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PRESENTED BY THE FEDERAL VOTING ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

Can you guess how many Americans abroad voted in the last US midterms?

Across Europe there are many Americans living and working, enjoying the lifestyle, sights and culture that their adopted home has to offer. However, things don’t stand still back in the United States.

Can you guess how many Americans abroad voted in the last US midterms?
It's never been easier to request your overseas ballot. Photo: Getty Images

The US is only months away from the 2022 midterm elections, and for US citizens abroad, voting is easier than you think. Here’s how to have a say in the future of your hometown, state and country.

What are the midterms, and why do they matter?

Unlike the Presidential elections, the midterm elections determine state representation in Congress and a number of state-level offices – this year all of the seats in the House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, 36 state governors and 30 state attorney generals will be elected by the people. 

The results of the midterms can have a large impact on the make-up of the House of Representatives and the Senate, changing the kinds of laws the governing administration is able to pass in the next two (the term of a representative) to six (the term of a senator) years.

As we have seen in the news recently, such laws can have significant implications for the rights of friends and family in the United States. 

This year, the US midterm elections are held on the 8th of November. 

For U.S. citizens living overseas who want to have a say in the future of their hometown, city and state, it is important to know how to navigate the absentee voting process for midterm elections. 

However, voter turnout from overseas is traditionally very low. According to the 2018 Overseas Citizen Population Analysis Report, only 13.9% of eligible voters from Germany participated in the last midterm elections, while in France, only 4.9% voted. 

U.S. citizens abroad who did not return a voted ballot reported having difficulties completing the process, or not being able to get their ballot in time to vote. We’re breaking down the absentee voting process into two, straightforward steps you can follow to make sure you have plenty of time to send your ballot back to the States — no matter where you’re voting from.

The 2022 midterm elections are approaching – time to request your absentee ballot.

Requesting your online ballot only takes minutes. PhotoL Supplied

How can I vote in the midterms from overseas?

Whereas many Americans located in the United States only need to show up on Election Day to cast their vote, the process begins earlier for U.S. citizens living abroad. As voting for American citizens abroad is largely conducted via post, the process has checks and balances to ensure the security and integrity of the vote, which means that you need to begin the process far in advance. 

Your first step should be to visit the website of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, to start the process of registering to vote and requesting your absentee ballot. 

“It’s incredibly easy to vote absentee (and I would argue even easier than voting in person). The city clerk of the last US town you lived in is your lifeline. Mine even emailed me a few weeks back reminding me to register to vote for the upcoming elections this fall.”   – Hannah Houseworth, Michigan, now in France

Their Online Assistant will help you through the process of registering, if you are not already, and filling out your ballot request, or Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)– which takes around two minutes to complete. When filling out the form, you can select the option to receive your blank ballot electronically to speed up the process.

From there, you’ll send your FPCA to your state’s election office by mail, fax or even email, depending on your state’s submission guidelines. FVAP recommends submitting your FPCA by the 1st of August.

If you would like further reminders and tips on absentee voting, you can sign up for email alerts here

Select your state to see specific guidelines and deadlines for absentee voting forms.

No matter where they are in the world, U.S. citizens can vote absentee in midterm elections. Photo: Getty Images 

The second step is to vote as soon as your blank ballot arrives. If you chose to receive your ballot electronically via the FPCA, you should receive it the day ballots are sent by your state’s election office: the 24th of September.  FVAP recommends U.S. citizens living overseas send their voted ballots back by the 24th of October to ensure your election office receives them in time. 

What is my voting residence? 

Your voting residence is the last address you had in the United States immediately prior to leaving for overseas. More information can be found here

“Easy-peazy. California sends me an email telling me my ballot’s on its way, I receive my ballot and voter guide via snail mail, I send the ballot back, and I get an email confirmation when they’ve received and counted it.

In-between all of that, I get friendly reminders from the state reminding me to send my ballot.” – Sarah Saromanos, California, now in France

Is voting by mail from overseas safe and secure?

