Czechs living in US call for introduction of postal vote

The Czech parliament is set to debate a proposal that would make it easier for Czechs voting in elections abroad to cast their vote by post. A Czech community in the United States is petitioning for this to be made possible.

Photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech RadioPhoto: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio Marta McCabe from the Czech and Slovak School of North Carolina explains the reasons behind the initiative:

“It is a combination of factors. One is my own personal experience of having lived in the United States and being unable to participate in Czech elections, even though I have the right to do so and I would love to participate in these elections.

“There are many Czech citizens living abroad who are unable to participate in elections at home because of how the system is set up. They have to travel to vote in person and that is often too difficult for many people so they are practically unable to exercise their right to vote.”

You yourself live in North Carolina. Where is the closest Czech embassy or other Czech diplomatic mission and how long would it take you to travel there?

“In the U.S. there are four assigned diplomatic offices where Czech citizens can vote. For North Carolina the assigned one is in Washington D.C. That would take me about four to five hours by car or I would have to fly.

“But there are places that are much further removed from the assigned diplomatic office and it would take up to ten hours of driving to get there or even more.”

As a Czech living in the US, why do you actually want to vote in the Czech elections?

“I personally still consider myself a Czech citizen. I have Czech citizenship and I maintain very close ties with the Czech Republic. I travel back to Prague every summer and I stay for many weeks.

“I care about the country, follow the news and would just like to stay involved and do the best for the Czech Republic and one of the ways in which I can do that is to participate in the elections.”

Marta McCabe, photo: archive of Czech and Slovak School of North CarolinaMarta McCabe, photo: archive of Czech and Slovak School of North Carolina How many people have signed the petition so far?

“The petition started in the beginning of September and so far we have about 670 signatures. That’s a good number to begin with but we hope for a lot more.”

What are you planning to do next?

“We are hoping to draw the attention of the public to this effort of Czech citizens living abroad. We know that this is not the first petition out there but we are working together with these other initiatives.

“We want to send our petition to the Parliament to the representatives so that they are aware of the needs of Czechs living abroad. We also want to make sure that people in the Czech Republic are aware that many Czechs living abroad really care about the future of the country and would like to be involved.”