Voting Services returned to consulates thanks to Tim Kaine

Americans abroad can once again use their embassies to send ballots and voting material back to the US, thanks to Senator Tim Kaine and a Democrats Abroad webinar call.

On May 8th, Democrats Abroad was honored to speak with Senator Tim Kaine on a zoom call. During the course of the call, one of our members from Kazakhstan noted that they were no longer able to use their consulate to send in their ballot. We asked the Senator about this issue, and he immediately suggested that we should work on a remedy together. We got in touch immediately and are delighted to share the following message from Senator Kaine with all DA members worldwide:

We’re happy to report back that after some persistent engagement over the last few weeks, the State Department has agreed to revise its guidelines and will now provide voting assistance services during Phase I of its reopening plan. It is our understanding that most State facilities are shifting into Phase I within the week. 

Under State’s “Diplomacy Strong” reopening plan, Phase 0 (pandemic-driven skeleton staffing) permitted only life-or-death services and emergency repatriations. Phase I permits resumption of contact-free mission critical services and partial re-staffing. Voting assistance was previously categorized as a non-essential service for Phase II, which some locations may not move to for several weeks or even months.  However, as we pointed out, the ability to vote certainly meets the definition of mission critical in an election year, and the standard use of secure ballot collection boxes does not require any face-to-face contact.

State advised all embassies and consulates of this change on June 4. At our further recommendation, State also directed embassies and consulates to message out their current ballot acceptance policies to all U.S. citizens in their districts, and to continuously provide updates if their local policy changes.

There may still be some locations where voting assistance services will not be possible in the short term due to external issues (such as local movement restrictions limiting access to the embassy, or airport closures preventing international diplomatic pouch shipments). However, at minimum Americans at those locations will now know in advance if they need to make alternate arrangements.

Thank you again for flagging this for us, and please do keep us posted if you hear anything further from Democrats Abroad’s members.

Democrats Abroad would like to send a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to Senator Kaine for his assistance on this important issue. The voting process is a sacred right for all American citizens, no matter which country they call home. Our members are grateful that our voices and concerns will be heard and that they will be addressed as befitting our status as citizens of the United States of America.