USA Expats: Vote Abroad in 2020

You can! You want to! You should! And I did. Like this:

() Go to fvap.gov and click the big red Request an Absentee Ballot button. Gotta do it fresh every year. Sorry. Not my fault.

() Clicking the big red button starts the Federal Post Card Application process, which will not include, require or produce anything resembling the post cards that we geriatrics once routinely plastered stamps to in the days of pet rocks and lava lamps. Misnamed! Sorry. Not my fault, either.

() The FPCA process will force you to pick a state of Voting Residence, and also will strong-arm you into naming an address in that state, even though you now dwell on another continent and yearn only to vote in federal contests. I could only reasonably pick California, and fed FVAP my last address as a California voter.

Mouse-mouse, tap tap, clickety-click, and fvap.gov disgorged an all-the-blanks-filled-in .pdf that I could print, sign and send to the Golden State. Page 53 of the 2020-21 Voting Assistance Guide persuaded me to send it by postal mail. Scanning and faxing would have been easier. Call me a masochist.

() The San Francisco Department of Elections soon sent me a link to an online ballot for California’s March 3 Presidential Primary. I clicked it open, frowned. The ballot included state and local contests.

Pages at FVAP, the State Department and Vote from Abroad suggested that expats may inadvertently court state tax obligations by voting in state and local elections. Some U.S. states collect no individual income tax. California does. A 2011 post on an expat tax services site was especially gloomy, said that California regards its taxpayers as assets and searches for ties to keep ’em on the hook. Like voter registrations.

What to do?

I asked questions, didn’t get a definite answer, and finally invented a solution entirely of my own: I chose to waive my right to a secret ballot, and sent in my ballot by fax. (After learning the hard way that California, unlike some other states, does not accept ballots by email.) Faxzero let me employ this mostly pre-internet technology without signing up for a monthly account. Sfelections.org recorded the ballot as accepted a few days later. The faxed, secrecy-waived ballot shows clearly that I didn’t vote in state or local contests.

Now you know what I know.

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