Voting From Abroad Can Be Complicated, But This Texan Says It’s Worth The Effort

The sounds of Texas.

By Joy Diaz & Caroline CovingtonOctober 9, 2020 3:00 pm, , , ,

Asa Cotterman is a Texan living 5,000 miles away from home, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This year, he’s determined to vote, but doing so has become more complicate than he’d expected. Aside from the language barrier, Cotterman has had to negotiate stalled postal services in Argentina and the United States because of the pandemic, as well as complicated rules for submitting a backup ballot in case there are issues with his first one. And paying for shipping to make sure the ballot gets to election officials in time can be costly – upwards of a couple hundred dollars in Argentine currency, he says. But it matters to him because millions of Americans live and work abroad; they represent about 3% of the total vote, but Cotterman says few actually participate.

(Here’s guidelines on how to vote while abroad from the Association of Americans Resident Overseas.)

“You fill out a form online, and then they send you your ballot, and then you’re supposed to fill out the ballot and mail it back. However, the post office here in Argentina is very slow, in addition to extreme mail delays in the United States. Often times mail doesn’t even arrive.”


Asa Cotterman at Machu Picchu in Peru.

“There’s a backup ballot process, but it’s incredibly complicated. … I couldn’t find a printing service that could feed this A4 envelope into their printer. You have to go to like a special print studio, like the type that might, you know, print a whole lot of leaflets or signage. So, you have to contract a print studio to print a single envelope for you.”


“I’ve managed the Spanish, I’ve managed the PDF files and all the weird registration and the strange instructions sent to me by the government. Now, during COVID quarantine in Buenos Aires, where the mail is largely shut down, I have to find a way to get this sent to Texas registrar – the county voter registrar.”


“If this ballot arrives and I have done something wrong, like filled out the date wrong, or if they just don’t like my signature because it has changed over time … then the whole thing was a waste. I imagine most people will give up unless they are extremely motivated.”

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