By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – While most of the election talk in Brazil has revolved around the country’s recent municipal elections, for the thousands of American expatriates who call Brazil home, another important election is rapidly approaching, the U.S. presidential election on Tuesday, November 8th.
According to the U.S. Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro, some twenty Brazilian resident U.S. citizens a day are contacting the Consulate about how to vote in the upcoming presidential race between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump.
“The most common question [we receive] is, ‘How do Americans register to vote while in Brazil?’” said Kelly Mills, Voting Officer for the U.S. Consulate in Rio de Janeiro, to The Rio Times. While some state deadlines to register have passed, according to Mills, there may still be time for those last minute expats to have their voices heard in the hotly contested race. “There is no single answer, since each state and territory has different registration rules,” said Mills.
To help U.S. expatriates sort through the various state election rules, Mills recommends the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website, which contains all the different registration deadlines and links to register with the appropriate state.
As for which state to register in, especially for U.S. citizens who may have lived in Brazil for a long time, “Your voting precinct is determined by your last residential address in the U.S., regardless of how much time you’ve spent overseas,” Mills explains. “This is true even if the last address was a college dorm, the hospital you were born in, or a private residence. So, when requesting a ballot or registering to vote, use your last U.S. address.”
Once registered, voters must request an absentee ballot, which can be done at the same time one registers online. Depending on the state in which you are eligible to vote, you may be able to get your absentee ballot by email or internet download.
The voter must then return the completed ballot to state election officials. Again, this can be done by mail, but a number of states now allow electronic return of voted ballots. The FVAP website details the different options offered by the states, along with, importantly, the deadline for which each state must receive the absentee ballot by.
For voters concerned that they may not receive their ballot in time to return by the state deadline, Mills says to be proactive, “If you don’t receive your ballot in time to return it to your election official, you may fill out a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB), which can be found on the FVAP website. However, if your ballot arrives after you’ve mailed your FWAB, you should still complete your ballot and return it anyway.”