Campaigns Seek U.S.Voters Abroad

May 28, 2004

IF stances on gay marriage, abortion, privatizingSocial Security, school vouchers and U.S. involvementin Iraq aren’t enough to inspire U.S. citizens to vote,maybe the polls will.Such are the hopes of both Republican andDemocrat groups living abroad.Last week’s ABC-Washington Post poll placedPresident George W. Bush and presumed Democrat nomineeSenator John Kerry about even, each with46% of the vote, an additional 4% of the vote going toindependent candidate Ralph Nader, and 4% undecided.CNN-USA Today-Gallup gives Kerry 47%, Bush46%, and Nader 4%, and CBS News has Kerry at 47%,Bush at 41% and Nader at 5%. Each of the polls claims a margin of error of plus or minus 3-4 percentagepoints.Any way you look at it, the race is close.WITH more than 20,000 potential U.S.voters living in Costa Rica, DemocratsAbroad, Republicans Abroad, the AmericanLegion and the U.S. Embassy are wagingfierce campaigns to make sure everyoneexercises their right as U.S. citizens in theNov. 2 national election.“According to Democrats Abroad inWashington there has been a significant risein the number of people registering to votefrom abroad this year,” said Pat Piessens,voter registrar for Democrats Abroad inCosta Rica.“We have had an excellent turnout, wesign up anyone who wants to sign up, wedon’t care, we just want people to vote,”agreed Pat Miranda, of Republicans Abroad.Anyone who stills needs to register tovote or request an absentee ballot should doso as soon as possible, they both emphasize.VOTING regulations for those outsidethe United States vary from state to state.The most complete information, includingthe Federal Post Card Application – whichallows citizens to register and request absenteeballots – and links to every state’srequirements, is available online atwww.fvap.gov.The U.S. Embassy’s consular servicesare also helping voters register. Embassyemployees offer assistance in finding andfilling out appropriate forms and will mailthem to the United States for free. For info,call 519-2000.“OUR interest is getting everyAmerican citizen the opportunity to vote –Republican, Democrat, it doesn’t matter,”said embassy spokeswoman MarciaBosshardt.The embassy, Republicans, Democratsand the American Legion will all havebooths to assist potential voters at this year’sU.S. Independence Day celebration July 3 atCervecería Costa Rica.GENERALLY speaking, it is best toregister and request absentee ballots at least45 days before the election, according toU.S. General Consul Robin Morritz.People who are not registered should doso in the last state in which they lived, nomatter how long ago.People who are U.S. citizens by birth,but who have never lived in the UnitedStates, may have a tougher time, accordingto Morritz. They should register in the laststate of residence of their parents.Twelve states will automatically acceptsuch registration – Delaware, Georgia,Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York,Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island,Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin.It is not clear whether foreign-born U.S.citizens of other states will be allowed toregister, Morritz said.“However, it is definitely worth trying,”she said.VOTERS who attempt to register inswing states, where their vote may carrymore weight, instead of their last place ofresidence, risk having their registrationrequest rejected, Morritz said. Registeringto vote in a state does not affect to whichstate a citizen should pay taxes.ALTHOUGH a wealth of informationon voter registration is availableonline, it is not possible to register orvote through the Internet. The VoterOnline Initiative – a study of the feasibilityof voting through the Internet – foundthe system to be a success in 2001.That same year, the U.S. Congressrequested that the Department of Defenseconduct on online voting experiment todetermine the possibility of registering andvoting through the Internet. The study,which involved seven states, concluded thatno Internet voting system could be 100%secure and therefore should not be used.

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