Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
United States citizens residing in western Jamaica are being urged to exercise their democratic rights and register now to vote in the upcoming presidential election in that country.
American Citizen Services Chief Pauline Kastner told The Gleaner yesterday that a town-hall meeting called with US citizens for this afternoon at the Sunset Beach Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, St James, is to bring the important message that people should vote now that elections are coming up.
In addition, the citizens, who will get a chance to meet US Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater and her embassy staff, will be briefed on the services provided at the US Consular Agency at Whitter Village, Ironshore.
With a mere 17 days to go before the election, scheduled for November 6, Kastner said it was critical for voters to know that they have up until October 31 to register.
"In some cases, persons have up to November 5 to request their ballots," she said.
Kaster named two states - Florida and New York - where the deadline for registering had passed.
"There is still time for people to register and request their ballots," stressed Kastner, adding that "sometimes people think of the election but they don't think ahead that they need to register and that they need to request their ballots".
Some 2,000 US citizens who are eligible to vote reside in the western capital city. And even though they can't vote here in Jamaica, Kastner said the US Embassy was offering to assist with the absentee ballots.
Accordingly, there would be voting materials at the town-hall meeting for persons to cast their ballots.
"We'll take it for them and mail it to the United States on their behalf; they don't have to do that," she stated.
In the past, persons have turned up at the Consular Agency in Montego Bay and the embassy in Kingston on election day, thinking they can cast their votes then. However, voting is not possible at either the embassy in Kingston or the Consular Agency in Montego Bay.
Head of the agency in Montego Bay, Lisa Gallimore-Hyde, explained that the process was quite easy as persons just need to register online at www.fvap.gov, where an online wizard allows you to pick your state. "It tells you all the stuff that you have to do. In fact, in most states, you can even check to see if you are already registered right online and then all you have to do is just request your ballot," said Gallimore-Hyde.
Persons making queries may also contact the 24-hr help desk at 876-702-6000.