Voting by mail from overseas is extremely secure, and upon receiving your ballot, there are a number of security measures undertaken not only to protect your vote but to ensure that it matches your identity. 

Furthermore, none of your personal information is saved while using FVAP’s Online Assistant to request an absentee ballot. You can be sure that you are not sharing your private data with any third parties at any point in the process. 

Voting this November is not only secure but there are a number of resources available to help you every step of the way. 

Get started today. Register and request your absentee ballot to vote in US midterm elections with the FPCA.

Member comments

  1. Maybe someone can answer this question. I have lived in Germany for 4 years. I am paid in euro and pay German taxes. I have no income in the US. I don’t want to have to deal with my old state of which I have no relationship with anymore. I also don’t follow their local politics. What happens if I vote using my old address? Will they start to treat me like I live there still? All of my personal mail in the US is sent to my sister’s house in another state but I have never lived there. It is all very confusing.

  2. Thank you for sharing this important information! I hope a much larger percentage of eligible Americans in Frace will vote in the midterms.

  3. If you don’t have any property there, I think you are ok (but I’m not a lawyer). To be safe, I vote in Federal elections, but not State or local. Then, there will not be any tax consequences from voting. You have to file a Federal tax return in any case, and I do.

  4. I’m now a permanent resident of France. Unfortunately I’m a U.S. citizen so I’ll have to pay taxes to the IRS as long as I live. A lot of the tax money is used to fund the endless U.S. wars. Taking care of its citizens have never been a priority. Funny thing is that my U.S. tax return contains 110 pages while my French tax return was only five pages. I will never vote in a U.S. election again. It’s a waste of time!

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SPANISH LAW

IN DEPTH: What is Spain’s ‘Trans Law’ and why is it controversial?

The Spanish government's new gender self-identification legislation is facing widespread criticism from across the country and political spectrum. What is the new 'Trans Law' and why is it proving to be so divisive in Spanish society?

IN DEPTH: What is Spain's 'Trans Law' and why is it controversial?

Spain has long been a world leader when it comes to recognising and protecting the rights of the LGBT community. It was the world’s fourth country to legalise gay marriage with full adoption rights back in 2005, after all.

A couple of years later, in 2007, the same Zapatero government followed it up by passing a pioneering law that allowed people to change their name and sex assigned to them at birth, without having to undergo a full sex change.

A condition of the law, however, was that those wishing to legally change their gender must support their application with a psychological evaluation that diagnosed ‘gender dysphoria’ – that is, the perceived mismatch between someone’s biological sex and their gender identity.

But now, in 2022, the Spanish government has found itself mired in controversy over its proposed updates and expansion of the law.

Protesters wearing face masks wave trans flags during a demonstration calling for more rights for transgender people at La Puerta del Sol in Madrid in 2020. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

The government’s junior coalition partner, Unidas Podemos, has pushed a new ‘Trans Law’ (La Ley Trans as it’s known in Spain) that is quickly becoming a major political sticking point and causing rifts not only within Spanish feminism but the government coalition itself.

And it’s not the first legal controversy this government has caused recently with what was intended to be progressive legislation. In fact, due to the political fallout over the recent ‘Only Yes Means Yes’ sexual consent law that has accidentally reduced sentences for convicted rapists, amendments to the Trans Law have been delayed and the controversy rumbles on.

READ ALSO: Why is Spain reducing prison sentences for rapists?

What is Spain’s new Trans Law?

The law, known at the draft stage as the ‘Real and Effective Equality of Transexual People and for the Guarantee of the rights of LGBTI people’, is seen as the ideological brainchild of Irene Montero, Spain’s Equality Minister who also guided the backfiring ‘Yes means Yes’ sexual consent law through Congress.

In a sentence, the new Trans Law simplifies the gender self-identification process. As currently proposed, the law states that any person over 16 years old will be able to legally change their name and gender on official ID documents by simply completing a basic administrative procedure.

