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Calling all US citizens in France: It's time to do your civic duty

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Calling all US citizens in France: It's time to do your civic duty
Photo: AFP
16:58 CEST+02:00
Americans living around France are being urged to take up their civic duty and register to vote for the crucial US midterm elections. Here's some advice on what to do from Robin Guinot of Democrats Abroad France as well as a list of events around the country.

US legislative midterm elections will take place November 6th - with every one of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate seats up for election.

In the context of an extraordinarily partisan atmosphere in Washington DC and with many divisive issues on the ballot, this is likely to be one of the most consequential midterm elections in modern US history.

The Republicans are attempting to hold onto their majority in both houses of Congress, while the Democrats are working to retake the House - there are even murmurings that the Republican majority in the Senate may be vulnerable, too.

Why does it matter? If Democrats have a majority in the House, they could halt or slow many of the unpopular Trump Administration policies.

There would also be the possibility that impeachment hearings on Donald Trump could begin.

So, the stakes are high. It is estimated that there are 9 million Americans who live overseas.

However, Americans abroad have not turned out in force to vote in the midterm elections.

In the 2014 midterms, an estimated 4% of eligible US citizens abroad exercised their right to vote.

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This year looks set to be different.

Deadlines vary from state to state, but most citizens abroad have at least until Oct 7th to register.

Some states allow registration right up to election day. The process has been made easy via online websites such as VoteFromAbroad.org.

By following the prompts, Americans can fill out the registration form and request their absentee ballot. Importantly, Boards of Elections are required by law to send out ballots no later than September 22nd .

If you have NOT received your ballot by October 8th , voting experts recommend you contact your local election official to clarify the situation.

There is an emergency ballot called the FWAB—Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot—that is available to those overseas voters who have registered to vote but whose absentee ballot has failed to arrive.

Even though the election is not until Tuesday, November 6th , it's wise for voters to return their voted ballot immediately. The biggest reason absentee ballots are not counted is they arrive after the deadline.

“The first election that happened after I moved abroad was Bill Clinton's in 1992”, says Meredith Wheeler, a long-term American resident of the Tarn.

“I tried to get a ballot—but I'd left it too late. I felt foolish and disappointed.”

“The whole system has evolved hugely since then, and it's so much easier now,” she says. Meredith now volunteers to help other Americans vote from abroad: “I consider it a civic duty to vote—and I'm very concerned about the direction of the current Administration in D.C. I'm willing to dress as Lady Liberty if that's what it takes to get my fellow Americans abroad to pay attention,” she said.

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VoteFromAbroad.org has a team of experts available to assist any U.S. citizen with a problem getting registered, receiving or returning a ballot. You can contact them at help@votefromabroad.org. Election results are not final until all absentee votes have been counted.

Absentee ballots have been decisive in several key races in recent years.

By showing their collective force by voting from abroad, Americans outside the USA encourage members of Congress to focus on issues that affect their lives abroad, such as double taxation.

Kym Kettler-Paddock, communications director for Republicans Overseas said: “When Americans overseas do not vote, our issues do not get taken up by legislators.”

The International Chair of Democrats Abroad, Julia Bryan said: “It's a huge privilege that we can vote in these elections that the whole world is watching.”

There are events planned around France in September through to mid-October by VoteFromAbroad.org:

● Paris: every Saturday until Oct 13th, from Noon to 6PM at Shakespeare & Company, 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 75005

● Nice: every Saturday during the month of September from 10h00-11h00 at the English-American Library, 12 rue de France, 06000 

● Strasbourg: Thursday, September 20th, 2018 at 06:30 PM at INSA - Institut des Sciences Appliquées, 24 Boulevard de la Victoire, 67000

● Bordeaux: Saturday, September 22th, 2018 at 05:30 PM at HANGAR 18, Quai de Bacalan, 33000

● Toulouse: Monday, September 24th, 2018 at 06:30 PM at Auditorium Jean-Jacques Rouch, 38 Rue d'Aubuisson, 31000

● Aix-en-Provence: Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018 at 06:30 PM at the Institute of American Universities, 2 bis rue Bon pasteur, 13100

 
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