In the US, an absentee ballot is defined as a ballot marked and mailed by the voter in advance of the election, away from the place where he or she is registered.
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokesman Thomas Hodges said that although AIT is not directly involved in the voting process, it estimates that between 40,000 and 50,000 Americans in Taiwan are watching the run-up to the US presidential election on Nov. 4.
“Indeed, the AIT has received many inquiries recently from [US] citizens in Taiwan and from this communication we can say that interest here in the upcoming election is very high,” Hodges said.
Hodges said US elections are organized by the country’s 50 states and its territories — in other words, the federal government does not print ballots or count votes. Therefore, Americans wishing to vote must register with officials in the US jurisdiction — usually a county — where they most recently resided, he said.
Even if overseas Americans are already registered in a particular locality, they still need to periodically let the county know where to mail the absentee ballot. There is no requirement, however, that they go through AIT, Hodges said.
“However, the AIT takes seriously its responsibility to assist,” he said.
The overseas voting process involves four steps — registration, request for ballot, reception of ballot and mailing of the marked ballot, AIT said.
It also outlined various options for mailing the completed ballots from Taiwan, directing expatriates to the Web site www.ait.org.tw/en/uscitizens/MailingOptions.asp. It said Americans in Taiwan can also submit specific questions to the AIT via the e-mail address VoteTaipei@state.gov.
Eligible voters can find information on absentee voting at www.FVAP.GOV, the official Web site of the Federal Voters Assistance Program, a federal organization that is charged with assisting overseas and military US voters, AIT said.
“Mainly because of the Internet, it is now very easy for overseas citizens to get the information they need and to obtain their ballots without the AIT’s involvement,” Hodges said.
Under US regulations, a voter must request an absentee ballot at least a week before the election. Each state’s secretary of state or director of elections is in charge of the election process, including voter registration and absentee ballot requests.
After completing the registration and absentee ballot request form, the voter is required to return it to the election official in his or her county, who will approve the registration and request and then mail the ballot to the voter.
After completion, the ballot has to be returned to the election official to be counted.
The regulations on absentee voting vary in different states. For example, in Hawaii, the deadline for registration of absentee voters was Oct. 6 and Oct. 28 for ballot requests.
Most states count absentee ballots on election day, although the process can continue for several days after.
In Washington and Florida the counting of absentee ballots must be completed within 10 days after election day.
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