I’ve been in Melbourne a year now – and between the move overseas and the election it’s been quite a year. Needless to say, the results of the US election is part of any conversation in any part of the world – including Melbourne. And with the latest diplomatic slug at Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, the pitch of conversation keeps getting higher. Like citizens everywhere, Australians and US citizens in Melbourne and other cities stepped out to add support and bodies to the unprecedented Women’s March in DC. This has led to a continued Australian action and reaction through permanent groups including expats from all over and Australians.
Then there was another conversation which I have not personally experienced, but been told by others and read on social media. The gist is,
“If you’re concerned about the US why are you living here?”
Wherever that “here” may be and the tone is judgemental or caring depending…….
Expats are living overseas for many reasons – none of anyone’s business. The reason I am writing this post is to share – no matter where you live – if you are an American citizen – you have a voice and opinion you can share. Social media and online tools make it easier than ever.
There are actions US citizens overseas are taking to support immigrants, tell Congress what we think, forming groups of people (expats and not) to create a collective voice, signing petitions, posting on social media and more.
In my case, I have formed a group of people interested in voter registration and get out the vote. It is the place I come from in my political experience and believe it makes a difference even more so overseas. After a couple weeks of FB postings, comments and way too long Messenger threads – on Saturday expats and dual citizens gathered in my home and via Skype from Melbourne, Sydney and Los Angeles to discuss our options. We all agreed every election between now and 2018 is vital – local, state and federal elections. And we read about how US voters overseas can make the difference in any national election. And in 2018 the census and redistricting will begin. We will go where the potential voters are – first voter registration drive – Super Bowl party at Crown Casino Melbourne!
In 2014 there were 5.7M US citizens living overseas – 2.7M were 18+ and eligible to vote. In the 2016 elections 600,000 US citizens abroad voted.
The last 2-4 weeks before the November election was a challenge with expats trying to register or vote before it was too late – not all succeeded as there are different requirements in every state or county to voting or registering to vote from overseas.
We agreed this is a problem and all had personal or social media stories of absentee ballots not received, websites not working, voting age children unable to register. There is also the same apathy in the overseas folks as at home – “It’s too hard. I always forget to ask for an absentee ballot. Oh, I can vote when I’m living overseas?”
This dedicated group of people agreed to act and do. While we’re many thousands of miles away from our native homes, we know we can make a difference and have chosen to do so. We’re in it for the long haul. Watch this space and FaceBook as our work starts and begins to build.