I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do an election blog.
In the days preceding the U.S. election, I was bombarded with the same question over and over again, “Will I/did I vote?” This is a fair question in that as an American citizen I have a privilege that most people in this country do not have and it was an historic election. My answer though may surprise you. I did NOT vote. You can blame this on the voting rules in the U.S.
Let me first explain how Americans living out of the country vote. We vote not as a citizen general, but as an absentee ballotee of the last state we lived in before leaving the country. In my case, that means the state of Illinois. As an absentee ballotee, I last registered to vote in Federal elections in the 1990s, and since then have received my ballots every election. It should be noted that every state has its own rules regarding registration. I will say that I have voted in every other Presidential election since then.
In early October, my brother-in-law called. He needed to borrow our fax machine in order to send his absentee ballot registration from Washington, DC, his last place of residence. In the discussion, he mentioned that the deadlines had passed in most states for registering. Not long afterward, we discovered that our registrations had expired and we were not registered to vote and would not receive absentee ballots. Out of country people can’t vote in the primaries, so there wasn’t an advanced warning of the problem. Of course, the government never sent us a note to say, “Hey, your registration is expiring, re-register now or you won’t have a chance to vote in one of the most important elections of our time!”
The one major reason why people in America don’t vote is because getting registered to vote is such a headache! There are those that say that the registration process was designed to discourage minorities from voting, and since absentees are a minority, I guess this must be true. While Canadian elections do not carry with them the same pageantry and interest as those south of the border, take comfort in knowing that there is no artificial barrier preventing you from voting.