There are an estimated 2.6 million eligible American voters living abroad, and every one of them has the right to register and vote via absentee ballot. I am proud to count myself among the millions of U.S. citizens voting from abroad. I cast my ballot last week, sending it with a Canadian friend who was traveling to the United States. He sent me an email after dropping my ballot in the mail, saying that he was proud to participate in the American electoral process, and asking to be welcome at our Thanksgiving table in return.
As citizens living abroad, we have not only the right, but also a civic duty to vote in our home elections. Some countries do not offer absentee voting to their citizens, while other countries do not allow expats who have lived abroad for an extended period to vote at all. I’m fortunate that absentee voting is allowed in my country, and I encourage all expats abroad to vote in their home elections.
As a mother, I have taught my children that voting is a way for a group of people to make a decision together. Parents can take the opportunity at election time to introduce our children to the political process in our home countries. My children won’t be able to vote for many years, but they already understand that there is a presidential election in our country this year. They know the two main candidates, which one I am supporting, and why. As future voters, I have tried to teach them the importance of making their voices heard.
A mere 12 percent of American expat voters cast their absentee ballots in the 2012 election, according to the Rothermere American Institute. This year, efforts are being made to get out the expat vote, recognizing the voting power of Americans abroad.
If you’re an American expat, you can use the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website to register to vote and request your absentee ballot for the November 8th election. If you have questions, just check out the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s FAQs. Voting abroad is easier than you think!
Voting in our home elections is our right, and our duty. Absentee voting is easy – it takes just a few minutes. Make your voice heard on November 8th. Be a proud overseas voter!
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara Wambugu.
Image credits: “I voted” via Kelley Minars / Flickr, American in Singapore via Erika Behl, American in Pakistan via Kelsey Hoppe, U.S. Ambassador Baur via Instagram, American in Germany via Instagram, American in Switzerland via Instagram, American in Spain via Instagram, Virginia ballot image is the author’s own, American in Zambia via Jessica Menon.
RESULTS staff and volunteer moms and kids in DC bringing paper dolls to senators in support of the Reach Act
Photo Credit: RESULTS Educational Fund
Today is Election Day in the United States. You may not have heard much about it since we aren’t voting on a president this year. Sadly, since most of the items on the ballot are at a local level, most Americans won’t bother to go to the polls and our media will mainly view Election Day 2015 as merely a kick-off to next year’s presidential election. Many citizens of my country are excited yet also fearful about what a change of president or Congress will bring for the issues they care about. Helplessly, they feel like the only thing they can do is wait a whole year until they get a ballot full of dubious choices.
They feel oddly powerless even while living in a country often held up around the world as an example of democracy. Is that the way we have to feel for 365 more days?
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way! Election Day in any country shouldn’t be the only time a citizen raises her voice. Here in the United States especially, we should live up to our fine reputation of democracy by engaging in it any day of the year to make progress on what matters to us most. Take, for example, the global issue of maternal/child health.
In September, UNICEF released new data showing that the number of children under five dying every year has been cut by more than half since 1990. Longstanding, bipartisan U.S. support for child survival has played a key role in this progress. Yet the world still loses 5.9 million children every year, largely from preventable causes. We know that we can do better for these kids and we don’t want to lose any progress we’ve made. The last decade has seen effective reforms in the way the U.S. provides nutrition, immunizations, and assistance for infants and expecting mothers. If we have a change of leadership that doesn’t value these positive changes, we could lose valuable ground in the fight against child mortality. Thankfully, expert champions of moms and babies at RESULTS – an anti-poverty advocacy group – brought together a bi-partisan group of senators and representatives to introduce the Reach Every Mother and Child Act to prevent loss of progress and propel us toward a day when no child suffers a treatable or preventable death.
The Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015 would enshrine important development reforms into law, ensuring the U.S. does its part to help countries to end preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035. It would require clear targets, better accountability, investment in the most effective strategies to save lives, and a focus on the poorest and most vulnerable populations. I like to think of it as a “Don’t Break What We’ve Already Fixed” and “Do More of What Works” kind of policy. The Reach Act would help make certain that mothers and children can not only survive, but thrive.
