How to Vote Like a Diplomat

If you plan to vote by mail, plan ahead.

United States Postal Service Flyer received September 15

My parents lived overseas for 17 years of their adult lives in the service of the US Information Agency (USIA), America’s post-WWII public relation arm. Between 1955 and 1966, we were in Venezuela, Italy, and Colombia. From 1971 to 1977, we were in Spain and Italy (yes, lucky!).

Five presidential elections took place in the United States while we were abroad. My parents voted in each one. In fact, while who they voted for was a private matter, voting was part of their job description.

Dad’s mission of seeking hearts and minds for America drew heavily on our democratic institutions — freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, free elections. Each national election was an opportunity for Dad and his colleagues to showcase American democracy — his office set up watch parties at the USIA cultural center in Caracas when Eisenhower was re-elected in 1956, in Bogotá when Johnson was elected in 1964, in Madrid when Nixon was re-elected in 1972.

How do americans vote overseas?

Now all U.S. citizens can receive their blank ballots electronically. Depending on the state in which you are eligible to vote, you may get your ballot by email, fax, or internet download.

American Embassy, London UK

Paper and mailing was the only way in my parents’ day. Now, electronic communications are how business is done. The Federal Voting Assistance Program works to ensure that armed services members, their families, and other Americans living overseas have the tools they need to do so.

Must diplomats belong to The party in power?

My parents were registered Independents during their time in the Foreign Service. Only the topmost levels at the US State Department and other Federal agencies are political appointees, subject to the approval of the US Senate.

What happens to a diplomat when a new administration comes in?

Most foreign service employees — like civil service employees — are selected through a competitive, merit-based process. The non-political cadre of professional employees ensures the continuity of the engine of government when elections usher in changes in leadership. The policy priorities will change, and the engine will march to a different beat.

My parents entered the Foreign Service under Eisenhower — who created the US Information Agency which attracted my father with his PR and journalism experience — and served under Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter.

How to vote like a diplomat?

Plan ahead.

If you’re voting by mail, contact your local elections office to request a paper ballot today. If you aren’t sure how to do that, click When you get your ballot, complete it carefully and return it at least a week before Election Day.

Above all, vote. It’s the most patriotic thing you can do. Democracy itself is on the ballot.

I am making calls to encourage voters. Here’s where you can find out more about this.

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