Need an absentee ballot? Applying shouldn’t take longer than a coffee break

In truth, the process is a bit more complex than the FVAP’s two-step summary, but requesting an absentee ballot should not take more than 20 minutes.

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August 9, 2016 01:18
3 minute read.
trump clinton

US presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) and Democratic US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton . (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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As the November 8 US presidential election approaches, the approximately 200,000 US citizens living in Israel who are eligible to vote should be readying their paperwork if they want their ballots counted.

Fortunately, the process to request an absentee ballot is relatively quick and easy.

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According to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, it takes only two steps to vote from overseas: 1) register and request your absentee ballot, and 2) fill out and send in your ballot once it arrives.

In truth, the process is a bit more complex than the FVAP’s two-step summary, but requesting an absentee ballot should not take more than 20 minutes.

David Schwartz, consul general at the US Embassy, told The Jerusalem Post that he hopes US citizens in Israel will exercise their right to vote and not believe any rumors that their vote does not count.

“It’s important for all American citizens, no matter where they live, to make their voice heard in the elections,” Schwartz said. “It’s a common myth that absentee ballots are counted only in the case of a close election. In reality, every valid absentee ballot is counted in an election. Every vote counts.”

The deadlines for requesting absentee ballots vary according to the voter’s state. If this election will be the applicant’s first time voting, he or she must first register to vote. The deadline to register to vote, which also varies by state, is earlier than the ballot-request deadline. Voters can check if they are registered at headcount.org.

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In New York, the voter registration deadline is October 14, while the deadline for requesting a ballot is November 1.

Ballots must be postmarked by November 7 and received no later than November 23.

For California voters, the voter registration deadline is October 24, while the deadline for requesting a ballot is November 1. Ballots must be postmarked or faxed by November 8 and received no later than November 11.

Voters can save on postage by dropping off their election material at the US Embassy or at one of iVote Israel’s dropbox locations, which will be announced in the coming weeks.

According to Eitan Charnoff, the National Director of iVote Israel – an organization coordinating a voter registration campaign – voters should make sure to send in their paperwork over the next month to receive their ballots on time. “I encourage everybody to start registering today, at the very latest the first week of September,” he said.

Anyone can visit the user-friendly websites of the Overseas Vote Foundation or iVote Israel, both of which provide a simple step-by-step questionnaire to fill out the absentee-ballot request form.

Applications are based on the voter’s last area of residence in the United States, or if the applicant has never lived in the US, they are based on their parents’ last place of residence.

Once the form is completed, it must be printed, signed and mailed to your local election office with a self-addressed stamped envelope included.

Some states, such as California and Florida, allow for faxing or emailing applications to speed the process. But this must be followed by a mailed hard copy.

If applying online sounds like a headache, potential voters can also contact iVote Israel for assistance. The US Embassy also maintains a dedicated email account, VoteTelAviv@state.gov, from which any American citizen can receive a response on inquiries regarding overseas voting.

According to an iVote Israel election poll in the 2012 presidential election, 80,000 Americans in Israel voted out of a pool of 160,000 eligible voters. Of these voters, 85 percent voted for Mitt Romney, while 14% chose President Barak Obama.

According to Charnoff, US citizens in Israel can have an effect on the upcoming elections.

“Americans voting from Israel absolutely can have an impact,” he said. “there is enough of a voting block to swing election results in key states like New York and Florida.”

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