I have missed voting in only one presidential election during the many years in which I've been eligible. It wasn't in 1988, while we were living in Japan -- and when we succeeded in getting absentee ballots so we could vote in Washington DC. My one omission was, gasp, the razor's-edge 2000 election*, but I was voting in California that year, where the race wasn't even close.

I'm getting worried that 2008 may be my second no-show. Something like one percent of the entire electorate is voting from overseas, or so I am told by various expatriate groups. In any case it's enough to make a difference in close elections and close states. My vote is not likely to make an Electoral College difference, as my non-vote didn't eight years ago. (I'm voting in DC.) But I really like voting anyway, and here's how it has gone.

In theory, voting from overseas is easy. The requirements are:

Being registered. No sweat. Fully signed up in DC.

Request an ballot, through this streamlined form at VoteFromAbroad.org. This is a great site that provides a great service. You tell it where you're registered, and it pulls up the right official form to request an absentee ballot from your state. Our your District, in our case. My wife and I filled out the forms to get our DC ballots. We listed a friend's address in DC where the ballots could be sent (if mailed to China they would never get here), and we gave the request forms to a friend headed to SF to mail them in early September. (If mailed from China they would never get there.)

But.... the absentee ballots never arrived. Rather, as of the moment I write, nearly eight weeks after they were requested, have not yet arrived at our US address. So we go to the.... To allow for circumstances like ours, another site conveniently lets you print out a write-in ballot for president, which you can mail to your home jurisdiction. Write in ballots available here or here (Republican- and Democratic-sponsored sites). To qualify, you have to do what we've already done: already be registered, already have requested the absentee ballot, but not yet have received it.

So, we printed out those absentee ballots, hand-wrote in our choices for President and VP, and gave them to another US-bound friend to mail. Will they ever get there? Will they ever be counted? We will never know. So I just hope the election is not close. At least not in DC.

My compatriots based in America: enjoy your convenient right to vote!
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* Bizarrely, just before the election I was flying a small airplane across the country to the Berkeley CA area, where we were living at the time. I planned to arrive at the Concord CA airport on the night before the election. But an early blizzard and ice storm kept me grounded in Duluth for four days, and I watched the election and preliminary recount drama from bars in the Lake Street area while drinking Minnesota's own Summit beer.

Emergency write-in provision

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