Cindy Levin at Representative Ann Wagner’s office with her daughter and volunteers from RESULTS and the United Methodist Church asking the Congresswoman to co-sign the Reach Act
Photo Credit: Cynthia Changyit Levin
Citizens acting together to urge their leaders to pass this kind of altruistic legislation never makes headlines at CNN. Yet it is exactly the kind of actions that make the U.S. and many other nations great democracies. I believe in citizen action so much that I get my daughters into the act as much as I can. In addition to calling and writing to tell my elected officials to support the Reach Act, I’ve asked my kids and their friends to color paper dolls in solidarity with other kids at the RESULTS office in DC to deliver to senate offices. It’s never too early for kids to learn how to save other kids lives even before they reach voting age.
If you live in the U.S., I hope you go to your polling place and make your vote count for the local issues that are closest to you and your family. After that, however, I urge you on behalf of moms and babies everywhere to contact the offices of your U.S. senators and representative. Use the following weblinks to ask them to co-sign the Reach Every Mother and Child Act (“S.1911” in the senate and “H.R. 3706” in the House of Representatives) to help save the lives of mothers and kids around the world. You can even tell them that you voted this year and you intend to vote again next year based on how they respond to your request!
What issue will you bring to the attention of your government representatives?
This is an original post by Cindy Levin for World Moms Blog.
“I know nothing about politics.”
“I just don’t have time to vote.”
“The person who I wanted to run didn’t make my party’s ticket, so I’m not voting.”
“They’re so-and-so’s friend, so I’ll vote for them.”
“My one vote won’t make a difference!”
These are quotes that I’ve heard too many times by intelligent women. Are you surprised to hear them, or perhaps you have heard them, too? Maybe, like me, you have even said one in the past. I understand.
Politics gave me a headache when I turned 18 and was first eligible to vote. I asked friends for advice on who they were voting for. I often felt like it seemed to be something that other people just knew more about. I had stances on issues, but wasn’t sure which candidates would vote for what I supported. I really didn’t know what to ask the candidates or how to engage. I felt insecure about the whole thing. That was way back then.
I had to look at it like this — if I was giving a job interview for a position, would I ever hire someone because someone told me to, or because they were nice or because they were my neighbor’s cousin? Or maybe because they had more signs around town? No, way! As a voter, my job is to help fill government positions.
It didn’t take long until I realized that politics wasn’t something I should be running from, but rather, running toward. Over the years I have gone to Capital Hill to lobby Congress; picked up the phone to call the offices of my Governor, Senators and Representatives; sent e-mails; and tweeted to let them know what issues I wanted them to vote on. Have I ever voted outside my party? Yes. Remember, it’s all about the job interview and who the best candidate is to support the issues that you care about most.
With election day around the corner in the U.S., I’ve started a list of general questions that can be tailored based on the issues that you support.
1) Why do you want this job?
Every candidate should have a quick “elevator speech” about why they are running. Hear them out.
2) Who is funding your campaign?
Knowing what organization or people a candidate is accepting campaign funds from is important. Look out for candidates who may choose to act based on their top donors’ best interests. And see if those interests are aligned with what you value.
3) How well do you work across party lines?
Asking a candidate to explain a time in which they helped achieve success when working across party lines will tell you a little about how comfortable they seem working with people who think differently from them. It’s important that they work to get things done for the best interest of the people, not just in the best interest of their party.
4) Where do you stand on the issues?
This is homework you, yes YOU, have to do. Figure out the top 5 issues most important to you. What do you want to see changed, supported or kept in place? Next, ask or find out where the candidates stand on those issues. Here are some of mine:
How do you stand on the national/local environment? Can you provide examples of when you sought change to keep our environment clean or protected?
How do you stand on issues concerning women and girls?
Can you provide some examples of when and how you championed equality efforts?
What plans do you have to help disadvantaged children?
What is your track record on supporting global health programs?
5) What charitable organizations have you volunteered for or donated to this calendar year?
