With the U.S primaries set to begin for the election on November 3, 2020, of the 46th President of the United States of America, the voting calendar is packed with events, and time is of utmost importance for citizens 18 years and older living abroad who want to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
In Colombia, tens of thousands of U.S citizens, among them embassy and consular officers, uniformed service personnel, dual citizenship holders and citizens who have never lived in the U.S are eligible to cast their ballot as absentee voters.
From caucuses to primaries and national conventions, the complex federal voting system varies from state to state, and sometimes from city to city or county to county. From eligibility and pre-registration to voting, each place has its own set of rules and deadlines.
Relying on the latest, accurate information is essential. No matter what place you call home in the U.S., or where you are living abroad, the State Department, through the Federal Voting Assistance Program website www. fvap.gov offers guidance to voters in the electoral process and encourages citizens to sign-up for newsletters and alerts.
The U.S Embassy in Colombia has set up the email address votebogota@state. gov to help answer questions and resolve problems on a one-on-one basis when using the fvap.gov assistance wizard.
“We want to encourage everyone to send questions to this email address. We are happy to help direct people to the right places,” explains counselor officer Blake Zanardy.
For those states that do not allow electronic voting, the Embassy in Bogotá will receive the physical registration cards and ballots in proper envelopes or cardstocks with U.S Postal stamps, and will send them through the Embassy’s internal official mail service stateside.
Instructions on how to personally schedule a drop-off date will only be given by email (email@example.com). This service is free of charge.
“Once you get your ballot, we are more than happy to assist you in getting that ballot back to the United States so that it is counted,” says Zanardy.
However, the Embassy does not act as a courier, meaning registration cards and ballots will not be postmarked at the Embassy, which is sensitive when tackling deadlines. “That is why getting [registrations cards and] ballots to us a month ahead of time [of deadlines] is super important. We want to make sure we have plenty of time to get them to the post office so they can postmark them before the actual election,” explains Zanardy.
The U.S Embassy does not sell U.S Postal stamps either. To buy stamps visit www.usps.com. Be aware that the Embassy will not receive envelopes from private messenger services such as DHL or FedEx.
Consular Officer Lucero Gómez believes it is important for people to reach out and take full advantage of the services available, including social media outlets, to keep up to date with electoral news. “I would encourage people to sign up to the ACS (American Consular Services) media that we have to reach out because we will be transmitting useful information.”
Time is pressing, and the message the U.S Embassy in Colombia wants to convey is clear: Give yourself plenty of time to register and vote, and take advantage of the services at hand to make the process easier.