For Americans abroad, it’s that time again: Register to vote from abroad
This article is written by Annie Graul, secretary of the Barcelona chapter of Democrats Abroad.
What you need to know
Overseas Americans (estimated at 6.5 million eligible voters) won the hard-fought right to cast their ballots from abroad in 1975, when the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) was officially written into the Law. UOCAVA voters include US military and civilian citizens; in many states, this also includes US passport holders who were born overseas, even if they have never resided in the country. Sadly, however, the theoretical right to vote does not necessarily translate into a streamlined, effective reality: the 50 states have 50 different procedures and deadlines, information distribution is difficult, and mail delivery times can be problematic. Most importantly, one detail can trip up many US expat voters, especially those who are less familiar with the procedure – the vast majority of overseas Americans must re-register to vote every election year.
As an adult US-citizen living temporarily or permanently overseas, you will likely have to submit a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) in order to re-register in an election year. In the past, a small number of states have practiced flexibility with this requirement, and local election officials may have sent ballots to overseas voters regardless of whether or not they had re-registered. However, we also know that as of October 2021, nineteen states had enacted 33 new laws making it harder to vote (source: The Brennan Center for Justice). This year, we strongly recommend that all US citizens living overseas send in an FPCA to avoid any unpleasant surprises!
This form should be filed a minimum of 45 days before the first election in which you plan to vote, to ensure enough time for your local election official to process it and resolve any issues. The FPCA is valid for all elections held in that calendar year, ensuring that you will receive ballots for all primary, general and special elections that you may otherwise not be aware of. This midterm election year, get your FPCA in as early as possible!
Vote From Abroad
The process may seem complicated, but we are here to help! The nonpartisan online registration tool VoteFromAbroad.org makes it much easier to file the FPCA. The website is available in English and Spanish, and it takes no more than 5-10 minutes for most voters to complete the official form online. If you have doubts or questions, consult the FAQs or click on the support button on the lower righthand corner of the screen. When filing the FPCA, be sure to request that your ballot be sent to you by email or fax, as increasingly unreliable postal service may affect the timely receipt and return of your ballot.
Here in Barcelona, a team of volunteers will be available to help you use the tool. We will be holding voter registration events at several venues, including international schools, in early 2022. Watch this page for updated information or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Beyond that, if you are interested in helping to register voters in Barcelona, please contact us at email@example.com.
2022 is an important election year in the U.S., with the entire House of Representatives, one-third of the Senate, 36 governorships, and many state and local offices in play.
In the general election of 2020 – a year in which voter-participation records were smashed nationwide – just 17% of Americans overseas exercised their right to vote. While this was a significant increase over the 2016 participation rate of <7%, it remains dismally low when compared to that of stateside Americans, 65% of whom went to the polls to cast their votes for Biden or Trump. Yet, as a collective, our votes can be decisive. Take for example the state of Georgia, where President Biden won by 12,670 votes: nearly 19,000 Georgia voters living abroad returned their ballots. We also sent back 17,000 votes to Wisconsin, another critical swing state that Biden won by 20,682 votes. There is no denying the importance of our absentee ballots.
According to Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Estadística, there were more than 7,700 US citizens living in Barcelona (8,755 in all of Catalunya) as of January 1, 2021. We aim to reach as many of these Americans as possible and encourage them to vote in 2022. There is so much at stake in this midterm election – issues that affect us no matter where in the world we live: the environment, women’s rights, education, access to health care, voting rights, taxation, immigration, not to mention the immediate and long-term direction of American democracy. Your vote matters, now more than ever. Register today at VoteFromAbroad.org, and take the first step toward exercising your patriotic duty and right as an American.