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PRESENTED BY THE FEDERAL VOTING ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

November US midterms: Your voting questions answered

The November midterm elections are almost here and if you're a US citizen, you need to register and request a ballot to vote.

November US midterms: Your voting questions answered
No matter where you are, as a US citizen you can vote absentee — and it's never been easier. Photo: Getty Images

Recently The Local held an online poll to ask our American readers about their obstacles to voting absentee from abroad.

In partnership with the Federal Voting Assistance Program, we address some of the most common concerns that were identified.  

What am I voting for in November? 

When we polled our readers, 15 percent of them said they ‘didn’t feel motivated to vote’. However, the midterms involve a great deal of change. As we noted in our last piece, in November 2022 all the seats in the US House of Representatives are up for election, in addition to a third of the Senate. Additionally, 36 state governors will be elected, as well as 30 state attorney-generals. 

These are all positions with the legislative power to make important decisions on a local, state or federal level. Those that are elected will play a real role in shaping what the future looks like for all of us in areas such as health, education, the economy and civil rights. 

Voting in the 2022 midterm elections is easy. Request your ballot now

How do I know if I’m eligible? 

If you’re a US citizen and over the age of 18 years, you are eligible to vote. 

Put simply, if you could vote in the US, you can vote from abroad. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know when you will return to the US, or if you plan on never returning – this is a right that you don’t lose. 

What matters for each individual election is that you are registered to vote. All states and territories require that this is done before a certain deadline, varying from state to state. 16.67 percent of readers polled felt that ‘the deadlines can be too confusing’ – to help voters with this, the FVAP website has quick links to the deadlines for each state. 

How do I register to vote? 

Almost a quarter of readers (21.67 percent) told us that they ‘don’t know how to register’.  Luckily, the process is simple and easy to complete. First, visit the FVAP website. There, you can use FVAP’s Online Assistant to register with the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) – a very brief process as you only need a few personal details.

The FPCA is also how you request your ballot. Once you complete the form, print, sign, send in the FPCA to you election office and your ballot will be on its way to you!

Some states allow you to email or fax your FPCA to their electoral authority. Check what your state allows using the graphic below.

Source: FVAP.gov

How do I fill out my ballot? 

Regardless of which state electoral authority will count your vote, all absentee ballot papers come with clear instructions for filling them out – such as writing details legibly, using block letters. You should also follow any specific instructions for sealing the ballot and signing the required affidavit. This last part is important – it’s how electoral officials verify your ballot so that it can be counted. 

Find out how the Federal Voting Assistance Program makes voting from abroad easy for US citizens

How much time should I allow to post my ballot? 

This was identified as one of the main concerns for many of our readers – some 46.67 percent of readers identified that ‘mail is unreliable’. However, as long as ballots are sent in good time – at least two weeks before the election – you should avoid running into any issues.

Some states even allow you to submit your mail by fax or email, as shown in the graphic below. 

Source: FVAP.gov

How do I know whether my ballot has been received? 

You can check to see whether your ballot has been received by contacting the electoral authority in the state that you are voting in. 

Again, FVAP makes this process easy. By selecting your home state on the website, you can either make an email query, or if the state has an online system, you can use it to check if the ballot has arrived and been processed. 

What happens if I don’t receive my ballot?

If you have not received your ballot in a timely fashion, you do have a backup – the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) allows you to vote. Simply input your state and local jurisdiction and follow the steps. Just make sure you send your FWAB so that it arrives before the deadline for your particular state’s electoral authority – these are easily found in the FVAP Voting Assistance Guide by clicking on your state.

The 2022 midterms are an opportunity for every eligible US citizen to help decide the future direction of the communities they have strong links to. 

Don’t delay – get registered to vote using FVAP’s free Online Assistant today and make sure your vote arrives in time

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TECH

What steps is Germany taking to improve internet speed?

Germany is known for being behind when it comes to internet speed, coverage and embracing digital changes. But the German government is trying to change that. Here's a look at what's going on.

What steps is Germany taking to improve internet speed?

Anyone who’s been in Germany will probably have faced issues with their wifi, whether it’s a slow connection or lack of it. 

The country is also known for being slow on the uptake of moving paperwork to a digital format, with some services even requiring a fax machine at times.

And for years, people have been dreaming of being able to have an electronic patient file that would bundle all medical results and make it easy to pass them on to doctors with just one click.

Germany’s digital strategy, put forward by the coalition government of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) aims to address these things. 

It was set to be discussed in the Bundestag on Thursday – but does it go far enough?

What do the plans say?

By 2025, at least half of all households in Germany should have a fiber-optic connection, and by 2026, there should be interference-free smartphone coverage throughout the country, under the plans. 

This is not new – the expansion has been going on for some time and is part of the gigabit strategy, which is also being discussed in the Bundestag.

It involves things like new laying techniques, which would make it possible to expand much faster, Maik Außendorf, head of the Green party’s Digital Affairs told German broadcaster, Tagesschau. By 2030, the entire country should have fibre-optic lines.

READ MORE: How Germany is facing up to its slow internet problem

Nadine Schön, digital policy spokesperson for the opposition CDU/CSU, says that Germany needs to become a less paperwork-orientated country. 

“The Finns are the happiest people in Europe, and when you ask them why, they say – ‘the state relieves us of all the paperwork’,” she told the Tagesschau. “They can do their tax returns on their mobile phones in eight minutes; they can do everything digitally.”

The digital strategy portrays a convenient, new world that many people in Germany have been craving for a long time. For instance, thanks to digital identity setups, people could authenticate themselves at a public authority from home. They could then apply for a new registration (Anmeldung) after moving, or get a new resident’s parking permit from their couch.

Companies and startups would receive better support to simplify the often time-consuming processes with government agencies.

But both Schön (CDU/CSU) and Außendorf (Greens), who sit on the Digital Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, are not yet satisfied with the strategy.

The conservatives are introducing their own motion to the debate, and are pressing for even better business support for the digital transformation. 

Außendorf, on the other hand, is concerned that there is still no defined digital budget, even though this is stipulated in the coalition agreement.

In his view, this is a key point for advancing important IT projects in a targeted manner.

Sustainability is also an important factor to Außendorf when it comes to the digital strategy. He is keen on unconventional ideas, citing the example of a greenhouse on the roof of a data centre in North Friesland that uses the waste heat from a server farm.

“Data centres consume an enormous amount of energy, and a large part of it goes into the environment as waste heat,” he says. “This waste heat can be used in a variety of ways, for example by coupling it to local and district heating networks or for heating greenhouses.”

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