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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Living abroad is no excuse not to vote in the 2020 election. Here’s how to do it.

Hostility to mail-in voting means expats should start the process sooner rather than later

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Living abroad is no excuse for not voting in the U.S. election. Photo: AP

The U.S. mail is slowing down, which is a big problem for Americans who live in other countries but want a say in the 2020 elections.

Voters living abroad need to fill out ballots and some will be required to use snail mail to get those ballots back in time. Washington, however, is hostile to mail-in ballots.

The organization Democrats Abroad warns that the current administration is doing everything possible to slow down the mail, so time is of the essence.

Overtime has been eliminated for hundreds of thousands of postal workers while the U.S. Postal Service is reeling from mail delays and financial problems. Meanwhile, record numbers of mail ballots are expected because of the coronavirus pandemic.

And voting by mail is opposed by President Donald Trump, who has warned on Twitter that allowing more people to do so will result in a “CORRUPT ELECTION.”

So where does that leave the expat voter? Under pressure to get ballots in the mail ASAP, that’s where.

But it’s challenging, which is perhaps why in 2016 only 7% of U.S. citizens living in another country voted. That is a shame, according to Democrats Abroad.

The first step is to make sure you are still registered to vote, especially since some states have been purging voter lists.

Voters can visit vote.org to confirm they are registered to vote. Local election office contact information is at votefromabroad.org under the State Voting Guide tab. A pull-down menu will lead to specific information.

Most states allow voters to register online or via email, but to register in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Wisconsin or Wyoming, registrations are sent by mail.

If you are registered, a ballot can be sent by email — the most expedient way — by the voter’s hometown election official. Voters abroad cannot actually cast a vote on vote.org.

If you are not registered, there are two sites where U.S. citizens outside the country can rectify that situation: The official FVAP.gov site and the Democrats Abroad votefromabroad.org site, which is equally useful to voters from any party.

Registration forms need to be signed. If you are going to send it back electronically, you need to scan and upload your signature to your computer so that it can be inserted into the form.

“The process is fairly simple.” said Jose B. Carranza, who lives in Merida with his partner, Joe. “We came from California, a state with online registration and mail-in ballots. We’ve voted by mail for the last 20 years. Consequently, every election we go online to make sure we are registered to vote by mail. Then, it’s a question of looking forward to the arrival of the voting information material, to review, discuss, research if necessary before making our choices, marking our ballots, signing them, sealing them, and mailing them. The voter registration office in California has added a ‘Vote Tracking’ feature on their website. You signup for it online. I did so, and I’m excited to see how it works.”

You don’t need to have a U.S. mailing address or domicile to qualify. Your “voting address” is the address of the last place either of your U.S. citizen parents lived in the U.S. If both of your parents are U.S. citizens, you may use the last U.S. address of either U.S. parent.

If you are a civilian overseas voter, you will also see the question: “Are you abroad temporarily or indefinitely?” For most states, you will choose one of these three alternatives: “I intend to return”; My return is uncertain”; or “Never resided.” Depending on the state, “never resided” voters may receive only a federal ballot or may receive the full state and federal ballot.

However, the “Never Resided” category is not applicable for the 13 states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois (non-military), Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah — that require registered voters to have resided in the state for a set amount of time. If you are registering to vote in one of those states, you will choose between: “I intend to return” or “My return is uncertain.”

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