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US Embassy hosts expat voter registration
Georgia, Maine, New York and Maryland were just a few of the states represented by expat US residents who turned up to register at a three hour voter registration event held by the US Embassy on Dag Hammarskjölds Allé in Copenhagen last Thursday.
After negotiating the gauntlet that is security at the embassy, people munched on Fritos or sipped on warm soft drinks as they waited to register at one of three computer stations or by filling out paper forms. Both methods resulted in a paper request for a ballot that was then sent via embassy mail to local election officials in the US. New laws this year required that US residents living abroad submit a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to receive an absentee ballot. About 60-70 US citizens living in Denmark showed up to make sure they would receive their absentee ballots in time to vote in November.
Consul John Webster was pleased with the turnout.
“This is an important election,” said Webster. “We are electing a president, all 435 House members, a third of the Senate and a handful of governors. We want to make it as easy as possible to help people to vote.”
Prospective voters plucked guides from tables decorated with red, white and blue balloons and candles, and refreshed their memories of the name of the last county in the last state they voted in while still living in the US. Young half American/half Danish voters that have never lived in the US and are casting a ballot for the first time queried embassy staff and volunteers from Democrats abroad and the Women’s Club of Denmark on the process.
“I think my dad lived in Georgia,” said a stylish young women voting for the first time. “Should I register there?”
Volunteers and staff thought that the reports coming out of both party’s conventions – the Republican’s had just wrapped up their show in Tampa, Florida and the Democrats were kicking off in Charlotte, North Carolina – reminded people that the election is just around the corner.
“We have been doing a lot of outreach to make sure that Americans in Denmark remember to exercise their right to vote, “said Webster.
Webster said the embassy has been focusing especially on students studying in Denmark that may have turned 18 and are eligible to vote for the first time. He pointed out that computer savvy young people can register without coming by the embassy for a warm Fresca online at www.FVAP.gov. Once they have printed out their FPCA and the postage paid envelope to their local officials, they can save international postage and drop it by the embassy.
Although ballots can be dropped off anytime, the embassy will be holding a ballot event on October 26. Voters can bring their completed ballots and once again take advantage of embassy mail to get them sent back to the US in time to be counted. The embassy will also help any voter that has not received their absentee ballot fill in a federal write-in ballot during the event.
“People get busy and deadlines creep up on them,” said David Miller of Democrats Abroad.
Voters with questions can contact the embassy’s voting assistance officer at 33 41 72 22 or at CopenhagenACS@state.gov .
Anyone stopping by the US Embassy should remember to leave their computers and cameras at home. They are emphatically NOT allowed inside the building and cannot even be left at the guard station. Cell phones and iPods are checked at the gate and can be picked up again when the visitor leaves.