Wednesday, September 22, 2004Bush Admin. Give The Finger To Expat Voters
Now this is pretty ominous:
On Monday, the International Herald Tribune reported that the Pentagon is restricting international access to the Web site for the Federal Voting Assistance Program, the official government agency that helps Americans living abroad register to vote in the November election.
Over the past year, the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site has been widely advertised all over the foreign press as the way for Americans to get help on how to vote in the upcoming election. The site, which is maintained by the Department of Defense, is a nonpartisan, comprehensive, and official clearinghouse for voting registration information. Now that it's been put off-limits to many Americans just before registration deadlines kick in, activists fear that Americans will be unfairly barred from voting this year.
Not surprisingly, political pollsters believe that uniformed military personnel, especially military officers, lean toward Republicans in their voting habits; American civilians who live abroad, meanwhile, are particularly progressive. One recent Zogby survey, for example, showed that voters with passports supported Kerry over Bush by a margin of 55 to 33 percent.
During the 2000 election, I was living abroad in London. I spearheaded the effort to get my fellow American students registered to vote, taking it upon myself to schlep down to Grosvenor Square to get forms from the American Embassy. I myself was already registered to vote in Mississippi, but even so I had a few hoops to jump through: in order to get my ballot, I had to fill out a form (to sign up for absentee voting), take it back to the embassy and have it notarized; at which point I got a second form (ordering my ballot for that specific election), which I had to take home, fill out, and bring back to have notorized as well; and then finally I got my ballot, which I filled out and took back to the embassy to -- that's right -- have notarized. In all, I had to drag myself to the embassy five times in order to vote in 2000.
The point is, it isn't necessarily easy to exercise your right to vote if you live abroad; every state's requirements and procedures are different, and some are easier than others, but some states -- like Mississippi -- make it a colossal pain in the ass. If you don't have easy access to an American embassy, it might even be prohibitively difficult to accomplish the task. That's where programs like this one come in: making it possible for anyone with an internet connection to exercise their right to vote. (And using your voter's rights is a good thing, right Republicans?) But the deadlines to register and/or request a ballot are coming up very soon, and anyone in the affected areas who was relying on this program to help them get hooked up has been royally screwed by the DoD.
Anyway, if you're an ex-pat American trying to figure out what to do, go here; the Verified Voter Foundation can give you the help the Defense Department would apparently prefer you didn't have. |