Friday, October 22, 2004

Preserve & Protect the Vote: Making Sure Overseas Votes Count

When fine print is involved in American politics, there is a mysterious trend where Republicans tend to win and Democrats tend to lose. The Federal Voting Assistance Program has instituted changes in the last few days regarding the availability of Federal write-in ballots (details below), and overseas voters must also comply with the local state regulations for their voting locations. In other words, there is a lot of fine print, and much of the responsibility to preserve and protect overseas votes falls on individual voters. Please make sure that you and the other Democrats abroad you know are fully informed about all relevant regulations.

If your absentee ballot has not arrived from the US, it is imperative to vote using a Federal Write-In Ballot--or your overseas vote may not be counted.
URGENT: Know Your State Deadlines

Many states only require that the ballot be mailed from overseas, with clear postmark, by election day and received in the States up to 10 days after the election. You can check this at: www.democratsabroad.ca . Other states, of course, require the ballots be received on or before election day -- you are the ones who need to use the Federal write-in ballot right away. For a full list of ballot return deadlines go to: http://usembassy.state.gov/seoul/wwwh3561.html. A few states are extending their own deadlines inc. Colorado and Illinois, PA is in court about an extension as I write this.

The basic rule in order to utilize the Federal Write-In Ballot is that you must have registered at least 30 days before the election. The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) is now saying that if you have been registered in year's past as a Special Federal Voter living abroad, but didn't send in your FPCA this year -- the absentee voter request & registration form - that you can use the Write-In ballot. This is a large turn-around for them and only happened in the past couple of days. Democrats Abroad are not sure that the FVAP will enforce this ruling in all states and counties. However, it is worth a try, but ONLY if you are in that category.

In other words, those of you who have sent in your late registrations by courier in the past couple of weeks, are not allowed to use the FWAB. People in that situation just have to hope that they receive their ballots from their counties and send them back immediately.

To reiterate, you are eligible to use a Federal Write-In Ballot if:

  • You requested your absentee ballot using the federal voting application form. (If you obtained a form from Democrats Abroad, the OverseasVote2004.com site, or from the Federal Voting Assistance Program site you used this form.)

  • AND your form was sent in time to be received by October 2. (If you faxed your form before October 2 and posted the original as instructed then you are also eligible.)
  • How to obtain a federal write-in Ballot

    1. You can request a Federal Write-In Ballot from Democrats Abroad (voting2004@aol.com) or the Federal Voting Assistance Program (http://www.fvap.gov/). Please provide your current mailing address and the state, county, and town where you last resided in the US.

    2. Federal Write-in Ballots may be available from your nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy Office. For example, Democrats Abroad British Columbia provides this advice for BC residents:
    Go to the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver. Ask for citizenship services and you won't have to line up in the big non-U.S. citizen visa lineup. They are at 1095 West Pender St. Vancouver. They require photo-ID, presumably a passport, for pick-up. THIS IS THE BEST OPTION. We only have 500 here in Vancouver, so we only want to use them if absolutely necessary.
    3. In many areas, Regional Democrats Abroad chapters have set up local pick up spots. Contact Democrats Abroad for Further information:
    US Democrats Abroad Headquarters
    +1 202 863 8103
    info@overseasvote2004.com

    Democrats Abroad Canada
    (877) 336-2008 (toll free)
    A list of regional contacts is available here.

    Democrats Abroad UK
    020 7724-9796
    4. The FVAP announced yesterday in the New York Times that an online version is going to be available to civilians as well as to the military.

    The Kerry campaign, Democrats Abroad, Americans Overseas for Kerry and the website www.OverseasVote2004.com have been working very hard for this to be available. Since voting is a local state responsibility, it is still not clear whether the online versions will actually be accepted in all places. Therefore, only use this option if none of the above are possible. It is available at: http://www.fvap.gov/pubs/ofwab.pdf

    How to complete the Federal write-in ballot

    Detailed instructions are available online from Democrats Abroad, Democrats Abroad Canada, and Overseas Vote 2004.

    The Democrats Abroad Rapid Response Legal Team are offering a new service to investigate any voting problems. To request help, please use the web form available at www.DemocratsAbroad.org/problems

    Voter Registration Verification

    Remember, the deadline for voter registration has passed in almost all states. Go to www.democratsabroad.ca and/or www.MichaelMoore.com for the deadlines and links to your county elections office to verify your registration and to www.OverseasVote2004.com to fill in your forms. They have a system to evaluate whether it is possible to accomplish in your county at this point. IF YOU GO AHEAD, YOU NEED TO SEND THEM BY COURIER. Remember to keep a copy.
    Absentee ballots played a huge role in Florida 2000, and are expected to be a deciding factor in this year's election. Please pass on this information to make sure that the Democratic voters among your friends and family abroad have the power to make their votes count.

    Information courtesy of Democrats Abroad and Democrats Abroad Canada


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