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Your vote matters: get your US election ballot in today

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.

Your vote matters: get your US election ballot in today
Ballot/FWAB State transmission methods (see full details from FVAP below)

Wherever you are, help is at hand. The Local has teamed up with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), which supports US citizens living abroad to vote absentee.

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.

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.

Quick! Find out how to vote absentee as a US citizen abroad while you still have time

1. 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? See the map below or click here to check your options for returning your ballot (or your FWAB – more on that below) in your state – by email, fax or mail.

2. 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

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! 

Make your vote count: see FVAP's guidance on voting absentee from abroad

3. 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.

4. 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.

Running out of time to return your ballot? Find out more about voting with the FWAB

 

For members

TRAVEL

US adds Spain to ‘do not travel’ list but what does that mean for Americans?

The US State Department announced this week that it has added 116 countries to its "Level Four: Do Not Travel" advisory list, including Spain.

US adds Spain to its do not travel list
Photo: Daniel Slim/AFP

Spain will join other countries on the list including France, Germany, Italy and the UK, where the US State Department says there is “a very high level of Covid-19”.

The State Department now lists 150 countries at Level Four, meaning that around 80 percent of countries now receive the government’s highest advisory rating.

The State Department said on April 19th that the addition of countries did not suggest a reassessment of current health situations in these destinations, but instead “reflects an adjustment in the State Department’s Travel Advisory system to rely more on (the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s) existing epidemiological assessments”.

Does it change anything for Americans wanting to travel to Spain?

Technically, not a lot. The State Department’s ‘don’t travel list’ is advisory only and not mandatory, meaning they haven’t imposed an outright ban to stop US nationals from travelling to destinations such as Spain.

However, most Americans are still not allowed to visit most of Europe, due to Covid-19 restrictions in place.

Spain has extended its restrictions on non-essential journeys from countries outside the EU and Schengen Area – which included the United States – until at least April 30th 2021.

American Airlines has resumed its flights from the United States to Spain, specifically the route between Miami (Florida) and Barcelona and Dallas-Fort Worth (Texas) and Madrid, suggesting that the situation might soon change. These recent developments have however cast a shadow of doubt over the hope that travel may start back up again. 

Earlier this month, there were reports that the Biden administration may lift the travel ban for citizens wanting to travel to the US from the 27 EU Member States in mid-May, but only time will tell if this is still going to happen.

If this does go ahead in mid-May however, it could increase the chances of a reciprocal agreement, allowing US citizens to travel to Spain and the rest of the EU.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: When will Americans be allowed to travel to Spain again?

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