Can you guess how many Americans abroad voted in the last US midterms?

Across Europe there are many Americans living and working, enjoying the lifestyle, sights and culture that their adopted home has to offer. However, things don’t stand still back in the United States.

Can you guess how many Americans abroad voted in the last US midterms?
It's never been easier to request your overseas ballot. Photo: Getty Images

The US is only months away from the 2022 midterm elections, and for US citizens abroad, voting is easier than you think. Here’s how to have a say in the future of your hometown, state and country.

What are the midterms, and why do they matter?

Unlike the Presidential elections, the midterm elections determine state representation in Congress and a number of state-level offices – this year all of the seats in the House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, 36 state governors and 30 state attorney generals will be elected by the people. 

The results of the midterms can have a large impact on the make-up of the House of Representatives and the Senate, changing the kinds of laws the governing administration is able to pass in the next two (the term of a representative) to six (the term of a senator) years.

As we have seen in the news recently, such laws can have significant implications for the rights of friends and family in the United States. 

This year, the US midterm elections are held on the 8th of November. 

For U.S. citizens living overseas who want to have a say in the future of their hometown, city and state, it is important to know how to navigate the absentee voting process for midterm elections. 

However, voter turnout from overseas is traditionally very low. According to the 2018 Overseas Citizen Population Analysis Report, only 13.9% of eligible voters from Germany participated in the last midterm elections, while in France, only 4.9% voted. 

U.S. citizens abroad who did not return a voted ballot reported having difficulties completing the process, or not being able to get their ballot in time to vote. We’re breaking down the absentee voting process into two, straightforward steps you can follow to make sure you have plenty of time to send your ballot back to the States — no matter where you’re voting from.

The 2022 midterm elections are approaching – time to request your absentee ballot.

Requesting your online ballot only takes minutes. PhotoL Supplied

How can I vote in the midterms from overseas?

Whereas many Americans located in the United States only need to show up on Election Day to cast their vote, the process begins earlier for U.S. citizens living abroad. As voting for American citizens abroad is largely conducted via post, the process has checks and balances to ensure the security and integrity of the vote, which means that you need to begin the process far in advance. 

Your first step should be to visit the website of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, to start the process of registering to vote and requesting your absentee ballot. 

“It’s incredibly easy to vote absentee (and I would argue even easier than voting in person). The city clerk of the last US town you lived in is your lifeline. Mine even emailed me a few weeks back reminding me to register to vote for the upcoming elections this fall.”   – Hannah Houseworth, Michigan, now in France

Their Online Assistant will help you through the process of registering, if you are not already, and filling out your ballot request, or Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)– which takes around two minutes to complete. When filling out the form, you can select the option to receive your blank ballot electronically to speed up the process.

From there, you’ll send your FPCA to your state’s election office by mail, fax or even email, depending on your state’s submission guidelines. FVAP recommends submitting your FPCA by the 1st of August.

If you would like further reminders and tips on absentee voting, you can sign up for email alerts here

Select your state to see specific guidelines and deadlines for absentee voting forms.

No matter where they are in the world, U.S. citizens can vote absentee in midterm elections. Photo: Getty Images 

The second step is to vote as soon as your blank ballot arrives. If you chose to receive your ballot electronically via the FPCA, you should receive it the day ballots are sent by your state’s election office: the 24th of September.  FVAP recommends U.S. citizens living overseas send their voted ballots back by the 24th of October to ensure your election office receives them in time. 

What is my voting residence? 

Your voting residence is the last address you had in the United States immediately prior to leaving for overseas. More information can be found here

“Easy-peazy. California sends me an email telling me my ballot’s on its way, I receive my ballot and voter guide via snail mail, I send the ballot back, and I get an email confirmation when they’ve received and counted it.

In-between all of that, I get friendly reminders from the state reminding me to send my ballot.” – Sarah Saromanos, California, now in France

Is voting by mail from overseas safe and secure?

Voting by mail from overseas is extremely secure, and upon receiving your ballot, there are a number of security measures undertaken not only to protect your vote but to ensure that it matches your identity. 

