Breaking news for US voters
US Embassy clarifies about sending ballots through the diplomatic pouch — you still have time (but not much)
An October 26 notice by the embassy said:
“As we get closer to election day, we have been getting complaints from some U.S. Citizens stating that they are hearing that the Embassy is not accepting ballots after today, October 26th. If you get questions about this, please let people know that the Embassy will accept all ballots delivered to the Embassy after October 26, 2016. All ballots will be sent to the U.S. via the diplomatic pouch with transit time between Panama and the U.S. taking up to 7 days. People should take into consideration this transit time along with the deadlines set by their home state for receiving ballots from abroad. U.S. citizens can drop off an FPCA or completed ballot in person at the U.S. Embassy in Panama between 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday and between 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. on Friday.”
That clarifies an earlier embassy notice that said:
“The final date to return your paper ballot to your local election officials by election day for free via the U.S. Embassy Panama City is October 26, 2016.”
Yet earlier, in a meeting at the consulate attended by several dozen people, those in attendance were told that ballots, registrations and ballot requests would be accepted through November 8 for mailing to the USA via the diplomatic pouch — sent in the pouch to the States, then deposited into the US Postal Service mail one in-country — but that it was recommended that things be sent by October 28 to arrive on time. At that time it was said that voting would be at Window 14 at the US Consulate, which is only open from 8 a.m. to noon. (Notice now how ballots will be accepted at the embassy, which is open more hours of the day than the consulate.)
Surely there was no intent to suppress anybody’s vote or deceive or confuse anyone. In fact the embassy and consulate folks have been putting in a great effort to encourage voting and a lot of people have voted. The messages, however, have been a bit less precise and consistent than they might have been.
In any case, despite the different previous versions, you have a bit more time to vote. Not much, though. We are down to the wire.
If you are not going to be able to get your ballot back in time via free diplomatic mail and don’t vote in a state that lets you send in your ballot electronically, you may want to pay to send your ballot by FedEx or DHL.
Some relevant dates for absentee vote deadlines:
November 7: deadline for receipt of absentee ballots in Mississippi, Missouri and Iowa
November 8: deadline for receipt of absentee ballots in most states
However, different states have different laws about when a ballot must arrive or be sent in order to be counted. Some of them set a deadline of “received by,” while others say “postmarked by…” States that will count a ballot that was received after Election Day (November 8) but postmarked on or before that date include:
New York: postmarked by November 7, received by November 15 or November 21 if FWAB
Alabama: postmarked by November 7, received by November 15
Pennsylvania: postmarked by November 7, received by November 15
Ohio: postmarked by November 7, received by November 18
Wisconsin: postmarked by November 8, received by November 11
California: postmarked by November 8, received by November 14
North Carolina: postmarked by November 8, receive by November 14
Colorado: postmarked by November 8, received by November 16
Arkansas: if overseas, postmarked by November 8, received by November 18
Also notice that there are still a number of states in which you still have time to register to vote or to request your absentee ballot. In some cases you can send your voter registration, your ballot request and your Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot in the same envelope at the same time and be all set to have your choice counted.
See http://www.mytimetovote.com/ to look up deadlines for your state
~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.