Letter from Rome
Vote By Ruth Ellen Gruber
ROME anxious questions and endless conver- heightened fears (on both sides) about
N early September I had lunch with sations. the eventual electoral outcome. Being
Mr. and Mrs. X, American ac- Voting from overseas, however, is physically removed from the main field
quaintances who live year-round really not very difficult. Rules vary of combat, we followed the campaign
in Italy. They are a well-off, well- from state to state, but in gen- from afar. But we were more emo-
educated couple who retired some eral, if you live abroad tionally involved than in pre-
years ago to a beautiful home in the roll- you are eligible to vote vious electoral seasons.
ing hills of Umbria. It was still two months in Federal elections in We may have missed out
until November, but like most Americans the last place you lived on the razzmatazz rallies
(and many non-Americans) I know, the in the U.S. There are Web and, for the most part, the
upcoming Presidential election weighed sites, phone lines, orga- myriad ads, billboards, but-
heavily on my mind. nizations, and even peo- tons, and bumper stickers.
From the intensity of the political ple you can meet to help ,
But satellite TV e-mail, blogs,
message, to the historic character of the fill out the forms. YouTube, and other Internet
candidates, to the sheer spectacle of it all, Nevertheless, back in ear- offerings brought us the big
the contest was compelling. On the basis ly September, “Did you get picture, plus an av-
of my travels, I think it is safe to say that your ballot yet?” was a alanche of the local
Barack Hussein Obama versus John Mc- question that was, and arcane.
Cain became the most mesmerizing, most among my friends, Tina Fey’s ap-
publicly engaged, global drama of recent constantly on the tips pearances on Sat-
memory. of our tongues. We urday Night Live?
To us Americans out here on the worried that time, I saw them all. The
periphery, the mechanics of actually distance and what- Daily Show? Ditto.
voting represented a particularly press- ever else might crop Sarah Palin on the
ing issue. The registration process; re- up would somehow WOLF BLITZER stump? Sure. The
questing an absentee ballot; fax and prevent us from voting. Almost daily po- debates? Of course. I woke up at 3 A.M.
e-mail possibilities; the vagaries of the litical e-mails warned that if we failed to to watch two of them live, but I easily
postal system; fears that, once filled in register in time we might lose our chance caught the others on replays or the Web. I
and mailed, one’s ballot might not ar- of casting a ballot.
rive, and if it did arrive, would not be In a way, this concern was a