Even though it is spring and November seems a long way off, this is the ideal time to apply online to participate in the upcoming American election, say activists charged with getting out the vote among the expat community in the Chapala and Guadalajara areas, as well as in other parts of Mexico.
“This fall an important election is coming up. Requesting your absentee ballot by e-mail is not that difficult, but it’s key to do it now,” said Tim Whiting, a get-out-the-vote representative in the Chapala area for the voters group Democrats Abroad.
To assist people who are not totally comfortable with computers, Whiting and Larry Pihl have set a morning, Tuesday, May 3, 10 a.m. to 12 noon, at the Lake Chapala Society, to shepherd anyone who wants help through the process of requesting and sending back an FPCA (a Federal Post Card Application for an Absentee Ballot).
“We’ll do this for any U.S. citizen,” Pihl emphasized. “I’ve registered independents, Democrats and Republicans.
“At LCS, there will be all the necessary equipment — basically, a computer and scanner and an Internet connection,” said Pihl. “So if you’re not a computer geek, by all means come.
“Someone will be doing the same thing in Guadalajara soon,” he added.
Pete Marigliano, chief of American Citizen Services at the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, plans to pick up envelopes containing absentee ballot requests during the next consular visit to the Chapala area on Wednesday, May 11, and on other occasions. The consulate will mail the envelopes to the United States free of charge. Pihl noted that he has already placed a locked repository — a white box with donkey and elephant symbols — at the Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic and its contents will be handed over to the consulate staff during their regular visits.
For those wanting to request the FPCA ballot application from home, Whiting and Pihl suggest the Web sitewww.VoteFromAbroad.org.
“On the Web site, don’t focus on registering,” Whiting underscored. “Just focus on applying for your absentee ballot using the FPCA postcard and that automatically registers you.”
Whiting said that when using either the VoteFromAbroad Web site or going through the process at LCS, “You need to have on hand your address at the last place in the United States where you voted. I’m not referring to the last place you voted absentee from. Also, for people born in Mexico, they need the home address of the last place in the United States where their parents voted.”
On VoteFromAbroad’s home page, the visitor simply clicks on the big, red “Start Here” button or the blue tab “Request Ballot” just below the page’s top banner, then cycles through a few pages on which voter information can be typed in. Then print the five-page request (which includes three pages of instructions, one FPCA form, one addendum and one “envelope,” which must be folded). The FPCA form will be mostly filled out and the envelope will be pre-addressed to the voter’s local election office. Sign the FPCA and fill in any other necessary information, and put it and the addendum into the folded envelope and close it with glue or tape.
Consular official Marigliano noted that people can bring their sealed envelopes to the consulate window on Lopez Cotilla near Progresso in Guadalajara, and the envelopes will be mailed free of charge.
“You don’t need an appointment,” he said. “Just drop it off with the guards at the window.”
Whiting and Pihl noted that returning the ballot will happen closer to election day and is a process that can be a little trickier. But voters groups can help with that too, he emphasized.