Saturday, September 27, 2008

We cast our ballots

On the heels of the presidential debate in Mississippi, I imagine many Americans are eager to vote and anticipating trips to the polls in November. Not us! Dan and I—along with a mess of other US citizens—voted for the US president today in downtown San JosĂ©. What a fascinating and unusual experience!

We left home this morning to navigate our way through the crazy SJ traffic and a city without street signs. Our friends the Reidys were close behind us, and we had no problem getting to the parking lot just down from the hotel. (Many thanks to our friend Dustin, who gave us some excellent directions to the Holiday Inn where we voted!)

A group of Americans called Democrats Abroad generously hosted the vote, open to members of all parties.

When we got to the hotel's third floor, where the voting was held, I realized how unusual it was to be in such a large group of Americans here in Costa Rica—most of us clutching passports, US driver licenses, and social security cards. We waited in a short line with our friends until we were able to vote.

There were no polling booths, levers to pull, or hanging chads today. Instead we voted by federal write-in absentee ballot. Inside a conference room were several large, round tables, each seating about eight voters and a couple of facilitators. People entered in shifts as the facilitators helped us vote.

Dan and I began by addressing federally-issued envelopes to the Butler Country Board of Elections in Hamilton, Ohio. Then we had to enter a bunch of personal info and make a voter's declaration/affirmation, stating we are US citizens who may legally vote in the general election.

Finally, we voted, actually writing in the names of our candidates. Someone asked Dan how to spell Palin, while I heard an elderly woman ask for a reminder of Biden's last name. There wasn't really any secrecy to it at all—I could easily look next to me on both sides and see who my neighbors were voting for, but that was OK. It was just such a different experience and I felt very excited about doing something so thoroughly American as voting for our president.

Once everything was filled out I folded my ballot, placed it in a special "security envelope," and sealed it. The sealed security envelope and the voter's declaration/affirmation were then put into another envelope (the one addressed to Hamilton, Ohio) and sealed.

Lastly, Dan and I walked over by the windows to place our envelopes into a box and we were done. Off to the US go our ballots!

The ride home was slow but interesting as Dan drove and I navigated (sort of!) our way down narrow streets cramped with taxis, buses, and crowds of Saturday morning shoppers. I thought I'd include this picture Erin took to show you how close behind us the buses like to be (nearly touching our car, here). Finally we got through the congestion and were on our way to Multiplaza EscazĂș for some lunch, pleased that we voted and that the girls, once again, were able to see democracy in action and how much we value our right as Americans to vote.

(Of course we didn't let Lauren drive—she is 10 years away from driving legally in Costa Rica, actually, with the driving age being 18—but she thought she was funny getting behind the wheel of our car in the parking lot. Our friend Brendan commented that at age eight, Lauren would probably be a better driver than a lot of people legally driving here in this country. If only she could reach the pedals and see out the windshield at the same time!)


Lisa said...

That is so cool that you all voted for the US president from afar.

Justine said...

Wow, I'm really surprised that they even let you take pictures while you were in there voting! What a neat experience that must have been though!

Justine :o )