Brandy Shearer

Voting Abroad for American Expats

Between COVID-19 and riots back home, being an American expat right now comes with a feeling of frustration. A feeling that at times has been overwhelming.

One would think it would be a relief to be safe away from riots and burning streets but relief is nowhere near what I feel. Much like my friends and family back home, I’m frustrated and angry.

Sure it would be easy to completely check out but I can’t. I can’t because part of what brought America to this breaking point is part of what drove me to leave America in the first place.

The fear Americans live with day to day is too much. The fear of falling ill and not being able to afford medical bills is too much. “Proud Boys” in flak jackets are too much. The tolerance of semi-automatic rifles is too much. School shootings are too much. Police murdering citizens is just too damn much.

I left America because I saw a better life for myself outside the country I grew up in. As a dual American Italian citizen who has managed to save money, I had an option and I took it. The privilege of having the choice of where I want to live is also why I cannot check out right now. Partly I feel guilty, partly I feel angry and partly I feel helpless and downright useless.

America is at a tipping point. As an expat is it indecent to want to be a part of shaping the future of America? Working my way through this mix of emotions has brought me to two conclusions. One, empathy is not enough right now. Understanding comes from listening and who we listen to matters right now. Two, while voting is a right even for us expats, it is also now more than ever a responsibility.

If you believe it’s not enough to show empathy and want to get informed or take action here are some resources to help.

Absentee Voting Information for U.S. Citizens Abroad

The Obama Foundation believes there are ways to turn anguish into action and has included an extensive list of ways to get informed, take action, and engage.

Change happens when people start talking and the Center for Policing Equity is speaking in science and facts. Co-founder, president, and justice scientist Phillip Atiba Goff’s Ted Talk explains how racism can be transformed from an impossible problem to a solvable solution by improved policing.

To understand how anyone could be driven to riot, I found Trevor Noah’s commentary video on George Floyd and the dominos of racial injustice helpful.

As an expat or a nomad, most U.S. citizens 18 years or older living abroad are still eligible to vote in U.S. primary and general elections through absentee ballot. Since laws vary by state it’s important to check with the state you are eligible to vote in.

Here are resources to help ensure you are able to vote overseas.

Understanding Election Dates & Deadlines

Vote.org Voter ID Laws by State List

U.S. Vote Foundation Local Election Official Directory & State Voting Requirements & Information List

For my fellow expats and nomads how are you coping? How do you feel about being out of the country right now?

5 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this! I’m just about to move to Canada and I plan to register to vote ASAP. I have done absentee voting before, but never had to register fast for it though.

    Like

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