While those who have been watching U.S. cable TV news here might already have been lulled into a stupor by the seemingly endless presidential primary process in the United States, the clock is quickly counting down the time remaining to register to vote absentee in next year’s primaries, the U.S. Embassy reminds its citizens.
Voter registration deadlines vary on a state-by-state bases, with the first deadlines quickly approaching in January.
Fortunately, the registration process is relatively simple, thanks to an easy-to-follow Web page that takes most of the guess work out of the paperwork, according to U.S. Consul Lara Harris.
Generally, all U.S. citizens 18 or older who are residing outside of the United States during an election are eligible to vote absentee upon registering to vote by filling out and filing a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), which are now available for online print out at Web site of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (www.fvap.gov).
Residency, Harris says, is generally defined by where an individual lived last in the United States, although there are 16 states that will allow people to vote absentee there even if he or she never lived there but their parents did.
The requirements and deadlines are different for each state, so voters are urged to visit the Web site and learn the details for their particular state.
The application process – visiting the Web page, printing and filling out the form,mailing the form and then waiting for application and ballot materials to be sent back in return – can take more than a month, so voters are urged to not put it off until the last moment.
Applications can be mailed free of charge at the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Service Office, open at the Embassy every weekday 1-3 p.m. for citizens with a U.S. passport. Some states will also allow voters to e-mail or fax the registration form.
Harris said she is available to answer any questions related to U.S. citizen services via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Important to Register
The U.S. Embassy in Managua also urges all U.S. citizens living in Nicaragua or visiting for any extended period of time to register at the embassy.
Registering is a simple process whereby the embassy records citizen contact information, as well as family contacts in case of an emergency. Under the 1974 Privacy Act, the information will be protected and not provided to any third parties, the embassy mission says.
U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli says that registering at the embassy helps in any situation of crisis or emergency.
“It helps in many ways,” he said. “If there is ever a medical emergency we can get in contact, or if you lose a passport it will be easier for us to believe you are a U.S. citizen if you registered and showed us your passport before. It also includes you on a list of email messages to the American community – travel warnings and other advisories that we tell our own embassy staff, we tell the community as well.”
Movin’ On Up
After 35 years in its “temporary structure,” the U.S. Embassy is about to move into its new home, a hilltop building that has been built during the past three years on the site of the former U.S. Ambassador’s residence and U.S. Marine home known as “Casa Grande.”
The U.S. diplomatic mission plans to make the move during a four-day period in mid-November, leaving behind its current gated fortress on Kilometer 4.5 of the Carretera Sur.
Although the new embassy will be located more remotely atop a hill overlooking the city and LakeManagua, Trivelli says the idea is to make it slightly more accessible and inviting.
“The new building will be less forbidding – the one we have now is surrounded by a moat and a large green wall; the new one will have open fencing,” Trivelli said. “It is not going to be easy to get in, but we are making every attempt.We need to be open for business for the people from all walks of life who visit us every day and need to get in without being strip searched.”
The telephone and electronic contacts for the new embassy will be the same, as will the 1-3 p.m. hours for American Citizen Services.
The embassy’s phone number is 268-0123.
How to Register Online
1) Visit Webpage www.fvap.gov
2) Click on State by State Instructions (blue box, left column)
3) Or, click directly on the link for On-line Registration and Absentee Ballet Request Form (blue box, left column)
4) At bottom of registration request page, click on Click Here to Get the Form.
5) A PDF document will open. It can be filled out online and then printed to be sent or faxed to your state. Then wait for ballots to be sent back.