Voting From Abroad – US Student Complete Guide

From the COVID-19 pandemic to the fight for racial justice in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, this year has had no shortage of crises in the US. As a an American student studying abroad in Sweden, thousands of miles away from the pressing times and moments in my home country, it can feel at times as if I am disconnected from the political reality and movement occuring in the US.

Although it is not possible for me to join rallies in the US in person, it is very much possible to stay connected virtually and make your voice heard in EVERY election; presidential, midterms, special, and annual local elections. This post serves as a guide for American students on how to make sure you’re registed, recieve your ballot, and make your vote count.

Every vote matters, and even from Sweden, you can help change the course of history:

Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request

First and foremost, if you are a U.S. citizen living abroad, you have to apply to receive absentee ballots every single year. For example, if you applied in 2019, it does not automatically guarantee that you will receive your absentee ballots in 2020 as well. You must REAPPLY every year!

You can find the application for absentee ballots on the US Vote Foundation website. Once on the website, click on “Register to Vote Absentee Ballot” shown below in the red circle.

Once you click on this link, you select “Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request” for overseas citizen voters, and then click continue.

This leads you to a page where you fill out your personal information including your last U.S. residence, and a form which you sign and then can submit to your local board of elections in the U.S. You can opt to receive ballots throughout the calendar year for all elections or just the general election in November. Additionally, you have the option to either obtain your ballot via email or through the mail.

Whether to choose an emailed ballot or a ballot sent to you through post, in my opinion is dependent on the turnover of the election. With the democratic primary for example, I had enough time to recieve the ballot through post and then send it back through post. With the genera election, however; I needed to get the ballot emailed to me, so I would have enough time to print the ballot out and send it back through the post with only a month until the general election. It is way easier to have the ballot sent to you in the mail, but the extra processing and shipping time is what you need to consider when trying to make sure it gets back to the US in time.

The overall process and timeline of submitting the absentee application, having the ballot sent to you, receiving the ballot, and sending it back to the US, is important to keep in mind as most absentee ballots MUST be received or postmarked by the election day of which you are voting.

Sending your Absentee Ballot back to the US

Once you receive your ballot in the mail, or you have printed it out from email, fill it out, follow the instructions for sealing the ballot, and then send it back to the U.S. via postnord at your local ICA grocery store in Norrköping or Linköping. WITH THE PROPER POSTAL STAMP ATTACHED! Included in the ballot sent, is a website and pin code in which you can track the status of your ballot, similar to tracking the status of a package.

Tips for Printing IF You Recieve Your Ballot by Email

This year, printing the ballot from email was a bit of confusion for me. Typically the ballot in pdf form is a bit longer than your typical A4 paper size used for most documents. To print the ballot and voter identification document properly, usually you need to print on Legal size (8½ × 14 inches or 22 × 36 centimeters).

Unfortunately, most printers at LiU do not carry this size of paper, so you will need to find a printing store somewhere in the local area to print the ballot and identification document. Once you have printed out the ballot and identification document, the envelope can be simply bought at any postal store, and you just need to cut out the address, return address, and postal stamp pieces of the official emailed pdf envelope, and paste them onto the correct parts of the store-bought envelope.

You can see an example of my envelope cut outs that are taped on below:

Staying connected to the political times of your country while studying abroad really could not be easier. Make your voice heard, every year, in every election, even from thousands of miles away!

Happy Voting! #YayDemocracy #Vote4Change

Data Analytics for Smart Cities

Throughout my time at LiU in the Intelligent Transport Systems and Logistics program, I have tried to follow a track of mostly smart city and IoT related courses. In previous posts on my individual blog from last year, I talked a bit about the courses I had taken in IoT and smart cities, where I learned to create a citizen reporting application and had the chance to work with Arduino and Raspberry Pi communication. In this autumn semester I had the opportunity to expand this themed instruction with the course “Data Analytics for Smart Cities”.

In this class, the focus of the education was to learn how to use data in various statistical methods to apply relevant concepts in the area of decision making for smart cities. With combined video and classroom lectures, along with laboratory components in the software R, this course walked students like myself, through an understanding of statistical analysis with theory applications in mock datasets with R.

As this was my first time ever using R, I was a bit nervous on how to go about completing the labs, but after a whole year of working with MATLAB and other programming languages in the ITS program, working with R was actually quite easy.

Here above is an example of Principal Component Analysis for analyzing the level of urban population and various crimes for different states in the US. Another example below shows a simple analysis of data using the K-Means Clustering algorithm.

In the field of smart cities, data is everything! It’s the driver of making more educated decisions about how different resources, people, and traffic can be organize more efficiently and effectively. This class acts as a crash course in understanding how to use data for more complicated analyses, so that as engineers, we can help cities be designed and organized better.

Although this was just a beginner course for data analytics for smart cities, I plan to work with applications in R a bit more to get a better handle on this subject for future thesis work and employment.

 

Adam Grachek, USA

Intelligent Transport Systems & Logistics