My Lens Abroad » Capturing My Expat Adventures With My Lens

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A Reason to Vote


Voting is, and always will be, important to me.  I will admit that when I was much younger, say between 18-25, I was a slacker.  Then election of 2000 happened, I voted that year for President and what a mess that was.  But it taught me something, every vote counts–I think.  Shortly after that election, I met my husband.  He got me into the habit of watching “Meet the Press” with Tim Russert on Sunday Mornings over our coffee.  I learned a new perspective and realized how important certain issues were.

Which leads me to the next piece–voting abroad.  I started pursuing this in July.  I used a site that was recommended, but for my state, was really confusing.  I think other Expat friends here in Rome, from other states, must have thought I was really daft.  When I explained all the steps and language used, their brains started to hurt.  It appeared each state had a different process, some you could instantly vote online, others you could print and mail, etc.  In Pennsylvania we had no such luck.  We needed to complete page after page online, submit the data to “register to vote”, even if we were already registered in our home state, then request a ballot.  We could fax the request, but if you faxed the request this was an “alert” to the PA Elections board and you were still required to go to the Italian Post Office–horror–and mail your official request in.  After your request was officially processed you could be notified online and then sent a ballot to complete upon which you would need to go back to the Italian Post Office and mail the Ballot.

Sounds fairly simple right?  Well then my God, you have never been to an Italian Post Office.  Italians even avoid them–at all costs.  Let me break it down for you.  You enter the post office, which appears to be non-threatening.  You approach a kiosk with a series of buttons all in Italian and you need to select which applies to the transaction you want to perform.  After you select, you get a number.  Since there are a variety of people, doing a variety of transactions and you could possibly have selected the incorrect transactions, you observe the differing numbers on the screens above the windows and hear numbers in Italian being shouted.  If you miss the number and do not run up, that is it, you missed you window even if you waited for an hour plus.  But, if you were lucky enough to get up there, you pray to God or that your broken Italian can convey that you need to get this envelope mailed to the UNITED STATES and you have addressed it hoping that you have done it correctly and that you do not need to go to another window.  You stand there, sweating probably, hoping that this is the only window you need to be at and that this person has the patience to deal with a “foreigner” who is not good with Italian.  How do I know this?  I went with my Translator, an Italian woman, and saw her do this.  Her getting frustrated, watching those numbers like a ninja ready to strike, sensing her stomach in a knot, hoping that this was the correct window to do my transaction and praying that she, an Italian, had a person with the patience to wait on her.  Can you see why I was a bit–intimidated?  I have an Expat friend who has lived here six years and she refuses to step foot in one.

So, I found a solution–a US Embassy friend to mail it.  I could track PA’s processing and receipt of it.  As I did this, it seemed that weeks were passing and I was getting nervous.  I tried to contact them, to no avail.  I then contacted the US Embassy in Rome, who informed me the best thing to do is to FedEx it to the Elections Board.  I would need a Write-In Ballot at this point.  I did not care, I wanted to exercise my right to vote.  But, how pathetic was it that the Director of the PA Board of Elections never returned my email and that the “for further questions” sent me a generic response?

I was on a mission.  However, I left my apartment with my write-in ballots, necessary documents and all the addresses needed, but had to go back to the apartment.  Then when I was back on the road, my iPhone GPS stopped working.  Why, why was this happening?  Then I thought–goddamnit my grandfather did not storm those beaches at Normandy for me to not vote.  I will find this place!

And I did find it.  The man who waited on me spoke perfect English.  I wanted to hug him.  I refrained, as I thought that was inappropriate.  He told me he had been following this election closely and finds it so exciting and  I was lucky I can vote in it.  I said “yes, yes I am”.

Thanks Grandpop Palagruto for your efforts and inspiration.  Our guy got two more votes and your great-grandson complained that he could not vote…



gillian - “Then I thought–goddamnit my grandfather did not storm those beaches at Normandy for me to not vote.”

Beautiful. My Uncle Hank would be proud!

Heather O'Mara - Thanks! I think my grandfather would have also gotten a kick out of my “Goddamnit” too.

Amy - I hope your vote gets counted. Reading this tweet yesterday made me completely lose faith in PA’s system:

“PA voters: the photo ID is NOT required tomorrow. You will be asked if you have one, but you DON’T need to show it”

Sue - God bless you for going to all that trouble to vote … Great story!

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