By Victor Schultz
Voting is important. In an election as polarized as the current American race, voting is even more important. According to US Bureau of Voter information, absentee ballots can account for up to 3% of the vote, which might seem small, until you remember that some elections have been decided by a slim 2% margin.
So, you want to be a good citizen of your home country and vote. Maybe you’re super passionate about a specific platform. Maybe you just really don’t want one of the candidates to win, so you’ll vote purely out of spite. Maybe you want to write in six-time Golden Globe nominee Danny DeVito. Maybe he should have won all of those Globes instead of just one of them. I don’t know your (or Danny DeVito’s) life.
What I do know is that voting absentee can seem intimidating and complicated. After the heaps of paperwork you filled out to get here, another few forms are treated with the same amount of respect as the mystery meat gets in school cafeterias. (Note: Japanese cafeterias actually don’t seem to have mystery meat, but they do have “fried something” days, which I view with equal suspicion).
BUT DON’T WORRY.
Absentee voting is pretty easy. I’ll walk you through it. Because I’m an American, and our presidential election is coming up fast, I’ll use the American Absentee Ballot as an example.
First, you need to find a helpful website to take you through the application. As an American voter, I used www.overseasvotefoundation.org
This website is very helpful, as it will provide you with the option to register to vote along with your ballot application, in case this is the first time you are voting.
When you get to the webpage, you will see a friendly little button that says “Register to Vote/Absentee Ballot”. Go ahead and click that button. A page like the one above will appear for you. Fill out all the information they ask for. If you haven’t registered to vote before, this form will also take care of that for you.
When you get to the part about addresses, be careful. The “Last US Residence” needs to be filled out with the last place you stayed in America. And not last hotel, last actual residence, so if you crashed at your parents’ place or came direct out of dorms use that address. On the right is your Japanese Address. Use Romaji. (English characters)
After you fill out the entirety of the form, it will provide you with a pdf. Print/save it. It will also give you the contact information for the local government clerk who will process your papers. Email/mail (which you can do varies by state) the pdf of the forms to your clerk.
You’ll want to do this as quickly as possible, since the election is coming up fast and they will be processing the applications to figure out distribution of ballots fairly soon.
Your ballot should come late October, or early November. I strongly recommend filling it out and mailing it back the very next day after you receive to be certain that it arrives in the clerk’s office in time to be counted.
Congrats! You’re participating in the democratic process.
For more information about why you should vote, and brief bios of the candidates, look for my new column, BALLS, in the 2nd issue of GMA next month!