Voting at a Distance

Living overseas adds a different dimension to many of life’s routine activities, none more so than the ability to continue to use your vote in your home country. This is something many of us are thinking about at the moment as the USA heads towards a presidential election, and the UK’s government asks the people to vote in a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union.

Voting when far from home is challenging. Some people feel, as you are no longer living there, you have given up the right to have a say and some people are discouraged from voting by its complexities. The act of choosing a candidate takes effort, as you are not immersed in the political debate around you, (although some none-Americans may dispute that at the moment!) and I have found myself researching comparisons of prospective candidate’s philosophies on-line before using my "voice." Imagine doing that when absentee voting started just after WW2!

Then you have the actual act of voting, not the simple journey to the local polling place to post your ballot form but a complex set of maneuvers that could dissuade the best of the politically motivated. The planning that is involved surpasses, "Should I vote before or after work" and becomes a trail of emails, faxes or mail, time trying to understand a government website, visits to embassies or consulates and in some cases, the picking of a trusted family member or friend to be your "proxy voter."

The American Democratic party makes it easier, by making their official overseas arm of the party, Democrats Abroad, a committee for information and access to voting for millions of Americans living overseas. This means that Americans who are registered as a Democrat can actually vote in person at many destinations around the world and, accordingly, it can create enthusiasm in overseas voters. Unfortunately the Republican Party does not offer this opportunity at the moment.

If you are British then life is a little more complex and overseas votes must be made by post or with a "proxy" voter, someone you choose to vote for you. Unfortunately, at the moment, the British government does not allow you a vote if you have lived outside of the UK for more than 15 years. For many British expats, with the EU referendum coming up this feels remarkably unfair, as this is a decision that could potentially affect all British expats living in Europe.

Other countries, represented by expat friends, seem to generally favor going to embassies or consulates to vote in person, and sometimes there is just no procedure for citizens living overseas. Germany allows you to vote by mail for 25 years as an absentee voter and for Australian citizens there is no choice, if you don’t vote you are fined. So, whether you travel to an embassy or plan ahead to vote by mail, no excuses!

My father taught me that you can’t complain about the government if you don’t exercise your right to vote. Living overseas can challenge that commitment at times, especially when you’ve tried to print out your ballot form and your computer or printer freezes for the umpteenth time, or when you have to stand in line for hours at an embassy. Then you have to stop and think about all the countries that have fought so hard to have the opportunity for that treasured democratic process, and be thankful that, even when thousands of kilometres from home, we still have a say in the decisions being made there.


Your advertisement here.
Previous articleNew plans for Tongelreep’s wave pool
Next articleHow antifreeze proteins hinder growth ice crystals

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here