Americans, it’s election year! How, where, when and why do I vote, when I live in a rural seaside town in Eastern Scotland an hour away from the nearest airport? It’s easy to feel disconnected, especially when overseas ballots are confusingly long and sometimes require you to use a fax machine. I am technically a dual national, but culturally, I’m very English. Until very recently, I pronounced ‘Yosemite’ to rhyme with ‘Marmite’. I know little about the American voting system in action and I have never lived in the States, but the necessity of voting is vehemently clear to me and I wanted to exercise my right to vote in the primaries and in the general election. The impact of American politics globally is obvious, especially for the UK as it endures its own complications, and although I am not the most American of Americans, I want to make myself heard. Democrats Overseas holds voter drives, provides registration technology, drinks and reminders, so I went along to Main Bar to attempt to register.
I turned 18 in 2016, which was exciting in the UK because I could drink, vote, and pay full fare on the Tube. In the US, it was election year, and I couldn’t drink, which felt very unfair given the result of that election, but I could vote. But voting from abroad in the States is a total nightmare for someone unfamiliar with the system, especially as I attempted to register through a convoluted county website. The ballot that was sent to me was baffling, and I think I might have accidentally voted for prohibition? (To the inhabitants of Waynesville, NC, I am deeply sorry if I contributed in any way to the loss of your alcohol.) I was never even sure if my vote was received, and I remember the entire experience felt disheartening.
With Democrats Overseas, it was a very different experience. You are walked through a 15 minute process, based entirely online, with knowledgeable helpers who understand the intricacies of the electoral systems in different states. The website itself is built to accommodate expats; I entered my date of birth the English way, date then month, and the website reminded me to check, which saved me a lot of hassle. It can be so complicated to navigate murky electoral waters without residing in the country, but everything was sorted out so easily and I could register with a party simultaneously, allowing me to vote in the Democratic Global Primary being held in St Andrews. The primary will be held in the Union on ‘Super Tuesday’, March 3, 2020, and you can vote in person as if you’re in the US. I don’t feel comfortable voting in state primaries, I’m not knowledgeable about specific local issues, but the Global Primary is exciting as it represents my interests as an American abroad.
If you are a properly domiciled American citizen, this process is even easier, and the vital necessity of voting even when far away still stands, especially at such a turbulent time. It is important to mention that the tools used are fundamentally non-partisan. Voters can be registered from anywhere, for any party, and you can sign up online or in person. This might be the first Presidential election you will have been eligible to vote in, and it is so exciting to be able to participate in something so crucial. If I can do it, so can you. They even give you a sticker at the end.