Asia, Malaysia, North America, USA

Voting from Abroad and Why I Almost Didn’t Vote

Before you read any further, I voted. But, to be perfectly honest, I really did not want to.

At some point, voting became the equivalent of a moral good in the U.S.. Probably because we learn in school about hunger strikes and the poll taxes and intimidation techniques preventing people of color from casting ballots.

“People are dying for their right to vote.”

I totally get it. No one needs to sell me on why we should vote.

But in the spirit of honesty, I had a sneaky temptation not to.

I wasn’t really going to act on it. It’s a bit like when you stand too close to a ledge and consider, briefly, jumping off. Or when you go Trick or Treating as a kid and someone leaves an entire bowl of candy out on the porch with a little sign that says, “Take One,” and you consider just dumping the whole thing in your pillow case.

But this election, the more I saw post after post on social media about voting, the more people contacted me to see if I had voted yet, the more my mom told me mail was piling up at their house urging me to go vote, the more I considered not doing it at all.

I know, I know. Saying you are tempted to not vote in this election is the epitome of “white privilege” and “democratic privilege” and all the types of privilege.

So I voted.

But I can also safely say I am starting to sympathize with the half of Americans who don’t.

Becoming Apolitical

My friend Jayson is really into those psych-business books that teach you to be a good manager. He read one that divided people into four managerial categories.

“You’re the weird type, Gwen,” he told me. “The rebel.”

I have long blondish hair and wear a lot of heels and dresses. I look more or less like a Kindergarten teacher. No one has ever really pegged me as a “rebel.”

The example of a “rebel” from his manager book was some real-world variant of Br’er Rabbit. Basically, to get the rebel to do anything, you have to use some reverse psychology.

And I think that is what is getting me this election. I’m already not invested in the candidates, or in US politics at all anymore, so then having people tell me I have to do something makes me very much not what to do it at all.

(I promise I really am 30 years old.)

Part of it is that I need an attitude adjustment, but maybe part of it is a lot deeper.

Save Our Country

This whole, “vote because we need to SAVE OUR COUNTRY” rhetoric isn’t working on me.

I don’t think things are going to get better or worse depending on who wins the election. Pessimistically, I think the damage is already done. I’ve been watching you guys from the outside in for a while now– you can change the president, but the rifts are already there. They’ve been there. It doesn’t matter who the president is.

From here, all the desperate Facebook posts and cajoling memes just looks like grasping at straws.

This is all incredibly pedantic coming from someone who literally left the U.S. five years ago and pops in every now and then to apply for a new visa or see my mom. I’m not trying to be judgmental. I really feel for my fellow Americans. The anxiety of “now” is way too much to handle. That’s why I just shut down and ignore the whole thing. It’s why I live in Malaysia now.

What I am saying is, I get why people are desperate.

But it’s hard to watch desperation. I’ve largely stopped using Facebook because I can’t stand the politics of it. The anxiety is building and building, but I don’t see it going anywhere. It’s just a sounding board of everyone else’s anxieties.

The Process of Voting from Abroad

If anyone is curious how voting from abroad works, it depends on your state. When I was living in India, my friend Priya had a lot more hurdles to jump through being from Kentucky than I did being from North Carolina.

In fact, North Carolina makes overseas voting incredibly easy. I’ve voted strung out on bhang in India, in the back of a taxi in China, and locked up in my apartment during a Pandemic in Malaysia.

So props to NC.

That’s not to say it isn’t secure. You basically have to contact your county voting office, then you get a special overseas voting form (part of this means you waive your right to voting anonymously), then you send that. They process it and send you a ballot via email and you just email it back.

It’s pretty simple, and there isn’t much risk of fraud because it is easier to track since you waive your right to privacy. However, if you do want privacy there are other avenues. I don’t know them because I am lazy.

The best part about voting abroad is talking to non-Americans about voting. People are really curious about our elections. Actually, people are just really curious about our politics. Half the time I get in a Grab (Asia’s Uber), the driver asks where I am from and then says,

“Oh! Donald Trump!”

I think perhaps this is why I stopped being so emotional about politics. Out of the U.S., almost no one gets emotional or worked up. They may be informed, but they are just curious. They aren’t emotional.

It brings back the fun of talking politics when people aren’t ready to fight and die for every issue, issues which shouldn’t even be partisan. It’s much more fun when you can discuss the other side without having to talk about how horrible or idiotic they are.

It’s politics, without the exhaustion.

But I sympathize. It sounds exhausting over there. Anyway, happy voting! See you on the other side.

And if you are unhappy with the results, feel free to come live with me in Malaysia.

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