Americans voting from abroad: getting past Trump’s roadblocks


If you are a US voter in Panama who has not yet voted, time is short

You have heard so many arguments, and there will be more in the month to come. It should be expected that you have made up your mind about whom you support, and whom and what you oppose. The general question is whether Democrats turn out in sufficient numbers to turn a troubled country around and the specific question is how do YOU do your part in this. It gets complicated — but not TOO complicated for an informed citizen like you — by different voting laws and sets of deadlines in each state.



If you vote in a state that
accepts only postal ballots

The surest way to get your ballot to the clerk in time and be counted may be to spend the money to send it by international commercial courier — DHL, FedEx or so on. If you are poor, that’s a hefty de facto poll tax.

You still have time to put your ballot in the diplomatic mailbox at the US Embassy in Clayton. Go to the entrance to the embassy complex and the guard will direct you to a blue mailbox not far from the gate. Deposit your ballot there, but only in an official postage-free ballot mail envelope, which you can download here and print onto a regular-sized envelope to have that done. Mail Boxes Etc. will do this for you, along with many other services to get your ballot in. In Anton, Vikingo will print up your envelopes and ballots. Copy the files need printed and bring them with you to the place you choose to do your printing if you don’t have a printer..

If you have ordered but not received your ballot by now, you must use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot. The form, downloadable and printable in PDF format, can be found here. Remember to fill it out completely, and to sign it, and to enclose the ballot in the privacy cover before putting it in the ballot mailing envelope.

The American Embassy is open to take your ballot in the drop box during regular business hours: Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Friday from 8:00 a.m. to noon.

Your ballot will enter the US Postal Service mail system after the embassy sends it to the United States. The USPS is the target of Donald Trump’s sabotage, in defiance of court orders. The embassy estimates that it will take two weeks for your ballot to get to your voting office in the States, but this may be optimistic. Time runs short.


There is litigation, but…

Lawsuits have been filed against several “vote by postal mail only” states to allow email or fax voting under this year’s special circumstances.

The COVID-19 epidemic and Donald Trump’s criminal sabotage of the US Postal Service via the destruction of some 700 mail sorting machines are going to combine to delay the declaration of results in many of this year’s election races. There will be an all-time record of ballots cast by mail in any case, which Republicans want to declare void if they can. We probably will not know the composition of the US Senate, and may not know who won the presidency, on November 3.

MEANWHILE, millions of early votes have already been cast.

As a practical matter it’s probably too late to get states to change their voting systems. Like when white racists have delayed the opening of polls in heavily black areas, emergency orders to deal with those sorts of things have historically been requested and often been issued by judges. Look for a lot of Election Day and post election litigation this year, but do not count on voting laws changing very much in very many places before November 3.


If you vote where you can return
your ballot electronically, DO THAT

There is a concerted illegal effort to obstruct and delay the US Postal Service mail. Putting your ballot in the mail if you do not have to do so can not only get your vote lost, it can add to mail congestion that disenfranchises other people too.

For years Democrats Abroad has been for email and fax voting. If you are so fortunate as to vote in a state that has this, enjoy the fruits of hard-won victories to make your voice heard.


¿Le resulta más cómodo votar en español?

St. Augustine, Florida, hablaba español mucho antes de que los angloparlantes llegaran a América del Norte. Antes de que los peregrinos llegaran a Massachusetts, los judíos de habla hispana ocultaban su fe a la Santa Inquisición en lo que ahora es Nuevo México. Por población, Estados Unidos es el quinto más grande país de habla hispana.

Varios lugares en el EEUU ofrecen papeletas en español a quienes las solicitan. El sitio web Vote From Abroad ofrece una página en español para ayudar a los votantes hispanos. Si se comunica con Democrats Abroad para obtener sus servicios de asistencia  y solicita los servicios de una persona que habla el español, se los proporcionará.


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