28 February 2010

Let’s Vote

During the last presidential election campaign I was asked whether the election of a US president should become a global event rather than being something only citizens of the United States can participate in. The reasoning behind that question was that since the United States is a super power whose actions influence the global economy, it was “unfair” that only US citizens got to choose. While I believe that the election of a US president should belong exclusively to American citizens, I have to concede that US policy decisions have a ripple effect on the rest of the world.

The importance of US elections is reflected in the global media coverage of each stage of the presidential campaign. From more than a year before, the world is alerted to the fact that elections will be coming up soon. From 11 months before the election date, our local news start following each party’s primaries. What each prospective party candidate is saying and doing starts to be closely being monitored. Progressively, candidates withdraw transferring their support to another hopeful within the party. Closer to the November election date entire pages of newsprint, radio, TV and internet are dedicated exclusively to what the two remaining players are saying or doing. Many countries across all time zones stay up during awkward times to provide their viewers with live coverage of the counting of ballots and the declaration of a winner.

Those who have a US citizenship have the right to participate in State and Federal elections. In order to vote you do not need to physically be present in the US. Voting by US citizens living outside the US is known as Absentee Voting. To be able to vote you have to complete the Registration/Absentee Ballot Request form and send it to your Election Official. When this is approved you will receive your ballot in the mail. Fill in the ballot and post it back to your election office. The process is simple and straightforward.

Some might say that their vote does not matter over who will win an election. This is far from the truth. We are seeing a surge in the number of people who make use of their right to vote and as democrats and republicans converge on many topics the difference between the winner and the loser will be getting smaller. Suffice to remind those who followed the 2000 US presidential elections between George W. Bush and Al Gore in which the former’s margin of victory in Florida was 327 votes (adjusted to 930 votes because of overseas votes). Thanks to Florida, George W. Bush became the 43rd President of the US.

For more information on how you can apply for an absentee vote for both State as well as Federal elections, you can contact FVAP on http://www.fvap.gov. For information on how to join the Democratic Party (and be eligible to participate in party primaries) point your browser to http://www.democratsabroad.org/. Republicans can do the same by visiting http://www.republicansabroad.org/. If you need assistance, you can either visit the US Embassy here in Malta or get in touch with us on info@StarsAndStripesMalta.com.

Stars And Stripes Malta (SASM) is in contact with both the Democratic as well as the Republican parties’ overseas voters sections to provide you with salient information about activities that may interest you. We have also subscribed to the Federal Voting Assistance Program and will keep you posted on announcements by this government branch.

By exercising your right to vote, you are making your concerns known. As the number of overseas voters increase, parties will be more than willing to listen and understand the needs and special situations of US citizens living outside the USA. With a US population of 3000 living here in Malta, we could have turned the 2000 presidential election one way or the other. By registering to vote and sending in your absentee ballots you would be making that difference.

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