The 2020 US election is fast approaching. If you’re a US citizen abroad, and with the added concerns around Covid-19, this is certainly not the year to delay voting.
Wherever you are, help is at hand. Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), supports US citizens living abroad to vote absentee by providing information and resources about voting from abroad to service members and overseas citizens. According to the FVAP 2016 Report, there are approximately 5 million Americans based abroad, about 3 million of whom are eligible to vote. There are an additional 172,000 active duty personnel serving overseas. About 10% of eligible overseas voters requested ballots, and an estimated 7% ended up casting ballots in the 2016 Federal Election.
Hopefully, you’ve already requested your absentee ballot – that’s the crucial first step. So do it right now if you haven’t already. You still have time – and every state allows you to receive your ballot by email. Find out how to vote absentee as a US citizen abroad while you still have time
Once your ballot arrives, don’t hang on to it!
Here are four reasons to return your ballot the moment it arrives in your hands – or your email inbox.
- To make sure your voice is heard – Are you one of the three million Americans abroad who is eligible to vote? Want to be certain your voice will be heard? Then, return your ballot immediately! Turnout among eligible overseas voters was only 6.9 percent in the 2016 US election – and even lower for the 2018 mid-terms.
Maybe you’ve got lost in the voting process? Don’t worry. If you’ve requested a ballot but haven’t received it, ask your election office about its status. Hoping to save yourself some time by voting by email?
- For peace of mind amid the pandemic … Need or plan to return your ballot by mail? You have even more reason to act immediately. You can contact your local post office about possible delivery delays due to Covid-19 (more information from FVAP here).
So, what if your state only allows mail-in ballots and you’re worried about delays? FVAP suggests seeing if you can send your ballot by diplomatic pouch from a nearby Embassy or consulate.
Instructions for dropping your ballot off at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem or the Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv: As a last resort, eligible voters are permitted to drop off ballots at the American Citizen Services Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem or the Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv. Please note that it can take up to four weeks for mail to reach its destination if sent by Diplomatic Pouch. You must make sure your ballot is delivered to the embassy to meet your local voting district’s deadline for mailed ballots. Ballots can be dropped off at the American Citizen Services Unit at the U.S. Embassy Jerusalem from 9:00 AM-11:00 AM Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or at the Embassy Branch Office Tel Aviv from 8:00 AM-11:00AM on Tuesday and Thursday.
Please note that all visitors to the embassy are subject to a security screening and you will not be permitted to bring electronic devices, including cell phones, inside the facility. You may also want to check the latest list of countries to which the United States Postal Service (USPS) has suspended mail due to the pandemic.
The final recommended vote-by-date from abroad is October 13. But why leave it so long? If you want to feel sure your vote will count, return your ballot now!
- To get your “I Voted From Abroad” sticker! Voting absentee doesn’t mean you have to miss out on getting one of those “I Voted” stickers. In fact, as an American abroad who played your part in the democratic process, you can get a special version reading: “I Voted From Abroad”. You can display it on social media to let your friends and family know you voted. Perhaps your sticker will even motivate others to vote too.
- Because you have a ready-made back-up plan Are you running out of time? You can’t always count on everything working out as you expect. But when it comes to voting as an American abroad, you get a ready-made back-up ballot – so even if your requested ballot doesn’t arrive, you can still vote.
It’s called the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). Use this if your regular ballot doesn’t reach you in good time. A few states may allow you to vote via FWAB even if you haven’t already applied for a regular ballot.
Voting is a constitutional right that American citizens eighteen years and older can freely exercise. According to History.com, “Americans first began the custom of weekday voting in 1845, when Congress passed a federal law designating the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November as Election Day.
“Before then, states were allowed to hold elections any time they pleased within a 34-day period before the first Wednesday in December, but this system had a few crucial flaws. Knowing the early voting results could affect turnout and sway opinion in states that held late elections, and those same last-minute voters could potentially decide the outcome of the entire election. Faced with these issues, Congress created the current Election Day in the hope of streamlining the voting process.
“But why a Tuesday in November? The answer stems from the agrarian makeup of 19th-century America. In the 1800s, most citizens worked as farmers and lived far from their polling place. Since people often traveled at least a day to vote, lawmakers needed to allow a two-day window for Election Day. Weekends were impractical, since most people spent Sundays in church, and Wednesday was market day for farmers.
“With this in mind, Tuesday was selected as the first and most convenient day of the week to hold elections. Farm culture also explains why Election Day always falls in November. Spring and early summer elections were thought to interfere with the planting season, and late summer and early fall elections overlapped with the harvest. That left the late fall month of November—after the harvest was complete, but before the arrival of harsh winter weather—as the best choice.” History.com
YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE
BY VOTING YOU CAN HIRE OR FIRE ELECTED OFFICIALS.
BY NOT VOTING, YOU ALLOW OTHERS TO SPEAK FOR YOU!!