BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA — I knew when I decided to go abroad this semester that voting absentee would be part of the experience.
I registered to receive my absentee ballot before I left and once I was abroad, I waited early for the email. I was sad I would not be home in the U.S. for the first presidential election in which I could vote, but at the same time, voting absentee from another country is a very interesting experience as well.
On Oct. 4, the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires offered an official day when people could come and cast their ballots. I went a week later on Oc. 12 to the embassy and with a friend from my program.
After three months in Argentina, it was like stepping into another world. Reflecting on the experience, Kate LeFebvre, from the University of Colorado, said, “As soon as I walked into the doors and went through security, I felt as if I was back in the United States. Everything felt the same: the smell of the building, the way it looked and the atmosphere. It made me feel as if I was home.”
The security was a lot stricter than anywhere in Argentina. We had to show our passports to a man behind a window that was tinted so we couldn’t see him and then leave our phones and cameras and water with the security guards. We were not allowed to take pictures of the embassy, nor could the guards use our camera to take pictures of us. The architecture even reminded me of the government buildings in DC. It was an amazing experience to feel like we weren’t that far from home and we were still very much connected to our home country.
I was not expecting to find out how important this election is to a lot of people in Argentina. When I think about it now, it seems so obvious that an election for the head of state for a world power would be incredibly important to every other country, but I had never thought of our elections in that way.
Within the first couple of weeks abroad, my host dad, who is a political science professor at University of Buenos Aires, asked me if my real parents were Democrats or Republicans. I answered they are Democrats and that so am I. He immediately smiled and breathed a huge sigh of relief and said, “Thank God. If you had said you were a Republican, I would have said, ‘Oh, that’s nice,’ but I am so happy that you are a Democrat.”
He then asked if I was going to vote and if I was going to vote for Obama. I proudly smiled and said I was just waiting for my absentee ballot to arrive.
It is part of Latin American culture that people ask types of questions that we might not in the U.S. There have been other instances where Argentines have freely expressed their desire for Obama to win the election. Some friends of my host parents were over for dinner, and when I said I was from the United States, they asked if I was going to vote for Obama. During an academic panel for a class, one of the panelists, who works toward cultural equality for African decedents in Argentina, expressed his wish that Obama win the election as well.
This election has been a very eye-opening experience to the situation that other countries are in when we elect our new president. Foreigners do not have a vote in our election and yet our election choices can drastically impact their lives. That is something I believe more Americans should be aware of and consider on Election Day.