Furthermore, none of your personal information is saved while using FVAP’s Online Assistant to request an absentee ballot. You can be sure that you are not sharing your private data with any third parties at any point in the process. 

Voting this November is not only secure but there are a number of resources available to help you every step of the way. 

Get started today. Register and request your absentee ballot to vote in US midterm elections with the FPCA.

Member comments

  1. Maybe someone can answer this question. I have lived in Germany for 4 years. I am paid in euro and pay German taxes. I have no income in the US. I don’t want to have to deal with my old state of which I have no relationship with anymore. I also don’t follow their local politics. What happens if I vote using my old address? Will they start to treat me like I live there still? All of my personal mail in the US is sent to my sister’s house in another state but I have never lived there. It is all very confusing.

  2. Thank you for sharing this important information! I hope a much larger percentage of eligible Americans in Frace will vote in the midterms.

  3. If you don’t have any property there, I think you are ok (but I’m not a lawyer). To be safe, I vote in Federal elections, but not State or local. Then, there will not be any tax consequences from voting. You have to file a Federal tax return in any case, and I do.

  4. I’m now a permanent resident of France. Unfortunately I’m a U.S. citizen so I’ll have to pay taxes to the IRS as long as I live. A lot of the tax money is used to fund the endless U.S. wars. Taking care of its citizens have never been a priority. Funny thing is that my U.S. tax return contains 110 pages while my French tax return was only five pages. I will never vote in a U.S. election again. It’s a waste of time!

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OPINION: German government is pushing ambitious agenda despite turbulent first year

Germany's government has had a rocky first year having to deal with the consequences of Russia's war in Ukraine. Despite having to make sacrifices, the coalition has proved stable so far - and is even managing to push ahead with ambitious plans, writes Brian Melican.

OPINION: German government is pushing ambitious agenda despite turbulent first year

A few days back, I saw a recent photo of myself and, like millions before me in their late 30s, spent several seconds staring at that grizzled countenance, deep lines running from eyes to ears, asking myself repeatedly: “Is that really me?”, “Do I look that old?”, and “What the hell has happened to start making me age this visibly?” In this way, I’m probably quite similar to our tripartite coalition government, which started off almost exactly a year ago in eminently Instagram-able form and which now, tellingly, is avoiding photo opportunities like a Hollywood star gone to seed.

Yes, after sixth months of almost continuous wrangling – about weapons deliveries to the Ukraine, Covid restrictions, tackling our energy crisis – the bright eyes of autumn 2021 have lost their lustre, the bushy tails are looking straggly, and behind (not so) closed doors, people are talking: “The Ampelkoalition (traffic light coalition) sure is looking old these days…” Yet, just like me, the German coalition government looks a hell of a site worse than it actually is. It just needs to recover from the shock of seeing itself in the mirror when Olaf Scholz, for the first time, made public use of his Chancellor’s prerogative earlier this week to keep nuclear power stations running.

Russia’s war de-rails projects

So what is responsible for the rapid multiplication of grey hairs in the beards and on the temples of this government? The answer to that question is quite simple: Russia. Twelve months back, when Robert Habeck, Annalena Baerbock, Lars Klingbeil, and Christian Lindner were having their late-night love-in before going on to hammer out the most far-reaching coalition agreement of the last two decades, only the hardest-boiled military intelligence operatives envisioned the possibility of a full-blown land war involving a nuclear superpower just a few hundred miles to our east. The rest of us – politicians, the media, and (not least) voters – were expecting the nascent post-Covid economic recovery to be the main story of 2022; it might have been autumn, but there was a sense of spring – and of ambition – in the air.

Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck of the Greens with the SPD's Olaf Scholz and the FDP's Christian Lindner in November 2021 during coalition agreement negotiations.

Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck of the Greens with the SPD’s Olaf Scholz and the FDP’s Christian Lindner in November 2021 during coalition agreement negotiations. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

And so the SPD was looking forward to atoning for its Hartz IV sins and finally helping the poor while the Greens visibly relished the prospect of picking up where they left off in 2005 and actually getting the green energy transition done. The FDP, meanwhile, had managed to achieve its three main objectives: societal liberalisation (re-examining Covid restrictions, encouraging immigration, legalising cannabis), fiscal stability (Lindner’s hands on the purse strings), and political independence after decades being considered the right-hand man of an increasingly mal-coordinated CDU.