I’d like to know this about a candidate. It helps me get to know where their interests and passions lie.
6) What sets you apart from the other candidates for this position?
This is an important question. Your candidate knows what makes them different, so hear them out. Ask for working examples of how they stand apart. But remember, when they tell you that their opposition stands or doesn’t stand for x, y and z, follow up, and fact check.
Help me add to the list! What would you ask?
And, tell us the issues that you value most when voting!
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Founder and CEO, Jennifer Burden.
Related post: Have you read Mama B’s post about the first time women in Saudi Arabia will be voting in December 2015?
Saudi women have the right to vote for the first time in their country. A woman proudly holds up her filled out voting registration form. The first voting day will take place on December 12, 2015.
In 2011 King Abdullah (God rest his soul) declared that Saudi women would have the right to vote and run in the municipal elections in 2015. When I first heard the news of women being allowed to vote and nominate themselves I imagine many women felt as I did, overjoyed, excited and, slightly doubtful that the day will come.
It’s one thing to have it said, and an entirely other thing to have it happen. Over the last few weeks women have, for the first time in Saudi history, registered to vote!
Every article or news piece I have read about this event has had a ‘however’ attached to the end of it. You won’t find any ‘however’s’ in this one though. Every situation has a ‘however’, but the change that has happened for women in our country over the last ten years alone shows me that these ‘however’s’ right now are just rain on a very well deserved parade.
Saudi women are held up to the litmus test of the west that totally ignore (or are ignorant of) the fact that Saudi women have been campaigning for this right and other rights for over a generation. The foreign media also seems to be ignorant about the role society and culture play in these advancements.
It’s not as easy as flipping a switch or changing a law (contrary to popular belief there actually is no law against women driving in Saudi Arabia, it’s just not culturally accepted). It is more like rewiring a circuit board. (Now, I would lie if I told you I had any idea what that involved, but i am quite sure you cannot just do it willy nilly and have to take into account all the other hundreds of wires before messing with one.)
A message board in Saudi Arabia provides voting registration information for women.
The thing people also don’t give us credit for is how hard-working we Saudi women are. And believe us, there is no one more adamant on us getting our rights than ourselves. Small changes are happening that have a big impact on our society’s perception of the role of women outside of the home, in businesses and in government.
For the first few months after women joined the Shoura council, during the televised portions, when any of the women were talking, the camera men didn’t know where to focus. Fast forward to a year later, and the cameras are clearly focused on the strong female representatives broadcasting their voices and their faces* clearly.
There is not one road block stopping the progress of women’s rights in Saudi, but rather, there are many small holes and bumps and detours to get around and navigate. For the first time since women being granted the right to get an education, we are seeing fundamental change that cannot be taken away from us. It is exhilarating.
There has been contagious buzz in the air since registration opened. The Saudi Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs (MOMRA) launched a campaign, website and an app with all the information needed to register to vote or run in the municipality elections. The philanthropic women’s society, Alnahdha, held one of the biggest campaigns to spread awareness around the elections and how to register. They held workshops and partnered up with local businesses and other NGOs to spread the message of “your vote makes a difference” campaign.
Saudi women taking part in the campaign to spread voter registration information to women.
Small business even got on board. Many taxi services such as Easy Taxi and Careem offered free rides for any women who wanted to register to vote. Uber carried flyers and information about voting in their cars.
A lunch tray in Saudi Arabia advertises women’s voting registration.
Registration closed on the 10th of September, and the vote is on the 12th of December. According to MOMRA 22% of the registered voters are women and 16% of the candidates running are women.
Thinking of my daughter now, I pray that she will be shocked she was alive when women were still not allowed to vote. I pray she can’t imagine what it was like to not have full power over your life and your decisions because of your gender.
And for the first time I believe without a doubt that change is not only coming, it is here, just pay attention. It’s moving fast!
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by World Mom, Mama B. in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Photo credits to the author.
Cynthia and her daughters take a family selfie after voting
I’m an American and I voted on November 4th. I’m guessing that most of the global readership of World Moms blog didn’t follow our elections because this is not a presidential election year, but that’s okay. A lot of Americans didn’t either. That’s not okay.
