How are we submitting our absentee ballots for the US presidential election that is, unbelievably, just around the corner on November 3?
Three Jerusalem residents opted for three different ways to submit their ballots: Cheryl Meirovich took her New York ballot to the US Embassy in Jerusalem on the Friday before lockdown; Zelda Colodner emailed her Massachusetts ballot; and Debbie Rubin Fields mailed her Illinois ballot at a Jerusalem post office.
On September 24, I too mailed my ballot at a local post office – the last step in the process of absentee voting: registering to vote, receiving your ballot and sending your ballot.
In part I of my series on absentee ballots I explained how I requested a ballot: verifying that I’m a registered voter, filling out a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), requesting that an electronic ballot be sent to me via email, and sending the FPCA to the Nassau County Board of Elections via email and a copy by postal mail.
On September 20, I received my voting packet by email. I’m not very technical, so I asked my daughter to help with the downloading. While in her own home, she remotely took over my computer with the Team Viewer app and together we downloaded the different sections: a blank ballot, an affirmative security envelope, a ballot return envelope and directions.
Then I was on my own and had no problems. After printing the materials, I filled out the ballot, signed and dated the affirmative security envelope, and assembled the ballot return envelope. The last step was putting it all together. It was not difficult.
Since New York does not give its voters the option of online ballots, I checked the state’s deadline for mail-in ballots: The ballots must be postmarked by Nov 3, 2020, the date of the election, and received by the 13th day after the election.
I considered three options for submitting my ballot:
1. Did I know anyone flying to the US during the month of October?
No, which eliminated this option.
2. Did I want to take my ballot to the US Embassy in Jerusalem?
No. As I write this article, there is a lockdown in the country and I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks.
The embassy itself sees this as a last resort. According to a September 23, 2020, statement from their press office, “As a last resort, eligible voters are permitted to drop off ballots at the American Citizen Services Unit at the US Embassy in Jerusalem or Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv. Please note that it can take up to four weeks for mail to reach its destination if sent by diplomatic pouch.”For times of drop-off, check the embassy website:
3. Did I want to mail my ballot at a local post office?
On the one hand, I remembered a column by Herb Keinon in The Jerusalem Post about a letter taking 42 days to go 88 kilometers from Ma’aleh Adumim to Herzliya. On the other hand, I’ve used an express mail service offered by the Israel Post called ECO POST and was satisfied with their delivery time. True, that was BC (before corona) and they’re not making any promises now regarding delivery time. But they do provide tracking to the destination and an SMS notification upon delivery. The cost is NIS 36.20. I sent my ballot by ECO POST.
How many US citizens are in Israel as of October 2020? There are estimates of somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000. In 2016, former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro noted, “We actually don’t track the number of American citizens in Israel. It is really impossible to know at any given time how many there are. But those who are here, we absolutely encourage all Americans to vote.”