The war, of course, has left seemingly achievable ambitions looking like luxuries from which each of the three parties has been forced to deviate substantially – often while disavowing core parts of their political orthodoxies. It’s no surprise that the SPD is looking tired after, in late February, it was forced into a gruelling, high-speed course of psychotherapy about its relationship to Russia and simultaneously sent to boot-camp to get rid of its pathologically uncritical pacifism. Being the self-proclaimed ‘party of peace’ that puts its political weight behind an unplanned €100-billion defence-spending splurge is certainly going to put a few frown lines on a previously smooth forehead. 

Then there’s the FDP, whose founding credo is sound fiscal policy and will not (repeat: not) raise either taxes or borrowing. Yet rather than simply keeping unnecessary expenses low and using additional yields to finance SPD social spending and Green investment (which was the sensible-enough plan), the FDP finance minister Christian Lindner has already had to find €100 billion for the army (see above) and then another €200 billion for gas and emergency relief – just as tax receipts stall in the second recession of 2020s. Thus far, he’s kept the books nominally balanced by banishing these gazillions to the annexes of the annual report: yet you can only play the ‘special one-off expenditure’ card, well, once, twice tops before people start asking questions. Third time round (and there will be at least one more time), you start looking like a homeowner who conveniently omits their ever-growing mountain of credit card debt on mortgage application forms… Money worries are certainly likely to leave their mark on your countenance.

Fact check: Is Germany heading into a recession next year?

And then there are the Greens, who – after two frustrating decades of watching the energy transition they initiated back in the early 2000s grind to a halt – finally got their hands on the levers of power, only for the mistakes of the Merkel-era to come back and bite them – yes, them! – in the arse. It is truly heart-rending to watch the only party in Germany which repeatedly warned against an over-dependency on Russian gas, time and again stressing the importance of diversifying and decarbonising our energy sources, now be forced to kow-tow to Qatar in the hope of emergency gas deliveries while authorising the increased use of coal-fired power stations. Then there’s the galling, Alanis-Morissette-definition irony of having to consent to extending nuclear… No wonder the Greens look careworn!

The Greens' Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) at a cabinet meeting on October 12th 2022.

The Greens’ Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) at a cabinet meeting on October 12th 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Despite everything: a functioning German government

So when you remember all of this, it’s not surprising that the Ampelkoalition appears somewhat beleaguered – and it’s actually astonishing that the parties are still in government together. German administrations have foundered over less: as recently as 2019, the SPD was audibly toying with the idea of curtailing its third coalition with Merkel’s CDU/CSU over issues which, viewed from today, look positively petty. Meanwhile, a brief look around us reveals just how fragile political stability is: Sweden can only form a government under the open toleration of unappetising right-wing populists, Italy is being Italy, and as for the UK… well. Meanwhile, we are blessed with a government which, for all its faults, is backed by a broad range of the electorate, has a stable majority, and reaches compromises (however messy) – or, when it can’t, at least accepts the authority of its chancellor.

All of this, of course, requires huge amounts of effort and self-discipline from those involved: how long each of the three parties can hold its tongue at the right moment – and hold its nerve in the face of downturns in the polls or regional-election routs – is anyone’s guess. There’ll be plenty more tests, too: the enduring tragedy of this coalition’s term in office will be that swathes of the ambitious agreement on which it was founded last autumn have already become inoperable; plans which seemed feasible in 2021 have, in 2022, been replaced by firefighting as the world burns. 

Much like youthful dreams, all coalition agreements get dented on first contact with reality: this one, however, was shattered by a full-frontal collision with history in late February. As such, the Ampelkoalition is four years too late to achieve its peacetime agenda, and that’s bitterly disappointing. Yet it’s making a surprisingly good fist of its wartime term – and actually making headway on some planned policies (like benefits reform , citizenship and immigration changes, and, mercifully in these worrying times, cannabis legalisation). Let’s just hope that, after peering into the mirror and noticing the lines, its participants resist the temptation to have a mid-life crisis.

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