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What US citizens living abroad need to know about absentee ballots

Here's how to make sure your ballot is counted if you're voting from abroad.
If you're living abroad, make sure to stay informed as to how you can voice your opinion in the upcoming election.
If you're living abroad, make sure to stay informed as to how you can voice your opinion in the upcoming election.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TMRW

To put it simply: Voting is no easy task this year. From mail-in voting to ballot drop boxes, many are consulting different state voting websites to find out how to voice their opinions in the polls. This has been even more difficult for people like myself who are voting from abroad.

With travel bans and COVID-19 measures, voting from abroad (since I live in Paris) hasn’t exactly been the simplest task. The constant updates on COVID-19 voting measures and mail-related concerns are already an overload of information for anyone residing in the states, and even more confusing for those of us in a different time zone. If you’re in a similar situation as a U.S. citizen abroad, here’s what you need.

Registering to vote:

To receive your absentee ballot abroad, you needed to register to vote, sending a letter explaining your absence for the upcoming election. I found that there are actually many voting resource groups for expats in France. Democrats Abroad provide events for voter registration (regardless of voter affiliation) where they provide the proper documents to register for your absentee ballot, let you fill out the documents on the spot and provide you with the proper mailing address. Voters can even purchase an international stamp at the location. Shakespeare & Co. bookstores also offered similar services this year for voters that needed to register. It's worth looking up if there are resources in the area you live.

How to get your absentee ballot:

An interesting option while voting in the upcoming presidential election from abroad is the choice to receive your absentee ballot in the mail or by email. Both come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Requesting your ballot by mail may mean delays in receiving your ballot; however, once you get it, it’s already printed and essentially ready to be mailed back, except for the postage. Requesting your ballot by email sends the documents to your email through a one-time-only link where you have access to four documents with instructions on how to print and assemble your voting envelope. After which, you also need to get the proper postage. It’s definitely not the most straightforward method, but it does ensure there can’t be any snail mail delays.

Sending your absentee ballot:

This is the most crucial part of the whole process! For anyone living abroad who hasn’t voted yet, it’s important to note that the postage is only paid for for those residing in the U.S. If you are voting from abroad, you can either go to the local American embassy to give them your envelope to be mailed by Oct. 13 or you can get international priority postage and mail it yourself.

What’s so strange about this election is that every state’s voting accommodations are different. While voting may be more confusing than most elections due to the pandemic, there are still a myriad of resources available to find out how your state is voting. Rock The Vote and When We All Vote allow you to select your state and get the latest news regarding voting in your area.