Whether in the military or registered as a citizen abroad, Americans get their ARMED SERVICES OR OVERSEAS BALLOT sent to them in the mail.
Often when I get these ballots there is no way to return them by the election date, since international postage delivery times don’t seem to be taken into account when they send them in the first place. And they tell me, in the material included, that whether or not you vote, it’s illegal not to return the ballot.
So I pay the $1.85 international postage and dutifully put in my votes for sheriff, county auditor, and town school board, to name the few I vaguely remember. I have no way of knowing the people I’m expected to choose between, they’re just text on a ballot slip as far as I’m concerned. They could just as well put Mickey Mouse down as a candidate for all I care. But I know Mickey Mouse – so I’d probably vote for him.
So there’s absentee ballots by mail-in, but what’s next? Electronic touch screen was used in the last presidential election, and I can imagine online voting being used in the future. Apart from security issues to do with the possibility of hacking an election – and that’s probably the biggest issue I have – I’m also worried about perceived affiliations. Just because I voted for someone once doesn’t guarantee my vote for life.
I first registered to vote for the presidential election between John Kerry and George W. Bush – 2004. It just so happened that I registered through a Democrat-affiliated organisation that was trying to mobilise the international American community. I didn’t count on the town school board being thrown into this voting bargain.
I don’t really have any concrete political affiliations. I wouldn’t vote Republican simply for the fact that they are not Democrat, or vice versa. The same goes for my Australian voting habits in relation to Labor, Liberal, Democrat, Family First, Greens or an independent.
I would argue I vote with my conscience, having taken into consideration the facts (as tenuous as that term in politics might be) as they present themselves. That’s the way democracy should work if you believe the public should actually understand the issues their vote affects. If not, then continuously voting for one particular party without care or consideration for ambiguous personal beliefs, like ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, is the way to go!
But that’s just me, and everyone brings their own ideas to the conversation. I’ll come back to online voting, and my secondary issue with it – affiliation. My point is somewhat lost, since my main example that follows isn’t online or electronic voting as such, but I’ll finish anyway.
I received an email from President Jimmy Carter three days ago. He asked me to go visit a website and request my own absentee ballot online, so I could submit it on time and guarantee my vote is counted.
To quote the beginning and end:
Dear Fellow Democrat,
On November 7, Americans throughout our land will vote in mid-term elections for the House and Senate.
Thank you for doing your part to ensure a brighter future for America in the world.
President Jimmy Carter
Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to make sure my vote counts, but perhaps ‘Dear Fellow Concerned Citizen’ would have been more appropriate.
I’m not Democrat or Republican, Labor or Liberal; I’m a concerned citizen with the unique privilege of having the opportunity to exercise my democratic right in two different countries at the same time. So don’t count on my association with, or support for, any one party. I reserve the right to cross the floor, in any direction I choose, to cast a conscience vote as and when necessary.