It’s that time of year again… Well, once every 4 years at least. November 6, 2012 is Election Day in the US for the Presidency as well as Congress. The two main candidates, Democrat incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, are quite close in the polls at the moment. It will certainly be an interesting and important election to follow, and its implications will be felt, as usual, not only in the US but also abroad.
So if you live abroad, how can you vote? Is it too late to register?
Luckily there is increasing amount of attention focused on Americans living abroad, with corresponding resources on registering for and voting in elections from foreign countries including France.
A few websites and descriptions are below to help you.
- US Embassy in Paris, and their Facebook page
- Union of Overseas Voters (non-partisan), their Facebook page
- General USA.gov voting registration information site
- Site for overseas Americans
- voting abroad
- France TV US election special site (in French)
- Vote From Abroad (Democratic-affiliated organization)
- Overseas Vote Foundation
So who can vote? This information from the USA.gov website can provide some details on voter eligibility:
“Almost all U.S. citizens 18 years or older who reside outside the United States are eligible to vote absentee for candidates for federal offices in U.S. primary and general elections. In addition, some states allow overseas citizens to vote for candidates for state and local offices, as well as for state and local referendums. For information regarding your specific state, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s Voting Assistance Guide or the Overseas Vote Foundation website. The Overseas Vote Foundation is a non-partisan voter advocacy organization.
For voting purposes, your state of legal residence is generally the state wherein you resided immediately before leaving the United States, even if you no longer own or rent property or intend to return there in the future. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia specifically allow U.S. citizens who have never resided in the United States to register where a parent would be eligible to vote. Direct your questions about eligibility to your local election officials.”
The aforementioned Union of Overseas Voters has these information sheets available:
- Important Voting Facts for US citizens
- About the Union of Overseas Voters
- Flyer for help sessions in person in Paris
That’s right. The Union of Overseas Voters has Help Sessions in Paris every 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month, from 2 to 5pm at Shakespeare & Company (37 rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris).
These in-person help sessions in particular will be helpful as the Union of Overseas Voters will be there to assist people with questions. All you need to bring is your US Social Security Number and your enthusiasm.
There is a note below from the US Embassy in Paris regarding voting registration that could help clarify some of the main points for you.
Message from US Embassy Paris
Have a say in our country’s future. One of our most treasured values is the right and the privilege to vote – to participate actively in our country’s democratic process. This November, U.S. citizens will elect a President, a Vice President, one-third of the Senate, and the entire House of Representatives. The U.S. Embassy in France encourages all U.S. citizens to participate in this year’s elections, and stands ready to help you vote.
Almost all overseas U.S. citizens can vote. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia now allow adult children who have never resided in the United States to vote using their parents’ state of voting residence. Details are available on the FVAP website.
Register and request a ballot. To vote, new laws require you to complete and submit a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) this calendar year. The FPCA allows you to register to vote and request an absentee ballot. If you haven’t yet done so, we urge you to do so now. The easiest way to complete it is online at www.FVAP.gov. Depending on your State’s rules, you then send it to your local election officials electronically or by mail.
Mailing guidance. Print out the completed FPCA and the (U.S.) postage-paid envelope containing the address of your local election officials. You can drop off the postage-paid envelope (containing your FPCA) at the Embassy, and we will mail it back home for you without the need to pay international postage. If it’s easier for you to use France’s postal system, be sure to affix sufficient international postage and allow sufficient time for international mail delivery.
Embassy Paris drop box: You may drop your signed, dated, sealed FPCA registration or ballot in the Consular Section drop box:
a. Go to the Consular Section entrance of the Paris Embassy with your registration or ballot;
b. Announce that you would like to drop off voting materials;
c. Present suitable ID (preferably a passport);
d. Present the registration or ballot;
e. After the security check, place the ballot in the ballot box.
Need help? Go to the Embassy’s voting website page to receive assistance. Voting Assistance Officers or private U.S. citizen volunteers in France may also help you. (NOTE: It is acceptable for private U.S. citizens or U.S. citizens’ groups to collect FPCAs and deliver them to the Embassy on behalf of other eligible voters, as long as each FPCA is in its own U.S. postage-paid envelope.)
Make your vote count! Follow your State’s absentee voting procedures carefully. Send in your FPCA before the registration deadline. When you get your ballot, vote and mail it promptly so it reaches local election officials by your State’s absentee ballot receipt deadline.
Questions? If you have any questions about registering to vote, please contact the Paris Voting Assistance Officer by email.