Life as a Parisian Débutante: Rock Le Vote!

By Hilary Van Hoose on October 11, 2012

 

 

I can’t help but marvel at the fact that I’m able to vote in a U.S. election all the way from France! When I saw that big ol’ manila envelope waiting for me in the mail slot at the ACCENT center on September 27th, I was so excited that I waived it at some of my classmates saying, “Look, look! My ballot and voting stuff came already!” To my surprise, this statement was met with a total absence of reaction. “Maybe they didn’t hear me,” I thought to myself. So, I tried again with, “I only sent in the registration form a couple of weeks ago. Isn’t that cool?” More silence. “Hmm, maybe their just ignoring me in particular,” I supposed. So, I tested the theory by quietly asking, “Where are you visiting this weekend?” To this, I was met with a flurry of replies.

The possibility slowly began to dawn on me that these folks were deliberately not replying before because they don’t vote, or even want to. It’s possible that some of you reading this might share their non-voting philosophy. I’ve heard some people say that they’re “turned off” of voting and other forms of participating in politics by the language of superlatives and flat-out lying that’s become so typical of both politicians and the news media. I understand how tiring this can be, but please consider the message of this excerpt from an excellent book intro:

“In one context or another, we are all powerless. The society is simply too complex. Contemplating participation in power in most contexts — environmental, political, social, economic, technological — invites anxiety. Yet, to throw up one’s hands in defeat guarantees anguish and deprivation. Individual obligations absorb daily time and attention, of course, but ignoring our civic obligations, our public citizen duties, profoundly affects our daily lives as well. Most people have developed their own rationalization for not entering civil society as an engaged citizen, such as lack of time or know-how, or concern about slander or retaliation.”

The American government is based upon the idea of democracy. In order for a democracy to function, huge numbers of every kind of person must participate in local and/or national politics in some way (by voting, for example). If too many people fall into a state of apathy and inaction, causing only a small number of people to participate in a democratically based system, the government can only hear and react to the participation of those few taking the time and effort to be active citizens.

Everyone has limited free time, but if you are willing to try expending the least effort possible to be an active citizen, registering and voting while studying abroad is actually insanely easy. Even if you’re super lazy, or easily confused, sites like VoteFromAbroad.org simplify the language in the form (kinda like TurboTax for voting) and give you a filled PDF to print and mail!

So, hey, globe-trotters! Let’s do something really worldly and ROCK THE VOTE!

 

* Update: For extra fun, it turns out you can also vote without paying for postage by bringing your absentee ballot to the American embassy in Place de Concorde. They just look at your passport, swab your envelope to make sure there’s nothing harmful in it, and let you drop it in the ballot box to be mailed.

 

A student, Californian, and renaissance woman; Hilary's most recent experiences include being the official Programs Abroad blogger for UCSC representing France, a reporter for Banana Slug News, an intern at CTV, and an award-winning artist, baker, photographer, and filmmaker at the Monterey County Fair. Much of her early life was spent hiking, kayaking, and exploring with her family. After studying at UCLA for summer, studying abroad in Paris, and graduating from UC Santa Cruz with her B.A. in Film and Digital Media in 2013, Hilary left Uloop and began her first semester in USC's prestigious film & television production MFA program.

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