San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Absentee Voters Come Out in Droves

MATCHING trends in the UnitedStates, the 2004 presidential electionbrought U.S. voters out of the CostaRican woodwork to vote absentee.The U.S. Embassy in San José reportedmailing more absentee ballots than ithas in recent history.Political activists in Costa Ricaechoed the sentiment.“We always pull people out of thewoodwork during presidential elections,but this year more than ever,” saidRepublicans Abroad chairwoman FrancesGivens.Jo Stuart, president of DemocratsAbroad, said the organization registerednearly 800 new voters, many more thanin past years.Embassy officials said they mailedmore than 500 ballots, which are only afraction of those mailed from Costa Rica.Because voting is done by state, andthere is no federal system, no officialnumbers are available on how many U.S.citizens voted absentee from Costa Rica,explained Brian Simmons, vice-consulfor the U.S. Embassy.Simmons said citizens interested invoting showed up at the consul throughElection Day, many disappointed to learnthey were too late to vote. He also said hehelped register to vote various longtimeresidents of Costa Rica who had notvoted in decades.Newly inspired voters include WillieJones, who has lived outside the UnitedStates for 40 years and had never tried tovote with an absentee ballot until thisyear. Unfortunately, the resident ofAlajuela, northwest of San José, likeother U.S. citizens living in Costa Rica,did not receive his absentee ballot in timeto vote.Simmons said similar problems werereported to the consul. Voters who had registeredon time but did not receive theirballot were instructed to use the genericFederal Write-in Ballot. However, somevoters did receive their ballots afterwardand mailed those as well, he said.Officials in some states expresseduncertainty if these ballots would becounted once, twice or not at all,Simmons said.“I’d love to see the day we can allvote online,” he said.The race between President George W.Bush and Sen. John Kerry drew more votersthan any presidential election in thelast 36 years.About 120 million people, just under60% of eligible voters, cast ballots onTuesday.In 2000, about 105 million voters, orapproximately 54% of eligible votersturned out.

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