Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Trials And Tribulations Of Voting Abroad

This was my first time voting abroad and it was a huge learning experience for me. There were some obstacles along the way, but it was ultimately worth it.

I started out by registering at votefromabroad.org. Now I read that some states allow you to fax in or even e-mail your registration form. Unfortunately, New York wasn't one of those states. Trust me. I asked the voting office in the Bronx via e-mail that I had concerns that my registration form wouldn't arrive. I've had a few issues with people sending me letters in the past. It either gets here in months or not at all and I was worried that the same would happen if I sent a letter from Argentina to the U.S.
Once I completed the online portion of the registration process, I had to download a pdf version of the registration form itself. Then I uploaded it to a USB drive and printed it out at one of the local print shops. I wish I could have done it at home, but my printer crapped out on me two years ago and the only thing it's good for now is to scan things.
After printing the registration form, it was just a matter of filling out the first five digits of my social security number, (the final four digits were already pre-printed), signing it, and taking it to the nearest post office in my host province.

They charged me $230 Argentine pesos (about $15.15 USD) to send a certified letter. I tracked the letter online, but after 5 days, the progress displayed in Correoargentino.com stopped after the letter reportedly left Buenos Aires.

Naturally, I was confused and pissed. Had my letter somehow fallen into some anomaly in time and space and vanished?

Where the hell was it? The rep at the local post office told me that it would take 8 business days. So far, it didn't seem like my registration form was going to reach its destination ever.

Then I remembered that the post office had warned me never to use tape to seal an envelope ever again, which I did. They had me sign on the tape and told me that I should use glue next time but that it would be okay. Now I wasn't so sure. What if they rejected the letter? The registration form wouldn't get there on time. Okay! Okay! Don't panic. DON'T PANIC! At least that's what I kept telling myself.

Well it turns out that there's a drop down menu for the international country where the letter is going to. So I chose "Estados Unidos" and it redirected me to the USPS website. So I entered the same tracking number I was given by Correo Argentino and it worked! It showed the progress of my letter inside U.S. territory.
It said the letter had been processed by the U.S. postal service in NY but it was still in transit. So I waited a few days and then checked again and nope!!! It was still in transit.

I had just about given up hope on being able to vote in this year's presidential election.

Then I received an e-mail from the voting office in NY stating that my online ballot was available.
I had to go in and verify a few details but fortunately not as many as the first time I registered.
Then, I simply downloaded the ballot, which also came with instructions on how to fill out and seal the ballot.
Once again, I made a quick trip to the local print shop. Then it was just a matter of following the instructions correctly to ensure my ballot wasn't voided. There were two envelopes. I had to date and sign the affirmation security envelope that would hold my ballot, and seal it with tape.
The second envelope was postage paid but only if you're sending it within the U.S. So this certainly didn't qualify and I had to place the affirmation security envelope inside a regular envelope and then head to the post office and pay another $230 Argentine pesos (about $15.15 USD).
The NY Voting site, allows me to track my ballot. So I'll know when they've received it, even if the  tracking info from the USPS doesn't update to show that the ballot reached the voting office.

A week after I mailed my ballot out, I received a physical ballot in the mail. It's nearly identical to the ballot and two envelopes I downloaded digitally and printed, but since I'd already sent the other one out, there didn't seem to be a point in sending this one out too and risking my original vote getting tossed for over voting.
So there it is. I did my patriotic duty from thousands of miles away, and I couldn't be happier. Now it's just a matter of waiting for the elections.

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