Where’s the party tonight? At the US consulate in Mumbai, venue: Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC). The Consulate is ready to throw a swinging red, white ‘n’ blue-themed party for US citizens in Mumbai, on Monday October 15 from 4 pm to 7 pm, extending the partying weekend for a day longer.
The Consulate General in the city calls its tri-colour bash, a, “Voting party, for US citizens who wish to cast their absentee ballots for the 2012 Presidential Election.” (The Presidential election is to take place in the US on November 6). US citizens who have registered to receive absentee ballots from their voting states will be able to drop their votes into a star-spangled ballot box. Consular staff will be on hand to assist US citizens who have questions about the registration or voting processes. The Consulate will then forward the voted ballots to the US to ensure that they are received and counted in time for the November 6 election.
Incidentally, the Consulate carpenters and painters have created the box, which measures one meter square, and which a Consulate spokesperson says, “Will be placed in a secure area until the next day, when the Consulate will send the voted ballots to election officials throughout the United States for counting.” The Consulate elaborates, “Americans are not actually voting at the Consulate. US citizens who join us for our October 15 party will be delivering voted absentee ballots already sent to them by their states of voting residence, or in cases where their ballots have not yet arrived, they will be completing and submitting emergency write-in ballots.
The Consulate will forward these ballots via international express courier service to the various state election offices for voting on Election Day. They may drop off their voted ballots for us to forward to the US any time prior to the election, not just at the party. The party was planned to give Americans an opportunity to enjoy a party and place their absentee ballots into a festive ballot box alongside fellow citizens, rather than simply putting it in a mailbox, or sending electronically (also an option in many states).”
For those who may be at sea about absentee ballots, there is information about absentee voting and a downloadable absentee ballot application on the Federal Voting Assistance Program website called www.fvap.gov. The Consulate has earlier hosted similar, smaller events to facilitate Americans’ sending their absentee ballots, but with a big, sprawling complex at the BKC, the Consulate has more space than it did before and is taking this party to another level altogether. “But even in years when the Consulate didn’t host a party, US citizens have always been able to vote from overseas by absentee ballot,” clarifies the spokesperson.
While the US elections are on November 6, the Consulate says, “We are holding our Voting Party three weeks in advance of the elections to allow sufficient time for all voted ballots to be received by state and local election offices.”
Right now, responses for the party are still coming in but the Consulate says, “We expect several hundred voters to attend to cast their ballots. But of course many more will send their votes directly to their voting states.”
As the debates heat up and USA gets into ballot mode, tomorrow, Wednesday October 10, a voting officer will be available on the American Citizen Services India Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/AmericanCitizenServicesIndia, to answer questions about voting overseas, from 11 am to noon.
All through the year, the city’s US Consulate is abuzz with some activity or the other. From gay rights-centric events to film showings, the Consulate has become the venue for gatherings for a variety of purposes.
Now, once again, a soiree with a serious purpose is ready to take place at the BKC — Mumbai’s recent commercial district with corporates who have made the leap from SoBo to BKC, hospitals that have mushroomed to absorb a new demographic in the city’s suburbs, malls that claim to be part of BKC even though they are at least 20 minutes away from the hub and international schools that have given this address a certain snob value.
On Monday, October 15, when most of the city is still trying to shake its first-day-of-the-week blues away, a clutch of US citizens will make this corner of the city a little like home. The US elections may be many miles and three weeks away but in a shrinking world, as the global lens focuses its binoculars on the US election, Uncle Sam will seem closer than ever at the BKC. In star-spangled spirit, at least.
The invite list is still open; US citizens must RSVP to VoteMumbai@state.gov to attend. For more information, visit the US Consulate General Mumbai’s Facebook page and click on the “American Citizen” Services tab. The festivities will take place from 4 pm to 7 pm in the Consulate’s visa waiting area.
The next United States presidential election is to be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. It will be the 57th quadrennial presidential election in which presidential electors, who will officially elect the president and the vice president of the United States on December 17, 2012, will be chosen. Incumbent President Barack Obama is running for a second and final term during this election. His major challenger is former Massachusetts Governor, Republican Mitt Romney. Two other candidates have attained ballot access sufficient enough to mathematically win the election by a majority of the electoral college: former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee; and Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee.
Eye on India
India does not have an absentee ballot system for all citizens. In a restricted sense, The Representation of the People Act-1950 section 20(8) allows people such as people on polling duty and serving in armed forces to vote in absentia through postal means. Section 20 of the RPA-1950 disqualifies a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) from getting his/her name registered in the electoral rolls. Consequently, it also prevents an NRI from casting his/her vote in elections to the Parliament and to the State Legislatures. In August 2010, Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill-2010, which allows voting rights to NRIs was passed in the Parliament with subsequent gazette notifications and came into force on February 10, 2011. With this, NRIs are able to vote in Indian elections but have to be physically present at the polling booth at the time of voting. Recently, several civic society organisations have urged the government to amend the RPA act to allow NRIs and people on the move to cast their vote through absentee ballot system.