According to Montero, the law is a recognition of “trans people’s right to be who they are, without witnesses, without any obligation to undergo hormone treatment… and without a medical report that must say that they are sick.”

As of yet, the law does not specify any limits on how many times a person would be legally able to change their gender, though the Spanish press has reported in recent weeks that the senior partner in government, Pedro Sánchez’s PSOE, may try to force further amendments to the legislation.

A woman holds up a placard reading “Families proud of their trans children” during a gathering marking the “International Transgender Day of Visibility” (TDOV) in Madrid on March 31, 2021. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

Crucially, the new law removes the requirements from the 2007 bill of a gender dysphoria diagnosis – essentially making gender self-identification, and changing your legal gender, far easier.

If the new law is approved in its current form, children between the age of 16 and 18 will be allowed to legally change their sex without their parent’s consent, though those between 14 and 16 years will still need parental authorisation.

Gender self-identification will also be available to children between 12 and 14 years old, and children under the age of 12 will have the right to change the name on their formal identification documents.

READ ALSO: Teens in Spain can change gender on paper without medical evaluation

This aspect of the law – that of self-identification among children – is causing particular outrage, and has been subject to criticism from both Spain’s Council of State and its Judiciary, the latter of which has demanded that gender self-identification must, from a purely legal perspective, begin from the age of 18.

The Trans law also allows the use of hormone blockers on children from the beginning of puberty, and recognises the legal status of non-binary people, that is, those who do not identify with any gender. Under the proposed Trans Law, no letter signifying gender would appear on their ID documents.

It also bans conversion therapy, the pseudoscientific practice of changing a person’s sexual or gender identity.

Why is the Trans Law so controversial?

As you may have heard or read in Spain in recent weeks, this groundbreaking law has been met with considerable controversy. Sociocultural issues like those of sexuality and gender are always politically charged, and often become battlegrounds on culture war fighting between left and right.

But this draft law hasn’t just been attacked along traditional left versus right lines. It has been attacked by the Spanish judiciary and State Council, divided Spaniards across the country, including Spain’s feminist community and the government coalition itself.

As is the case around the world, much of the debate around gender self-identification has manifested itself in debates over sport.

Protesters wear masks during a rally to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance, in Madrid, on November 20, 2022. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Spain’s Trans Law, in its current form, would allow trans people to compete in sports events according to their self-identified gender. This means plausibly maintaining physical and biological advantages over their cisgender counterparts, something that has led many to suggest self-identification in this instance would serve to be anti-feminist and bring into question fairness and competitiveness. It has also caused controversy with regards to toilets and changing rooms, a debate seen the world over.

In fact, the Trans Law has also divided Spain’s feminist community, with many suggesting that the implementation of gender self-identification serves to unpick decades of feminist attempts to move away from a gender-based view of the world. Some Spanish feminists have argued that the Trans Law takes Spain backwards as it elevates gender above other issues and adheres to traditional stereotypes.

Similarly, the Trans Law as it is currently conceived could, critics say, cause backwards steps in terms of women’s equality and legal rights. By allowing any man to change his legal sex by simply completing an administrative procedure, critics fear this could mean “legalising” sexual discrimination and facilitate gender violence.

Critics are demanding assurances that what they view as potentially fraudulent or opportunistic instances of gender self-identification be avoided, such as if a man legally becomes a woman to, for example, avoid legal consequences under gender violence legislation.

Supporters of the law say that gender self-identification is a human right, and that the state should not require medical or psychological proof for someone to be able to change their own gender.

As one might expect, the proposed law has been attacked by the Spanish right, with tensions also flaring from within the government coalition. PSOE have requested extensions to the deadline in order to “to give legal certainty to the law,” likely because it is certain that the law in its current form would be appealed by PP and Vox in the courts.

As the government continues to deal with the political fallout of its botched ‘Only Yes Means Yes’ law, expect controversy over the Trans Law – and gender self-identification in particular – to continue in 2023.

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