With less than six weeks to go before the US decides to elect Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, Americans in Qatar are being urged to make sure their voices are heard.
To vote from Doha, citizens will first need to register to vote in their home state.
This should be done soon, as most states have an Oct. 10 deadline to receive voter registration forms ahead of the election on Nov. 8.
To ensure Qatar’s 15,000 Americans vote, the US embassy here is taking part in an international Absentee Voting Week initiative.
The drive runs from now until Oct. 3.
— U.S. Embassy in Qatar (@USEmbassyDoha) July 26, 2016
One of the most important things to know is that in order to be eligible to vote from abroad, US citizens must complete a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) every year.
So even if expats have previously registered, they must do so again in 2016 to be able to vote in federal elections.
That includes presidential elections, voting for US Senate and House of Representatives seats, and in primaries and special elections.
For many states, registration can be done online through the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP).
Citizens can select their state and then will be guided through the registration form, which allows them to request a ballot.
The US Embassy in Qatar is asking citizens to request electronic ballot forms if possible, although not all states accept these.
Absentee ballots have already started to be issued and registered voters should receive these at least 30 days before election day.
Voters registered in a state that doesn’t allow electronic ballots will have to mail their vote back to the US.
The application forms can be printed out at home or collected from the US embassy, and the ballots can be returned via the US Embassy in Al Luqta.
Once filled out, ballots should be put in postage-paid return envelopes and or in envelopes with sufficient US domestic postage. These should be addressed to the relevant local election official, the embassy said.
Americans can mail their FPCA cards and/or ballots by dropping them off at the embassy’s front gate consular window on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 10:30am to 11:30am and then again from 1pm to 3pm.
It normally takes around one to two weeks for mail to arrive in the US, the embassy added.
According to the advice on the FVAP site, if voters haven’t received their papers within 30 days, they can use the back-up system – the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot.
This enables voters to fill-in and return a paper ballot by mail.
More advice on how to vote is up on the US Embassy in Qatar’s website.
Voters are also being encouraged to spread the word through social media sites, using the hashtag #ProudOverseasVoter.
Embassies from Germany to Saudi Arabia have been part of the campaign:
— ACS Saudi Arabia (@KSA_ACS) September 24, 2016
— Ambassador Gidwitz (@USAmbBelgium) September 27, 2016
With many past elections decided by a margin of less than 0.1 percent, officials are campaigning to rally as many potential voters as possible.
This election has been a particularly heated one. Hillary Clinton is the first American female to run on a major political party’s ticket.
And her opponent Donald Trump is a controversial businessman who has been criticized for his views on women, homosexuals, Muslims and Mexicans, among others.
All states are required to count every absentee ballot as long as it is valid and reaches local election officials in time.