Voting from abroad

Photo by Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash

I voted today!

Being a resident of DC, I know that my vote is pretty insignificant and meaningless. There were only two offices on the ballot to vote for: president and House of Representatives delegate. DC is the bluest “state” in the whole country, so I already know where the electoral college votes are going to land. And the House incumbent, Eleanor Holmes Norton, has been in office since I was born. She will realistically never face a serious challenger.

But when I became eligible to vote, I promised myself that I wouldn’t take this right for granted. I’ve never missed a chance to vote, including for primaries. Criticize America’s flawed election system all you want (and I do — we need at least three more major political parties), but there are plenty of countries in the world where the average citizen does not even have the right to voice an opinion on their president, their governor, their mayor. I will never take this for granted.

Voting in the primary

On March 3 this year, just one week before everything shut down, I voted in the Democratic primary. (Should add that I am a registered Democrat in name only, for the sole purpose of being able to vote in the primaries.) I had also received an emailed primary ballot from DC, but ended up not using that ballot and instead voting as part of the ‘Democrats abroad’ contingent, just because the process was more straightforward, and the results would be out much earlier.

The polling place was a local English church, and I felt a little bit of warmth and nostalgia wash over me when I walked in and realized that I was in a space solely occupied by fellow Americans. I gave a volunteer my last name, and he produced the ballot that I had requested from their website days earlier. I filled it out, folded it in half, and gave it to another volunteer, who dropped it into the ballot box while I watched.

The entire process took less than five minutes, similar to my experiences voting early in DC and absentee in Virginia. I left with a big ole sticker.

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I feel like that was the last normal thing I did this year.

Voting in the general

Because I had requested a DC ballot for the primary election, I also automatically received an emailed ballot for the general election last month. (Note that they recommend sending a new request every year, just to make sure you’re ‘active’ in the system.)

I had several options: print and sign the forms and mail them to the US myself; mail them via the US Embassy’s diplomatic pouch service; or scan and email them to the DC Board of Elections directly. The third option felt like the easiest and most transparent, because I could track the status of my ballot on their website and verify whether it was received.

So today I went to a local print shop, where one of the clerks helped me print and scan the ballot and a waiver form.

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Emotionally treating this as a polling place.

I emailed the forms to the Board of Elections, and voilà! All set. An hour of my day and 4 francs spent, but I was happy as always to participate in the democratic process.

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