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US expats in Costa Rica can vote in person for presidential primary

On Tuesday New Hampshire voters go to the polls to cast their ballots in the first U.S. presidential primary of the 2016 race, a week after the Iowa caucus. It’s too late to participate in these nominating contests, but for many U.S. voters living abroad there’s still time to cast an absentee ballot for the U.S. presidential primaries.

Super Tuesday, the day with the largest number of primary elections this year, is scheduled for March 1 with other states awarding their party delegates in June. And Democrats in Costa Rica can cast their ballots in person for the party’s Global Presidential Primary next month.

South Carolina’s primaries is the next one this month, and absentee ballots can be accepted up until the close of business hours on Feb. 19 for the Republican primary, and Feb. 26 for the Democratic primary. Primaries are held on Feb. 20 and Feb. 27 for Republicans and Democrats, respectively. It is too late to register as a new voter for these primaries.

Voters who want to vote in their state’s primaries should click here and head over to the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s website. There, they can fill out a Federal Post Card Application to request an absentee ballot. Depending on a voter’s state, they can request an absentee ballot via the FCPA and submit that ballot electronically. Regardless if the state accepts scanned or faxed versions of the FPCA, a printed version should be sent by post mail.

Voters can also use the Vote from Abroad website to automatically fill out the FPCA with the address of the voter’s polling center printed on the envelope. Vote from Abroad is affiliated with Democrats Abroad, but anyone can use the free service to request and fill out an absentee ballot request.

If an absentee ballot does not arrive in time, voters can fill out and submit a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). Keep in mind that the FWAB must be mailed to the voter’s local election commission, so be sure to submit it in time for snail mail to arrive.

Deadlines for registration and receipt of absentee ballots and other rules, such as whether a voter must indicate their political party affiliation to participate in a primary, are different for every state. Click here to review the rules by state.

Remember, if you’re registered in a state that holds a caucus instead of a primary – like Nevada’s later this month – you’ll need to be there in person to participate.

Democrats in Costa Rica who don’t want to mess with an absentee ballot can participate in the “Global Presidential Primary” between now and March 8. Democrats Abroad will host polling stations in 40 countries around the world, including Costa Rica, in March to help choose 17 delegates who will represent Democrats Abroad at the nomination convention in Philadelphia in July.

Democrats Abroad Costa Rica Chair Kathy Rothschild told The Tico Times that expats here should consider voting in the global primary because their delegates will promote issues specific to U.S. citizens living abroad. Some of the issues that Democrats Abroad delegates would support include access to Medicare benefits abroad, “safe harbor” status regarding the Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report (FBAR) and Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA) reform.

During the first week of March, global primary ballots can be cast via email, fax or post mail. In-person voting is possible at five polling centers across Costa Rica:

March 1,  11 a.m.-3 p.m.: Casa Little Theatre Group in Escazú, San José
March 2, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.: Centro de la Cultura in Grecia, Alajuela
March 3, 7 a.m.-2 p.m.: Pérez Zeledón Feria in San Isidro de el General, San José
March 4, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.: Jamie Peligro Books in Quepos, Puntarenas
March 5, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.: Tin Jo Restaurant in downtown San José

Global primary ballots can be cast via email, fax, post mail or in-person at five polling centers across Costa Rica. If voters decide to vote in the global primary for president and in their home-state primary for other offices, they should leave the presidential candidate spot blank on their home-state ballot.

The Tico Times reached out to the Republican National Committee to ask if there was anything similar for GOP voters abroad but did not receive a response.

Every vote counts, just look at how the Iowa caucus turned out. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came away with a razor thin margin over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders there, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio came within one percentage point of then-GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. Don’t miss your chance to vote this year.

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