Opinion, by Melissa Mello e Souza
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As the Democratic Convention unfolds this week, we, Americans abroad, are approaching our final opportunity to register for full ballots this month. The further we go into September, the harder it becomes, time-wise, to process applications for the FPCA (Federal Post Card Application) – the complete ballot which includes Presidential, Senate and Congressional Races.
Mind you these are just applications for the ballot. We must mail these FPCAs out and then expect our official ballot to arrive by the first week of October at the latest.
Those of us who do not process this application in time can still vote, but only through an emergency Federal Write-In ballot — but ONLY for President and Vice-President. The Federal Write-In does NOT include Senate and Congressional races, which are even more crucial for the future direction of the country.
As opposed to Brazil, where voting is mandatory and there is no need to “get out the vote” or engage in voter registration drives, Americans vote by choice. My job is to convince these Americans that their vote counts. Which brings me to an interesting experience I just had at a major international school in São Paulo.
It was the very first time anyone had gone physically to the School, armed with two laptops, to register faculty, parents and students online. My partner and I arrived at 8:30 AM in the cafeteria — and we were immediately overwhelmed by a line that kept growing all day long.
Elegant mothers and groomed executive fathers waited up to 40 minutes to register. One father patiently waited for awhile, until he sat down and registered both himself and his son, and was sending his wife later on (all three Republicans from Florida!!) Nearly 100 people showed up to register just that one afternoon, including an excited eighteen-year old first-time voter!
Even though registration was online (www.votefromabroad.org) , they waited for their turn because they knew that if they didn’t fulfill their date with the vote, at that moment, they probably wouldn’t get it done. One woman from Missouri asked me if her overseas vote counted.
I answered that, in 2008, overseas ballots put Al Franken over the top in Minnesota, which gave Obama a filibuster-proof Senate. This in turn enabled health care reform — the most wide-ranging law passed in recent memory, affecting one-sixth of the American economy.
So yes, I would say that our vote from overseas, in this and so many other instances, counts. It can change the direction of the country! So this Thursday, September 6th, come watch the Democratic National Convention with us at Blue Agave in Copacabana, just one block from Copacabana Beach and a few blocks from the Cantagalo Metro Station.
Have fun and REGISTER TO VOTE!! Bring friends, family and colleagues.
OPEN TO ALL POLITICAL STRIPES!
Mark your date with the vote. See you there!
Melissa M. Souza, Chair, Democrats Abroad Brazil