One of the things we had not researched before we came to Costa Rica was how to vote in the November elections. We previously registered for absentee ballots, which we have used in the last few elections. Those, of course, are sent to our house. When we got into October, we started looking into how we would be able to vote from Costa Rica. We are serious about voting and didn't want to miss the opportunity, just because we are out of the country.
We did quite a bit of online research and came up with a number of different answers. I contacted the US Embassy here in Costa Rica and was told told that options vary from state to state, so I would need to check with the elections office in Hawaii. When I called the elections office on Maui, the representative I spoke to said our only option is to send in our absentee ballots. However, I didn't get a sense of confidence about her answer...
Problem #1: Our absentee ballots didn't arrive at our house in Maui until October 11th - only a little over 3 weeks before the election. We were going to have our friend, Carolyn, who is at our house, mail the ballots to us via Priority Mail. She checked and found out it would cost close to $50 to get them to us. That means another $50 or more to return them, too. I did some more research and found a form called a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). The instructions for this generic form said it could be used for Federal, State, and local elections.
I checked the Hawaii voter information site and found that, sure enough, it says the FWAB is accepted for all elections in Hawaii. Yay! That means we could print out the forms ourselves, fill them in, and send them to Hawaii. This would save the time and expense of sending the absentee ballots from Maui.
We printed and filled out our FWAB forms, carefully following the directions for the secret ballot process and including copies of our Hawaii Drivers Licenses, just as a precaution. We mailed them off the Carolyn, so she could then forward the FWABs, along with our unfilled absentee ballots, to the elections office. We wanted to make sure the elections office knew we weren't voting twice. I also included a copy of the Hawaii voter rules regarding the acceptance of the FWAB form for elections, in case it was received by the same clerk I spoke to on the phone...
We mailed the ballots to Hawaii on October 17th. The clerk at the Atenas Post Office said it should take 8-10 days. That would be plenty of time to get it submitted before the election.
Less than a week later, we received the email from Carolyn that said she was coming to Costa Rica for a short visit (see the Surprise Visitor from the States post). The list of things we asked her to bring from Maui included our absentee ballots. Since she would be going right back to Maui, we might as well use the "safer" method for voting. Since the FWAB ballots we mailed were sent to our house, not the elections HQ, Carolyn could just throw them away when they arrived.
When we met up with Carolyn in San Jose, we filled out the absentee ballots and gave them back to her. When she got back to Maui, she dropped them in the mail. Mission accomplished!
As it turns out, it was a VERY good thing that we were able to use the absentee ballots. We were informed via email that the FWABs we mailed from Costa Rica on Oct 17th arrived at our house on Nov 5th - the day after the election.
Posted by Mark