Unless you’ve gone into early hibernation for the winter, you’re probably aware that there’s a presidential election going on today in the United States. If you’re not an American citizen, of course, this election is merely a spectator sport for you, as Americans exercise their hard-fought right to vote by passing out in 2-hour queues in West Palm Beach, or stabbing ineffectually at a voting machine with a political mind of its own.
Given the difficulties of voting within the country, you’d think the ease of voting from abroad — via mail, fax, or even email — would ensure full electoral participation from expats. Statistics from the 2008 election, however, suggest otherwise.
According to the Overseas Vote Foundation, a mere 7% of overseas voters took part in the election four years ago. In other words, a teenager or high school dropout is more likely to cast a vote than an expat is.
“Why?” is an interesting question, and one that doesn’t seem to have been investigated.
At a guess, your average expat is already staggering under the weight of red tape and bureaucracy, and a voting form is that piece of paper that breaks the expat’s in-tray. It’s the piece of paper that turns up four months later during a home office blitz, under a pile of credit card offers, with a Post-It attached saying “Don’t Forget!”
Or perhaps, living outside the home country for a length of time has initiated a feeling of detachment. A feeling that it doesn’t really matter what you think because you’re not there.
Or a misguided conscience kicks in, whispering that you, living abroad, are making a decision that affects others more than it affects you.
Expats: The other “swing state”
Although the exact number of Americans abroad is a little hazy — the State Department estimates just over 6 million, whereas the non-profit American Citizens Abroad puts the figure at 5.2 million — US expats equal the population of Missouri or Colorado, depending on which figure you believe.
Either way, it’s enough to make a significant difference in the outcome of an election, if they all voted.
Take our poll!
So, to all expats of all nationalities: how do you feel about voting in your home- and adopted countries’ elections? Are just overseas Americans lethargic about their civic duties, or do all expats feel the same?
Take our poll!
Our voting booths are open 24/7 for the next 30 days!
Stay tuned for Wednesday’s post, in which American repats Sezin Koehler and Anastasia Ashman reflect upon their first stateside election in quite a while.
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