Students. Community Organizers. Travelers. And as of May 17th, 2016, Federally certified Voting Assistance Officers. We are nearing the end of our third week more excited than ever. First off, hello everyone! My name is Andrea Parra. I am currently a fourth year Public Policy and Anthropology double major at the University of California, Riverside. My right-hand man is Stephen Read. He is currently a senior majoring in Political Science and Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Together, we are the newest Outreach Strategy interns for Democrats Abroad-Madrid chapter.

These past three weeks have been busy ones. Between learning the ins and outs of Democrats Abroad, meeting inspiring individuals in person and via email/skype, and mapping out our outreach goals for Democrats Abroad, we also took some time to become federally certified Voting Assistance Officers (VAOs). As VAOs, we have taken the responsibility to ensure that citizens covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) are aware of their voting rights and what steps need to be taken to register and vote as an absentee. Additionally, we work to provide nonpartisan voting information and assistance.

This training was especially important to us because we are currently studying abroad in Madrid, and as semester students, will not be returning home until early August. As registered voters in California, we would miss our Primary election on June 7th. Students in our program all had different theories as to how they could vote from abroad. Some said we could go to the embassy and vote on the spot. Others said we could fill a form out online. Others just decided it was too confusing and would opt out of voting. Upon completing the training, we learned that many of these theories had partial truths, however, none were entirely correct. Once we learned that the process is rather simple, we were excited to share the news with our classmates in hopes of motivating them to rock their vote for the California Primaries.

Being Federally certified to assist others is an exciting thing. Stephen and I went from knowing very little about our rights to vote from abroad, to now being able to help others with the process. We plan to use this certification to educate citizens about ALL their options, as well as encourage them all to exercise their right to vote. The time to get involved and vote is NOW. Don’t delay. Visit www.votefromabroad.org today. Should you ever have any questions about voting from abroad, don’t hesitate to ask! We’re here to help :)

P.S. In case you’re wondering what the step by step process to vote is, please see below:

  1. Go to www.votefromabroad.org and register/request your ballot.

  2. PRINT your ballot request.

  3. SIGN your ballot request.

  4. Mail your ballot request to the address provided.

  5. When you receive your ballot-- VOTE!