US ELECTIONS

Voting by mail in US Elections: who is eligible?

President Donald Trump is looking for four more years, while Joe Biden is looking to bring the country together under the Democratic banner. Can you help decide their fate?

Elecciones USA 2020: cómo votar por correo

With just two months before the next presidential elections in the United States take place, one of the great unknowns is how the coronavirus pandemic is going to play its part. But, at the end of the day (whatever day that turns out to be in what could be a delayed count) it is the voters that matter. So let’s look at who can actually do that…

Who is and isn't eligible to vote?

Everyone knows that the United States of America is a proud democracy but what many people do not realise is that not everyone is entitled to cast a vote. Unfortunately the Founding Fathers were not particularly clear on this point when writing the US Constitution. Effectively elections came down to state control, said the Constitution, but Congress could overrule them.

Since then, however, numerous amendments (seven to be precise) and law changes have been made to bring us to where we are today. From removing restrictions on voting due to race or gender, to changing the age requirement down to 18 from 21, battles have been ongoing to create a somewhat fair system. That said, the introduction in some states of voter ID and other practices brought in to help a particular party, are still in use.

And there are other differences depending on what state you live in. Criminals in Vermont, for example, can vote while they are still in prison, while in Florida those felons have to wait until they have paid their debt to society before heading to the ballot box. In other states a criminal record means you can only cross your fingers and hope for the winner you wanted.

Non-US citizens cannot vote in presidential elections, so you can ignore what President Trump said about that, as it was changed in law back in 1996. Puerto Ricans are able to vote in local elections and in presidential primaries - and why not? They are American citizens after all. In saying that, if they want to be involved in congressional or presidential elections - like the one coming up - they would have to be living in a new US state.

So whether you want another four years for Trump or a new start with Joe Biden, make yourself heard. Assuming you're eligible...