time (first time overseas votes from Florida have different rules and I assumed they were the same as overseas votes from Ohio) --- your Election Watch Party sounds fun!! Great post ...


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