January 27, 2016

Help Dems Abroad! Help the US Embassy!

Double-Duty Voting Scores ‘Points’

Dems Abroad in Greece have so many choices. We can vote a home state primary AND save the Presidential slot to vote in the DAGR Global Presidential Primary (GPP) in March. We can send our ballot back by regular mail and pay postage, or by courier and pay more, OR by Embassy pouch and … mail postage free! We just have to plan our moves.

The US Embassy in Athens wants to get out the vote for 2016. Their goal is to encourage every eligible American voter abroad to exercise their voting right.

To get the ball rolling, US citizen groups, including Dems Abroad and our Republican counterparts, were invited to an informational exchange yesterday (26 Jan) at the Embassy. Key Embassy Athens staff, including the Deputy Chief of Mission, the Consul General and the Voting Assistance Officer presented their outreach plans.

Embassy Plans October Party

Besides providing voting assistance (advice and computers) on site and through support out of Athens ‘wardens’, the Embassy is preparing a “voting party” in October for the General Election. Citizens in the Athens area can bring in their absentee ballots, address the envelope to their county board of elections, and ‘cast’ it in the box that will go out via the State Department pouch system.

The envelopes will be counted, by destination address, along with those left in the Embassy drop-box. This will give Athens a tally of overall votes sent out and the spread of states they’re headed for.  We sensed there may be a little informal competition among Embassies and Consulates worldwide for highest per-eligible-capita and most states returned.

The October party promises to be a lot like DAGR’s Global Presidential Primary Voting Center (GPP), with ‘serious fun’ adding to the ‘real polling station’ feel. Expect drum rolls when the Ambassador casts the first vote, and for the youngest first-voter, the oldest and so on. Expect DAGR to borrow a few ideas for the GPP on March 6!

Embassy Efforts Enhance DAGR’s 

The Consular Section role in voter assistance in no way diminishes DAGR’s efforts. While the Embassy is promoting use of the FVAP registration form, we Democrats can still use our own VoteFromAbroad.org (VFA form based on the FVAP).

When we use the VFA site to register, the software keeps count. This predicts our members’ activity, but there’s no system, yet, to see how many ballots are actually voted and sent back.

Beyond those who call in for help, the Embassy has no way of knowing who registered by VFA or other online sites or directly with their home county. But they DO know how many ballots are returned through their mail system.

So, we can use VFA to register and the Embassy's diplomatic pouch to send ballots back, and that scores ‘good job’ points for both!

DAGR was well represented at yesterday’s meeting, officially by the Chair, Secretary and one At-Large Rep. The Treasurer and three other members were in delegations from three other American organizations. We seem to be well dispersed across the community, in fact the total number of DAGR people in attendance (6) made us the largest group by far.