Shamefully, only 38% of Americans voted in this November 4th election, which means 6 in 10 of us didn’t vote.
But that’s life. Low voter turn out in the off years of politics is just the way it goes. People tune out without the razzle-dazzle of a presidential slugfest and a new Congress is elected. But, now what do we do if we want to make our country better? Do we have to wait another two years to have a say? No. Not at all!
As angry as some people in my country tend to get with the leader of our country, the president of the United States is not the only one who has influence over policies that have wide-reaching impact on the lives of Americans and all residents of planet Earth. Members of Congress are elected to represent us in our 50 states and have their own measure of power on domestic and global affairs that can help or hinder a presidential agenda. For instance, the president can make budget recommendations, but only Congress can approve the actual spending of money. Budget decisions, foreign aid policies, gun laws, environmental policies, and a host of other choices are made by senators and representatives all year round.
This leads me to my main point. Election day is not the only day when Americans have a voice in government.
Since important decisions are being made every day, then every single day is an opportunity for Americans to shape U.S. policies whether it be through tweeting, blogging, writing letters to the editor, calling members of Congress, writing handwritten letters to Congress, or meeting face-to-face in Congressional offices. All of these actions are open to us. It is our right as citizens. (By the way, even if you’re not a citizen you can still write to U.S. newspapers or use Twitter to organize)
The idea that Americans can only affect what our government does only once every 4 years is a naive and antiquated notion.
U.S. Representative Jan Schakowksy of Illinois reads a letter from Cynthia’s children about supporting global child survival programs.
TV news – or any news, really – would lead anyone to think that voting or contributing large amounts of money are the only things that citizens can do. When so many people don’t know what kinds of effective actions they can personally take, most people end up just frustrated and giving up on our system without ever truly being a part of it. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this huge gap between most citizens and government creates space for concerned citizen lobbyists to slide right in and have great impact. I’m talking about everyday, concerned citizens just like you!
Even a modest amount of 10-20 phone calls on a topic can sometimes greatly influence a member of Congress because few Americans really bother to do it. A constituent meeting face-to-face with congressional staff or an actual member of Congress is even more rare and makes even more impact. These simple actions can have a great effect, especially if it’s an important yet little known issue.
Take, for example, funding to fight tuberculosis (TB), a highly contagious airborne disease. Most people in the U.S. think it doesn’t even exist anymore if they’ve ever thought about it at all. The truth is that in 2012, 8.6 million people fell ill with TB and more than 1.3 million people died from it, making TB the most deadly curable disease in the world. 95% of cases happening in low or middle-income countries, but since it spreads through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks it can jump to wealthy nations even easier than Ebola. If treated improperly or ignored, it gives rise to forms of multi drug-resistant TB, which are far more difficult and costly to treat. RESULTS volunteer advocates keep up the drumbeat to members of Congress to fund the very inexpensive treatments to save lives across the globe and in the U.S. to make a tremendous impact on the dignity and income of people in poverty who can keep working in good health. Since no one is actually lobbying against saving lives from TB, a relatively small number of volunteers can educate their elected officials about it and have a huge impact on global health to the tune of $1.1 billion in new resources last year and $1.4 billion overall for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. All this is done by earnest citizens voicing opinions without the media circus of an election cycle.
Cynthia and fellow RESULTS activist Richard Smiley talk to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of IL about microfinance
Every election day, I encourage my fellow Americans to get out and vote, to be sure! That’s where engaged citizenship starts. But we shouldn’t stop there. Let our elected officials know what you want after they’re in office even if – especially if – they are not of the party you favor. Get involved with an advocacy group that shares your global outlook and desires to help mothers and children. (ONE, RESULTS, Shot@Life, and Bread for the World are great places to start) In our country, senators and representatives represent are supposed to work for US. It is your right and privilege to contact them on the issues that are important to you. Don’t waste it!
This is an original post written by Cindy Levin for World Moms Blog.
Do you vote?