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US election countdown: six reasons to get your absentee ballot now

The countdown to the 2020 US election on Tuesday November 3rd has begun. Around three million Americans abroad are eligible to vote.

US election countdown: six reasons to get your absentee ballot now
Photos: Getty Images

We asked The Local’s American readers about the process of voting by absentee ballot. Many told us it’s easy once you try – and some have been voting from abroad for decades. Others remarked on differences between state rules or response times.

One thing is clear: the earlier you request and return your ballot, the better. Here, in partnership with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), we look at six reasons to get your absentee ballot as early as possible if you want to make your voice heard.

One vote in only two steps

Step one: You register to vote and request your absentee ballot using one form: the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). Once, you’ve done that, send it to your election office as soon as possible. Using the FPCA, ensures your state will send you your ballot at least 45 days before the election – a protection not guaranteed with other forms. 

Step two: make your voting choice and send back your ballot. You’re advised to do this as soon as you receive the ballot – which should be by early October. The recommended vote-by-date from abroad – to allow for any mail delays – is October 13. But why leave it to the last minute? 

Request your absentee ballot now and get state-specific instructions on how to return it

Be an early bird with email

From the ‘Sunshine State’ of Florida to the Arctic chill of Alaska, every state allows you to receive your absentee ballot by email – just choose this option when filling out the FPCA. Your state may also allow you to email your FPCA to them – you can find that out right after filling it out. It’s also worth checking the options in your state to see if you can return your ballot electronically. 

Mike August voted absentee for California in 2016 while living in Paris. “It went pretty smoothly,” he said. “We chose the emailed ballot option to avoid mail delays; we got confirmation of receipt soon thereafter.”

If you plan to mail your ballot this year, FVAP recommends contacting your local post office about possible delivery delays due to Covid-19 (more information can be found here and updates from the United States Postal Service on international disruptions here). 

Vote from anywhere!

Americans can be found in all parts of the world. But as a US citizen, you can request your ballot be sent anywhere – so your location is no excuse not to vote! 

Canada has the most eligible US voters abroad with more than 600,000 in 2016. In Europe, the UK has the most, followed by France, Germany and Italy (you can scroll over and zoom in on the map below for more details). After sending in your ballot, you can check its status at FVAP.gov to see when your election office receives it.

 
Sarah Mullin, who lives in Rennes in northwest France, told us she has voted by absentee ballot for over 20 years from South Africa, Canada and now France – all “with no problems whatsoever”.

Are you an American abroad? Start filling out your FPCA now – and choose to receive your ballot by email

Use online help 

Find form-filling tiresome or confusing? Don’t worry. There's no need to put it off. On FVAP.gov, you can use an online assistant to help you fill out the FPCA – and have you ready to sign it and send it off in no time.

All the information you need on where and how to send in your form by mail, email or fax – depending on what your state allows – will be provided.

Simple residence rules 

Not sure about your voting residence (the US state or territory where you register to vote)? Don't let that slow you down either. It’s likely to be your legal residence in the US or the US address where you last resided. 

You can find further information on working out your voting residence here. In future, it’s best to send in a new FPCA every January – and whenever you move home. 

There’s even a back-up ballot …

One final reason to request your ballot early is so you'll know where you stand and whether you may need to use a back-up. If you've already requested your ballot but haven’t received it, you can contact your election office for information about your ballot’s status. Even if you don’t receive it in time to meet your state’s deadline, you can still vote. 

Just use a FWAB! That’s a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot. A few states may even allow you to use a FWAB even if you hadn’t already requested a regular ballot.

If you are an American abroad, you can request your absentee ballot via email on FVAP.gov now and find out everything you need to know about voting

 

 

 

 

 
For members

TRAVEL

Can Americans travel to Denmark for tourism this summer?

Denmark has long been a top travel destination for Americans, and US tourists who are vaccinated can from this weekend return to see the Little Mermaid.

Can Americans travel to Denmark for tourism this summer?
Tourists on a Copenhagen sightseeing bus. Photo: Morten Jerichau/VisitCopenhagen

In 2019, US tourists spent 835,800 nights in Denmark’s hotels, and 755,000 in Copenhagen, more than those of any other country.

“Before Covid, the US was actually the biggest international market for Copenhagen,” Katinka Friis, Visit Denmark’s press officer in the US, told The Local. “So of course tourism in our biggest cities has been hit pretty hard.” 

In a press release issued on Friday, Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that residents of OECD countries who have been fully vaccinated with a vaccine recognised by the European Medicines Agency, will be treated the same as vaccinated people from EU and Schengen countries. 

This means that US citizens vaccinated with jabs from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson no longer need a so-called “worthy purpose” to travel to Denmark, do not need to show a negative coronavirus test before boarding their aircraft, or get tested and go into self-isolation on arrival.

The vaccine is treated as valid by Denmark from 14 days after the final dose has been given. 

When will Denmark open up for non-vaccinated tourists from the US? 

A Ministry of Justice text published last month suggests that on June 26th, Denmark will adopt the EU’s common rules on entry for persons from outside the bloc, meaning non-EU countries such as the US should qualify if infection levels are low enough to qualify as “orange” or “yellow”. 

“The most recent thing that we’ve seen in the documents is that the 26th of June should mark the next step of reopening, so that’s the date we’re hoping for,” Friis said. “We’re also waiting for the EU to give their seal of approval to a list of countries outside the EU.” 

She said that the importance of the US as a tourism market, and the high rate of vaccination in the country, meant it was likely that the US will be on the list. 

What restrictions will be in place for tourists from the US when Denmark opens up? 

According to Friis, tourists from the US will be treated in a similar way to those from the six non-EU countries already allowed to travel to Denmark.

“The market has already opened up to some countries outside the EU, and I think it will be a similar situation for those coming from the US. If you’re vaccinated, it will be pretty straightforward.”

If the US is treated the same as other counties, then if the country is rated “orange”, tourists will need a negative test result, proof of completed vaccination, or proof of a previous coronavirus infection within the last six months to board the plane. 

Those travelling on a negative test result will also need to pass a test on arrival in Copenhagen, and then to self-isolate for at least four days until they test negative for coronavirus, or ten days without a test.

Those who are vaccinated or immune after a previous infection will not need to take a test on arrival or self-isolate. 

If the US is rated “yellow”, however, tourists who are not vaccinated or judged immune will only need to take a test on arrival in Denmark and will not need to self-isolate. 

Will Denmark open up too late for US tourists? 

According to Friis, there is significant pent-up demand from US tourists wanting to come to Denmark, meaning the first tourists are likely to arrive shortly after the market opens. 

“Every single day I get those emails — when can I travel to Denmark? Can I come now?” Friis said. “And we’re really happy about that because it means people are excited about the reopening, and we have so many new museums and hotels opening in Denmark around this time, so it’s a good starting point for rebooting American tourist travel”

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