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    Okay, a few weeks ago, CNN reported that Democrats Abroad Japan was pulling out all the stops to recruit voters among American expats here. They mentioned–I swear it was mixed in with talking about people who’d come from the States to be celeb draws–that a Terry MacMillan was helping to get out the vote. I assumed it was the novelist who wrote, among others, Waiting to Exhale. Looks as if I spoke too soon; Terri MacMillan is a musician who lives here in Tokyo and is a higher-up with DAJ. I’d seen Terry McMillan (the novelist) interviewed a few times and just thought she’d done an image change, but I was wrong. Sorry about that.

    Since I’m officially registered as a Democrat, and I’m in Japan, I decided to click on a few of the links at the right of the DAJ site. I sent to my county for my absentee ballot yesterday, but I was interested to see what the voter registration sites looked like. The one that most interested me was overseasvote.com. For reasons I can’t quite identify, I was a little unsettled by the exhortations to non-US citizens to encourage their American friends to vote. That doesn’t interfere in any way with the political process, so I’m not sure what the sticking point is.

    It’s probably part of my more general feeling that I’d rather people not vote if they have to be caressed and cooed and cajoled into doing so. I’m not speaking about ethics here, really; I know that it’s DAJ’s job to get as many people to vote Democratic as possible, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what they’re doing. You know, the explanations and FAQ lists and things. (It’s only fair to point out that Republicans Abroad Japan says this on its voter registration page: “RAJ maintains a strictly nonpartisan approach to our voter outreach and registration program. We do not ask Americans seeking to register to vote their party affiliation. Nor do we advocate voting stances on either issues or candidates. We believe that Americans, when allowed to decide for themselves, free of any political pressure, will choose to vote Republican.” It’d be nice if the DAJ site struck that tone, but that’s a quibble.) But one of the pages says something to the effect that most people don’t vote because the process is confusing.

    Oh? I mean, fine, it was a little complicated registering my first time. Those of you who’ve never lived abroad may not have had reason to think about this, but the residency you declare of course affects whose tax laws apply to you. For example, Pennsylvania doesn’t tax you on money earned abroad; you don’t even have to file a return. In other states, you do. We all have to file a federal return–you can run, but you can’t hide–however, you get the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion on everything up to a specified amount. Some people haven’t lived at home for years and are simply unsure where there residence is supposed to be. So there’s kind of a crazy quilt of rules to think about. That’s true enough.

    Still, I’m sorry, it’s not that confusing. If you’re an intelligent person interested in exercising one of his fundamental rights as a US citizen, surely it’s worth the five-minute mental exertion needed to figure out where your official residence at home is. If you Google “united states citizen abroad vote register,” you can refer to pages based at US embassies around the globe that tell you what you need to do and what criteria you can use when you have to make judgment calls. It’s a multi-step but not baffling process. I’m far from the first person to say this, but if you can’t bestir yourself to take an hour or two (for someone who’s lived a very complicated life) to figure out how to vote, I don’t see why anyone should have to come after you.

    2 Responses to “投票”

    1. taro says:

      ” We believe that Americans, when allowed to decide for themselves, free of any political pressure, will choose to vote Republican.” It’d be nice if the DAJ site struck that tone, but that’s a quibble.)”
      The Republicans say that because more the 80% of the US voters in Japan ***who will vote*** are military and fatcat expats on the “Package”. The Republicans (and Dems) in such voting districts have ALWAYS pushed voting registration since it favors them.
      PS: Terri MacMillan in Tokyo fun lady and you might bump into her at the Pink Cow Shibuya http:// http://www.thepinkcow.com/jpn/map.html or Tokyo Bloggers meetups.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Oh, I wasn’t saying the Republicans were necessarily saying that out of purity of heart; I do think it’s a good message, though.
      And you’re right that neither Democrats Abroad Japan nor Republicans abroad Japan would have a reason to exist if it weren’t going to try to get out the vote for its party. Nevertheless, there is something markedly different about the overall tone this year, since there’s been a lot of press in the States indicating that absentee ballots may be decisive.
      BTW, is that Pink Cow affiliated with the one in Harajuku, tucked off Omotesando-dori? Haven’t been there in years.