Voting abroad

Kevin Hawes

Doing one’s patriotic duty on voting day can make going to the DMV seem like a night out at the bars; however, for me, being overseas this election year required a whole other level of patience and tenacity to cast my ballot.

Every year I vote at my local station. Every year I must talk with my annoying, offensively noisy neighbor. And every year I understand less and less of whatever it is I’m reading. I keep writing on the bottom of the closing-poll form “more pictures please,” but my request falls on deaf ears.

This election year, I met Sen. Barack Obama at the Cleveland State University debate. After he signed my “Social Movements” textbook and said, “Oh, a sociologist? We can always use more!” I melted, thinking in my head, “I love you so much and I’m a political science major. Please give me a job!”

His charismatic power captured me. Never mind what he said in the debate, he increased the value of my book by at least 50 percent.

Months later, I called my local election board a week before departing. And six days after, followed their instructions. After filling out the form and making sure they had the right address to forward my ballot, I boarded my plane and flew to Germany.

As I watched the BBC broadcast and saw America, then Europe and Asia falling into financial crisis, I waited anxiously for my ballot to arrive. I called the board and they said they would have to get back to me, “But wait! I’m in Germ . (click).”

Luckily, the next day my ballot arrived. With pen in hand, I darkened the circles, carefully making sure to stay inside the lines and fully color each.

After the specific instructions had been completed, which, if not followed would negate my vote, I sealed the envelope and headed to “die Post” (the post office).

The line at the post office reached out the door and took 30 minutes. When my turn had come, it was time to use my awful German and surely get lost in translation for another 30 minutes.

“Ich m”chte diesen (I want to send this letter). Kannst du English sprechen?” (Can you speak English?) I said, as everyone turned to look at the American idiot.

“Nein, ich kann nicht English sprechen. (No, I can’t speak English). Was machen Sie? (What do you want)? Wo m”chten Sie diesen Brief verschicken? (Where do you want to send this letter)? USA? Fünf Euro bitte (Five Euros please),” said Dagmar, the postal worker.

I gave the nice lady 5 Euros (roughly $7) and left, uncertain whether my ballot would ever reach Ohio and uncertain if it would matter regardless. However, I stayed the course. I did my patriotic duty. And, I deserved a beer. Fortunately, beer in Bavaria is cheaper than water, which costs 3 Euros.

Kevin Hawes is a senior international relations major and a guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. He is currently studying abroad in Regensburg, Germany. Contact him at [email protected].