The story of American society is one of immigration – typically into the US, but there are also an estimated 6 – 8 million Americans living abroad. In recent years, 60% of eligible voters in the US have cast ballots in presidential election years, which makes the 12% 'turnout' among Americans living abroad who vote look positively shameful.
There is no concrete figure on how many Americans are currently living in Ireland, though there are an estimated 1.6 million Americans residing in Europe. Each year, approximately 8,000 US students study abroad in Ireland, and there are at least 250 American retirees hoping to spend their golden years in the Emerald Isle. Then, of course, you also have to take into account the great number of Americans working in Ireland; the voluntary expats; and the Irish who were born in the US (if you are a US citizen but never lived there long-term, there are a number of states where you can still register to vote if your parents were residents).
Could the votes of Americans living in Ireland sway the entire election? Probably not. But in an election where the presidential polls are extraordinarily close, every eligible vote is important. So, in case you need a little nudge, here are the top five reasons why Americans living in Ireland should make sure to vote in this election:
1. Because every vote matters and it’s your right to do so
We get it – when you’re not living in the US to begin with, it’s easy to feel blasé about the country’s political future. But 2016 is turning out to be a spectacularly close election year, with the outcome of many swing states still anyone’s guess, so there’s really never been a better time to exercise your voting rights.
2. Because it’s easy
I speak from personal experience during the 2008 election – casting an absentee ballot is so easy! All you have to do is register – either by picking the forms up at your local US Embassy or Consulate, or obtain the form electronically. Once you’re approved, you’ll be sent a ballot to fill out and send to your election office. Worried you left it too late and it won’t get there before November 8? You can use a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot to make sure your vote is counted. Visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program website for more info.
3. Because your Irish counterparts living abroad can’t
Ireland doesn’t permit absentee voting. That’s right, you read that correctly. While all an American citizen abroad has to do in order to vote is register and send in a ballot, Irish citizens living in the US have to physically transport themselves back to Ireland if they want to vote in an election there. Even Irish citizens who are only in the US on a student or year-long graduate visa can’t vote from abroad – that’s why so many dedicated Irish voters took a trip home to vote in the 2015 Marriage Equality Referendum, just to have their voices heard.
4. Because you might want to come back someday
Those who plan to stay in Ireland long term probably feel the least incentive to vote in a US election. True, you are happily ensconced in Ireland at the moment, and long may you enjoy it. But what if, someday, you have to return to the US? Maybe your visa won’t be re-approved, maybe there’ll be an exciting job prospect, or urgent personal matters, or what if you just get bored with Ireland? (Kidding, that could never happen!) In any case, you might want to make sure that the America you return to is the place you want to be.
5. Because if you’re not happy with the outcome, you’ll be justified in complaining
You didn’t vote when you could have, and now you’re bemoaning the election results from afar? You’ve no one to blame more than yourself.