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PRESENTED BY THE FEDERAL VOTING ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

November US midterms: Your voting questions answered

The November midterm elections are almost here and if you're a US citizen, you need to register and request a ballot to vote.

November US midterms: Your voting questions answered
Did you know that some US states allow you to submit your ballot electronically? Graphic: FVAP.gov

Recently The Local held an online poll to ask our American readers about their obstacles to voting absentee from abroad.

In partnership with the Federal Voting Assistance Program, we address some of the most common concerns that were identified.  

What am I voting for on November 8th? 

When we polled our readers, 15 percent of them said they ‘didn’t feel motivated to vote’. However, the midterms involve a great deal of change. As we noted in our last piece, in November 2022 all the seats in the US House of Representatives are up for election, in addition to a third of the Senate. Additionally, 36 state governors will be elected, as well as 30 state attorney-generals. 

These are all positions with the legislative power to make important decisions on a local, state or federal level. Those that are elected will play a real role in shaping what the future looks like for all of us in areas such as health, education, the economy and civil rights. 

Voting in the 2022 midterm elections is easy. Request your ballot now

How do I know if I’m eligible? 

If you’re a US citizen and over the age of 18 years, you are eligible to vote. 

Put simply, if you could vote in the US, you can vote from abroad. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know when you will return to the US, or if you plan on never returning – this is a right that you don’t lose. 

What matters for each individual election is that you are registered to vote. All states and territories require that this is done before a certain deadline, varying from state to state. 16.67 percent of readers polled felt that ‘the deadlines can be too confusing’ – to help voters with this, the FVAP website has quick links to the deadlines for each state. 

How do I register to vote? 

Almost a quarter of readers (21.67 percent) told us that they ‘don’t know how to register’.  Luckily, the process is simple and easy to complete. First, visit the FVAP website. There, you can use FVAP’s Online Assistant to register with the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) – a very brief process as you only need a few personal details.

The FPCA is also how you request your ballot. Once you complete the form, print, sign, send in the FPCA to you election office and your ballot will be on its way to you!

Some states allow you to email or fax your FPCA to their electoral authority. Check what your state allows using the graphic below.

Source: FVAP.gov

How do I fill out my ballot? 

Regardless of which state electoral authority will count your vote, all absentee ballot papers come with clear instructions for filling them out – such as writing details legibly, using block letters. You should also follow any specific instructions for sealing the ballot and signing the required affidavit. This last part is important – it’s how electoral officials verify your ballot so that it can be counted. 

Find out how the Federal Voting Assistance Program makes voting from abroad easy for US citizens

How much time should I allow to post my ballot? 

This was identified as one of the main concerns for many of our readers – some 46.67 percent of readers identified that ‘mail is unreliable’. However, as long as ballots are sent in good time – at least two weeks before the election – you should avoid running into any issues.

Some states even allow you to submit your mail by fax or email, as shown in the graphic at the head of this article. 

It’s never been easier to vote from abroad. Photo: Getty Images

How do I know whether my ballot has been received? 

You can check to see whether your ballot has been received by contacting the electoral authority in the state that you are voting in. 

Again, FVAP makes this process easy. By selecting your home state on the website, you can either make an email query, or if the state has an online system, you can use it to check if the ballot has arrived and been processed. 

What happens if I don’t receive my ballot?

If you have not received your ballot in a timely fashion, you do have a backup – the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) allows you to vote. Simply input your state and local jurisdiction and follow the steps. Just make sure you send your FWAB so that it arrives before the deadline for your particular state’s electoral authority – these are easily found in the FVAP Voting Assistance Guide by clicking on your state.

The 2022 midterms are an opportunity for every eligible US citizen to help decide the future direction of the communities they have strong links to. 

Don’t delay – get registered to vote using FVAP’s free Online Assistant today and make sure your vote arrives in time

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SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

United States set to reduce fee for renouncing American citizenship

Renouncing American citizenship could become less costly, after the US department of state announced that it intends to reduce the citizenship renunciation fee from the current eye-watering $2,350.

United States set to reduce fee for renouncing American citizenship

Rina Bitter, the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs in the USA, wrote a declaration stating that “the Department intends to pursue rule-making to reduce the fee for processing CLN requests [renunciation of US citizenship] from the current amount of $2,350 to the previous fee of $450.”

Bitter also said that “the Department will consider any necessary changes to this fee, as appropriate, in future rule-making.” The Washington DC District Court was set to hear in-person oral arguments on January 9th.

The change has been particularly welcomed by ‘Accidental Americans’ – people born in the US who therefore have American citizenship but have little connection to the US during their adult lives – but applies to anyone who wants to renounce their US citizenship.

The usual reason for wanting to do this is the strict tax rules that continue to apply to Americans, even if they live outside the US for many years. 

The Accidental Americans group founder and president, Fabien Lehagre said: “By lowering the fee to $450, the US government is showing that the right of voluntary expatriation is not to be trifled with and deserves the utmost protection.”

Nevertheless – the change has not yet been put into practice, and the court case was still ongoing as of January 9th, a fact that Lehagre acknowledged, stating that “time will tell how the government will formulate and develop the new fee.”

However, even with lower fees, renouncing American citizenship remains a lengthy and complex process, that for most people will involve paying a lawyer or accountant.

The United States is unusual in that it imposes tax responsibilities based on both residence and citizenship – so even citizens who have lived abroad for many years and have no economic activity in the US have to file an annual tax declaration to the IRS.

There are also certain limitations on US citizens who live abroad such as the FATCA law that make it hard for them to open European bank accounts and limitations on certain types of financial products such as pensions in Europe.

“Renouncing US citizenship is not as simple as scheduling an appointment at a US embassy or consulate, paying the applicable fee, and declaring that one does not want to be American,” explained international tax law specialist Alexander Marino. “There are many details to consider, and careful planning is essential.”

READ MORE: How to renounce American citizenship in France – and why you might want to

Set in 2010 to $450 to pay for the processing renunciation requests, the amount was later increased to $2,350 due to the need for “close and detailed case-by-case review,” according to Bloomberg Tax.  

The Accidental Americans group is made up of European citizens who also have American citizenship – often without even knowing it.

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