Baltic, Direct Speech, Elections, USA

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Saturday, 28.11.2020, 12:49

About Mobilizing Americans in the Baltic Region to vote

BC, Riga , 02.11.2020.Print version
This is a series of three articles covering the upcoming presidential election in the US on November 3, 2020. We sat down with Elena Romanov, the Chair of Democrats Abroad in the Baltic States, to discuss her role in getting overseas Americans to vote, along with her views of the upcoming election.

How did you come to get involved with Politics in general and Democrats Abroad in particular?

 

Elena Romanov: I arrived in the US from Latvia at the age of 14, and it was an election year in Boston then. I started volunteering immediately as it was for me a way to socialize and meet new people. Since then, I took part in virtually every election cycle in Massachusetts, New York, California and Nevada. The experience was fascinating, and I was able to share my passion for democracy by getting others to vote. It was also an opportunity to reach a lot of people and listen to their personal stories. I loved the challenge. The experience inspired me to start the Baltic chapter, that is the newest chapter of Democrats Abroad. 

 

What are some of the challenges you faced so far? 

 

E.R: The main challenge is that many Americans do not know that they can vote while abroad. And because different states have different rules and deadlines for registering, requesting and returning ballots overseas, voting from abroad can be rather tricky. 

 

Additionally, just as inside the country, many believe that their vote doesn’t matter. The reality is that every ballot will be counted if it arrives on time. In close races, absentee ballots could decide the outcome. 

 

When it comes to voter turnout, the US ranks 26th out of 32 among the countries in OECD. The result of the 2016 elections was a shock to many, people wanted Hillary Clinton, but the fact remains that over 100 million people which is about 44% of eligible voters in the country did not vote. 

 

What do Americans living overseas need to know about voting this year?

 

E.R: They can vote and those votes are counted and make a difference – but the time to act is tight. Tools like VoteFromAbroad.org is available to make the overseas voting process simple. The website helps you fill out the overseas absentee ballot request form and provides instructions on how to send it in (different states have different requirements). If there are questions along the way, there’s a helpdesk to provide guidance.

 

VotefromAbroad.org also has a directory by state to look up important details like deadlines, local election office contact info, eligibility requirements and more. The help desk at democractsabroad.org answers all voters questions. Americans in the Baltic region can also contact me at democrats.baltics@inbox.lv

 

Overseas voting has traditionally been in single digits, have you noticed, or do you expect a strong turnout?

 

E.R: It is estimated to be between 4% and 7%. Although, it may be higher as many people go home to vote.  Many Americans abroad vote by the regular absentee ballot, rather than through the overseas absentee process. Still, voting via overseas absentee (by requesting their ballot through the Federal Postcard Application using a voter tool such as votefromabroad.org) helps protect their vote federally, but it also simplifies the process. That said, there is  a lot of energy, passion and lot of drive being shown in this election, especially amongst those who have never been active or who haven’t voted in a long time. 

 

This current administration has dealt a blow to many people, their families, and their businesses. Even Americans living outside of the country have felt the impact of the blow on their loved ones back home and on the country’s reputation. In recent times, I have been getting a lot of requests from people who would like to vote, even though they are outside of the country. The requests are also from people who have never voted or have given up on voting totally. This all proves to me that there is a ray of hope on the strength of voters in this year’s election. 

 

Why do you believe people should vote Democrat?

 

E.R: It is no longer a partisan issue, really. There are just too many challenges to be faced by one party alone, or separately. The goal is to change the present situation in the county, by bringing the USA back to the status of the land of opportunity, equality and justice for all people. As long as Americans can vote for the candidate that can get us back on track to achieve those goals, then we would have done our part as American citizens. 

 

What can you add about your efforts to mobilize the Baltic vote?

 

E.R: The American community across the three Baltic countries is rather small, so we are all connected at first or second degree. This makes it easy to advocate for voting through personal outreach. I encourage my connections to post about voting in their social media and talk to their American friends who say they’re not voting this year.

 

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