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US election countdown: six reasons to get your absentee ballot now

The countdown to the 2020 US election on Tuesday November 3rd has begun. Around three million Americans abroad are eligible to vote.

US election countdown: six reasons to get your absentee ballot now
Photos: Getty Images

We asked The Local’s American readers about the process of voting by absentee ballot. Many told us it’s easy once you try – and some have been voting from abroad for decades. Others remarked on differences between state rules or response times.

One thing is clear: the earlier you request and return your ballot, the better. Here, in partnership with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), we look at six reasons to get your absentee ballot as early as possible if you want to make your voice heard.

One vote in only two steps

Step one: You register to vote and request your absentee ballot using one form: the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). Once, you’ve done that, send it to your election office as soon as possible. Using the FPCA, ensures your state will send you your ballot at least 45 days before the election – a protection not guaranteed with other forms. 

Step two: make your voting choice and send back your ballot. You’re advised to do this as soon as you receive the ballot – which should be by early October. The recommended vote-by-date from abroad – to allow for any mail delays – is October 13. But why leave it to the last minute? 

Request your absentee ballot now and get state-specific instructions on how to return it

Be an early bird with email

From the ‘Sunshine State’ of Florida to the Arctic chill of Alaska, every state allows you to receive your absentee ballot by email – just choose this option when filling out the FPCA. Your state may also allow you to email your FPCA to them – you can find that out right after filling it out. It’s also worth checking the options in your state to see if you can return your ballot electronically. 

Mike August voted absentee for California in 2016 while living in Paris. “It went pretty smoothly,” he said. “We chose the emailed ballot option to avoid mail delays; we got confirmation of receipt soon thereafter.”

If you plan to mail your ballot this year, FVAP recommends contacting your local post office about possible delivery delays due to Covid-19 (more information can be found here and updates from the United States Postal Service on international disruptions here). 

Vote from anywhere!

Americans can be found in all parts of the world. But as a US citizen, you can request your ballot be sent anywhere – so your location is no excuse not to vote! 

Canada has the most eligible US voters abroad with more than 600,000 in 2016. In Europe, the UK has the most, followed by France, Germany and Italy (you can scroll over and zoom in on the map below for more details). After sending in your ballot, you can check its status at FVAP.gov to see when your election office receives it.

 
Sarah Mullin, who lives in Rennes in northwest France, told us she has voted by absentee ballot for over 20 years from South Africa, Canada and now France – all “with no problems whatsoever”.

Are you an American abroad? Start filling out your FPCA now – and choose to receive your ballot by email

Use online help 

Find form-filling tiresome or confusing? Don’t worry. There's no need to put it off. On FVAP.gov, you can use an online assistant to help you fill out the FPCA – and have you ready to sign it and send it off in no time.

All the information you need on where and how to send in your form by mail, email or fax – depending on what your state allows – will be provided.

Simple residence rules 

Not sure about your voting residence (the US state or territory where you register to vote)? Don't let that slow you down either. It’s likely to be your legal residence in the US or the US address where you last resided. 

You can find further information on working out your voting residence here. In future, it’s best to send in a new FPCA every January – and whenever you move home. 

There’s even a back-up ballot …

One final reason to request your ballot early is so you'll know where you stand and whether you may need to use a back-up. If you've already requested your ballot but haven’t received it, you can contact your election office for information about your ballot’s status. Even if you don’t receive it in time to meet your state’s deadline, you can still vote. 

Just use a FWAB! That’s a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot. A few states may even allow you to use a FWAB even if you hadn’t already requested a regular ballot.

If you are an American abroad, you can request your absentee ballot via email on FVAP.gov now and find out everything you need to know about voting

 

 

 

 

 
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ELECTION

ANALYSIS: Why Sweden’s Greens are happy despite losing big in EU vote

If all you had to go on were pictures from the Green Party's Sunday night event in Stockholm, you'd think they were the victors of the European election rather than one of the parties that lost the most votes.

