U.S. Citizens Have Options For Absentee Registration

September 8, 2006

The clock is ticking for U.S. citizens to register as absentee voters in the mid-term Congressional elections Nov. 2. Luckily, options abound for those who have not yet registered to get their ducks in a row, from Web sites to registration drives throughout the country, to support from Republicans and Democrats Abroad.

According to the U.S. Embassy in San José, the official government site for absentee voting assistance is www.fvap.gov, the site of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. Downloadable absentee ballot applications, state-specific instructions, links to state and local officials and a downloadable emergency ballot are all available on the site.

The emergency ballot allows voters who have not yet received their blank ballot from local officials when Election Day approaches to download the ballot, write in the names of the candidates and submit it by the receipt deadline.

The embassy’s Voting Assistance Officer can also answer questions about absentee voting (519-2065 or bitnersr@state.gov).

Republicans Abroad Costa Rica, which has been registering voters since its founding in 1984 and maintains of a list of more than 400 registered voters to which the organization sends newsletters, will register interested parties at a luncheon Sept. 12 at the San José Palacio hotel, west of the capital.

“Because we are taxed (according to) our nationality, it is important that U.S. citizens be informed of their rights and assure they are not taken away by ignorant politicians,” Republicans Abroad Chairman Frances Radics told The Tico Times in an email. For more information, contact Radics at ropeartists@racsa.co.cr.

Another source of information: Pat and Willy Piessens, experienced voter registrars trained by the U.S. Department of Defense who have been holding registration events from coast to coast. During the 2004 elections, the Santa Ana residents singlehandedly registered 600 voters, and now they’re back for more.

“We feel that voting is your right, and is the only way you can respond to the U.S. government,” Pat Piessens told The Tico Times. “It’s the only power that U.S. citizens have.”

Though the Piessens are members of Democrats Abroad, they welcome everyone at their registration events.

“When (you’re) registering people, you may never try to influence their vote,” Piessens said. “We’ll accept anybody’s phone call.”

Upcoming registration opportunities include events Sept. 14 in Cahuita, on the Caribbean coast, and a Democrats Abroad meeting Sept. 30 at the Aurora Holiday Inn in San José, 9:30 a.m.-noon. The Talamanca Ecotourism and Conservation Association (ATEC), which offers Internet service in the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo, is offering free 15-minute online sessions for U.S. citizens who wish to vote, Piessens said.

Registration deadlines vary by state, though given the time necessary for ballots to travel to and from Costa Rica by mail, it’s best to act fast, she said.

For more information on these events, call the Piessens at 282-5365 or write dew2dew@racsa.co.cr. Other voting Web sites include overseasvotefoundation.org, www.votefromabroad.org, sponsored by Democrats Abroad, and Republicans Abroad at

www.republicansabroad.org/states.html.

The nonpartisan site www.votesmart.org offers information on federal and state candidates.

 

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