Friday, May 11, 2012

U.S. Expats Offered Stark Choice with New Ballot Wording

Ballot
Ballot photo by Chris Phan
Just once I would love to read an article entitled "Expat Groups Consulted on Some Law Impacting Expats." But no, it's clear I'm not going to see that any time soon. The latest law impacting expats is explained at Change to Ballot Request Form Angers U.S. Expats.

The short version: a ballot change requires expats to declare that they are:
  1. Planning to return to the US
  2. Planning to never return to the US
The reason for this is because overseas ballots typically allow you to vote in local elections (I still get to vote for Oregon laws) along with the federal ones. This change allows election officials to only distribute federal election ballots to expats to don't plan to return.

On the surface, I actually have no problem with this. I wouldn't mind being excluded from Oregon elections because honestly, they don't impact me. However, the federal elections, particularly for the Presidency, still have a huge impact on me and I don't want my fundamental right to vote stripped from me. However, the choice offered is abysmal.

I know plenty of expats for whom the "are you planning to return" answer is "I don't know". There are others who plan one way and things turn out the other. There are also plenty of Americans born outside of the US who have never in the US and thus cannot "return".

In this case, it does look like the wording was an honest mistake and I was heartened to see the officials admitting it, but with the rather chilling impact of punitive laws being passed against US expats, I'd be concerned that at some point in the future, someone legislator will promote a bill targeting those who are "planning to never return to the US".
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