ellen and tedly smile with ballots used to vote from overseas

How we voted in the 2020 election from overseas

Like most Americans, we have been keenly aware of Election Day 2020. And as American citizens and taxpayers, we always want to vote. Especially this year.

But the fact that we are waiting out the coronavirus crisis on a semi-rural, Philippine island – half-a-world away from our designated polling place created a problem.

Some time ago, we determined that we could request a ballot be emailed from our county board of election in Cleveland, Ohio. We could also use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB).

But either completed and signed ballot would have to be snail mailed back to Cleveland to be counted. Email nor fax were legally acceptable submission methods.

Snail mailed. From the Philippines. During a pandemic lockdown.

Success not likely.

Every state has its own rules for requesting, receiving, and returning absentee ballots, and/or the federal write-in ballot. Check your state’s rules at the Federal Voting Assistance Program Guide.

The other alternative was to send our ballots via PhilPost (Philippine national service) to the U.S. embassy in Manila. Then the embassy would courier them the U.S. via diplomatic pouch.

Still, that meant snail mail from our temporary pandemic residence in Malay, Aklan, Panay to Manila.

Instead, we ended up with our own door to door courier — mom.

As readers of this blog know, my mother, Diane, just returned home to Cleveland after her 2019 winter/holiday visit to us was extended to 10 months by the coronavirus crisis. Just by chance she went home one week before the election.

When mom confirmed her travel dates and flights, we simply went to an Internet cafe in the local business district and printed out the FWAB. The day before mom left, we filled out the forms and ballot. 

Mom packed our votes in her suitcase; traveling to Manila, then Tokyo, Japan, then New York, then driving to Cleveland.

In mom’s own words (and pictures), here’s how the ballots got turned in at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections:

I took them downtown Sunday about noon. To get off the freeway ramp required crossing a line of people on the sidewalk that stretched far to the west, across the highway overpass and well down the next block. For 4-1/2 blocks, they were waiting for the building to open at 1:00 p.m. for early in-person voting. 

The BOE had erected canvas overhead protection for the half block nearest the building. It was welcome this cold day with sleet and gusty winds whipping in from the north. Many people had brought chairs; a few were in wheelchairs. All were well bundled up for the long wait. 

I turned right on E. 30th Street intending to find a place to park and walk back. Parked along the curb on Prospect Avenue. Signs indicated a drop box right behind the building, so I walked over to it.

The deposit slot, however, was just wide enough to accommodate the official envelope that was mailed with absentee ballots, not for the oversized one I had to use.

So, I had to fold both inner and outer envelopes to the dimensions of the enclosed ballot, trying not to let any fold affect the ballot itself, then slide it in. Hope it won’t be rejected because of some folding error.

Thanks, mom. Great job!

And great writing, too. We’re not worried about the folding. Obviously, you HAD to get the larger FWAB envelope into the drop-box.

Of course, we know certain deplorable elements of the political system are eager to disqualify votes and “get rid of the ballots”. There’s nothing we can do about that. We prefer to believe news of all their vote suppression tactics will backfire – leading to the largest voter turnout/route ever.

Bottom line, we’re really thankful for your worldwide effort to get our votes submitted. And we’re glad you are home to cast your vote in-person.

Now let the counting begin.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.

Life is now!

Thanks for reading, “How we voted in 2020 election from overseas.”

Editor’s note: In 2016, Earth Vagabonds spent the summer in Ohio, partly to protest at the Republican National Convention; they later voted via absentee ballots that autumn while visiting family in California.

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