ANALYSIS: Why Sweden's Greens are happy despite losing big in EU vote
Green party spokesman Per Bolund, top EU candidate Alice Bah Kuhnke, spokeswoman Isabella Lövin and Pär Holmgren, second EU candidate celebrate on Sunday. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
While its sister parties in Germany, France, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Austria, and the UK made historic gains, the Swedish Green Party lost half of its four MEPs after its share of the vote plummeted from 15.2 percent to 11.4 percent.
 
Although it wasn't alone – Sweden's Liberals and Feminist Initiative both lost more votes than the Greens did, and it did remain the country's fourth biggest party in Europe – the “Greta effect” achieved in many other countries could not be as clearly seen in the home of the Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.
 
But on Sunday night, the party's charismatic lead candidate Alice Bah Kuhnke was grinning from ear to ear, and the party posted a message on Twitter thanking supporters and boasting of the 11.4 percent. 
Top EU candidate Alice Bah Kuhnke celebrates her election as an MEP. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
 
What's going on? 
 
Arguably, it's because the Sweden's Greens are actually a step ahead of their sister parties. The party had its own green wave in the 2014 European elections, when it soared by 4.1 points. 
 
European Election ANALYSIS: Six key takeaways from Sweden's vote
 
Months later it entered national government for the first time as the junior partner in coalition with the Social Democrats and the painful concessions it was forced to make over the next four years left it with only 4.41 percent in September's election, just a whisker over the four percent threshold to enter parliament. 
 
“It's obvious that they are very happy,” Roger Hildingsson, a Lund University researcher specializing in green politics, told The Local. “The rule of thumb is that the Green Party doubles its result in the national elections in the European elections, so this is a lot better than that. They were afraid of a much lower result.” 
 
The party achieved a lot in power, doubling Sweden's environmental spending, driving through a flight tax, subsidies for electric bikes and low-emission cars, a new climate law, and a proposal that tripled the cost of European emissions allowances.
 
But it also made painful concessions, breaking a key promise to close down Vattenfall's coal mines in Germany and backing a tightening of Swedish refugee and immigration policy that lost it half of its members. 
 
READ ALSO: 
Former Green Party spokesperson Åsa Romson nears tears as she announced a tightening of refugee policy. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
 
The party has also faced other parties competing for the same space, with the Centre Party and Liberal Parties positioning themselves as economically liberal greens, and the Left Party competing on the more radical green turf.  
 
There was also the breakaway Vändpunkt (Turning Point) party formed by longtime Green Party figure Carl Schlyter after he left the party in protest at the January Agreement struck with the Centre and Liberal parties. 
 
“As far as I understand from the Green Party they have been nervous as to what extent they will be challenged by Vändpunkt,” Hildingsson said.
 
In the end Vändpunkt pulled in only a fraction of a percentage, ending up humiliatingly lumped together in the 0.7 percent of “other parties”. 
 
“I think this will give the party some kind of self-confidence that they are back on track and attractive to voters concerned by climate change. That they might have come out of their crisis.” 
 
Carl Schlyter at the February press conference announcing the launch of his new party. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
 
Hildingsson said that the result could also strengthen the party in negotiations, both within Sweden's ruling coalition and in Europe, where its two mandates are now part of a block with a potential kingmaker role. 
 
“When the agreement was made in January, the Green Party was definitely the weakest partner, with this result they can maybe argue with more confidence,” he said of Sweden's coalition.  
 
The European situation very much depended, he said, on negotiations with the Social Democrats or centre-right European People's Party in the European parliament. 
 
“It could be sufficient for them [the centre parties] to strike an agreement with Alde [the Liberal group], so in that sense they could jump the Greens,” he warned. “But on the other hand I think they are concerned that there is some popular concern about climate change.”
 
 
The question, he said, was to how radical a programme of action on climate change the mainstream parties of the centre-left or centre-right might be willing to agree. 
 
“If this green wave is a result of stark concerns that we need to act now, rapidly, transforming our societies, that speaks in favour of a more radical position,” he said. “On the other hand, the room for pushing very radical positions might be limited, because the green group aren't alone in the middle.”  
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