LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Today I voted in the 2016 presidential election. Yes, you read that right. I’m an overseas absentee voter, and I emailed my vote this morning.
As an overseas absentee voter living in Switzerland, I filled out the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) form in August and chose to receive my ballot by email. To my surprise, it arrived in my inbox Sept. 20, exactly seven weeks before the general election.
From within my email, I clicked on a link to a voter-login page and was required to choose my voting state, enter my name, date of birth and the last four digits of my SSN. The system found me and sent me into an online voting portal that allowed me to “check the box” for each item on the ballot.
More than just voting for president
The Oklahoma ballot gave me the option of choosing straight-party voting (having it automatically choose only Democrats for me, for example), but I wanted to know who and what I was voting for, so I chose the ability to vote for each candidate. The appointments up for vote included elections for United States senator, United States representative, county sheriff and then a long list of judges on the Supreme Court of Oklahoma and the Criminal and Civil Appeals courts.
Next came the seven state questions: 776 (provisions protecting the use of the death penalty), 777 (laws regulating farming and agriculture), 779 (penny tax for education), 780 (drug possession changing from felony to misdemeanor), 781 (money saved in 780 to be used on prisoner reform), 790 (can state money be used for religious purposes) and 792 (alcohol law reform). In total, I had 19 selections to make.
When I voted absentee in past elections, I had the option to return the ballot by fax or postal mail. Since a person still must physically pick up documents off a fax machine, the fax option required me to send a signed affidavit stating that “I understand that by faxing my VOTED BALLOT I am voluntarily waiving my right to a secret ballot.” For the first time ever, I had the option this year to return my ballot by email to the FVAP, which would then convert it to a fax and send it to my local election board in Oklahoma.
Overseas votes make a difference
As a reminder, overseas ballots can make or break an election. As we know from the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, the final tally came down to a difference of only a few hundred votes in Florida, and there is still controversy over which candidate really received the most votes. Many of the votes embroiled in the controversy were overseas military votes.
Varying reports from the State Department show there are as many as 8 million or even 9 million Americans living outside the U.S., excluding military personnel. By contrast, the number of military personnel stationed overseas stands only somewhere around 150,000. Overseas voters still vote within their state (usually your last place of registration in the U.S.)
With numbers in the millions, they can certainly change the outcome of the election.
Registering for 2016 presidential election is easy
If you are living abroad or know someone who is, make sure that you or they are registered to vote and know how to get a ballot and return it. Information can be found at the FVAP website. For registered Oklahoma voters, the last day to request an absentee ballot is Nov. 2, though Oklahoma Election Board staff suggest people do so far earlier.
For voters living in Oklahoma, the last day to register to vote is Oct. 14. That’s Friday of next week, which means you have only 10 days left. To register to vote, download the form here, fill it in and then mail it to:
OKLAHOMA STATE ELECTION BOARD
P.O. BOX 528800
Oklahoma City, OK 73152-8800