For Americans living abroad, voting in US elections has always required extra patience and planning.
But now as the coronavirus shut downs commercial flights, mail service in some countries and regular operations in many US embassies, many American citizens living overseas face significant new obstacles to voting in November’s election.
US embassies have taken to social media to remind Americans based abroad how to exercise their right to vote, but a few are not allowing voters to drop off their completed ballots at the embassy – a common practice in the past.
A State Department official told CNN that “in limited cases, embassies may temporarily pause ballot collection, due to local conditions and to safeguard the health and safety of U.S. citizens.”
A notice on the website of the US Embassy in Moscow said currently US citizens are unable to drop off completed ballots at the embassy but can mail them there as long as they arrive by October 2. Other embassies, like Abu Dhabi, are requiring citizens to make an appointment to drop off their ballots.
US citizens in Cuba face a particularly challenging situation as international mail services have been suspended and the US Embassy in Havana has said it would not accept ballots there.
“Currently, due to COVID-19 restrictions and the Havana airport closure, the U.S. Embassy in Havana is not able to accept ballots from U.S. citizens residing in Cuba,” said a statement from the US Embassy in Havana. “There is no reliable means to send the paper ballots to the U.S. at this time.”
Patricia Morgovsky, an American living in Havana with Cuban fiancée, said she was hoping to receive her ballot by email and return it by fax. While she said she would have preferred the US Embassy help an American stranded by coronavirus to vote, she said she would figure out what to do.
“I’m angry and feel they should be providing a solution,” she told CNN. “But I never really expected them to do so.”