San Miguel Voting Project
By Gunnar Erickson
It is now easier than ever for American citizens living in Mexico to vote in US elections. Not only has the law changed so most of the process can be done online, but the San Miguel Chapter of Democrats Abroad has organized a non-partisan voter assistance program- the San Miguel Voting Project –that will provide an email help line (firstname.lastname@example.org), registration information tables at several locations around town (see accompanying schedule), and a Registration Clinic on August 15-16 at La Terraza Restaurant opposite the Jardin from 10am to 2pm. But most voters will be able to handle the registration process by themselves; it involves two simple steps.
Step One- Deciding how to register
There are two ways for expats and dual citizens to vote from San Miguel. Which you choose depends on whether your residence is in or outside the US. There are many people here part-time who also maintain a home in the US who will be away from their US district on electionday. If that is you, you are probably a US resident and would normally vote in your district. If you will be away from that home on election day, you can vote by mail. It doesn’t matter if you are out of the country or just out of town; the procedure is the same. It is described in Step Two.
Step Two- Register to vote and request your ballot
If your principal residence is in the US but you will be voting from Mexico, you need to contact your local election office and request a Vote-By-Mail ballot (some states call them absentee ballots.) Contact information for that office is available at www.canivote.org. It is a website put together by state election officials to help eligible voters find out how and where to vote. Deadlines for requesting a Vote-By-Mail ballot differ by state.
If your principal residence is in Mexico (whether you rent or own), you also need to register at your US election office. That office is determined by the address of your last residence in the US. For example, if you moved to Mexico from Dallas, Texas, your election office is Dallas County. You register with them by mailing them a simple form called the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). The same form is now used for all the states. You can get a copy online at www.VoteFromAbroad.org.
If you registered in the past, you probably need to register again for this election. The law was changed in 2009 and many states now require voters from abroad to file a new ballot request every year. You should be able to find out if you are registered for the November 6 election online at http://www.fvap.gov/vao/guide.html. If you can’t confirm that you are registered, you should register again. There is no downside in doing this.
The legal deadline for registering to vote in the November 6, 2012 election varies from state to state, but we strongly urge you to mail in your FPCA by August 15. Some states allow you to fill out, sign, scan and email or fax your registration.
www.VoteFromAbroad.org has links that will let you find out if that is possible for you. In fact on that site you can just answer a few questions and it will automatically tailor your FPCA to your state’s requirements and even give you the mail address of your election office. You just print it out, sign it and mail it.
There are a couple of questions that might be confusing. Here are some tips:
1. Where they ask if you are abroad temporarily or permanently or plan to return to the US, you should answer that you plan to return only if you have a planned date to return to the US. Saying you plan to return may subject you to state taxes. If you are permanently abroad, the ballot you receive will probably only list Federal offices.
2. For your current address, you use your address in Mexico. Do not use a mail forwarding address like La Conexion. There is a separate place where you tell them where you want your ballot mailed; that can be a mail forwarding address in the US.
If for any reason you get stumped in the registration process, you can send your question to email@example.com and we will try to answer it, or you can visit one of the information tables (see accompanying schedule) or come the US Voter Registration
Clinic on August 15 and 16 from 10am to 2pm at La Terraza. There will be volunteers there to answer questions and help. If you are a Special Absentee, it should be one-stop shopping; after you supply your information, your FPCA will be printed out and you can sign and mail it on the spot.
By registering early you should receive your ballot in plenty of time to complete it and get it back to your election office. But in case of delays, there is a special write-in absentee ballot procedure. We will outline that in a later article in Atención and the San Miguel Voting Project will also hold a clinic in October to help people cast last-minute ballots.
The Voting Project
The San Miguel Voting Project is part of a major nonpartisan effort being undertaken across Mexico by Democrats Abroad to assist US citizens in voting in the November 2012 elections.
The Voting Project is attempting to inform all US and dual US/Mexican citizens living in Mexico of their right to vote and offering advice on the process. The SMA chapter has prepared a detailed “tip sheet” (please see below) containing the quick and easy steps necessary to determine voting eligibility and complete the 2012 registration process.
Most voters will be able to complete the process via the internet. The Voting Project will also offer voter registration information tables staffed by volunteers familiar with the registration process at the following locations:
Saturday, August 4 – Organic Market at Rosewood
Thursday, August 9 – La Terraza Restaurant across from the Jardin
Friday, August 10 – La Biblioteca, Insurgentes 25
Saturday, August 11 – Organic Market