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Your vote matters: get your US election ballot in today

The 2020 US election is fast approaching. If you’re a US citizen abroad, and with the added concerns around Covid-19, this is certainly not the year to delay voting.

Your vote matters: get your US election ballot in today
Ballot/FWAB State transmission methods (see full details from FVAP below)

Wherever you are, help is at hand. The Local has teamed up with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), which supports US citizens living abroad to vote absentee.

Hopefully, you’ve already requested your absentee ballot – that's the crucial first step, so do it right now if you haven't already. You still have time – and every state allows you to receive your ballot by email.

Once your ballot arrives, don’t hang on to it! Here are four reasons to return your ballot the moment it arrives in your hands – or your email inbox.

Quick! Find out how to vote absentee as a US citizen abroad while you still have time

1. To make sure your voice is heard

Are you one of the three million Americans abroad who is eligible to vote? Want to be certain your voice will be heard? Then, return your ballot immediately! Turnout among eligible overseas voters was only 6.9 percent in the 2016 US election – and even lower for the 2018 mid-terms.

Maybe you've got lost in the voting process? Don't worry. If you’ve requested a ballot but haven’t received it, ask your election office about its status. Hoping to save yourself some time by voting by email? See the map below or click here to check your options for returning your ballot (or your FWAB – more on that below) in your state – by email, fax or mail.

2. For peace of mind amid the pandemic …

Need or plan to return your ballot by mail? You have even more reason to act immediately.  You can contact your local post office about possible delivery delays due to Covid-19 (more information from FVAP here).

So, what if your state only allows mail-in ballots and you’re worried about delays? FVAP suggests seeing if you can send your ballot by diplomatic pouch from a nearby Embassy or consulate

You may also want to check the latest list of countries to which the United States Postal Service (USPS) has suspended mail due to the pandemic.

The final recommended vote-by-date from abroad is October 13. But why leave it so long? If you want to feel sure your vote will count, return your ballot now! 

Make your vote count: see FVAP's guidance on voting absentee from abroad

3. To get your “I Voted From Abroad” sticker! 

Voting absentee doesn’t mean you have to miss out on getting one of those “I Voted” stickers. In fact, as an American abroad who played your part in the democratic process, you can get a special version reading: “I Voted From Abroad”.

You can display it on social media to let your friends and family know you voted. Perhaps your sticker will even motivate others to vote too.

4. Because you have a ready-made back-up plan

Are you running out of time? You can’t always count on everything working out as you expect. But when it comes to voting as an American abroad, you get a ready-made back-up ballot – so even if your requested ballot doesn’t arrive, you can still vote.

It’s called the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). Use this if your regular ballot doesn’t reach you in good time. A few states may allow you to vote via FWAB even if you haven’t already applied for a regular ballot.

Running out of time to return your ballot? Find out more about voting with the FWAB

 

ELECTION

German Greens’ chancellor candidate Baerbock targeted by fake news

With Germany's Green party leading the polls ahead of September's general elections, the ecologists' would-be successor to Angela Merkel has become increasingly targeted by internet trolls and fake news in recent weeks.

German Greens' chancellor candidate Baerbock targeted by fake news
The Greens chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock on April 26th. Photo: DPA

From wild claims about CO2-emitting cats and dogs to George Soros photo collages, 40-year-old Annalena Baerbock has been the subject of a dizzying array of fake news, conspiracy theories and online attacks since she was announced as the Greens’ chancellor candidate in mid-April.

The latest polls have the Greens either ahead of or level with Merkel’s ruling conservatives, as the once fringe party further establishes itself as a leading electoral force in Europe’s biggest economy.

Baerbock herself also consistently polls higher than her conservative and centre-left rivals in the race to succeed Merkel, who will leave office after 16 years this autumn.

Yet her popularity has also brought about unwanted attention and a glut of fake news stories aimed at discrediting Baerbock as she bids to become Germany’s first Green chancellor.

READ ALSO:

False claims

Among the false stories circulating about Baerbock is the bizarre claim that she wants to ban household pets in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Another fake story firmly denied by the party claimed that she defied rules on mask-wearing and social-distancing by embracing colleagues upon her nomination earlier this month.

Baerbock has also been presented as a “model student” of Hungarian billionaire George Soros – a hate figure for the European far-right and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists – in a mocked-up social media graphic shared among others by a far-right MP.

More serious online attacks include a purported photo of Baerbock which in fact shows a similar-looking naked model.

The Greens’ campaign manager Michael Kellner said that the attempts to discredit Baerbock had “taken on a new dimension”, that “women are targeted more heavily by online attacks than men, and that is also true of our candidate”.

Greens co-leader Annalena Baerbock earlier this month. Photo: DPA

Other false claims about the party include reports of a proposed ban on barbecues, as well as plans to disarm the police and enforce the teaching of the Quran in schools.

While such reports are patently absurd, they are potentially damaging to Baerbock and her party as they bid to spring a surprise victory in September.

“She has a very real chance, but the coming weeks are going to be very important because Baerbock’s public image is still taking shape,” Thorsten Faas, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University told AFP.

In a bid to fight back against the flood of false information, the party has launched a new “online fire service” to report fake news stories.

READ ALSO: Greens become ‘most popular political party’ in Germany

Russian disinformation

Yet stemming the tide is no easy job, with many of those who peddle disinformation now using private messaging services such as WhatsApp and Telegram rather than public platforms such as Facebook.

The pandemic and ongoing restrictions on public life will also make it harder for the campaign to push through their own narratives at public events.

Miro Dittrich of Germany’s Amadeu-Antonio anti-racism foundation claims that lockdown has “played a role” in the spread of fake news.

“People are isolated from their social environment and are spending a lot more time online,” he said.

Another factor is Russia, which has made Germany a primary target of its efforts to spread disinformation in Europe.

According to the European anti-disinformation platform EUvsDisinfo, Germany has been the target of 700 Russian disinformation cases since 2015, compared to 300 aimed at France and 170 at Italy.

As an outspoken critic of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Germany and Russia, Baerbock may well become a target of such attacks during the election campaign.

By Mathieu FOULKES

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